J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

The Civil War and Memphis


Anyone interested in the War Between the States knows that Memphis is the site of many historically significant events. Tennessee ranks second in the number of battles that took place there (Virginia, of course, had the most). It isn’t surprising that, over the course of over 150 years, many places have disappeared beneath strip malls, golf courses, or kudzu. Some, however, still remain intact.

One of the most notable places is Elmwood Cemetery, where Nathan Bedford Forrest’s family is buried. (Historian and author, Shelby Foote, is interred beside them, and General Forrest is now buried at Forrest Park.) Also in the cemetery are numerous slave’s graves, Confederate soldiers’ graves, and victims of the 1878 yellow fever epidemic.

Jefferson Davis Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River, and Confederate Park nearby, both escaped flooding this spring. Many antebellum homes, including the beautiful Hunt-Phelan House, still exist, as does evidence left over from battles, such as a street sign marking Union General Washburn’s escape from General Forrest’s cavalry forces. A home that was part of the Underground Railroad still stands on North 2nd Street, and the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, is still in publication. (During the war, the press was moved several times to avoid capture. The Commercial Appeal now publishes Civil War news every Sunday)

Protests Begin in Honor of General Lee

Va. campus to remove Confederate flags from chapel

Now that a small group of law students at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia have succeeded in their mission to eradicate all Confederate flags from campus, including those displayed at Lee Chapel, where General Robert E. Lee is interred, other groups have decided to contest the decision. This Saturday, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Lexington-based Stonewall Brigade, will hold a flag vigil downtown at noon. The demonstration will be followed by an open forum at 4:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express to respond to what the SCV refers to as “grave robbery.”

The flags were removed after the law students claimed that the Confederate flags were hurtful and offensive to minorities. According to the SCV, Washington and Lee University can easily remedy the situation. This can be accomplished by separating campus policies from the chapel.

“We feel that what they did is a desecration of Robert E. Lee’s memorial and gravesite,” said Commander Brandon Dorsey. “It is borderline illegal, and the flags should be returned. No military servicemen should have the flags for which they fought removed from their gravesite.”

W&L President Kenneth Ruscio issued a lengthy statement earlier this month stating that the Confederate flag replicas were not presented in “an educational manner.” According to Ruscio, original flags on loan from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond will be on display in the chapel museum on a rotating basis.

Dorsey said that W&L may have violated state law by removing the battle flags, therefore desecrating the memorial of a war veteran. “”Our chief concern is primarily seeing that Robert E. Lee’s gravesite and memorial are maintained in the manner they were originally conceived to be,” he said.

The SCV was rebuked last spring when they contacted W&L after the law students’ demands were publicized.

“We’re so diametrically opposed. We don’t think there is any hope for dialogues,” he said. “We wanted the university to allow public debate. We wanted historical experts to talk about the relevance of Lee in this era. It was a flat rejection.”

California Does It Again

Another strike against the Confederate flag has occurred. This week, California’s General Assembly passed a bill in which state government facilities will not be allowed to sell Confederate-related merchandise. This movement came about when the mother of Assemblyman Isadore Hall saw a replica of Confederate currency for sale in the state Capitol building’s gift shop.

Hall said, “It’s a symbol in history directly linked to the enslavement, torture, and murder of millions of Americans. The state of California should not be in the business of promoting hate toward others.”

This is another example of complete ignorance. If what Hall says is true (which it is not), then in all fairness, the American flag should be banned as well. Our national emblem flew over many more slave ships than the Confederate flag ever did. To say that the Confederate flag represents slavery is nothing less than absurd. Hall needs to study her history, but apparently, none of the Assembly members have studied American history, either, or they wouldn’t have passed such a ridiculous bill.

Those who are opposed to the bill claim that they are not defending the Confederate flag. Instead, they are defending the principle of free speech. Once again, this proves that there is too much political correctness. And in this case, the assumption about the Confederate flag is incorrect.

New Interview by J.D.R. Hawkins


I’m honored to have been asked to give another interview to indieBRAG, which sponsors the B.R.A.G. Medallion award to a chosen number of indie published works. My novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, is the recipient of this prestigious award. The interview is re-posted below:

Interview Part II with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D.R. Hawkins
July 14, 2014 by layeredpages

JDR Hawkins

Stephanie: I would like to welcome back J.D.R. Hawkins for a follow up interview about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, “A Beautiful Glittering Lie.”. She is an award-winning author who has written for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, e-zines and blogs. She is one of a few female Civil War authors, uniquely describing the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Ms. Hawkins is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, the Mississippi Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Writers and Pikes Peak Writers. She is also an artist and singer/songwriter. Her two previous novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, have received numerous honors and awards. Ms. Hawkins is currently working on a nonfiction book about the Civil War, as well as a Young Adult historical fiction and a memoir. Learn more about J.D.R. here.

