J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “A Rebel Among Us”

Confederate Heritage Month

April has been signified as Confederate Heritage Month by many Southern states. The month is significant to the Southern cause in that the Civil War started and, for the most part, ended in April. In recognition, memorial services are held at Confederate cemeteries throughout the month. I have attended several of these ceremonies. They are poignant and beautiful remembrances of ancestors who suffered and died to protect their homes.

There were many atrocities that took place during the war. One of the worst was the conditions of Confederate POW camps. My novel, A Rebel Among Us, specifically discusses the conditions that took place at Elmira Prison Camp toward the end of the war.

PRIVATIONS, SUFFERING AND  DELIBERATE CRUELTIES 

“Starvation, literal starvation, was doing its  deadly work. So depleted and poisoned was the  blood of many of Lee’s men from insufficient and  unsound food that a slight wound which would  probably not have been reported at the beginning  of the war would often cause blood-poison,  gangrene, and death. 

Yet the spirits of these brave men seemed to rise as their condition grew more desperate . . . it was a harrowing but not uncommon sight to see those hungry men gather the wasted corn from under the  feet of half-fed horses, and  wash and parch and eat it to satisfy in some measure their craving for food.”  

General John B. Gordon,  

“Reminiscences of the Civil War” 

Elmira Prison Camp, Elmira, New York

“Winter poured down its snows and its sleets  upon Lee’s shelterless men in the trenches. Some of  them burrowed into the earth. Most of them  shivered over the feeble fires kept burning along the  lines. Scanty and thin were the garments of these  heroes. Most of them were clad in mere rags.  

Gaunt famine oppressed them every hour. One  quarter of a pound of rancid bacon and a little meal  was the daily portion assigned to each man by the  rules of the War Department. But even this  allowance failed when the railroads broke down and  left the bacon and the flour and the mean piled up  beside the track in Georgia and the Carolinas. One sixth of the daily ration was the allotment for a  considerable time, and very often the supply of  bacon failed entirely. 

At the close of the year, Grant had one hundred  and ten thousand men. Lee had sixty-six thousand  on his rolls, but this included men on detached duty,  leaving him barely forty thousand soldiers to defend  the trenches that were then stretched out forty  miles in length from the Chickahominy to Hatcher’s  Run.”

Henry Alexander White, “Life of Robert E.  Lee.” 

“When their own soldiers were suffering such  hardships as these in the field, the Confederate  leaders made every effort to exchange men so that  helpless prisoners of war would not suffer in  anything like equal measure, offering even to send  back prisoners without requiring an equivalent.  Hence, the charges brought against the Confederate  government of intentional ill-treatment of prisoners  of war are not supported by the facts. 

[In the South] the same quantity and quality of rations were given to prisoners and guards; but that  variety in food could not be had or transported on  the broken-down railway system of a non manufacturing country, which system could not or  did not provide sufficient clothes and food even for the Confederate soldiers in the field. 

[The] control of the prisons in the North was turned over by Secretary  Stanton and the vindictive and partisan men (who  were later responsible also for the crimes of  Reconstruction) to the lowest element of an alien  population and to Negro guards of a criminal type,  and such men as President Lincoln, Seward,  McClellan, and the best people in the North were  intentionally kept in ignorance of conditions in  Northern prisons while officially furnished with  stories as to “the deliberate cruelties” practiced in  the South.” 

(The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page  Andrews, Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pp. 399-406) 

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Sons of Confederate Veterans; President Jefferson Davis Chapter, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, vol. 45, issue #4, April 2021 ed.)

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is nearly upon us. This year will look much different because of Covid-19. Parties will be limited, Trick or Treating will include social distancing, and of course, everyone will be wearing masks, whether they are Halloween-themed or not. This Halloween will be extra special, because it will have a full moon, which is the second one this month, and is known as a blue moon. The holiday will also be followed by the end of daylight savings time and Election Day next Tuesday. We’re in for a bit of crazy during the next few days!

In the spirit of Halloween, I would like to share an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. Two of the main characters discuss their renditions of All Hallows Eve. I hope you enjoy it. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

On October 31, Patrick arrived with a bottle of whiskey and invited David to partake with him. They stood shivering at the back door, passing the bottle between them. 

“‘Tis Samhain tonight, lad. All Hallow’s Eve. Were ye aware of it?” 

David nodded. “Where’d you git this whiskey?” he asked. 

“Aye, ‘tis a grand thing the Meyers provide me with allowance for such an indulgence,” he replied. He pulled a pipe from his coat pocket and lit it. Puffing away, he shook his head and remarked, “Sure’n ‘tis a far cry from real tobacco.” 

