J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “February, 2011”

The Debate Continues

Yet another article recently appeared in regard to featuring General Nathan Bedford Forrest on Mississippi car tags – this time in the Miami Herald. Entitled “Undeserved Honor for Klan Founder,” Pulitzer prize winner Leonard Pitts Jr. goes out of his way to write discrepancies and throw jabs at the State of Mississippi, The Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Governor Haley Barbour as follows:

“The request to honor Forrest was made by the Mississippi branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group often found neck deep in attempts to rewrite and sanitize the odious history of the Confederacy.

“For what it’s worth, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has said he doesn’t think the state legislature will approve the vanity plate. But he rejected a call by the Mississippi NAACP to denounce the idea. “I don’t go around denouncing people,” he said, piously.

“Presumably, he would be equally nonjudgmental if his state were to consider similar honors to Osama bin Laden, convicted spy Robert Hanssen or Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Their legacies, after all, are combined in Forrest: terrorist, traitor, mass murderer.

“On April 12, it will be 150 years since the Civil War began. That is the distance from telegraph lines to smart phones, from steam engines to space shuttles, from Lincoln to Obama. And yet even after all that time, some of us are still unable to conquer the moral cowardice exemplified by Gov. Barbour and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.”

Pretty harsh words for a guy who doesn’t have his facts straight. (Harris and Klebold, Mr. Pitts? Really?) In fact, there are indications that portions of his article were taken from Amazon’s review page of a nonfiction book written by Jack Hurst entitled “Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography.” Unfortunately, Pitts failed to read further down the page, where he could have found the following quote from reviewer Jeffrey R. White:

“On the contary, Forrest fans will find it delightfully free of the anti-Forrest rancor which politically correct historical revisionsists are so famous for. Hurst understands that the so-called “distasteful activities” were 100% legal at the time, and presents them without undue bias. Forrest is in no way presented as any more racist than his contemporaries, and shown as he was, significantly more compassionate toward African Ameicans than many in these reviews would suggest (Did they even read the book? — one wonders).

“…Several longstanding misconceptions are properly laid to rest in this work, among them, that Forrest founded the Kuklos Klan – He did not. He was asked and accepted to be its first Grand Wizard (a title developed in his honor, since he was well-known as the “wizard of the saddle”). Forrest’s subsequent Congressional testimony against the Klan is detailed, as is his (successful) effort to disband the Klan (the present-day Ku Klux Klan is dominated by midwesterners and northerners, is the third such organisation in history, and is descended from the first Klan in name only).”

Mr. Pitts, your article is clearly racist in nature and tone. The South is not attempting to “vindicate a cause long ago lost” as you so eloquently put it. The South is honoring their ancestors who fought and died for a cause they believed in, be it right or wrong, won or lost, politically correct or not. Hopefully, your readers will realize the biased viewpoint you exhibit.

Mr. Pitts’ article: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/19/2074334/undeserved-honor-for-klan-founder.html#ixzz1FJyEmTsc

Amazon review: http://www.amazon.com/Nathan-Bedford-Forrest-Biography-ebook/dp/B004G8P2MI/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

Uproar Surrounding Civil War Events

It seems that since last Saturday’s reenactment of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inauguration in Montgomery, Alabama, a can of worms has been opened up. Namely, several publications and minority groups have complained by broadcasting their opinions to the media.

On Wednesday, USA Today published a story by David Person, who claimed that sesquicentennial events are being “celebrated” by participants in contrast to being commemorated. He also wrote in his article that the primary reason for the Civil War was slavery, and that “painful lessons should be remembered, not glorified or sanitized.”

Also this week, a story written by Mariah Majmuddin appeared in the Oklahoma Daily. The headline screamed “Confederate Soldiers Should Not be Celebrated as Heroes.” Why not? Because, according to Majmuddin, an act of treason was committed by each Confederate soldier when the South seceded.

I find such articles amusing in that, by criticizing these events, the reporters only draw more attention to reenactments. Such reporters display their ignorance about history, and in some cases blatantly expose their racist views. (Like Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP, who proclaimed: “It’s almost like celebrating the Holocaust.”) I have to wonder if so much hullabaloo will occur when reenactments commemorating the Civil War take place in the North. We will find out later this year when the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) takes place.