Hello, J.D.R.! Thank you for visiting with me again to talk about your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Please bring readers up to speed about the premise of your story.

J.D.R.: The novel is the first in a four-book series, which I call “The Renegade Series.” It’s a saga about the Summers family from North Alabama, and what happens to them when the Civil War erupts.

Stephanie: I think it’s great that you have written a story about a Southern Soldier & a family rather than an officer or strictly about warfare tactics. I believe you bring readers closer to the events that took place during that time by doing so. What are a couple of this soldier’s struggles he faces during the Civil War?

J.D.R.: The first struggle that the father, Hiram Summers, faces is whether or not to support Alabama when the state secedes. The second is leaving his family once he decides to enlist. And from that point on, surviving every battle, from First Manassas to Fredericksburg, is a struggle.

Stephanie: In my last interview with you, you said that part of your research was travelling to various battlefields. What are the names of the battlefields you visited and what were some of the thoughts and emotions you experienced?

J.D.R.: My husband and I visited many Virginia battlefields, including Manassas (Bull Run), Sharpsburg (Antietam), Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. We also went to Brandy Station, where the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War took place. And, of course, we went to Gettysburg. That battlefield was the most profound. How those foot-weary soldiers fought over such rugged terrain amazes me. And seeing the National Cemetery, with all the unknown soldiers’ markers, as well as the mass graves of the Confederates, was overwhelming. So many gave their lives, and that was just in one battle.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and what were some of the challenges?

J.D.R.: It took me about six months to research and six months to write, so a year overall. I think the biggest challenge was trying to make the battle scenes come to life from a soldier’s perspective. A Beautiful Glittering Lie is based on a journal by one of the soldiers who fought with the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. By referring to his observations and perceptions of the battles he participated in, it was easier to visualize what those men went through.

Stephanie: Did you learn anything new about the Civil War in your research you didn’t know before?

J.D.R: I discovered much about how Alabama was affected by the war. Hiram’s son, David, sees firsthand the devastation taking place when he sneaks into occupied Huntsville. Union soldiers were not always gentlemanly in their treatment of the locals, women, and especially, black people. The scenes described in the book, as well as the Union officers who were in Huntsville and the surrounding area, are based on fact.

Stephanie: What about this period of time in American history impacted you the most to write this story?

J.D.R.: I have always been fascinated with the Victorian era, and the Civil War in particular. The war was not completely about slavery, which is a popular belief. The causes were far more complex, but basically, the war was a result of economics and political greed. As is the case in many instances in American history, citizens become pawns to politicians’ schemes and disagreements.

Stephanie: Which character in your story are you most partial to and why?

J.D.R: I’d have to say that I’m most partial to David. At the beginning of the story, he is just a teenager. Instead of going to fight, which is what he wants to do, he stays behind to tend to the family’s farm, thus fulfilling his promise to his father. However, like any teenage boy, he is hungry for adventure, so he goes off to find it, but bites off more than he can chew.

Stephanie: Writing Historical fiction can be tricky with blending the right amount of fiction with fact. What advice would you give a new writer wanting to do so?

J.D.R.: My advice would be to immerse yourself in the period you want to write about. Read letters, journals, speeches, newspaper articles, and books written about and during that era to get a feel for what people experienced and how they expressed themselves. Study the fashions, the political undercurrent, fads, music, artwork, and photographs. I listened to Civil War music while I wrote to get myself in the right mindset. Know your facts inside and out, but don’t go overboard with description, because that can bore your readers. Instead, sprinkle tidbits throughout your book. Once you are completely familiar with the era you want to write about, develop your plot. Let your characters grow with the story. I ended up writing things that weren’t in the original outline because my characters seemed to take on personas of their own, especially in their dialogue. If possible, visit the places you are writing about to learn the terrain, the architecture, and regional dialects.

Stephanie: What is up next for you and will there be more stories that take place during this period?