A thought crossed David’s mind. “I’ll be right back,” he said. 

He went upstairs to his room, grabbed the pouch of tobacco, and brought it back down to his friend. 

Patrick peeked inside before taking a deep whiff. “Ah!” he sighed, relishing the pungent aroma. “Might this be the Southern tobacco I’ve heard tell about?” 

David grinned. “Jake brought it along for tradin’, and this here’s what’s left.” 

Patrick loaded his pipe, relit it, and puffed euphorically, smiling all the while. “‘Tis a wee bit o’ heaven, indeed.” He glanced at his friend. “Now, have ye any scary tales from the Southland that might have me skin crawlin’?” 

David thought for a moment, “There’s a story from north Alabama about a place called the Red Bank.” 

Raising his eyebrows, Patrick said, “Let’s see if ye might be tellin’ it frightfully enough to send a shiver up me spine.” He happily puffed away. 

David grinned. He lowered his voice so it was a threatening grumble and delved into his story. Once he had completed the tale of an Indian maiden who had killed herself after losing her baby and had promptly turned into a ghost, he paused. 

Patrick puffed silently on his pipe. “Well, now, I have a scarier one.” He puffed again, took a swig from the whiskey bottle, handed it to David, and said, “‘Tis an old tale from the motherland.” 

The wind blew past them, whistling off through the barren fields. Both young men shivered, suddenly aware of the ominous darkness surrounding them. 

David forced a nervous laugh before taking a swallow. “All right, Patrick. Let’s hear it.” 

He took a puff and slowly exhaled. “There once lived a wealthy lady who was courted by two lords. One of the lords grew so jealous of the other that he plotted to kill his rival. So one night, he snuck into the unsuspectin’ lad’s bedchamber. But instead of choppin’ off his head—” 

He said this with so much exuberance David jumped. 

“He accidentally chopped off his legs instead.” 

A dog howled in the distance, adding to the nuance of Patrick’s eerie Irish story. 

“His torso received a proper burial, but his legs were tossed into a hole in the castle garden and covered with dirt. The murderin’ lord deceived the lady by tellin’ her the other suitor had abandoned his proposal to her. She agreed to marriage. But on their weddin’ night, in walked the two bodyless legs.” 

An owl hooted from somewhere off in the empty trees. 

“The legs followed the bridegroom relentlessly until the day he died. It’s said the legs can still be seen walkin’ round by themselves. ‘Tis a true phuca.” Upon this conclusion, Patrick puffed on the pipe. Smoke billowed around his head like an apparition. 

“What’s a phuca?” asked David. 

“A ghost,” Patrick responded. 

Raising a skeptical eyebrow, David snorted. “I reckon that’s the dumbest spook story I ever did hear.” 

A gate near the barn caught in the wind and slammed loudly against the fencepost. The two men jumped. They chuckled at their reaction, but immediately felt the terrible chill. Reasoning they would be more comfortable inside, they entered the kitchen, consumed the remainder of the whiskey, and bid each other goodnight. Patrick returned home, and David retired quietly upstairs, careful not to wake the others. Relieved the fireplace had been lit for him, he undressed. 

Climbing into bed, he snickered at the thought of two legs unattached to a body, chasing after a rival. Once he’d fallen asleep, however, the thought invaded his dreams. The legs ran toward him. Right behind them rode the headless Union horseman. The torso raised its saber and swung it where its head should have been. Just as the blade came down, David jolted awake. He gasped to catch his breath, realizing, once again, his imagination had gotten the best of him. Slowly, he lay back. Unable to sleep, he listened to the wind rattle the shutters and shake through the skeleton-like tree limbs from outside the frosty, lace-covered windows. 

Interview With Dixie Heritage Newsletter

Recently, I was invited to participate in a podcast interview conducted by Dr. Edward DeVries, who publishes a weekly newsletter known as The Dixie Heritage Newsletter. I was honored to have the opportunity to discuss all four of my published books, as well as upcoming projects. We also talked about music, the Confederate gold, and several other topics. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Dixie Heritage Banner

New Cover Reveal for A Rebel Among Us!

I am so excited to reveal the new cover for my novel, A Rebel Among Us! The new cover comes with a new publisher as well, Westwood Books Publishing, LLC. The book is the recipient of the 2017 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award, which is given by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. This is a very prestigious honor, since the MOSB does not give the award every year, but only to books they deem as worthy of representing the Confederacy.

