J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Hunters Find Bullets from American Civil War in 185-Year Old Alligator’s Hide

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[Vicksburg] A group of Mississippi hunters who shot and killed an alligator weighting 910 pounds (413 kilograms) on

Sunday, were amazed when they discovered that the animal already bore injuries caused by musket ammunitions from the Civil War era. A total of 9 spherical projectiles was found, and the various tests and analysis realized on them have confirmed that they were indeed fired at the animal in the 19th Century.

Nine of the wounds on the animal are believed to have been caused by Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-muskets. These old injuries were concentrated around the animals tail and hind legs, suggesting that the reptile could have possibly been used as a target for shooting practice by Confederate troops.

The huge animal also bore five other bullet wounds from three different calibers of hunting rifles, as well as many dents and scars, which shows that it survived many firearm injuries in the past. It did not however, survive the six .50-caliber bullets fired at him by the group of amateur hunters from Jackson, who were finally able to take it down.

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See more at: http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/usa-hunters-find-bullets-from-american-civil-war-in-185-year-old-alligators

USA: 24 November, 2014

Thanks to Chuck Bond and Dean Burchfield for sharing this news item with us.

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Christmas Past: A Civil War Sampler

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Christmas morning a fine one. The boys began to take their Christmas last night. A good deal of drunkenness in camp. In the morning the captain gave us a treat of egg nogg. One-half the boys very tight by nine o’clock…Never saw so many drunk men before. It might be said with propriety that the 7th  regiment was drunk on the 25th.

–  David Phillips, 7th Tennessee Infantry

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Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1862. Camp near Manassas.

Pleasant weather. Since we do not have a chaplain, this morning we held a hymn-service instead. I enjoyed the music – reminded me of Papa’s and Edward’s singing at home. I enjoyed the hymns with the familiar tunes, as On Jordan’s Stormy Banks, When I Can Read My Title Clear, Rock of Ages, Silent Night. I don’t know why sermons at Christmas are necessary. Bible reading and hymn singing are sufficient – in time of war perhaps more meaning ful than sermons.

– Franklin L. Riley, Co. B, 16th Mississippi Infantry

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I am truly sorry that I cannot spend Christmas in Yazoo…Perhaps I could get something more palatable to eat than corn bread, or pleasant to drink that muddy water. I am sure the visit would be a pleasant one if I could get neither. I would love the visit on account of the society. The presence of some of my friends would be both meat and drink to me.

–  Robert James McCormack, 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Canton, Mississippi

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Sunday, December 25, 1864

We all went down last night to see the tree and how pretty it looked. The room was full of ladies and children and Cap. gave us music on the piano and tried to do all he could to make us enjoy ourselves and we did have a merry time. All came home perfectly satisfied. This has ben a cold dark day but we all went down to see how the tree looked in the day time but it was not as pretty as at night.

– Carrie Berry, a 10-year-old living in Georgia

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Dec. 25th Christmas day, but “nary holiday for the soldier boy, far away from the sweet home where of the watched with intense eagerness for the coming of Christmas, expecting to see “Old Santa Claus.”

December 27th. Santa Claus got here at last. Several boxes for W.L.A. arrived today with eatables and other good things sent by those at home to let us know that though we are far from them they still remember us. Many blessings from Him be upon those loved ones at home.

  • George Albert Grammer, Warren () Light Artillery

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Fort Gaines, December 24th [Tuesday, 1861]

A Merry Christmas! I wish my darling! Oh! That I had a furlough to share it with you tomorrow we would both get “tight” on egg-nog wouldn’t we? You think you wouldn’t do  you? but I say if I were home I’d make you take enough to exhilarate you for once in your life well! well! if I am not home with you I won’t make a funeral of my Christmas, but will be as merry as can be, we have a merry party in the “Bazaar” mess and if only receive a jug of good old rye whiskey by this boat, which we expect confidently, we will make a “welkin ring” tomorrow…

May this be the last Christmas that I spend away from your side!