J.D.R.: I plan on publishing the third book in “The Renegade Series.” (The second book, A Beckoning Hellfire, has been published.) I’m also working on a nonfiction book about the Civil War, a Young Adult novel, and a memoir.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

J.D.R.: I learned about it from Writer’s Digest magazine.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

J.D.R.: The book is available everywhere. It can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at all other book retailers. Readers can also purchase it through my website.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.D.R. Hawkins, who is the author of, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Another Sad Victory for Political Correctness

MS flag
In a small, insignificant U.S.A. Today article yesterday, it was reported that, last Tuesday, Washington and Lee University announced that they will be removing all Confederate flags from campus. This decision came about after the school received pressure from a small group of law students who claim that the flags are discriminatory. They stated that they felt it was demeaning to have to pledge an honor code in the presence of the flags. The only place where the flags are prominently displayed is in the Lee Chapel, where General Robert E. Lee is interred.

On a personal note, I find this decision very disconcerting. If the school where General Lee successfully served as president for five years can all of a sudden change its policies after nearly 150 years, I have to wonder, what’s next? I feel it is inconceivably disrespectful of the man who gave his all to the school, who was torn between serving his country and defending his native state of Virginia, and who upheld the most stringent religious beliefs. What a slap in the face to all of us who have Confederate ancestors, because if this action is any indication, more dishonorable, similar acts will follow, such as the ongoing debate about Forrest Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

If Confederate flags are removed from a burial chamber, then what’s to follow? Taking away any sign of the Irish, the Germans, and the British? In that case, the American flag should be removed from all places that certain small, politically correct groups deem inappropriate. Need I remind you that our national flag flew while hoards of Native Americans were being slaughtered? Anyone who finds the Confederate flag offensive doesn’t know squat about history. The flag originated from the St. Andrews Cross, a religious, Scottish emblem. Just because certain hate groups (i.e. the KKK) took the flag and distorted its meaning and significance doesn’t mean that the basis of its meaning and symbolism is related to racism or slavery. It evolved into that after Reconstruction, and up through the Civil Rights Movement. It didn’t represent such ugly things during the Civil War, for which Lee and so many other brave Southern men fought.

I certainly hope Southern heritage groups such as the SCV will stand up against this abhorrent, blatant racism. It is just as offensive to abolish the Confederate flag from Washington and Lee University as it is, to some people, to fly it, because it is denying us the privilege to honor our war heroes, and thus, denying us our Constitutional rights to freely express ourselves. Sorry if you think the flag is offensive. Guess what? There are plenty of things far more offensive, and there are far bigger problems that this country faces right now. Maybe those law students should redirect their angst, be more constructive instead of destructive, and work toward solving these problems instead of attacking other people’s heritage.

Removing the flag is alarming, and I’m afraid to see what will be the next to go. I’m sure someone, somewhere, will find something wrong with everything. And then what will we be left with? Getting rid of things for political correctness isn’t the answer: love, compassion, and mutual understanding is. This means that all of us need to accept our history and heritage, comprehend the philosophical differences that we’ve held during various times in that history, and embrace them all as our own unique, American design. Erasing history is the first step in our own destruction. Hitler proved that.

Happy Birthday General Forrest

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Today marks the anniversary of one of the Civil War’s most influential and controversial commanders, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Born on July 13, 1821, Forrest rose to fame after enlisting as a private in the War Between the States. Because of his outstanding, strategical military mind, he advanced to general during the course of the war.

At the onset of the Civil War, Forrest was a wealthy planter, slave trader, and real estate investor. Although he had no formal education, he worked hard (his father died when he was 17, leaving him responsible for his family) and put his younger brothers through college. Becoming a Memphis millionaire, he paid for horses and equipment for a regiment of Tennessee volunteers. From there, he proved to be a military genius in several battles. He was quoted as saying he was the first with the most, and that he came out a horse ahead (he had 29 horses shot out from under him, but killed 28 men). Author Shelby Foote stated that there were only two geniuses in the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

At the massacre of Ft. Pillow, Forrest was accused of intentionally killing surrendered Union soldiers because they were black. He was later found innocent of the charges. After the war, it was rumored that he helped establish the KKK, but this has never been proven, and he denied it adamantly. In fact, a court hearing was held, led by Union General Sherman, to prove his guilt, but that never happened. General Forrest was only 56 years old when he died on October 29, 1877.

Originally buried in Elmwood Cemetery, his body was disinterred to Forrest Park in Memphis in 1904. Every year, a ceremony is held to honor this special man and significant Confederate leader, and this year is no exception. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy will be at the park today to pay special homage to this amazing man.