The attitude that Southerners show discrimination toward blacks by staging reenactments is utterly absurd. No one is denying any African-American of participating, since black soldiers fought for both the North and the South. So why is the South being criticized? I don’t see anyone protesting other living history events such as Renaissance Festivals or Revolutionary War events. There were plenty of ill-reputed things surrounding these historical events as well, but they aren’t under attack. Could it be that all the Southern Civil War “celebration” is too easy a target?

For more information:



Civil War Events Vamping Up

Now that the sesquicentennial is in full swing, many events have begun to mark this momentous occasion, and more are on their way. Last Saturday, the reenactment of President Jefferson Davis’ inauguration took place in Montgomery, Alabama. Much thought and detail went into the event in an effort to make it as authentic as possible.

Within the next few months, other reenactments will take place, including the first shots fired at Ft. Sumpter, which marked the beginning of the War Between the States. The first major battle, Bull Run, or Manassas, will be reenacted later this year, as will the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri.

As reported by Entertainment Weekly, the History Channel will launch a week-long event later this year to pay homage to the Civil War. The network will include specials, episodes of their regular series featuring Civil War themes, and a four-year national education campaign. 

Mississippi Controversy

For those of you who haven’t yet heard, my wonderful state of Mississippi has recently been involved in an interesting controversy. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, are issuing five different license plate tags for special events that took place in the state during the war. This year will feature Beavoir, which is the final home of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi. Next year will honor the Battle of Corinth, and in 2013, the seige of Vicksburg will be featured. Two others will also be issued, one of which has received an enormous amount of attention.

Last week, an SCV representative spoke to our local camp about the tags, and faced criticism for overlooking the inclusion of the SCV logo on the new tag. But the most interesting complaint centered around a future tag that will feature General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Since Compatriot Stewart spoke, it seems all hell has broken loose in regard to the media pouncing upon this story and twisting it into a racial issue.

The first news story occurred last week on a local TV station. A retired Memphis judge complained about General Forrest being featured on a tag, saying that it was racist, and compared General Forrest to Hitler. Another TV station jumped on board, and soon, the NAACP got involved as well, crying foul since Forrest was supposedly the founder of the KKK. Not only that, they claimed him to be the “Grand Wizard.”

Now Governor Barbour has proclaimed that the tag will definitely not be issued. I’m not sure how he has the authority to declare this, since last time I checked, this is a free country. The SCV is merely displaying their right to pay homage to the Civil War, but it seems they are always walking that fine line between patriotism and racism. Too many ignorant people assume that the SCV is associated with the KKK, but this assumption is completely false.

As to the issue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, he was never involved with the KKK, he was found innocent of all charges (General Sherman was one of the investigators), and was not present during the massacre at Ft. Pillow. He apologized for any involvement, and denounced the KKK in 1867 after it became too violent. Before certain groups declare such falsehoods, they should learn their history. If the NAACP and other parties think the SCV is racist, perhaps they should take a look in the mirror. (A survey recently conducted by a Jackson, Mississippi TV station showed that the majority of voters thought the NBF car tag should be issued.)

Happy Valentine’s Day

Although Valentine’s Day has been around for a long time, and has been celebrated in this country for centuries, Valentines given to sweethearts as tokens of affection didn’t become popular until the advent of the Civil War. In true Victorian style, cards were adorned with satin ribbons, lace, mother-of-pearl ornamentation, and spun glass.

Manufacturers of Valentines came into being during this time. Mass production before the Civil War was virtually unheard of, but because of demand, many products started being produced in mass quantities, including weaponry, clothing (primarily uniforms and shoes for the soldiers), and canned food items. Because mass production happened so rapidly, much of the merchandise was deemed as being “shoddy.”

Not so with Valentines, however. These elaborate cards were given hand-painted accents in gold leaf, or had special ornaments glued on. Many Valentines depicted lovers parting (as in the soldier going off to war), or a tent with the flaps opened to reveal the lonely soldier inside. Another novelty included in Civil War Valentines was a place inside where the sender could place a lock of hair.

A New President for a New Country

One hundred and fifty years ago today, President Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederate States of America. The newly-found country, by mid-February, consisted of seven states: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. This number would grow to be eleven.