– James M. Williams, Co. A, 21st Alabama Infantry

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December 25th [1864]

Christmas Day, and very very cold. Have been moving about some of late, but are again in our old quarters, We have had very unpleasant weather for several weeks, The rain had almost washed us away. The whole country around about here appears to be under water it is almost impossible to get about at all. All military movements will have to stop until the roads improve, It is said that Ladies of Richmond intend giving us a New Years dinner hope it may prove true would like right will to get something good to eat. The health of the Regt continues good. There is no news of any importance

January 1st [1865]

The long talked of Christmas dinner has come at last. Three turkeys, two ducks, one chicken and about ninety loves, for three hundred and fifty soldiers. Not a mouth full apiece where has it all gone too, where [did] it go The commissar or quarter masters no doubt got . May the Lord have mercy on the poor soldiers

  • John Kennedy Coleman, Co. F, 6th South Carolina

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It is a sad Christmas; cold, and threatening snow. My two youngest children, however, have decked the parlor with evergreens, crosses, stars, etc. They have a cedar Christmas-tree, but it is not burdened. Candy is held at $8 per pound. My two sons rose at 5 A.M. and repaired to the canal to meet their sister Anne, who has been teaching Latin and French in the country; but she was not among the passengers, and this has cast a shade of disappointment over the family. A few pistols and crackers are fired by the boys in the streets—and only a few. I am alone; all the rest being at church. It would not be safe to leave the house unoccupied. Robberies and murders are daily perpetrated. I shall have no turkey to-day, and do not covet one. It is no time for feasting.

– John Beauchamp Jones, Richmond, Virginia

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Camp near Fred’burg

Dec 25th, 1862

My dear Sister

This is Christmas Day. The sun shines feebly through a thin cloud, the air is mild and pleasant, [and] a gentle breeze is making music through the leaves of the lofty pines that stand near our bivouac. All is quiet and still, and that very stillness recalls some sad and painful thoughts. This day, one year ago, how many thousand families, gay and joyous, celebrating Merry Christmas, drinking health to absent members of their family, and sending upon the wings of love and affection long, deep, and sincere wishes for their safe return to the loving ones at home, but today are clad in the deepest mourning in memory to some lost and loved member of their circle. If all the dead (those killed since the war began) could be heaped in one pile and all the wounded be gathered together in one group, the pale faces of the dead and the groans of the wounded would send such a thrill of horror through the hearts of the originators of this war that their very souls would rack with such pain that they would prefer being dead and in torment than to stand before God with such terrible crimes blackening their characters. Add to this the cries and wailings of the mourners – mothers and fathers weeping for their sons, sisters for their brothers, wives for their husbands, and daughters for their fathers – [and] how deep would be the convictions of their consciences. Yet they do not seem to think of the affliction and distress they are scattering broadcast over the land. When will this war end? Will another Christmas roll around and find us all wintering in camp? Oh! That peace may soon be restored to our young but dearly beloved country and that we may all meet again in happiness.

– Tally Simpson, Co. A, 3rd South Carolina

_____

While on the subject of Christmas cheer I will mention a toothsome delicacy which had a ready sale. It was ginger bread, or ginger cakes. An enterprising squad had gone into the business of baking. They had built an oven on a hill over against our camp and secured some baking pans about three feet square. They bought flour and bacon from the commissary, bought a lot of sorghum molasses in the country, and got the grease they needed by frying it out of the bacon. They had numerous customers, who bought and criticized freely; but as I had been paid $840, seven months wages, all the Confederacy ever paid me, I concluded to invest some of my wealth in ginger cakes. I had a good many one-dollar Confederate bills. They were red-backed and about six inches by three in length and breadth. I remembered boyhood days when the old cake man came to town on court days with his basket of cakes and five cents would buy a square eight or nine inches by six inches, and I supposed that one of my dollars, or at most two, would buy half of what the big baking pan contained. But when I handed him my dollar, saying “Give the worth of that,” he just laid the bill on the big square of cake and cut out the size of it and gave it to me for my money. I was so surprised that I did not object, but took my little piece of cake and went away sorrowing that our currency had sunk so low as to be measured in terms of gingerbread.

