Vince Dooley’s latest preoccupation involves the Civil War.
Dooley, UGA’s legendary national-championship winning coach, has always been interested in the Civil War, traveling to battlefields across the country and reading anything he can get his hands on. It’s why he was appointed a trustee for the Civil War Trust, which works to protect battlefields from that war and also the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. But Dooley took it quite a bit further this time.
He’s written a book about it. A big book. Including an extensive bibliography, The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog, it’s 369 pages long and took Dooley and co-author Samuel Norman Thomas, Jr., five years to research and write.
Released earlier this month by Mercer University Press, this is unquestionably Dooley’s greatest passion at the moment, and he cannot stop talking about it. The story of how he came to write it is almost as fascinating as the story itself.
At a Civil War outing in Chattanooga, Dooley was told of a tenacious Confederate officer and extremely learned student and teacher from the University of Georgia named William Gaston Deloney. He was told of his bravery as, injured from a cleave to the face in the Battle of Gettysburg, he organized a battalion of infirmed men to defend their massive hospital train from Union pursuit when it was unable to cross a the rain-swollen pass over the swollen Potomac River.
Researching it further, Dooley learned of a collection of letters sent between Lt. Colonel Delony and his bride-to-be in Savannah, Rosa Eugenia Huguenin, that were preserved at UGA’s Hargrett Rare Books and Manuscripts library. Poring over those correspondences for months, Dooley and his co-author used those love letters to reconstruct the relationship of what one day would be one day become known as one of Athens’ most preeminent couples.
“It was a great find,” Dooley said. “This guy is a real hero, he’s from Athens and he’s from the University of Georgia and there’s all these letters at the library. All these love letters. I tell you, they don’t write them like that anymore. For 5½ years been reading those letters and working on this.”
Dooley went on to find Deloney described in an article as having three qualities as an officer: “Superb generalship, the look of a leader and the courage of a bulldog. Hence, Dooley’s inclusion of that reference in the books title.
“So he was probably the University of Georgia’s first Bulldog,” Dooley said. “And that’s what is great, the discovery of things. You find out that two of his great, great granddaughters. One lives outside of Savannah, and the other is married to Mike Steele, who played on the 1980 national championship team.”
The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog puts Dooley into double figures for books that he has either written or co-written. They include two editions of Dooley’s Dogs (with Loran Smith), Dooley: My 40 Years at Georgia, two children’s books How Bout Them Dawgs and Hairy Dawg’s Journey Through the Peach State, and three coffee table books illustrated by famed artist Steve Penley — Dooley’s Playbook: 34 of Georgia’s Most Memorable Plays, Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach, and History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia.
Dooley downplays the achievement as one that means he’s intellectually superior. On the contrary, he says.
“I’m a perfect example that if you don’t know something about something, you can just go ask and learn enough about it to write a book about it,” he says proudly. “I’m just enjoy learning. The great thing about living in a university town, if you’ve got a curiosity about anything, you can satisfy it because there’s an expert on everything, or at least somebody who thinks they’re an expert.”