ARAU Cover

A Rebel Among Us is the third book in the Renegade Series. Two other books, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, are also in the series and have been re-published with Westwood Books Publishing as well.

I’m always fishing for reviews, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you a PDF copy for review!

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you a very happy New Year! This year is especially special, because it is a new decade, and it is, once again the Roaring 20’s! I hope that this decade graces you with love, joy, prosperity and peace. I also hope this year provides you with many opportunities, blessings, and reasons to achieve your goals.

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During the past decade, I faced many blessings, some challenges, and a few heartaches. My husband was transferred several times, so we moved from Horn Lake, Mississippi to Loveland, Colorado to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and finally landed in Colorado Springs, Colorado three years ago. We bought a little fixer-upper bungalow with a gorgeous view of the Rockies and Pikes Peak. I lost my father in 2012, but we were blessed with two grandsons, the youngest of which is only four weeks old. And we met many new friends.

The past year was somewhat challenging for me. My previous publisher decided to drop my Civil War Renegade Series, so I spent months finding a new publisher. I have succeeded and look forward to re-publishing A Beautiful Glittering Lie, A Beckoning Hellfire and A Rebel Among Us with Westwood Books Publishing. It should prove to be a very exciting and lucrative partnership.

In the meantime, my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray, has been holding its own. I’m thinking of making it into an audio book. What do you think?

Horses in Gray Cover

One of my favorite authors, Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs), sent me an email with this inspiring list, so I’m passing it on to you. Thanks Claire!

 

2020 vision pic

Seven Simple Steps to Find Your 2020 Vision

SELF. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.

SOUL SEARCHING. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

SERENDIPITY. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned. Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.

SYNCHRONICITY. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears—then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!

STRENGTH. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!).

SISTERHOOD. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone—remember, karma is a boomerang!

SATISFACTION. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said). Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

BONUS STEP: SIMPLIFY! In the years since writing this list, I’ve discovered how truly fabulous it is to simplify. I’ve moved and downsized twice in the last decade, cleared away so much physical and mental clutter, and learned to say yes only to the things I really want to do. I’m finding the balance between writing and walking the beach every day.

BONUS 2020 VISION TIP: Pick one of the words above (or another!) and make it your theme for 2020. Print out the word in big letters and tape it to the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. Write it in tiny letters on a small river rock or on the inside of a seashell and carry it in your pocket or purse. Scrawl it across the top of your daily journal entry or write it on each day of your calendar. Choosing a single word is such a great way to set your intention and keep your focus on it for the whole year.

 

Respecting the Dead

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It’s a shame how our culture has bred so many who think it’s okay to vandalize grave sites because of their political views. I see too frequently where headstones have been broken, statues have been overturned, and monuments have been painted with graffiti. Why have we lost so much respect for the dead?

In my last blog, I talked about the undead, and brought up Frankenstein as an example. Gruesome as it seems, graves were commonly robbed back in the day. Not only were the grave robbers after jewelry and valuables, but some were after body parts!

grave-robbers

Here is an excerpt describing such horrific deeds from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. Watch for its re-release, complete with a new book cover, coming soon.

Have a happy, and safe, Halloween!

halloweenspirit
Hershel awoke near sunset. “Huntsville, go fetch me a pencil and paper.”
David did as he asked, returning shortly with the requested items.
“You write this down,” he said, pointing a wilting finger at him.
David knelt beside him.
The old man continued. “You write to my wife, and tell her I loved her dearly, and tell her I miss her, but I’m fixin’ to go to a better place.”
“Harrison, there ain’t no need to …”
“Now don’t you be tellin’ me there ain’t a need!” he exclaimed.
David drew back, startled by the sudden, unexpected outburst.
“Sorry,” he apologized softly. “Tell her I long to see her and the young’uns once again, but since that’s impossible, tell her that my final thoughts were of them.”
David nodded.
“You go now, Huntsville. Go write that. Savvy? And send it to her in Tupelo. Can you do that?”
“Yessir,” David replied compassionately. He gazed down at the sickly old man momentarily before stepping out of the tent. Overcome with sorrow, he made his way back to the barracks.
The first weekend of February brought a horrendous blizzard,which dumped nearly two feet of snow. The town of Elmira shut down, and the trains ceased to run, as the thermometer plunged into the single digits. When the storm finally passed, David struggled to make his way across Foster’s Pond to check on his bunkmate. Entering the tent, he saw that two of the cots were empty. The sick man lying there alone looked up at him.
“Where’s the feller who was occupyin’ this cot?” David asked him.
The man seemed too weak to respond, but finally uttered, “Dead house.”
Stunned, David quickly walked to the morgue, and entered to see several attendees place frozen bodies into pine coffins. The cadavers’ bones cracked as they were being forced into their eternal chambers. He grimaced, meandering down an aisle until he unwittingly found a coffin with a wooden marker tied to the top of it that read:

Ltn Hershel P Harrison

42nd Mississippi

Died 2-8-1865

Standing over the pine box, he stared down at the chiseled lettering. A cart lumbered up, coming to a halt outside the morgue. With a heavy sigh, he departed the cold charnel, barely noticing other inmates who were loading the coffins onto the back of the wagon before transporting them to Woodlawn Cemetery.