– James H. McNeilly, Chaplain, Quarles’ Tennessee

(Courtesy of Jim Woodrick: http://andspeakingofwhich.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-past-civil-war-sampler.html)

Christmas in Alabama – 1862

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I have posted an excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. This is the sequel to A Beautiful Glittering Lie, and is the second part of the Renegade Series. Enjoy!

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“Here it is! Come quick!”

David sauntered across the dead grass toward his little sister. Amused by the way she was jumping up and down like a nervous flea, he couldn’t help but grin. Obviously, she was too excited to care that her petticoats were showing from under the brown coat and green calico dress she wore, or that her long auburn hair had broken free from its bondage as her bonnet slid from her head and dangled down her back.

“Which one, Josie?” he asked, stifling a snicker.

She planted her feet, and pointed to a small yellow pine near a cluster of sweet gum and ash trees. “Right here!” she exclaimed.

Glancing down at the sapling, he gave her a crooked smile. “Well, that’s a mighty fine tree, but ain’t it kinda scrawny?” He estimated the pine to be three feet tall at most.

Josie frowned at her older brother, who had one eyebrow cocked from under his slouch hat. His hands were tucked into his brown trousers, and his linen shirt hung loosely on his tall, lanky frame. Unsure as to why he appeared so skeptical, she said, “No, it’s jist right. We’ll string some corn on it, hang some nuts and berries on it, and it’ll look right smart in the corner of the front room.”

With a shrug, he said, “All right. If you reckon this is the one.”

She nodded, her bright blue eyes reflecting her elation.

David relished the moment, for he knew Christmas was her favorite holiday. He had only heightened her anticipation on the way out to the woodlot by reminding her what would happen that evening, how Santa would be stopping by later when she was sound asleep. Of course, he had no explanation as to how eight tiny reindeer could pull a sleigh all the way to Alabama. Josie promptly informed him that she wasn’t a child any longer. She was all of thirteen, and didn’t believe in those farfetched stories anymore, but he knew better. She would be lying in her bed tonight, listening and waiting.

“Well, go on now, cut it down!” Josie insisted.

He put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and gave a high, shrill whistle. Noticing how the gray sky was growing darker, he looked over at the edge of the clearing where they stood, and saw the underbrush rustle. Suddenly, two hound dogs bounded out of the trees, followed by a gangly young stallion.

“Come on, Renegade. Over here,” he called out to the colt, who responded by cantering to him.

Josie giggled at the sight. “Your dumb horse thinks he’s a dog!”

“He ain’t dumb. I’ll wager he’s a lick smarter than you are, li’l sister,” David teased.

The horse blew and stomped his front hoof.

“Why, that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. And not only is he dumb, he looks right silly, too. He can’t decide if he should be spotted or palomino!”

David observed his horse for a moment. Renegade’s face was piebald. His dark chestnut coat was highlighted with white spots and patches concentrating on his underbelly, and his mane and tail were light flaxen. He had white socks up to his knees. His unusual eyes were brownish green. David remembered how he had heard that a horse with strange-colored eyes like Renegade’s was considered sacred and chosen by the Cherokee Indians. Several people had noticed the strange coincidence, and his other sister, Rena, also frequently commented that he and his horse had the same colored eyes.

“I reckon he knows what he is,” David remarked. “Besides, he’s unusual, and that makes him unique.”

“Oh, he’s unique all right,” Josie said, giggling again. She pulled her hair back from her face and replaced her bonnet.

David untied a saw from a leather strap attached to Renegade’s saddle. He knelt down, quickly sawed through the little tree’s trunk, picked it up, and tied it across the saddle’s seat. His two black and tan dogs sniffed around the tree’s sawed off stump. Suddenly, they both lifted their noses into the air with their ears pricked. They bolted across the open clearing, baying at an unseen curiosity as theydisappeared into the woods.

