Julian Robert Lindsey believed if you gave him a division of horse soldiers, he could whip any enemy at any time on any battlefield. He once quipped that Pearl Harbor would have never happened had the cavalry been there. General Lindsey believed that if there were horses there, everyone would have been feeding them and the horrific damage inflicted by Japanese pilots would have never occurred. During his forty-six year military career, General Lindsey served in a variety of positions from instructor to the first commander of the 1st Armored Division.
Julian Lindsey was born in Irwinton, Georgia in 1871. His father John W. Lindsey, an Irwinton attorney, was appointed the Georgia Commissioner of Pensions in the late 1890s. At the age of seventeen, Lindsey entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Four years later, he graduated with honors and received his commission as a second lieutenant in the 9th Cavalry. His first stint as a cavalry officer was shortened when his former instructors at West Point invited him to return back to the academy as an instructor of tactics, a position he received because of his superior knowledge of military tactics. He held the position four nearly four years.
In 1898, Georgia governor Atkinson appointed Lindsey as Adjutant General of Georgia, a post which Lt. Lindsey had greatly desired to obtain. Lindsey left Georgia for the second time to take a position on the staff of Gen. Adna Chaffee It was in the summer of 1900, when the Boxer Rebellion erupted in China. General Chaffee and his staff were sent to China to command United States forces known as the China Relief Expedition. Chaffee’s forces led the advance toward the capital of Beijing, which was captured on August 14, 1900.
In the spring of 1904, Julian Lindsey married Hannah Broster, a native of Canada. During the birth of their son, Julian Robert Linsdey, Jr., in 1905, Hannah tragically died. Julian never remarried.
After a respite of fourteen years, Lindsey returned to West Point as a Senior Cavalry Instructor. Always a horseman, Julian Lindsey believed that the Academy would be vastly improved with the addition of a polo team. So in 1916, Col. Lindsey established the first polo team at "The Point." In his day, Lindsey’s skills as a polo player and coach were unequaled by any other officer in the Army. His knowledge of the sport was so highly regarded that he was requested to write a book on the subject.
But once again, Lindsey’s skills were needed elsewhere. He was assigned to duty along the Mexican border in 1916 and 1917 under the command of General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. He became well acquainted with one of General Pershing’s young staff officers, the future general and World War II icon, General George S. Patton.
After his return from Texas, Lindsey was assigned to the 11th Cavalry at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. When it became apparent that the United States was going to enter World War I, Lindsey was given command of a regiment at Camp Gordon in Atlanta. In 1917, the regiments at Fort Gordon formed the 82nd Infantry Division, which is now known as the famed 82nd Airborne Division.
When the war began, Lieutenant Colonel Lindsey was promoted to Brigadier General Lindsey and given command of the 164th Infantry Brigade, upon the recommendation of his old friend, General Pershing.
Writers of the day proclaimed that no brigade had more greater victories or suffered greater losses than the 164th, which saw vicious and deadly trench to trench and hand to hand battles in France during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. For his outstanding leadership in a brilliant and successful attack in the Argonne Forest, General Lindsey was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
On October 8, 1918, Lindsey witnessed one of the most remarkable single events of World War I and possibly of all American wars. One of his soldiers in Company G of 328th Regiment set out on patrol. Of the sixteen soldiers under the sergeant’s command, ten were shot down by German machine guns. The remaining six were pinned down by heavy fire. The sergeant grabbed his trusty rifle and began to shoot his enemies one by one just like he shot turkeys back home until twenty were dead. The Germans charged the sergeant when his rifle was empty. But the young man from Tennessee pulled out his .45 pistol and shot seven shots each killing an enemy soldier. Convinced that they had encountered a superior force, the Germans surrendered to the sole American soldier.
The event was recreated in a 1941 movie starring Gary Cooper. In one humorous scene, Cooper is escorting his prisoners back to the command post. He encounters a field officer who tells him to keep them under guard for a little while longer. When the officer turns around, he is astonished to see that the soldier has not just captured a few prisoners, but nearly a whole company.
In real life, General Lindsey was awaiting battle field reports, when Alvin York, arguably the most famous enlisted soldier in World War I, walked into the Division Headquarters. "Well York," the general said, "I hear you have captured the whole German army." "No sir, I only got 132," York replied.
After the war, General Lindsey was returned to the rank of Colonel and served at various posts around the country until 1932. In one of his last assignments, Brigadier General Lindsey was given command of a new unit. The United States Army had gotten rid of its horses. The old cavalry soldiers were re-assigned to new units, known as the Mechanized Cavalry, which rode in tanks instead of on horseback. Linsdey was the first general to command the 1st Cavalry Brigade, which later became the 1st Armored Division.
After nearly five decades of service to his country, General Julian Lindsey retired from the Army and lived in Washington, D.C. After suffering a heart attack, General Lindsey died at Walter Reed Hospital on June 27, 1948. His body was buried with full military honors at the cemetery at West Point, his second home and where he rose to prominence as one of the U.S. Army’s most promising young officers.