J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

A New Year Brings New Promise

During the course of the Civil War, many soldiers had to endure harsh winters far from home. It was especially trying for southern soldiers who weren’t accustomed to deep snow and frigid temperatures. Many were in tatters and had no shoes, so they wrapped rags around their feet to stay warm.
Four winters brought further hardships for soldiers on both sides, as well as civilians in the South, who increasingly suffered due to economic instability. By 1864, a barrel of flour in Mobile, Alabama soared to over $300, and coffee, a luxury to southerners by this time, cost between $30 and $70 a pound.

Nevertheless, soldiers on both sides held strong convictions about fighting for the causes they believed in. An example of this is expressed in the following letter, written by Sullivan Balou to his wife on July 14, 1861:

“… If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of their Revolution. And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt …

Merry Christmas, Mr. President

On this date in 1864, the grand old city of Savannah, Georgia, fell to Union forces during the American Civil War. It was the beginning of the end, as Union Major General William T. Sherman’s remaining 62,000 men finalized their March to the Sea by capturing Savannah. The march, which began on November 15, swept through Georgia, wreaking havoc and destruction in its path. The Union Army captured Atlanta without much trouble, and continued on until they reached Savannah. The intention was to sweep upward toward Virginia, and with the help of Union Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant’s army, strangle Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s forces. In the end, the ploy worked.

Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and William J. Hardy’s men opposed, but in the end, they fled across the Savannah River, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves. Because Sherman thought the city was so lovely, he decided (thankfully) not to raze it.

One Confederate officer estimated that 10,000 slaves followed the Union Army on their way to freedom, but instead, met their demise through “hunger, disease, and exposure.” Sherman himself estimated that his army had inflicted $100 million in damage, which is over 1.5 billion in today’s dollars. The Federal Army destroyed railroads, bridges, telegraph lines, and seized over 22,000 head of livestock. It also took 20 million pounds of corn and fodder, and destroyed an unaccountable number of cotton mills and gins.

Battle of Fredericksburg

This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. It was during this battle that Burnside’s Union forces faced defeat at the hands of General Lee’s Confederates, who were entrenched on Marye’s Heights. The Yankees were literally mowed down, and during the course of the bitter cold night, suffered tremendously, their cries and moans echoing in the still December air to the distraught ears of the Rebels.

One remarkable soldier laid his life on the line to assist the poor soldiers he was fighting against. This is a profound gesture, because the Union soldiers had pillaged the town upon their arrival, driving the remaining citizens into the woods to fend for themselves. Private Richard Rowland Kirkland, only nineteen years old, ventured out onto the battlefield to offer fallen Yankees sips of water from his canteen. Because of his bravery, he is forever known as “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.

The battlefield has been honorably preserved, as has a house that survived the midst of battle and still has bullet hole pock mark scars to prove it. In two of my novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, the battle is described in detail. Once the fighting ceased, Northern Lights became visible in the winter sky. This was extremely unusual, as they are normally not seen that far south. The Confederates took it as a sign from God that he approved of their victory.

Southern Writers Unite

Saturday’s first annual Southern Writers Celebration, which was held in Horn Lake, Mississippi at the M. R. Dye Public Library, was a big success. Nine authors were invited to intend, including myself and several other local writers. A crowd of about fifty showed up for the three-hour long presentation, despite the rain.

The lineup included two historical fiction writers, two nonfiction writers, a historical romance writer, a couple of children’s writers, and two fantasy authors. The youngest is only sixteen years old, and has already written his second novel.

Thanks to everyone who ventured out in the dreary, wet weather to attend. I, for one, really appreciate your support and participation.

Making History Come Alive

A lot goes into making an effective film accurate. No small detail can be overlooked, or the movie will appear trite and un-researched. Take the latest Stephen Spielberg movie, for instance. Lincoln features superb actors, including Daniel Day Lewis, who is known to spend years researching a character before her portrays him to a tea, and Sally Field, who had to gain wait in order to portray her character, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Movies spend millions to bring history to life, including sets, extras, and costumes. The research that goes into it can often be painstaking. In the case of this movie, costume designers traveled to various locations to study Mrs. Lincoln’s beautiful dresses, including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

For more information about costume designer Joanna Johnston and the work she put in to accurately portray the designs, visit:


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