J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “July, 2023”

Beating a Dead Horse

General Robert E. Lee has long been a part of Virginia’s history. After the War Between the States, he accepted a position as president of Washington College, which was later named Washington and Lee University in his honor. The general is buried in the chapel on campus, even though the Confederate flags around his chamber have been removed.

General Lee’s beloved horse, Traveller, is buried just outside the chapel. Up until last week, there was a marker denoting Traveller’s gravesite, but the marker has been removed. The plaque had been a part of the university’s fabric since 1930, when it was decided that Traveller’s remains required a proper burial. Prior to that, the skeleton was on display, and students etched their initials into the bones for good luck. It has been a longstanding tradition for students and faculty to leave treats on Traveller’s gravesite.

But now, the plaque is gone, as well as two other plaques on campus referring to General Lee. University officials didn’t bother to make any prior announcements about the desecration. Lynn Rainville, the Director of Institutional History and Museums, is the person directly responsible for the removal of Traveller’s plaque. Contact her at the following address, and let her know this is not okay. She should not be the one deciding the fate of our history.

Washington and Lee University

Attention: Lynn Rainville

204 W. Washington Street

Lexington, Virginia 24450

Telephone: 540-458-8379

Here is an excerpt from my book, Horses in Gray, which describes the beautiful horse, Traveller.

Behold that horse! A dappled gray!

I saw him in the month of May,

When wild flowers bloomed about his feet,

And sunshine was his mantle meet.              

Of all the horses to serve in the War Between the States, the most famous is Traveller. The magnificent steed and his owner, General Robert E. Lee have become synonymous in history. Although Traveller was not the only horse Lee owned, he was certainly the general’s favorite. The two were constant companions.

… Traveller has also been immortalized in verse, such as in the following by Stephen Vincent Benet:  

And now at last, comes Traveller and his master. Look at them well. The horse is an iron-grey, sixteen hands high, Short back, deep chest, strong haunch, flat legs, small head, Delicate ear, quick eye, black mane and tail, Wise brain, obedient mouth. Such horses are the jewels of the horseman’s hands and thighs, They go by the word and hardly need the rein. They bred such horses in Virginia then, Horses that were remembered after death And buried not so far from Christian ground That if their sleeping riders should arise They could not witch them from the earth again And ride a printless course along the grass With the old manage and light ease of hand.          

… Before his death, General Lee was approached by his wife’s cousin, Martha “Markie” Williams, who desired to paint a portrait of Traveller. In response, the general dictated a description to his daughter, Agnes:         “If I were an artist like you, I would draw a true picture of Traveller . . . Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and the dangers and suffering through which he passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts, through the long night marches and days of battle through which he has passed.            

“But I am no artist. I can only say he is a Confederate gray. I purchased him in the mountains of Virginia in the autumn of 1861, and he has been my patient follower ever since—to Georgia, the Carolinas, and back to Virginia. He carried me through the Seven Days battle around Richmond, the second Manassas, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, the last day at Chancellorsville, to Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, and back to the Rappahannock.            

“From the commencement of the campaign in 1864 at Orange till its close around Petersburg, the saddle was scarcely off his back, as he passed through the fire of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and across the James River. He was almost in daily requisition in the winter of 1864-65 on the long line of defenses from the Chickahominy, north of Richmond, to Hatcher’s Run, south of the Appomattox. In the campaign of 1865, he bore me from Petersburg to the final days at Appomattox Court House.            

“You must know the comfort he is to me in my present retirement. He is well supplied with equipments. Two sets have been sent to him from England, one from the ladies of Baltimore, and one was made for him in Richmond; but I think his favorite is the American saddle from St. Louis.            

“Of all his companions in toil, Richmond, Brown Roan, Ajax, and quiet Lucy Long, he is the only one that retained his vigor. The first two expired under their onerous burden, and the last two failed.            

“You can, I am sure, from what I have said, paint his portrait.”    


Five-Star Review for Double-Edged Sword from Another Super Fan

I recently received this five-star review from another super fan! This one is for my novel, Double-Edged Sword, which is the fourth book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Greg Seeley, for your awesome review!