Jefferson Davis and His Dog, Traveler


Mr. Davis was very fond of animals and birds. He always gathered the scraps from the breakfast table to feed his peafowls, and his dressing gown pockets were heavy with grain for his beautiful pets. He had a large flock of peafowls, of which he was very proud and fond. Every morning Mr. Davis would take his exercise on a short pavement leading from the back steps at Beauvoir.

“It is just the length of my exercise path in prison,” he would tell his friends.

Up and down, up and down this pavement he would walk, at his heels and all around him his flock of peafowls. One old cock especially would spread his gorgeous tail, droop his wings, and strut after Mr. Davis in the most comical fashion. Evidently, the bond of friendship between the two was a close one.

Fond as Mr. Davis was of his peafowls, his especial pet was his dog, Traveler, the same name as Robert E. Lee’s famous horse. This dog had a very wonderful history. Mr. (Samuel W.) Dorsey, husband of Mrs. Sarah Dorsey, from whom Mr. Davis purchased Beauvoir, had traveled all over the world. On the Bernise Alps, Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey purchased the young puppy, whose father was a Russian bulldog. The puppy was named Traveler. They carried the young dog everywhere with them, and he was trained to be Mrs. Dorsey’s bodyguard.

Once, while camping on the Arabian Desert, Mr. Dorsey had one of his Arabian servants punished severely for theft. The next day, Mr. Dorsey and some of the Arabians went on a two days’ journey, leaving Mrs. Dorsey and the camp in the charge of an old Arab sheik. That night, while asleep under the tent, Mrs. Dorsey was awakened by a spring and growl from Traveler, then the shriek of a man. She sprang from her cot, quickly got a light, and found the Arab who had been beaten by Mr. Dorsey’s orders pinned down to the ground by Traveler, a huge knife lying beside him, where it had fallen from his hand. He had cut his way into the tent and crept in, evidently determined to wreak his vengeance upon her for the stripes he received.

Mrs. Dorsey had magnificent diamonds, which she wore at night to a reception at the Tulleries. On her return to the hotel, she went at once to her room, while her husband and some friends walked out to smoke. She quickly went to sleep, but was aroused by a sound of a desperate struggle on the floor, where Traveler had succeeded in throwing the thief who had followed her, attracted by the glitter of her diamonds. This man was one of the worst characters in Paris, and the gallows were cheated when he died of the wound in his throat torn by Traveler’s teeth.

After Mr. Dorsey died, Traveler was given to Mr. Davis and became his constant companion and guard. He allowed no one to come on the place whose good intent he had any reason to suspect. The entire place was under his care; not a window or door was locked or barred, for everything was safe while Traveler kept his sentry march on the wide porches that surrounded the house on every side.

If Mr. Davis wished to safeguard their coming and going of anyone and give him the freedom of the place, day or night, he would put one hand on the person’s shoulder and the other on the dog’s head and say: “Traveler, this is my friend.”

The dog would accept the introduction very gravely, would smell his clothes and hands, and “size him up” generally; but he never forgot, and, henceforth, Mr. Davis’ “friend” was safe to come and go unmolested.

As fierce as the dog was, and as bloody as was his record, he was as gentle as a lamb with little children. Mrs. Davis’ small niece, a child about two years old, make the dog her chosen playmate, and the baby and the dog would roll together on the grass in highest glee. She would pull his hair, pound on his head, or ride around the place on his back, the dog trotting as sedately as a Shetland pony. This child lived some distance down the beach; but she went home day after day in perfect safety, guarded and guided by Traveler.

Traveler would rush around in hot pursuit of fiddler crabs, which was a pet diversion of his, and would bark and throw up the sand with his paws in wild glee when he had succeeded in driving a number of the ungainly objects into the sea. But even fiddler crabs had no attraction for Traveler when he went to walk with Mr. Davis. He was then a bodyguard, pure and simple, and had all the dignity and watchfulness of a squad of soldiers detailed as escorts. Mr. Davis would become buried in thought, almost oblivious to surroundings. Traveler had his own ideas of what was right and proper; so if in absorption Mr. Davis would walk very close to the water Traveler would gently take his trousers leg in his teeth, or, by bounding between him and the sea, he would manage to call attention to the big waves coming in.

One day, Traveler seemed very droopy and in pain. As ordinary measures did not relieve him, Mr. Davis wrote a note to a friend who was the most celebrated physician in that part of the country. The doctor came, but nothing seemed to relieve the dog’s suffering. All night he moaned and cried, looking up into Mr. Davis’s face with big, pathetic eyes, as if begging for help from the hand that had never before failed him. All those long hours, Mrs. Dorsey, Mr. Davis, and the doctor kept their hopeless watch, for the work of the vile poisoner had been too well done for remedy. Just at daylight he died, his head on Mr. Davis’ knee and his master’s tears falling like rain upon the faithful beast.

