J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Song of the South

No one knows for sure where the word “dixie” originated. Some believe that it was a shortened nickname referring to the Mason-Dixon Line, while others think it came from ten-dollar notes that were widely used and issued from Louisiana (“dix” is French for “ten). By the 1850’s, the term “dixie” was directly associated with the South.

The song “Dixie’s Land” is commonly believed to have been written by Daniel Emmett, although others emerged who contested this. The melody became popular in black face minstrel shows, and after the start of the War Between the States, became the Southern anthem. (The North felt as though it needed an anthem as well, so it adopted the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.) Many variations in the lyrics appeared at this time, as was common practice back then. The song was played at both President Lincoln’s and President Davis’ inaugurations. It was a favorite of Lincoln’s, who also requested that the song be played during the Grand Review after the war was over. And, of course, it was played at Emmett’s funeral.

Unfortunately, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, “Dixieland” became associated with negative, racist implications, rather than having been considered as an important piece of history, ancestry, and Southern heritage. Recently, it was banned from being played at Ole Miss sporting events. When local school children in Mississippi were asked if they knew the song, none of them recognized it. Personally, I think that’s a shame.


Recently, I was invited to do a podcast about my new novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. The interviewer, Charles Cummings, is with American Civil War Today. Check it out:


It is also available on You Tube at:


And the iTunes internet page is:


Hope you enjoy!

More on Forrest Park

Last night, the Memphis City Council held a committee meeting to decide whether to add Ida B. Wells’ name to Forrest Park. The park is named after the famous Civil War general, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Recently, the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed a large granite marker at the park, but city officials took the liberty of removing it over Christmas. Since then, the issue has become a hot topic.

City council member Myron Lowry suggested adding Wells’ name, but he was not in attendance at last night’s meeting. One city council member, however, didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion. Janis Fullilove got so riled up that she burst into tears and left the meeting.

“I can’t justify that he (Forrest) loved black people,” she told a reporter. “If I kill your mama, do I love you? If I kill your daddy, do I love you?”

Really, Ms. Fullilove? Apparently she is misinformed about General Forrest by thinking that he started the Ku Klux Klan. Lee Millar of the SCV stated as much.

“Her behavior was unfortunate,” he said. “She should listen to what people have to say.”

Fullilove has been arrested on numerous occasions for drunk driving, and still, she maintains her position on the city council. She disrupted the hearing by making faces throughout. Regardless of her absurd behavior, no resolution was agreed upon about renaming the park. City Council member Bill Boyd said that he thinks Ida B. Wells, who was a civil rights activist, should get her own park, and that the marker for Forrest Park should be replaced. 

It’s Never Too Late

A Confederate soldier finally received his grave marker 88 years after his death. Andrew L. Robinson, who enlisted on June 15, 1861, was a private with the 48th Virginia Infantry. According to a story in the Civil War Courier, Robinson was wounded three times at the battles of Winchester, Virginia, Sharpsburg, Virginia, and Hatcher’s Run battle, fought just south of Richmond, Virginia. He was shot in the head at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, and taken to Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, which was the world’s largest hospital at that time.

After he was discharged from the hospital, he returned to his regiment, but was captured at Jonesboro, Tennessee. After being freed on May 22, 1865, he returned home, and lived the rest of his life in Sullivan County, Tennessee. He died in 1924.

His second great-grand-niece, Rhonda Cookenour Turner, investigated his information to discover the whereabouts of his grave.  On November 3 of last year, a Confederate marker, provided by the Veterans Administration, was installed by Commander Rick Morrell of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Bristol Camp #52. The marker was dedicated at Arcadia United Methodist Church Cemetery in Kingsport, Tennessee with full military honors.

Nancy Hart


“The Rebel in the Family”

The life of Confederate spy Nancy Hart is shrouded in mystery. Old documents refer to her with a mixture of fact and folklore. It is believed that she was born in Raleigh, North Carolina to John and Rebecca Hart in 1846. Her mother was a first cousin of Andrew Johnson, who later became president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The Harts were devout Christians, and her father frequently held family worship services. While Nancy was still an infant, they moved to Tazwell, Virginia.

Nancy was tall, lithe, and black-eyed. She was a middle child who had six, or possibly twelve, siblings. In 1853, she went to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Mary and William Clay Price, in Roane County, Virginia, which became West Virginia in 1863. The family lived in the wilderness, so Nancy learned how to be an accomplished hunter and rider, but she never learned how to read and write. When the Civil War began, the Roane County held divided loyalties. Friends, neighbors, and families were separated by opposing beliefs. William was not a Confederate soldier, but he did his part by assisting them. After drawing suspicion, Union soldiers confronted him at his farm and ordered him to go to nearby Spencer to take the oath of allegiance. He departed with the Yankees, but never made it to Spencer. His body was discovered three days later. He had been shot in the back and left in the road.