In Double-Edged Sword, J.D.R. Hawkins continues the love story of David Summers and his bride Anna (A Rebel Among Us) as the Civil War ends and the awkward period of Reconstruction begins. The story takes the couple back to David’s home state of Alabama where the harsh terms of Reconstruction come to odds with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, catching between them the youthful couple and David’s family who wish nothing more than to simply go on with their lives. The conditions depicted in Double-Edged Sword are not pretty but are vividly brought to life in this well-researched, well-written novel. Every page leaves the reader wanting more and the following pages certainly deliver. When the couple leave the world of scalawags and carpetbaggers and travel north to Anna’s home state of Pennsylvania, they encounter a whole new set of problems that threaten to throw an already shaky marriage onto the rocks. The bitterness of war continues as Northerners obsess over the near-breakup of the Republic and those whom they hold responsible. For any true fan of historical fiction and, particularly this divisive period in American history, Double -Edged Sword is not to be missed. Read it now.  You’ll be glad you did and it will leave you clamoring for David and Anna’s next adventure. I give a solid five stars.

Renegade Series Featured in LA Weekly

Last Friday, I was honored with a writeup in the LA Weekly about my books in the Renegade Series. These books include A Beautiful Glittering Lie, A Beckoning Hellfire, A Rebel Among Us, and Double-Edged Sword. Thank you so much, LA Weekly, for featuring my books in your publication!

The Renegade Series: A Family’s Tale of Courage and Survival Amidst the Civil War

Within the tumultuous pages of history, the American Civil War stands as a defining chapter, resonating with tales of bravery, sacrifice, and resilience. Amidst the chaos and devastation, one remarkable literary series emerges, offering readers a poignant glimpse into the lives of the Summers family from north Alabama. J.D.R. Hawkins’ Renegade Series transports us to a bygone era, where the boundaries of courage and survival are tested in the crucible of war. Embark on a captivating journey through the pages of this remarkable saga, where love and determination intertwine amidst the ravages of the Civil War.

The Unforgettable Characters

At the heart of the Renegade Series lies a cast of unforgettable characters, each grappling with the harsh realities of a world torn asunder. In the first installment, “A Beautiful Glittering Lie,” readers are introduced to Hiram Summers, a farmer and father of three, who makes the fateful decision to enlist in the Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment. As Hiram departs for Virginia, his son David, filled with youthful curiosity, seeks adventure at home in Huntsville, Alabama, alongside his best friend, Jake Kimball. Meanwhile, Caroline, Hiram’s wife and David’s mother, holds their family together on the home front, finding solace in the letters she receives from her husband. Through their interconnected experiences, J.D.R. Hawkins paints a vivid picture of a family divided by the Civil War, each member facing trials and sacrifices.

The Struggles and Triumphs

“A Beautiful Glittering Lie” delves deep into the naivety of a young nation as the brutal realities of war test it. Hiram and David Summers, separated by duty, embark on separate paths that will forever alter their lives. Hiram, thrust into the chaos of combat, discovers the cost of defending his home and the required sacrifices. Meanwhile, David, driven by a longing for adventure, confronts the invading Yankees in Huntsville, unaware of the dangers ahead. Caroline is the backbone of the Summers family, who demonstrates unwavering strength and resilience as she keeps their home and farm intact, her world revolving around the cherished letters from her husband. Through the struggles and triumphs of the Summers family, the Renegade Series immerses readers in the profound challenges ordinary individuals face in the vortex of war.

The Latest Chapter: “Double-Edged Sword

In the gripping fourth installment of the Renegade Series, “Double-Edged Sword,” J.D.R. Hawkins continues the captivating narrative, diving deep into the post-Civil War era. Confederate cavalryman David Summers, accompanied by his new wife, Anna, returns to Alabama, only to find a land scarred by the ravages of war and a society struggling to heal its wounds. As David navigates the challenges of transitioning from soldier to civilian, he soon discovers that the battles of the past still haunt him. In this highly anticipated chapter, Hawkins explores the complexities of redemption, justice, and the enduring consequences of war. David’s path crosses with his old adversary, Stephen Montgomery, and their deep-rooted animosity ignites a powder keg of emotions. As their conflict escalates, David faces arrest and a trial that holds his future in the balance. The question looms: Will the jury believe his side of the story, or will his Confederate past overshadow any chance of justice?

