Fight on the Ice

“I went through hell founding this organization and I want something done about these problems. Think of it, we have over a 120 chapters and I ask what are we doing? We have got to do something for Negroes . . . Shall we stand for it? We won't fight. Do something constructive so that your sons, your daughters and all who come behind them will be proud of you. We must fight till Hell freezes over and then fight on the ice." (December 1937 Alpha Phi Alpha General Convention in New Orleans, LA)

Although Tandy did not coin this phrase himself, it originated from The Battle of Bulltown which was a small skirmish fought during the American Civil War near Bulltown in Braxton County, West Virginia on October 13, 1863.

William Lowther Jackson, the cousin of "Stonewall" Jackson, led a raiding party of 800 men into central West Virginia to capture the strategic "fort" at Bulltown which overlooked an important crossing of the Little Kanawha River. The goal was to cut Federal communications between the Greenbrier and Kanawha Valleys.

Jackson approached Bulltown secretly. He divided his forces in an attempt to converge on the Union position from two different directions. The Confederates advanced at 4:30am on October 13. They quickly captured the Federal pickets and would have taken the garrison by surprise but one Confederate, whether due to excitement or nervousness, fired his gun and alerted the Union troops.

The Confederates advanced against the fort and a drawn out skirmish lasted until about 4:30pm, almost twelve hours after the battle began. Twice, Jackson sent a flag of truce with a demand to surrender to which Captain William H. Mattingly replied "I will fight until Hell freezes over and then fight on the ice."

Jackson eventually retreated back towards the Greenbrier Valley. Casualties were very light considering the length of the battle. On the Union side there were no fatalities. Captain Mattingly was wounded in the thigh and there were some other slight wounds in the Federal camp. The Confederates lost eight soliders and a like number were wounded.