“Caleb! Si!” David hollered after the two hounds. “Well, there they go,” he observed wryly. “All right, Renegade, take it on home.” He patted his horse on the shoulder.

Renegade nickered softly, shook his head, and trotted off in the same direction as the two hounds.

Josie gasped. “Look, David! It’s startin’ to snow!” She tilted her head back and stuck out her tongue, trying to catch snowflakes on it.

He chuckled.

“Come on, you do it, too,” she coaxed him.

He obliged his little sister by imitating her.

Josie laughed, spinning around with her arms extended while snow fell silently down around them.

“Oh!” David clasped his hand to his face. “One fell in my eye!”

Josie giggled.

He couldn’t help but smile, although he was careful not to let her see, and snorted to cover up his delight. “Well, I’m right glad you think it’s so funny.” He looked at her, trying to keep a straight face. “Come on, Josie girl. We’d best be gittin’ on back.”

He allowed her to go ahead of him as they started on the bridle path that cut through the woods.

“Let’s sing Christmas carols!” she said. “That new one we heard last year. Jingle Bells!”

“You start,” he prompted.

“Dashin’ through the snow …”

He joined in. Their voices grew stronger in unison.

“In a one-horse open sleigh …”

They came to an empty field, and trudged through, stepping over mud puddles while they continued singing.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way …”

Their house stood quaintly at the far end of the field. Smoke circled from its two chimneys, dissolving into the gray sky. The sweet smell of burning hickory reached out, inviting them closer. From a distance, the structure appeared to be two separate cabins sitting side by side, but upon closer observation, one could see that they were connected by a covered breezeway. Each section contained two rooms and a fireplace. A wide flat porch on the front of the split log building served as an entryway. The tin roof, which seemed to expel heat in the summertime, also managed to repel snow during winter months.

The cold, damp air encroached upon brother and sister. As they sang, their breath escaped, floated out across the fields, and vanished in phantom gusts.

“Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!”

On the last note, Josie’s voice jumped an octave. They laughed at their grand finale and walked around to the front of the house, where Renegade was waiting patiently for the tree to be removed from his saddle. A buckskin horse stood beside him.

“Whose horse is that?” Josie asked.

“It looks like Bud Samuels’ horse.”

David and Josie looked at each other, wide-eyed. “Pa!” they both exclaimed.

Josie sprang onto the porch, burst through the front door, and went inside while David untied the small yellow pine. He set it aside, pulled the saddle from Renegade’s back, and removed his bridle.

“Go on into the barn, Renie,” he said. “Or you’ll be one big ole snowball in a minute.”

The colt blew, and trotted around the side of the house.

Excerpt From A Beautiful Glittering Lie

The following excerpt is from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. It takes place during the Christmas season, but in 1862, Christmas was anything but joyous.

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art

The following morning, David and his family attended church, where they received a grand reception, for the congregation had heard about Hiram’s homecoming, and bestowed well-wishes upon them. That afternoon, David busied himself by getting caught up on chores he had let slide over the past few months. He wanted his father to be proud and impressed with his efforts to take care of the place, just like he had promised. Even though it was the Sabbath, a designated day of rest, he worked through it anyway, reasoning that he had only four days to finish his tasks.

The next few days were filled with anticipation and last-minute preparations for Christmas. While the girls decorated, David worked diligently to finish his handmade gifts, and Caroline cooked. The family spent every waking moment getting ready to receive their loved one.

Soon, it was the day before Christmas. David awoke to discover that it was drizzling, which wasn’t unusual for that time of year. Pulling himself from his warm bed, he dressed, ate a quick bowl of grits, and went outside to tend to the livestock. By the time he had finished, he was cold and damp, so he returned to his room, changed, and sat down on the bed with his guitar. Although he hadn’t played it in quite a while, he decided to learn a few carols, so he practiced “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” several times. While he worked out the chords to the “Boar’s Head Carol,” he heard a knock at his door. Josie entered, wearing a brown coat over her green calico dress.