One of the attendants noticed him, and said, “No need to fret. John Jones will tend to them proper.”

“Who’s John Jones?” he asked.

“He’s the ex-slave whose markin’ every grave. Doin’ a right thorough job of it, too.”

David watched for a moment, still tying to comprehend that Hershel was truly gone. He slowly shuffled through the deep snow, and dismally wondered if he might soon end up the same way. Suddenly, he remembered what one of the Tarheels had told him about grave robbers. According to Sherwood Richardson, the loathsome ghouls unearthed buried cadavers, and sold them to area doctors so that they could conduct experiments on them. He hoped that such a fate wouldn’t befall Hershel’s body.

A Christmas Dilemma

Merry Christmas! In this wonderful time of the year, I would like to share with you an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. In this excerpt, David Summers learns that, although his intentions are sincere, they aren’t taken that way, and he is still considered to be the enemy. I hope you enjoy this, and I hope you have a very  happy holiday season.

ARAU Medium

The little girls were up before dawn, pounding on doors, rousing everyone awake, and gleefully yelling “Merry Christmas!”

David groggily sat up. He heard Maggie’s voice on the other side of the door.

“Where’s the fire?” she asked.

“There’s no fire. Santa’s been here,” squeaked Claudia.

He heard Anna say something and pulled himself out of bed. The group had already gone downstairs, so he followed after them and entered the parlor. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he saw Sarah lighting a fire.

“What time is it?” he yawned.

“Fifteen minutes past five,” said Grace. She tightened her robe around herself. “Oh! It looks as though Santa has been here, all right.”

The girls ran to the fireplace, yanked down their stockings, and dumped the contents out onto the rug, gasping at the sight of their bounty. Each one had received two peppermints, a gold coin, and a licorice.

Maggie had already started distributing gifts from under the tree. She called out the name on each package while Claudia and Abigail took turns delivering them to their recipients. Handing her aunt the last remaining present, she seated herself beside the fireplace. Everyone began opening gifts.

With a smile on his face, David watched the sisters, Grace, and Claudia exchange gifts with each other.

“Go on, David. Open yours,” Sarah coaxed him.

He drew the boxes toward him and eagerly tore into them. A package from Maggie and Abigail contained new boots. Amazed, he humbly thanked them. Another gift contained everyday clothes Sarah had sewn for him, and still another held a new pair of calf-skin gloves from Claudia and her mother. Anna gave him a book and several pair of socks.

She opened his gift. David held his breath, hoping she would be impressed by his handiwork. He had specially crafted for her a comb and hand-held looking glass made of Cherrywood with intricately carved angels on them.

“Oh, David,” she gasped. “I don’t know what to say.”

He didn’t either, so he nervously waited for her to continue.

“They’re absolutely breathtaking!” She dragged the comb through her long blonde hair, gazing at her likeness in the mirror.

David thought he could watch her do that for hours on end and smiled at his accomplishment. He had managed to impress her. His heart soared.

“Oh, it’s lovely.” Sarah smiled. She held up the broach he’d carved for her. Tiny birds adorned the front of it.

“Glad you like it, Miss Sarah,” he replied with a shy grin.

He gave a similar one to Grace. Abigail and Claudia opened their gifts from him: miniature carousels with interchangeable animals. They happily thanked him and traded animals, seeing if one would fit into the other’s carousel.

Maggie opened the gift he had created for her to reveal a three-dimensional wooden carving of a girl sitting in a chair with a cat curled around her feet. “It’s a girl with a cat,” she flatly remarked.

“It’s beautiful,” Anna breathed, smiling at him.

He grinned back at her.

Maggie turned the wooden carving in her hands for a moment. Glaring at David, she threw it into the fire. 

Sarah gasped.

David watched in shock. His jaw dropped in disbelief, and his eyes grew wide. The carving he had spent hours on, created especially for her, was quickly consumed by flames.

