J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Mission Accomplished!

For the past few weeks, I have embarked on an interesting, albeit challenging adventure known as NaNoWriMo. This acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month. It began a few years ago, and has grown all over the world, challenging novelists to write a book in a month’s time.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the plunge. I had been knocking around an idea for a while, and when I received an email on Halloween, I decided it was now or never. So I did it. I made up the story as I went. I created the characters as I wrote, as well as the setting and everything else.

Today I reached my 50,000 goal! But I still have a ways to go before my novel is completed. At least now I can take a sigh of relief and relax a little bit. Only one or two chapters left, and my book will be complete! It is really rewarding to know I can actually do it. Which just goes to show you, if you set your mind to it, you can achieve anything your heart desires!

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The First Thanksgiving

Everyone knows that the pilgrims invented the first Thanksgiving. But the holiday wasn’t designated a national day of observance until October 3, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” It took nearly a century before some cities in the South, including Vicksburg, Mississippi, to finally acknowledge the holiday.

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that has escaped religious persecution. Abraham Lincoln was a deeply religious man, and it is certain that he meant for the nation to thank God for the many blessings he bestowed on them. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that hasn’t come under attack the way Easter and Christmas have.

At this time of year, many Americans are feeling the impact of the loss of loved ones, or are dealing with other critical situations in their lives. During this holiday season, please pray for them, as well as for the safety of our military personnel.

A Most Famous Speech

In November, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to dedicate a national cemetery that was being established to bury Union soldiers. He was suffering from small pox at the time, and scribbled the speech down on paper as he rode the train from Washington.

Once he arrived, he took a room at the Gettysburg Hotel. He was given a tour of the battlefield, still strewn with limbers, knapsacks, and various other military equipment. On the day of the dedication, he rode a horse down the main street of town to the cemetery. A crowd of about 15,000 spectators was in attendance.

Edward Everett, a famous orator at the time from Massachusetts, gave the opening remarks. They lasted two hours! After performances by local musicians and choirs, the president stood to give his dedication, which was only two paragraphs long.

After he delivered his famous speech, which he considered to be “a few appropriate remarks,” he was overheard to have stated, “I failed, I failed, and that is about all that can be said about it.” This was because of the poor reception he received following his speech. People didn’t applaud or cheer. Perhaps, they were awestruck by the simple speech and the poignant words it held. The Gettysburg Address would become one of the most famous addresses in American history.

The Terrible Trail

On this date in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began his horrendous Savannah Campaign in order to strangle the South. The campaign later came to be known as “Sherman’s March to the Sea.” By November 15, Sherman had taken control of Atlanta, Georgia. On November 16, his troops started out toward Savannah, taking the city on December 21, 1864.

Sherman’s soldiers left a path of destruction sixty miles wide as they made their way across Georgia, burning, stealing, and killing everything in their path. Escaped slaves followed the soldiers for miles, praising Sherman and worshiping him as a savior. In one instance, Sherman, who was a racist, ordered his soldiers to dismantle a bridge once they had crossed over it. The ex-slaves tried to swim across, but many were swept away in the current and drowned.

Sherman’s March created so much physical and psychological harm in his “total war” that it caused irreparable wounds. It has been portrayed in such classics as Margaret Mitchell’s novel, “Gone with the Wind.” The actions of General Sherman and his men caused such deep scars that the damage they inflicted still exists. Many ruins of once astounding plantation houses still speckle the South. And Southerners who are patriotic to their homeland still hold a grudge toward the Union general and his destructive forces.

Assassins Show Up In the Strangest Places

So many bizaare occurrences took place during the War Between the States that they are too numerous to list. Several books have been written about them, and discussion groups still debate them. One such coincidence took place on this date in 1863.

On November 9, Abraham Lincoln attended a play in Washington. None other than John Wilkes Booth, the president’s future killer, performed. It was only a few days before Lincoln would depart to Pennsylvania, where he would deliver his infamous “Gettysburg Address.”

The two men crossed paths again in early 1865, when Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. A photograph still exists showing John Wilkes Booth in the crowd of spectators.

Presidential Election Parallel

We all know that tomorrow is Election Day, but did you know that it also marks a significant moment in American history? On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the presidency on the Republican ticket. It goes without saying that the result of that election led to a split in the country and the American Civil War.

In a four-way race, Lincoln ran against John C. Breckinridge, who won the Southern vote, John Bell, and Stephen Douglas. The Republican Party won enough electoral votes in the North to secure Lincoln’s election. Most Southern states didn’t cast any votes for Lincoln, since he represented abolitionism, which went against their economic philosophy.