“Ma says it’s time to go fetch the tree!” she announced, barely containing her excitement.

Grinning at her exuberance, he laid the guitar down across his bed. “All right, li’l’ sis. If you insist.”

Throwing on his coat and hat, he followed her outside to the barn. He saddled Renegade, gave her a foot up, and led the colt out toward the woodlot. Noticing that it had stopped drizzling, he clucked to Renegade, who responded by prancing.

“Your horse is the funniest critter!” Josie giggled. “He must know it’s a holiday!”

“Reckon so. He’s mighty high-strung today.”

“He’s like this every day!” she exclaimed, bouncing atop the colt.

“That’s fine if he is. It jist makes him more competitive. He already won those two races I ran him in last month, and I’m fixin’ to run him a heap more this spring.”

Renegade slowed to a walk as brother and sister approached the woods.

“Reckon tonight ole Santee Claus will be makin’ his appearance,” David remarked casually.

To their amusement, Renegade blew in response. Caleb and Si came loping up, eager to find out what they were missing, and the two hounds nearly tumbled over each other in their rush.

Josie laughed at them. “Let’s find the purtiest tree out here for Pa,” she suggested.

“That’s a right good idea.” He grinned up at his sister, who smiled back down at him.

The Battle of Fredericksburg

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The Battle of Fredericksburg took place a little over a week before Christmas, on December 11-15, 1862. The battle forced citizens of Fredericksburg out of their homes, and some had no recourse but to camp in the woods in subzero temperatures. Union forces invaded the town, looting, shelling, and burning much of it. The Yankees then marched up to Marye’s Heights, where Confederate troops were waiting for them. Because the Rebels were at an advantage, the Federals were forced to march up the hill through an open field, thus making them easy targets. Needless to say, thousands were slaughtered.

When the townsfolk were finally able to return to their homes, they found only destruction, but somehow, they managed to carry on through the terrible sadness that engulfed them. It is interesting to note that, during a lull in the battle, one soldier found the compassion to come to the aid of his enemies. His name was Sergeant Richard Kirkland, a Confederate from South Carolina. Without the protection of the white flag of truce, he braved the open field to provide water and blankets to the wounded and dying Union soldiers. Because of his bravery, the “Angel of Marye’s Heights” is immortalized with a statue at the Fredericksburg National Military Park.

Soldiers who were away from home at Christmas suffered a particular kind of homesickness, different from the usual melancholy they usually felt. Because most soldiers who fought in the Civil War were Christians, the celebration of Christmas was a very special time for them. As Victorians, they believed that Christmas should be celebrated as a happy time of year. But with all the death surrounding them, it was difficult to feel that way, especially in December 1862.

Antique Magic

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On occasion, I am asked to feature a new book by another author, and this is one of those occasions. The book is titled Antique Magic, and I think you will find it to be a fun, fascinating read.

Antique dealer Alicia Trent is hired to appraise a huge collection of treasures hoarded by a woman who has recently died in the town where Alicia grew upThe huge old house poses mystery after mystery from the moment she arrives, but the stakes become deadly when murder is added to the mix. The question then becomes, can she stay alive long enough to unmask the killer?

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Excerpt:

Without consciously making a decision to do so, I grabbed my robe and headed for the door. If the thief was in the house, it might be my chance to identify him or her. One last glance at the globe showed the black was now mixed with a lot of orange. It looked like a Halloween decoration.

