Occult Detectives in the Wold Newton Universe, Part II
by Rick Lai
Sgt. Jaeger Chronology
by Rick Lai
Manly Wade Wellman wrote three stories about Sgt. Jaeger, a soldier who fought on the Union side in the American Civil War. After encountering the supernatural in an Arkansas town, Fearful Rock, during the war, he decides to be a self-ordained preacher in that town in order to combat evil. The entire adventures of Jaeger consist of “Fearful Rock” (Weird Tales, February, March and April, 1939), “Coven (Weird Tales, July 1942) and “Toad’s Foot” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1979). All of these stories were collected in Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales: The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman, Volume 3 (Nightshade Books, 2001). Sgt. Jaeger utilizes a real-life book of Christian spells, John George Hohman’s Pow-wows or Long-Lost Friend. This book also appears in Wellman’s John the Balladeer series and other stories. Perhaps Wellman’s most notable usage of Hohman’s tome was in the non-Jaeger Civil War story, “The Valley Was Still” (Weird Tales, August 1939) in which the book is altered by a sorcerer to cast evil spells in the name of Satan during the summer of 1862.
Jaeger pre-Civil War life, we have scant details.
As a youth in Pennsylvania, he was a serious boy with a penchant for
mincer pie. During the 1850’s, he supported the anti-slavery forces in Kansas.
The Jaeger stories have one minor chronological inconsistency regarding the
heroic soldier’s movements in April 1862.
I have reconciled this inconsistency by shifting some of Jaeger’s
activities to March 1862.
Mid-March - the early events of "Fearful Rock" (chap. 1-5). Sgt. Jaeger
participates in an expedition led by Lt. Kane Lanark in Fearful Rock,
Arkansas, to unsuccessfully track down Quantrill's raiders. The Union
soldiers slay two sorcerers, the acolytes of a Nameless God whose idol has
no face (perhaps H. P. Lovecraft’s faceless god, Nyarlathotep). Wellman
claims this expedition happened during April 5-6, but Jaeger was clearly at
the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee on April 7, 1862. It's impossible for
Jaeger to have traveled from Arkansas to Tennessee in a day. Therefore, the
expedition is moved to a few weeks earlier. The Fearful Rock expedition
supposedly transpired shortly after the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 7-8).
April 7 - The early events of "Coven" (chap. 1). During the Battle
of Shiloh, Jaeger and a Confederate soldier, Cole Wickett, track down a
"Toad's Foot" - Jaeger becomes a preacher in Fearful Rock, and defeats
Spring - The remaining events of "Fearful Rock" (chap. 6-15), Jaeger
is reunited with Lanark (now a retired Major) in Fearful Rock. They
discover that the two sorcerers from 1862 have become some manner of
"living dead" monsters. After vanquishing the re-animated sorcerers,
Jaeger re-christens the town of Fearful Rock with the name of Welcome Rock.
1876: Fall - The remaining events of "Coven" (chap. 2-7). Cole Wickett comes to Welcome Rock. He assists Jaeger in a battle with cultists who have summoned the Flying Horned One, a devil-like creature from another dimension.
According to “Fearful Rock,” Sgt. Jaeger was buried at Forth Smith, Arkansas (the circumstances and year of his death are not given by Wellman). His tombstone has as the epitaph a verse from the third chapter of the first book of Samuel: Here am I, for thou dist call me.