The murder of William spawned Nancy’s loathing for the Federals. She revered the Southern Cause, even though two of her brothers went to fight for the North. In early 1861, her neighbors, the Kelly’s, held a going away party for their two sons who had joined the Confederate Army. While the party was commencing, Union officers marched past the house in the moonlight. Nancy hollered, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” Four rifle shots rang out in response, and four minie balls struck the front stoop, one of which lodged in the door. Three days later, Nancy joined the Moccasin Rangers, who were pro-Southern guerrillas, and rode with their leader, Perry Conley (or Connolly) at the head of the column, leading the Rangers while working as a spy, scout, and guide to the local region. She travelled alone at night to deliver messages between Confederate armies, and slept during the day. She also saved the lives of many wounded Rebel soldiers by hiding them with Southern sympathizers and nursing them back to health. Posing as a farm girl, she peddled eggs and vegetables to Union detachments to obtain information, and scouted isolated Federal outposts to report their strength, population, and vulnerability to General Stonewall Jackson. She even led Jackson’s cavalry on several raids. In the fall of 1861, Conley narrowly escaped the Federals, but Nancy was captured. Deciding she didn’t know anything, they released her, which was a big mistake, because she reported back to Conley with valuable information about the Yankees.

Nancy married one of the Moccasin Rangers, Joshua Douglas. Conley was mortally wounded in an engagement with Ohio Infantry in early summer, 1862. He fought off his attackers until he ran out of ammunition, and then the Yankees clubbed him to death. Afterward, the Rangers disbanded. Nancy’s husband joined up with the 19th Virginia Cavalry, and she moved into the mountains of Nicholas County, where she continued her work as a messenger. A reward for her capture was issued, and it wasn’t long until Union Lieutenant Colonel Starr recognized “Peggy,” as Nancy was known by both armies. She and a female friend were discovered in a log cabin, crushing corn. They were taken prisoner, and confined to the second-story of an old, dilapidated house in Summersville.  Soldiers were quartered downstairs, and a sentry was posted to guard them in their room.

While there, 20-year-old Nancy was allowed to roam the jail grounds of her own free will. She gained the attention of several soldiers, including telegrapher Marion H. Kerner, who convinced Starr to transfer the young women to the Summersville jail, and supplied them with sewing materials and illustrated papers. When an itinerant photographer showed up to hone his trade, Kerner pursuaded Nancy to pose for a picture, although she said that she didn’t have clothes “fittin’ to be pictured in.” Kerner requested clothing from some Union women, and fashioned a Yankee officer’s hat by folding the bill and inserting a plume. The resulting photograph is the only one in existence of Nancy Hart, who, according to legend, refused to smile because she had to wear Yankee attire.

Here is where the story differs. One version states that, later that night, Nancy tricked a naive soldier. After talking to him extensively, she convinced him to show her his pistol. The young, enamored Yankee willingly obliged. She promptly fired into his heart, killing him instantly. Nancy jumped headlong out of a second-story window into a clump of tall jimson weeds, and escaped bareback on Lieutenant Colonel Starr’s horse.

A week later, on July 25, she returned with 200 Confederate cavalrymen. She was still riding Lieutenant Colonel Starr’s horse. At 4:00 a.m., the Rebels burned three buildings, including the commissary storehouse. They also destroyed two wagons, and captured eight mules and twelve horses. In all, only ten shots were fired, and two soldiers were wounded. The Confederates easily arrested the slumbering Yankees, including Starr, who was shipped off to Libby Prison with his officers. Marion Kerner was also captured, but Nancy convinced the Confederate officers to release him because of the kind treatment he had shown her. He was immediately arrested, however, after attempting to send a telegraph to Union forces.

Nancy faded out of the picture as an active partisan, no doubt knowing that, if she were to be captured again, a rope would be waiting for her. After the War Between the States ended, her husband returned, and they lived in Greenbrier County, raising two sons. Nancy’s last public appearance was in 1902, when she testified at the Courthouse in Lewisburg on behalf of her son, Kennos, who was charged with killing a man at a dance. Nancy died in either 1902 or 1913.

The other version of her story isn’t nearly as colorful, and is much sadder. According to Hart family legend, Nancy was born to rebel, and paid with her life after she was arrested and confined in Summersville. Because Union troops didn’t want the locals to know, her hanging on Cold Knob Mountain was kept a secret. Nancy remained calm, but once allowed to speak, she hollered out the Rebel yell, as well as “Wahoo! Whoop! Hurrah!” and “Yay for the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis!” However, there is little or no evidence suggesting that Nancy was executed by hanging. On the other hand, there is little or no evidence stating that she ever married, either, and no official record of her killing a Union soldier. Census records are sketchy at best, as are family records.

She is buried at Mannings Knob Cemetery in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, near Richwood, where the Mannings family buried their slaves. The cemetery is also known as Nancy Hart Cemetery. She was originally buried with only a pile of stones to mark her grave. Years later, Jim Comstock, a publisher and Civil War buff, decided that she deserved a proper marker, so he and Nancy’s granddaughter found the top of Mannings Knob, but the area had been bulldozed to make room for a beacon tower. Her grave was never located. However, a marker was erected in the cemetery in her honor. 