I turned off the light in the room, then quietly unlocked and opened my door. A flashlight would be a big help, but mine was packed in my suitcase. This was the first time I’d needed it. I eased out into the dark hall. A nightlight plugged in at the top of the stairs made a dim glow and I started in that direction. Moving slowly, I listened intently for any unusual noise. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful. I didn’t think anyone had stayed overnight in the house except Naomi and me. The stairs were solid and didn’t make a sound as I crept down. Time moved in slow motion and it seemed to take forever to reach the bottom. Once there, I began making my way to the living room. We always turned off the electronic security on that door at night since there were no potential buyers coming in and out after five. Even though I still hadn’t seen anything suspicious, somehow the atmosphere seemed wrong. Danger seemed to lurk in every dark corner. I was anxious to make sure the items displayed for viewing hadn’t been disturbed. Moving into the room and closing the door seemed to take forever. I couldn’t wait to get the light turned on. At first glance everything looked fine. Walking around the items for a closer look, I still didn’t see any evidence of tampering. Maybe I was overreacting and chasing ghosts. I decided to return to my room, but instead I veered into the study for a quick look. I wasn’t quite ready to admit my fears were just my nerves playing tricks. This time I hadn’t done the smart thing and called for Dan. He had to be tired of my crying wolf and not finding any evidence. I’d need a darn good reason before choosing to disrupt the entire household again.

At first the study also seemed undisturbed, but as my eyes adjusted, my heart skipped a beat. Someone had pushed the button that moved the desk aside. The light on the stairs leading down into the passageway had been turned on. Someone had entered the house, but I couldn’t call Dan from here and didn’t want to lose the chance to discover the identity of the intruder. All of a sudden my policy of not crying wolf didn’t seem so wise. I picked up a large letter opener from the desk and started down the stairs. The cloying feeling of danger increased with each step. The second bookcase on the left hand side of the hall was moved aside, revealing a passage I hadn’t known existed. The walls in this new passage were lined with artwork. Creeping silently along, I noticed that the art consisted of a variety of styles. At a quick glance I saw pen-and-ink, charcoals, watercolors and oils. I wouldn’t know what all was there until I had time to investigate. Right now my attention was focused on finding out who was down here and why. The passage climbed steadily upward. There didn’t seem to be any side doors, at least none that were obvious, until the end of the passage. Here one door opened to the right. By now my sense of direction had become confused and I wasn’t sure what part of the house this passage ran through, but it might be somewhere on the second floor.

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Without consciously making a decision to do so, I grabbed my robe and headed for the door. If the thief was in the house, it might be my chance to identify him or her. One last glance at the globe showed the black was now mixed with a lot of orange. It looked like a Halloween decoration.

I turned off the light in the room, then quietly unlocked and opened my door. A flashlight would be a big help, but mine was packed in my suitcase. This was the first time I’d needed it. I eased out into the dark hall. A nightlight plugged in at the top of the stairs made a dim glow and I started in that direction. Moving slowly, I listened intently for any unusual noise. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful. I didn’t think anyone had stayed overnight in the house except Naomi and me. The stairs were solid and didn’t make a sound as I crept down. Time moved in slow motion and it seemed to take forever to reach the bottom. Once there, I began making my way to the living room. We always turned off the electronic security on that door at night since there were no potential buyers coming in and out after five. Even though I still hadn’t seen anything suspicious, somehow the atmosphere seemed wrong. Danger seemed to lurk in every dark corner. I was anxious to make sure the items displayed for viewing hadn’t been disturbed. Moving into the room and closing the door seemed to take forever. I couldn’t wait to get the light turned on. At first glance everything looked fine. Walking around the items for a closer look, I still didn’t see any evidence of tampering. Maybe I was overreacting and chasing ghosts. I decided to return to my room, but instead I veered into the study for a quick look. I wasn’t quite ready to admit my fears were just my nerves playing tricks. This time I hadn’t done the smart thing and called for Dan. He had to be tired of my crying wolf and not finding any evidence. I’d need a darn good reason before choosing to disrupt the entire household again.