Davis had previously served as Secretary of War under President Pierce and as a U.S. senator for Mississippi. He resigned his senate seat at the onset of the Civil War, warning his constituents of the perils to come. When it seemed that war was inevitable, the Confederacy appointed Davis as their leader, and reluctantly, he accepted.

The election was the beginning of the end for President Davis. In the years to come, he would see his country suffer, he would lose a son, he would be incarcerated and humiliated, and he’d become an exile and a “traitor.”

Happy Birthday J.E.B.

Jeb stuart.jpg

JEB Stuart Signature.svg

Today marks the anniversary of General James Ewell Stuart, CSA. Born in 1833, J.E.B. rose to fame during the American Civil War. Because he is one of my favorite generals to serve in the War Between the States, I chose him as a main character in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

J.E.B. was born in Patrick County, Virginia. After graduating from West Point, where he acquired the nickname “Beauty,” he served for the U.S. Army in Texas and Kansas, participating in the conflict of “Bleeding Kansas.” He went to Harpers Ferry, where he assisted his fellow army personnel in accosting John Brown. When the war broke out, he resigned to become an officer with the Confederacy. He immediately proved himself a worthy foe by riding around Union General George McClellan … twice.

Under the command of General Robert E. Lee, who was like a father to him, J.E.B. and his valiant cavalry fought in many battles, including the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil: the Battle of Brandy Station. He faced ridicule at Gettysburg after his cavalry showed up two days late for the battle. Still, he fought gallantly to the end, losing his life at the Battle of Yellow Tavern during the Overland Campaign in 1864.

Considered to be one of the last true cavaliers, J.E.B. was every bit a flamboyant showman, ladies’ man, and music lover, adorning himself with a red cape and ostrich plumed hat, and accompanying his cavalry with musicians. J.E.B. was truly one of the most colorful characters to participate in the Civil War. He is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

An Amazing Find

For the first time in nearly 140 years, the office of Clara Barton was opened to the public for viewing. Located at 437 7th Street in Washington D.C. the Missing Soldiers Office was closed in 1875. But in 1997, as the building was being prepared for demolition, her office was rediscovered. The office and Clara’s living quarters took up the third floor of the building.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, along with Destination DC and the U.S. General Services Administration hosted the special sneak peak, allowing over 200 visitors to step into the past. Some said that when they entered the office, a strange feeling came over them, as though they were entering a time capsule, and a sacred place.

It has taken the GSA thirteen years to find a partner to assist in the restoration of the building. The original wallpaper, banister, and many artifacts remain, still intact. Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross, established the Missing Soldiers Office in order to locate those soldiers who were lost during Civil War battles. The museum will be open to the public in 2011 or 2012. For more information, call 301-695-1864.

The Civil War Enters the 21st Century

It was only inevitable that history would someday become modernized. Technology has advanced to the point that now events concerning the Civil War are being demonstrated through the use of computer-generated graphics and learning tools. One such tool is the “Battle App,” which has recently been introduced by the Civil War Preservation Trust.

The app provides a mobile battlefield tour of Gettysburg, using GPS technology and iPhone capabilities. The “Gettysburg Battle App” focuses on battles that occurred at Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. It provides audio and video lessons to listeners as they tour the battlefield, and comes with augmented maps of these locations.

Because of this innovative technology that anyone can access, visitors can enjoy the benefits of a historian-led tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. The app is easily downloaded from the Apple iTunes store for use on iPhones. CWPT is in the process of enabling other GPS-enabled platforms, such as the Blackberry and Android phones, to use the app in the near future. The organization is also working on “Battle Apps” for other significant Civil War battlefields.

UDC/SCV Represented at Local Library

This morning I had the privilege of attending the Horn Lake Library with two of my dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lynne Herron, where we gave a presentation about the War Between the States to approximately 200 children. It was a lot of fun, and the kids were great! They were all very well-behaved, attentive, and curious about what people 150 years ago lived like.

Our presentation included performing several Civil War songs. Miss Dorothy talked about our period clothing and the language of the fan. Mr. Lynn discussed what a typical soldier in the army had to endure, and he brought along Civil War paraphernalia for the kids to experience, including a cannon ball, bullets, cooking utensils, and weaponry.

We gave each one of the kids a piece of hardtack. Most said they liked it! The event was the first in a series that we plan to give as living history lessons to local school children, as well as Seniors in Action and other groups.   

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