Marion H. Kerner, the Union officer who convinced Nancy to pose for a photograph, said that the last glimpse he caught of her was shortly after the Summersville raid, and he never “heard of her since. She may be dead.”  He later wrote about her, making her story famous in Leslie’s Weekly Magazine. The article was published in 1910. A large rock, known as “Nancy’s Dancing Rock,” still exists on the West Fork of the Little Kanawha River, near the place where Nancy grew up.

You Can’t Erase History

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Controversy still flares over the removal of a large granite sign from Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in Memphis. According to an article printed in the Memphis Flyer, George Little, CAO of Memphis city government, and right-hand man of Mayor A C. Wharton, claimed that there was no record of a sign being approved. He did so upon the urging of Shelby County commissioner Walter Bailey, who, along with his brother, D’Army, led the way “to eradicate all traces of the era in which whites dominated blacks, first by slavery and later by various forms of legal segregation.” Efforts to rename such landmarks as Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Forrest Park almost succeeded, “purging these downtown public facilities of their connection to the lost cause of the Confederacy.” It was even discussed that the bodies of the great General Forrest and his wife would be exhumed and relocated. A resolution was passed in 2005, but efforts waned when the Sons of Confederate Veterans intervened, and succeeded to have Forrest Park added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

Then Parks Director Cindy Buchanan, who retired from her position last year, seems to have lost all recollection of the approval she granted to Sons of Confederate Veterans N.B. Forrest Camp 215. And Little claims that he was never notified, stating that, “We can’t just allow citizens to put their own signs and monuments up without some kind of official approval.” So when he had a crew available at Christmastime, he “just decided to go ahead and have the sign removed.” However, all investigation that the Flyer performed seemed to lead back to Little. And it’s no wonder.

SCV member Lee Millar responded by sending the Flyer a letter he received from Cindy Buchanan in March, 2011, which plainly states that the concept for a sign in Forrest Park was “found to be appropriate in concept,” and that Millar was to meet with Mike Flowers, administrator of park planning and development, to “follow through on the construction and installation of the sign.” Copies of the letter were sent by Buchanan to none other than Little, as well as Flowers. According to Millar, N.B. Forrest Camp 215 “raised funds for the marker and spent some $9,000 for it, plus the cost of installing it.”

Mr. Little, I pose to you this question: why would you have something removed that you had a part of, yet claim to know nothing about, all the while knowing that it would offend large portions of the Memphis population?

A letter dated January 8 was sent to Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton from “Becky,” a member of a local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter. In it, Becky stressed the fact that she is an eighth-generation Shelby County resident, and expressed how appalled she is by the recent turn of events. “History is important to some of us, and for others, they relish in raising “holy hell about it” to quote this morning’s Commercial Appeal. These individuals cannot accept history which is unrevised; history told through diaries and documents written by people who witnessed events first-hand, so they make it their mission in life to destroy the history they do not like.”

Here, here. So leave well enough alone, Mr. Little. Replace the marker. Your intentions are offensive, and your lack of knowledge about the Confederacy, and Nathan Bedford Forrest in particular, is atrocious. You won’t win this one. Hopefully, not ever. Because if you do, all history that is so special to this region will be lost. And what a tragedy that would be.

The Case of the Missing Monument

Last July,local chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans came together to purchase a monument in Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The 10′ long, 2 ton granite marker, which simply states “Forrest Park,” was placed in the park, proudly displayed beneath the regal statue of Confederate General Forrest sitting atop his steed, and facing busy Union Avenue.

Suddenly, the monument went missing last night. Apparently, the city of Memphis decided after months that the SCV failed to obtain a permit for the monument, so they removed it.

A permit was obtained from the previous director of the Parks and Recreation department, but of course, he is no longer working for the city. Somehow, the paperwork went missing as well. Strange but true. It’s a good thing General Forrest isn’t alive to see how his reputation and memory have been tainted. If he was, I’m sure he’d raise hell!

Book Signing With the SCV


Last Thursday evening, I had the privilege of being invited to Ripley, Mississippi to meet members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #868, the “Tippah Tigers,” where I gave a discussion about my new novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. I had the most wonderful time meeting these folks, who were very hospitable and accommodating.

After being fed a hearty meal of vegetable soup and chili, the meeting commenced, and I discussed my motivation for writing the book, as well as the series of which it is a part. I explained how I came up with the characters, and how the book is based on a diary written by a member of the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Afterward, I was invited to sign copies for members.

Thank you very much, Tippah Tigers, for your kind invitation. I hope we get the chance to meet again in the near future!

Southern Lights


Over the holidays, the local chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans braved the cold to host Southaven, Mississippi’s annual event known as Southern Lights. This wonderful light display is held in City Park and takes about 20 minutes to drive through. Every year, a few more displays are added. My favorites are the dancing Christmas trees (to “Carol of the Bells” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and the Peanuts display, performing, of course, to Shroeder’s piano song.

Plenty of comradery, hot chocolate, and treats kept the volunteers busy as they tried to stay warm inside the small heated shelter, taking turns to wait on customers. The great thing about Southern Lights is that Southaven divies up the admission equally between all nonprofits who collect money from cars and buses that enter the display. It is one of the biggest fund-raisers that the UDC and SCV members have, and this year’s event was very benificial to both groups. Plus, it was a lot of fun!

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