The Rifleman Who Went to War

By Terry Edwards

The Twisted Tales of Sir Sam, Sir Charles and Mac

He is often called the Father of the American Sniper. Champion shot and brilliant soldier, his books are still read and loved. He is honest and even self-effacing about his role in the war, but his cover-up of the booze confuses and spawns many contradictions. To make it worse, he was the victim of a misguided official smear after the war. Following Herbert Wesley McBride is like jumping into Alice’s rabbit hole.

Both of McBride’s books are in the public domain and can be found online. The Emma Gees, published in 1918, is McBride’s story in World War I. His second and larger book, A Rifleman Went to War, appeared in 1933. Aside from great tales and advice, they reach out to grab and infect the reader with McBride’s raw spirit and leadership. As instruction for anyone going to war, they remain unsurpassed.

McBride was born October 15, 1873, in Waterloo, Indiana. His father Robert, his mother Ida, an older brother and two sisters, Robert’s war-widowed sister and her son and a maid filled the large home … an empty field today. Mac, as Herbert was later nick-named, was a sharp student. A surviving report card shows marks in the 80s and 90s. He called himself a “gun crank.” He never married, and he shares little about his personal life. He hunted with his father and greatly admired him.

Mac’s father, Robert McBride, was raised in Ohio by his widowed mother. Robert’s own father died in the Mexican War in 1847. In the Civil War, Robert rode in President Lincoln’s mounted bodyguard. After the War, he married and moved to Waterloo, Indiana, to teach school and begin a family. He became a lawyer, a circuit judge, businessman, Freemason and social leader. His lodge building houses the U.S. Marshall’s office today. He rose to Colonel in the Indiana Legion, fore-runner to the National Guard. Mac joined his father’s unit and made Sergeant.

Robert sent his teenage son to Colorado to treat his tuberculosis and maybe satisfy his thirst for...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N8 (October 2018)
and was posted online on August 24, 2018


08-27-2018 6:36 AM

Whole Rifleman Story Told on YouTube

You can see the entire McBride story on YouTube at 

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