At first the study also seemed undisturbed, but as my eyes adjusted, my heart skipped a beat. Someone had pushed the button that moved the desk aside. The light on the stairs leading down into the passageway had been turned on. Someone had entered the house, but I couldn’t call Dan from here and didn’t want to lose the chance to discover the identity of the intruder. All of a sudden my policy of not crying wolf didn’t seem so wise. I picked up a large letter opener from the desk and started down the stairs. The cloying feeling of danger increased with each step. The second bookcase on the left hand side of the hall was moved aside, revealing a passage I hadn’t known existed. The walls in this new passage were lined with artwork. Creeping silently along, I noticed that the art consisted of a variety of styles. At a quick glance I saw pen-and-ink, charcoals, watercolors and oils. I wouldn’t know what all was there until I had time to investigate. Right now my attention was focused on finding out who was down here and why. The passage climbed steadily upward. There didn’t seem to be any side doors, at least none that were obvious, until the end of the passage. Here one door opened to the right. By now my sense of direction had become confused and I wasn’t sure what part of the house this passage ran through, but it might be somewhere on the second floor.

From living off the grid in the Arizona desert, Eileen has moved to the woods of upstate New York. She has authored a standalone adventure novel called Desert Shadow. She is also the author of Alicia Trent Series. The Black Cane : Dowager Diaries Book 1 is her latest release.

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http://antiquedesert.blogspot.in/

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A Christmas Story

Just for fun, I’ve posted an excerpt from my award winning novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. I’m getting into the holiday spirit! (Books by J.D.R. Hawkins are available through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and iUniverse.com.)

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art

As planned, David and his family arrived at the Copeland’s for their annual Christmas party. Once they entered, he looked around at the sparkling room, aglow with candles and firelight. The parlor was filled with guests, all of which he recognized. They were dressed in their finest holiday attire. Someone was playing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” on the piano. Relieved to see Callie in the corner, standing beside Jake, and behaving like her old self, he smiled at the sight of her. She was dressed in a purple velvet gown, her bare shoulders exposed, and her blond hair tied up to accentuate her long, slender neck. Jake was attired in his Sunday suit. Once they saw him, they headed his way.

“Oh, David, darlin’,” she cooed. “I am jist so happy to see y’all!”

With a wry grin, he replied, “We’re happy to be here, Miss Callie.” He winked at Jake. “Have you received any proposals yet?”

Jake winced at his friend’s veiled reference, and slightly shook his head, which made David chuckle.

“Why, whatever do you mean?” she asked, the innocence in her voice betraying her demeanor. She slinked up close to David, so close that he could feel her warm breath, and it made his face flush. Like a snake coiling around its victim, she wrapped her arm around his. “Were you fixin’ to make one?”

It was Jake’s turn to chuckle. “Now, honey, leave him be. He’s got big news to share.” Turning to the room filled with friends, Jake hollered, “May I have your attention, please!” The voices died down, and he announced loudly, “David’s pa will be back here for Christmas!”

The attendees cheered.

“So will my husband!” added Mrs. Samuels.

The gathering applauded again.

“We must have a feast prepared for our soldiers returnin’ from the war!” declared Mrs. Copeland. “In honor of all they have done for us!”

“Here! Here!” responded Mr. Copeland, raising his champagne glass.

The room toasted in unison. David glanced over at his mother, who was beaming at him.

The following morning, he and his family attended church, where they received a grand reception. Everyone had heard about Hiram’s homecoming, and bestowed well-wishes upon them. That afternoon, David busied himself by getting caught up on chores he had let slide over the past few months. He wanted his father to be proud, and impressed with his efforts to take care of the place, just like he had promised. Even though it was the Sabbath, a designated day of rest, he worked through it anyway, reasoning that he only had four days to finish the task.

The next few days were filled with anticipation, and last-minute preparations for Christmas. While the girls decorated, David worked diligently to finish his handmade gifts, and Caroline cooked. The family spent every waking moment getting ready to receive their loved one.

Soon, it was the day before Christmas. David awoke to discover that it was drizzling, which wasn’t unusual for that time of year. Pulling himself from his warm bed, he dressed, ate a quick bowl of grits, and went outside to tend to the livestock. By the time he finished, he was cold and damp, so he returned to his room, changed, and sat down on the bed with his guitar. He hadn’t played it in quite a while, but decided he should learn a few carols, so he practiced “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” several times. While he worked out the chords to “Boars Head,” he heard a knock at his door. Josie entered, wearing a brown coat over her green calico dress.