I find it interesting how the media tries to make similarities between Barrack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. From what I can tell, there is only one: they both served on the Illinois Senate. Lets hope that, if Obama gets reelected, it won’t lead to civil war.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow

Rose O’Neal Greenhow was the perfect example of a Southern martyr. She was born in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1817, and acquired her nickname at an early age. Rose’s father was murdered by his slaves the same year she was born, so her mother was forced to raise four daughters and take care of the family farm. When Mrs. O’Neal died, Rose and her younger sister were sent to Washington D.C. to live with an aunt, who ran a fashionable boardinghouse at what would later become the Old Capitol Prison. Now a teenager, Rose learned the art of social etiquette. Considered to be educated, refined, loyal, and beautiful, with olive skin and a rosy complexion, she was the epitome of high society, and cultivated relationships with politicians and military officers, including Daniel Webster and James Buchanan. Her closest confidant, however, was John C. Calhoun, the powerful statesman from South Carolina who served as senator, secretary of state, and vice president.

“I am a Southern woman,” Rose wrote, “born with revolutionary blood in my veins, and my first crude ideas on State and Federal matters received consistency and shape from the best and wisest man of this century.” When Calhoun succumbed to his final illness at the Old Capitol, Rose was in constant attendance.

In 1835, she wed wealthy Virginian Dr. Robert Greenhow with the blessing of famed society matron Dolly Madison. Rose was 26, and Greenhow was 43. The couple had eight children. In 1850, the family moved to Mexico City with the promise of greater financial gains, and then to San Francisco. Dr. Greenhow died from an injury in 1854, so Rose and her children moved back to Washington D.C., where she resumed the role of popular socialite.

When the War Between the States broke out in April, 1861, she was 44 years old. Staunchly pro-slavery, Rose immediately set to work contacting Confederate friends with information she obtained from pro-Union contacts. She and a close associate, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Jordan, formed an extensive spy ring that included both men and women.

In July, Rose obtained one important piece of information that she sent to General P.G.T. Beauregard prior to the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run). Written in secret script, she sent the ten-word message via her assistant, Betty Duvall, who carried the note wrapped in silk and tied up in the bun of her hair. The note stated that the enemy, 55,000 strong, would commence from Arlington and Alexandria to Manassas. Because of this vital information, Beauregard and General Johnston were able to deflect the Union army’s advance and win the battle. Afterward, Jefferson Davis commended her achievement.

Rose’s activities raised the suspicions of Allan Pinkerton, head of the newly organized federal government’s Secret Service. After he spied into the windows of her home on 16th Street NW, and thought he had enough sufficient evidence, Pinkerton placed Rose on house arrest in August. Union soldiers showed her no dignity as they ransacked through her belongings, discovering maps, letters, notes, ciphered messages, and papers that she had attempted to burn. Rose didn’t hesitate to let everyone know about her plight by writing to Mary Chesnut and Secretary of State William Seward, whose letter was leaked to a Richmond newspaper. Defiantly, she still continued her spying activities, so Pinkerton sent her and her youngest daughter, 8-year-old “Little Rose,” to Old Capitol Prison in January. Rose reportedly wrapped the Confederate flag around her torso as she was being led to prison. Ironically, she and her daughter were contained in the same room where she spent hours with John C. Calhoun while he was dying. Needless to say, Confederate propaganda mills were given ammunition about the “brutal Yankees who would imprison a mother and child.”

While she was in prison, “The Rebel Rose” waved the Confederate flag from her window nearly every day, and continued her espionage. After a judge decided in March 1862 that it was too volatile to put her on trial, Rose was exiled to Richmond in June, once again draping herself with the Confederate flag upon her exit from Washington. She was greeted by cheering crowds as a heroine. In August 1863, President Davis appointed her to a diplomatic mission in France and England, and while there, she penned her memoirs, My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington in an effort to gain European support for the Southern cause. The book immediately became a best seller. She was received by Queen Victoria and Napoleon III, was granted an audience with the Emperor at the Tuileries, and became engaged to the Second Earl of Granville.

Rose missed her home, however, so in September, 1864, she decided to return to America with classified information for the Confederacy. Sailing aboard the blockade runner Condor, she and her traveling companions attracted the attention of a Union ship on October 1. In an attempt to outrun it, the Condor ran aground on a sandbar at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Afraid that she would be captured, Rose convinced the captain to let her take a lifeboat. Regardless of the stormy weather, he relented, and she set off with two others and $2,000 in gold sovereigns that she had earned from book royalties. Tragically, the tiny rowboat capsized, and the three people aboard were drowned.

The following day, Rose’s body washed up on shore. A Confederate soldier discovered it and took the gold, then pushed the body back into the sea. It washed up again, however, and was recovered and identified this time. (The soldier was so wrought with guilt that he returned the gold.) Rose’s body was taken to Wilmington, North Carolina, where it was laid out in state in a hospital chapel with a Confederate flag for a shroud. She was given a full military funeral, and her coffin was also draped with the Confederate flag. The marble cross marking her grave bears the epitaph, “Mrs. Rose O’N. Greenhow, a Bearer of Dispatchs to the Confederate Government.”

Rose’s diary, dated August 5, 1863 to August 10, 1864, and describing her mission in detail, is held in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. The National Archives has digitalized and made available in the Archival Research Catalog 175 documents that the U.S. Intelligence Service seized from Rose’s home in August 1861. (The photograph of Rose and “Little Rose” was taken during their incarceration at Old Capitol Prison by Matthew Brady Studio.)

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