Impact and Enduring Legacy

The John Esten Cooke Fiction Award-winning Renegade Series goes beyond mere entertainment; it offers a unique perspective on the Civil War, shedding light on the untold stories of ordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances. By highlighting the struggles and triumphs of the Summers family, J.D.R. Hawkins reminds us of the human cost of war, urging us to reflect on the consequences of our actions and the lessons history has to teach. Through meticulous research and immersive storytelling, Hawkins presents a narrative that captures the imagination and fosters empathy. The Renegade Series stands as a testament to the power of literature to bridge the gap between past and present and to uncover the untold tales that shape our collective understanding of history.


As readers turn the pages of the Renegade Series, they embark on an emotional journey through the lives of the Summers family, witnessing their unwavering courage and tenacity in the face of unimaginable adversity. J.D.R. Hawkins’ captivating storytelling invites us to reflect on the enduring impact of the Civil War and the unconquerable spirit of those who lived through it. Immerse yourself in the Renegade Series and experience the triumphs and tragedies of a family’s struggle for survival amidst one of America’s darkest chapters. Let J.D.R. Hawkins’ words transport you to a world where love and determination conquer the ravages of war, reminding us that the human spirit is capable of astonishing resilience even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Amazon.com: J. D. R. Hawkins: books, biography, latest update

The Renegade Series: A Family’s Tale of Courage and Survival Amidst the Civil War – LA Weekly

Review from a Superfan

It seems I have a superfan in another author named Grady. He has taken the time to review several of my books and has given them all five-star reviews. Here is a review he wrote recently for my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, which is the first book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Grady, for flattering me with all your five-star reviews!

Author 52 books1,872 followers

Superb Historical Fiction

Author/singer/songwriter JDR Hawkins writes novels and articles for newspapers, magazines, e-zines and blogs about the Civil War from the Confederate perspective. Her RENEGADE Series is rapidly winning multiple awards; the initial volume is this exceptional book – A BEAUTIFUL GLITTERING LIE. This series, now four books in number, relate the story of a family from northern Alabama who experience immeasurable pain when their lives are dramatically changed by the war. At this particular time in our history, when questions are being raised about the validity of statues and memorabilia of the Civil War, creating heated discussions and confrontations, this book offers a fresh view of the Civil War from the Southern, and Confederate, stance. For a more complete picture of that historical event, Hawkins has created a fictional revisit to that mid 1800s time and her writing is inviting, from the first lines: “Oh, look! Here ne comes!” Jenny exclaimed. The crowd exploded with cheers. David looked over to where she was pointing, his hazel eyes squinting in the bright sunshine. An elegant black lacquered carriage drawn by six white horses pulled up to the steps of the regal Greek revival-style state building. Eight musicians burst into “Dixie’s Land.” A slender, steely middle-aged gentleman stepped out of the carriage and was escorted by military personnel to a waiting platform, where he took his seat. “He looks sickly to me,” remarked David’s father, Hiram…’ Approaching her novel from the family standpoint allows everyone entry to better understand the Confederate vantage.

With that sense of presence, the plot progresses as follows: ‘In the spring of 1861, a country once united is fractured by war. Half of America fights for the Confederate cause; the other, for unification. Rebel forces have already seized Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, a new Confederate president has been elected, and the Constitution has been revised. In north Alabama, a farmer and father of three decides to enlist. For Hiram Summers, it is the end of everything he has ever known. After Hiram travels to Virginia with the Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment, he is quickly thrust into combat. His son, David, who must stay behind, searches for adventure at home by traipsing to Huntsville with his best friend, Jake Kimball, to scrutinize invading Yankees. Meanwhile, Caroline – Hiram’s wife and David’s mother – struggles to keep up with the farm as her world revolves around the letters she receives from her husband, whom she misses dearly. As Hiram and his son discover the true meaning of war, they soon realize that their choices have torn their family apart. The naïveté of a young country is tested, a father sacrifices everything to defend his home, and a young man longs for adventure – regardless of the perilous cost.’

This is a timely novel that will hopefully add new dimensions of thinking about the Civil War and its persistent scars.

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