“Ma says it’s time to go fetch the tree!” she announced, barely containing her excitement.

Grinning at her exuberance, he laid the guitar down across his bed. “All right, li’l’ sis. If you insist.”

He threw on his coat and hat, and followed her outside to the barn. After he had saddled Renegade, he gave her a foot up. As he led the colt out toward the woodlot, he noticed that it had stopped drizzling. He clucked to Renegade, who responded by prancing.

“Your horse is the funniest critter!” Josie giggled. “He must know it’s a holiday!”

“Reckon so. He’s mighty high-strung today.”

“He’s like this every day!” exclaimed Josie, bouncing atop the colt.

“That’s fine if he is. Jist makes him more competitive. He already won those two races I ran him in last month, and I’m fixin’ to run him a heap more this spring.”

Renegade slowed to a walk as brother and sister approached the woods.

“Reckon tonight ole Santee Clause will be makin’ his appearance,” David remarked casually.

To their amusement, Renegade blew in response. Caleb and Si came loping up, eager to find out what they were missing, and the two hounds nearly tumbled over each other in their rush.

Josie laughed at them. “Let’s find the purtiest tree out here for Pa,” she suggested.

“That’s a right good idea.” He grinned up at his sister, who smiled back down at him.

Mississippi Eyes Ballot Measure Preserving Confederate Heritage, Making Christianity State Religion, English Official Language

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If passed, a measure being considered for Mississippi’s 2016 ballots would make Christianity the State Religion, English the official language, and, according to its creators, preserve the State’s Confederate Heritage. That’s not all — the measure aims to ‘restrict or define’ Mississippi’s Heritage in a number of areas: State Flag and Nickname, and even university mascots. It’s currently officially defined as ‘Initiative 46,’ but proponents of the plan call it the ‘Heritage Initiative.’ If the petition garners enough response, it should show up on the Mississippi ballots in the 2016 election.

Promoted by the Magnolia State Heritage Campaign, the initiative proposes to do the following:

Acknowledge Mississippi as a “principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state” and the Christian Bible as a “foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues.”

Declare English the official language in the state, and require all government and public communications to be in English only. (There is an exception for foreign language instruction, and those places where Latin or French are traditional, such as in medicine and law.)

The Mississippi Flag adopted in 1894 and confirmed by vote in 2001 will be declared the State Flag. (See below.)

The salute will be “I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God.”

“Dixie” be played after the “Star Spangled Banner” at public events.

Declare ‘Colonel Reb’ (depicted in stained glass below) as the official mascot of the University of Mississippi, and affirm that teams will be called “The Rebels.” (The measure also defines mascots for two other state universities, and forbids forcing a list of other universities to merge or consolidate.)

April would be declared Confederate Heritage Month, acknowledged by schools and used to guide curriculum, and the last day of that month would be Confederate Memorial Day, on which government offices would be closed, and employees would receive an unpaid holiday. The week before would be Dixie Week.

The Confederate Flag must be displayed on State Capitol grounds.

Borders would be restored to ‘original’ boundaries, erasing wording established in 1990.

The measure would also ensure that state identification, license tags, and other materials reflect the nickname, state flower, and flag (yes, all state id cards would bear a flag that includes the Confederate Flag as a portion of it), protect the flying of flags over veterans’ graves, and officially protect and preserve any publicly owned or held Confederate memorabilia.

According to a local news agency, the initiative is endorsed by such prominent Mississippians as former Miss America Susan Akin, author Julie Hawkins, and former State Representative Mark DuVall. The petition needs 107,216 signatures, 12% of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election, in order to be placed on the ballot.

Proponents of the measure believe this is a sure thing. If they’re correct, Mississippi could be on the way to declaring Christianity as the State Religion and English as the official language in two years’ time.

No more pressing “1” for English.

(Article courtesy of the General William Barksdale camp 1220 SCV, Columbus, MS)

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