J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Moving Day (Again)

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This is moving week for my husband and me. It has been crazy so far, but luckily, we haven’t broken anything (yet). We have managed to lose a few things, but hopefully, they will turn up. In the past four years, we have moved nine times, and we’re not even in the military! It has been a crazy ride but we have met a lot of wonderful friends along the way.

Moving is never an easy task, but it had to be much harder for Southerners who lived during the Civil War and were forced to evacuate before the invading army came along to steal their belongings and do unspeakable things to civilians. Marauding Union soldiers burned and took everything, leaving only what they thought was inedible and/or unsalvagable.

It was also very difficult to be in the military and be told to move in a moment’s notice. My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, is soon to be re-published, so stay tuned for a new book cover and some updated edits. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the book, describing how the Confederate cavalry had to move quickly and without much notice.

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(Original Book Cover)

On Tuesday, June 16, General Stuart departed with the brigades of Beverly Robertson and Rooney Lee, now under the command of General John Chambliss. Before he left, the general issued a congratulatory order to his remaining troopers, which was read to the men during roll call.

“With an abiding faith in the God of battles, and a firm reliance on the saber, your successes will continue. Let the example and heroism of our lamented fallen comrades prompt us to renewed vigilance and inspire us with devotion to duty.”

The cavalrymen were informed that they was to serve as a counter-reconnaissance screen, thereby preventing Pleasanton’s Union cavalry from discovering General Lee’s objective, which was to cross over into Pennsylvania. Within a few days, General Hampton’s brigade, after being told to prepare three days rations, broke camp and departed north.

The day was extremely hot and humid, but the men did their best to distract themselves from their discomfort. While they rode, the Georgians sang at the top of their lungs.

 

“Sittin’ by the roadside on a summer day,

Chattin’ with my messmates, passin’ time away,

Lyin’ in the shadows underneath the trees,

Goodness, how delicious, eatin’ goober peas!

 

“I wish this war was over, when, free from rags and fleas,

We’d kiss our wives and sweethearts and gobble goober peas.

Peas! Peas! Peas! Eatin’ goober peas!

Goodness, how delicious, eatin’ goober peas!”

 

The Georgians sang with such exaggerated conviction that David couldn’t help but chuckle. Once he’d learned the lyrics, he happily joined in, and boisterously sang along, too.

Later on in the day, the horsemen learned that General Stuart and his brigades had engaged in a battle near the small towns ofAldie and Middleburg. Heros Von Borcke, Stuart’s Prussian aide-de-camp, had been seriously wounded, and was expected to be incapacitated for quite some time. Upon hearing the news, David became greatly disappointed, since he had been looking forward to the day when he could race the colonel. Now he wondered if the opportunity would ever present itself.

The troopers continued their quest. Encountering a pontoon bridge that the Confederate cavalry ahead of them had constructed, David and his comrades crossed the Chickahominy River. That evening, a skirmish broke out between Hampton’s brigade and a Union regiment, but fighting ended when a rainstorm rolled in, covering the countryside with complete darkness as it burst open in a thunderous downpour. The Rebels were driven into the woods, where they were forced to spend the night wet, cold, and miserable.

Rain fell incessantly throughout the night and into the morning, drenching the men to the core. It was replaced by sweltering heat and humidity that afternoon. As night fell, a hailstorm erupted, pummeling the horsemen with stones the size of hens’ eggs. Unable to set their tents up in time, some of the men pulled heavy overcoats over their heads, which provided their only shelter. With only prepared rations to eat, they shivered in the chilly rain while they waited for morning to finally arrive. When it did, the overcast sky constantly released drizzle. The cavaliers mounted up and continued their march, reaching General Stuart’s brigades later that afternoon. No fighting had taken place this Saturday, May 20, due to the inclement weather, so they rested and cared for their horses, seeking cover in the woods behind a stone parapet. The cavalry was now over five thousand strong. Officers instructed the troopers not to release any information about their mission if they were captured.

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