As Mr. Davis gently laid the dead dog upon the rug, he said softly: “I have indeed lost a friend.”

Traveler was put in a coffin-like box, and all the family were present at the funeral. Mr. Davis softly patted the box with his hand, then turned away before it was lowered into the ground. The dog was buried in the front yard of Beauvoir, and a small stone, beautifully engraved, marked the place, (but at some time during the intervening years, that stone has unfortunately disappeared)
By: L. H. L.
Excerpted from the Confederate Veteran Vol. XVII, No. 4, April, 1909

Thanks to: Sunny South News, Lowry Rifles Camp #1740 – Rankin County, Mississippi – Bill Hinson, Editor

Plan to Sell Civil War Soldier’s Skull Cancelled

(AP) The skull belonging to a Civil War soldier that was found at Gettysburg will not be auctioned off after protests from the National Park Service and the public.

Instead the auction house has donated the remains to be buried with military honors.

Estate Auction Co. of Hershey, Pennsylvania, had listed the skull for sale at auction Tuesday in Hagerstown, Maryland.

The listing was removed from a public auction website and replaced by a statement saying the auction company was donating the skull to the Park Service.

“At the auction company’s request, it remains as part of the catalog due to its historical value,” the statement said.

Gettysburg National Military Park and the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation said Tuesday in a news release that the remains had been donated to the foundation late Monday.

After they are authenticated, they will be donated to the park “for interment with full military honors in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg,” the announcement said.

The park and foundation said auction organizers had been ‘overwhelmed’ by ‘an unprecedented outcry from concerned citizens.

Auctioneer Tom Taylor told WHAG that he believed “like the National Park Service told me, it should have a proper burial.”

Gettysburg National Military Park superintendent Ed Clark said in a statement that officials were grateful for the opportunity ‘to honor what is very likely an American veteran and have his final resting place recognized.

The auction site said the remains were found in 1949 as a garden was being tilled on the Benner Farm in Gettysburg. Notarized and handwritten documents said the remains, along with 13 other artifacts, were found two miles north of a barn used as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg, Taylor said.
Gettysburg park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said there are two Benner Farms in Gettysburg, and one was known to be a hospital during the war. She told the York Daily Record that in her two decades of working in Gettysburg, she had never heard of a soldier’s remains being offered for sale.

The Battle of Gettysburg, which raged from July 1 to July 3, 1863, claimed more American lives than any battle in American history. Nearly 8,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed and more than 46,000 wounded as the forces of General Robert E. Lee were driven back. It is considered to be the turning point of the war.

(Courtesy Civil War Courier)

Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Today marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle began on July 1, 1863, and lasted through July 3. Prior to the battle, Union forces, coming from the south, collided with Southern troops travelling from the north. After the first day of battle, General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates were victorious, but by the end of the third day, following Pickett’s famous charge, the battle was considered to be a draw. It wasn’t until several days later that Union General Meade’s Army of the Potomac learned they had won the fight. The battle was a pivotal one in that, from that time until April 1865, the Union army started winning battles, and ultimately won the war.

Every year, a large reenactment takes place in Gettysburg, and this weekend is no exception. Last year’s event was colossal, since it was the 150th anniversary of the battle. However, thousands of reenactors from all over the country are expected to participate in this year’s event, which is called “The Last Great Invasion.” Reenactors wearing authentic clothing and using authentic weaponry camp out over the weekend in Civil War tents. A period ball is held, complete with ladies dressed in beautiful gowns. Battles are staged, as well as living history demonstrations.

An estimated 100 cannons and 400 horses (cavalry) will be involved. And for the first time, “Traveling Tara” will be there, which depicts everyday life in a Civil War home. The name is taken from Tara, Scarlett O’Hara’s home in Gone With the Wind.  The battle reenactments will take place on the Yingling farm – the same site where the movie Gettysburg was filmed 20 years ago.

On Monday, July 7, the National Park Service has granted permission to stage a photo shoot on Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. This is the first time they have allowed it since 1992, when The Killer Angels was filmed there. Reenactors are invited to participate. All in all, the presentations during this weekend will be nothing less than spectacular, and will give spectators a glimpse of what fighting and living during a Civil War was really like.

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