When “Jingle” Wilson died the Army lost one of the most beloved men who have ever worn the uniform. Some men are loved by many, but few, like Jingle, by all who knew him.
Jingle started his military career with the Class of 1903 but, never being of the studious type, was turned back and graduated with the Class of 1904. While a cadet, as throughout his entire life, his main interest and pleasure were with horses. He was a member of the cadet polo team and on every special riding squad.
On graduation, of course, he wanted the Cavalry. His class rank landed him in the infantry, but he didn't give up. Aided by a thousand-dollar bonus, he found a cavalry lieutenant who was willing to exchange his yellow stripes for the white of the infantry and joined the 6th Cavalry at Fort Meade, South Dakota.
In those days the quarters at that post had large back yards, and Jingle soon had his yard filled with ponies. With two or three of his classmates who had similar tastes, they would assemble a herd of a dozen or so ponies and ride the country at a high run, herding the remuda ahead of them, roping and saddling fresh ponies every few miles.
Jingle was an unusually fine revolver shot but did not believe in limiting his practice to the target range. He lived on the lower floor of a large double set of quarters, with his captain and family occupying the upper floor. There was a long hall downstairs, where a filled wood box at the end made a splendid backstop for Jingle's target. However, his captain finally had to persuade him that a 45-caliber revolver was not a suitable weapon tor indoor practice.
At that time the regiment was commanded hy an old-time martinet who was a great believer in requiring that derelictions of duty be explained by “indorsements hereon”. Jingle’s father, becoming worried through not receiving any letters, came up to the post and inquired as to his son’s failure to write. “Well, Dad”, Jingle replied, “I’m so busy writing indorsements to the Old Man that I just don’t have time to write to you.”
While the 6th was at Fort Meade, Helen Brooks, of Washington, D.C., came out to visit her brother who was a medical officer on the post. After overcoming a lot of serious competition on the part of other young bachelors, Jingle finally won out and he and Helen were married in 1906.
In 1907 the regiment was ordered to the Philippine Islands, Jingle's troop being stationed in Jolo. An expedition was organized against Jikiri, a Moro bandit who took refuge with his party in a cave. In finally routing them out and destroying them, Jingle suffered a very dangerous wound from a barong. For his conduct on this occasion he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The wound severed all the muscles of one side of his neck and his doctor warned him that any fall would be apt to break his neck, but this didn’t disturb him in the slightest, and he continued to ride jumping horses and play polo until his retirement.
After his return to the States and recovery from his wound, he led the ordinary Army life—with its routine of schools and command duties. For several years he was on duty at Fort Riley as an instructor in equitation, and I doubt if any officer serving there at that time will ever forget his graceful appearance on a horse. He was one of the best and easiest riders, and certainly the most graceful man on a horse in the cavalry. In fact, in all his activities, whether riding, shooting or poling a duck boat, he was the epitome of grace and ease.
Jingle was a member of the first Army team to win the Junior Polo Championship. He was also on the Army polo team that invaded England and defeated the British army officers. At one horse show in Madison Square Garden there was a special jumping class that had been won twice by the captain of the Fort Riley horse show team. This captain, anxious to score his third win and gain permanent possession of the cup, himself rode every horse in the Riley team in this event. Finally Jingle, who was then stationed at West Point as an instructor, came into the ring on the one horse he had brought down from West Point. He scored a clean performance and carried off the cup.
Jingle and Helen had five children: two boys, both now colonels in the Service: and three girls, two of whom married Army officers. There was never a more happy marriage. Helen, who was as lovable a character as Jingle, made a perfect wife, and after her death a few years ago Jingle was never quite the same.
After a bad heart forced his retirement, the family settled in Brownsville, Texas. Horses being too expensive a luxury for retired officers, Jingle turned all his energy to hunting and fishing, which had been his second interests all his life, and at which he was as equally expert as he was with horses.
His children, with their families, visited the borne place often and it was no uncommon thing to see eighteen or twenty of the Wilson tribe sit down at the dining table with at least three and often more pet dogs hanging around the table for hand-outs. The house was full of grandchildren (there were 16 in all) most of the time, but never did their noise or demand for attention seem to disturb Jingle in the slightest. He loved them all as dearly as they adored him.
During the last few years his heart condition grew worse, and Jingle had to be very careful in his hunting and fishing, though he never stopped doing either.
On the 15th of December he was duck shooting with two old friends. At the conclusion of the hunt, while picking up decoys, Jingle gasped once or twice and dropped dead.
You are gone, Jingle, old fellow, but in the home to which you have gone may you find many good jumping horses and fast polo ponies, and may the ducks be plentiful and decoy well. We know you will continue to live and ride and shoot as straight as you did in this life.