“Maggie, how could you?” Anna scolded.

He gaped at her, stunned. Maggie glared back at him. Coming to his senses, he scowled and jumped to his feet. Hurt and anger flared up inside him.

“Pardon me, ladies,” he said, quickly walking toward the kitchen.

He heard Anna holler at her sister. The screen door slammed behind him. Dawn was just beginning to illuminate the yard. Anxious to distance himself, he sprinted toward the barn.

“David,” Anna yelled as she ran after him. “David, wait!”

She screamed. He turned to see she had fallen onto the cold, snow-covered ground. His heart lurched.

“Anna!”

She started sobbing and grabbed her ankle.

He ran back to her. Without a second thought, he knelt down to comfort her.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I’ve got you.”

Gently, he picked her up. He noticed how light she was in his arms as he carried her into the house. Returning to the parlor, he carefully set her on the sofa and gazed down at her concernedly. The sight of her in pain tore at his heartstrings so badly it hurt.

“What happened?” Sarah inquired sternly.

“It’s nothing, Aunt Sarah,” Anna replied, wiping away her tears. “I think I twisted my ankle.”

“Go fetch some ice from the basement,” Sarah said to Maggie, who left the room without a word.

David knelt beside Anna and held her hand. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “This is all my fault.”

“No,” she sniffed. “No, it isn’t.”

Maggie returned with an ice pack and handed it to her older sister.

“You owe David an enormous apology,” Anna said to her sister.

Maggie scowled at him. “I appreciate that you went to all the trouble,” she stated malevolently, “but I regret nothing.” She turned and stomped upstairs.

“She doesn’t mean it, David,” Anna mewled.

“Yes, she does, Miss Anna,” he forlornly responded. “She despises me, and nothin’s gonna change that, no matter how hard I try.”

He stood and walked toward the kitchen. Deciding he should get on with his chores, he took an extra-long time in doing so.

When he had finished bringing in firewood, Sarah pulled him aside.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to give this to you earlier,” she said and presented him with a book titled Wild Man of the West.

“Thank you kindly, Miss Sarah.” 

He went upstairs to his room, threw himself onto the bed, and began reading. Ever since he was a small boy, he had dreamed of going out West into undiscovered Indian Territory. The thought terrified and thrilled him at once. Setting it aside, he picked up the book Anna had given him, Gulliver’s Travels. Just like Gulliver, he felt alone in a strange land, surrounded by people with small minds.

Favorite Ban

Image result for banned book week

This is banned book week, when libraries, bookstores, and all things literary celebrate the tomes that have been banned throughout the years for various reasons. It is interesting to see what books made the list. But the amazing part is that they were even banned in the first place, especially here in the states, where freedom of speech and expression are supposedly within our constitutional rights.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_banned_books

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My favorite banned book is Gone With the Wind. I absolutely adore this novel. I always thought it was so amazing that Margaret Mitchell published her book in 1936, and it immediately became a bestseller. Only a few years later, in 1939, it became a phenomenal film that won eight Academy Awards, one of which was awarded to an African-American person for the first time, Ms. Hattie McDaniel, for Best Supporting Actress. The movie also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing, as well as two honorary awards for its use of equipment and color. It was the first color film to win Best Picture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind_(film)

I have to admit that, since I wrote my novels, the tide of Confederate sentiment has turned. It is quite strange and disturbing, but nevertheless, it has happened. I certainly hope my books don’t make the banned book list because of it, but if they do, they’re in good company.

 

New Interview With The Authors Show

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Nearly two weeks ago, I was interviewed by Linda Thompson of the Authors Show. Linda lives in Phoenix, and told me about how she had just survived a dust storm. I lived in Phoenix when I was little and vaguely remember those storms. I wouldn’t wish them on anybody.

My interview airs today! Please click on this link: https://wnbnetworkwest.com/. You will see my name listed on Channel 3. My interview mostly centered around my novel, A Rebel Among Us, so click on that book title to hear the podcast.

ARAU Medium

I also talk about the first two books in the Renegade Series, as well as my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray. And I also mention some future publications. Please have a listen and let me know what you think. Thanks so much for listening!

Friday the 13th

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As you know, today is Friday the 13th. This year, there are only two. The first one was in April. Today is a celebration of all things macabre, thanks to long-time superstitions.

“The fear of Friday the 13th stems from two separate fears — the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays. Both fears have deep roots in Western culture, most notably in Christian theology.

“Thirteen is significant to Christians because it is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles). Judas, the apostle w­ho betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.”

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This is from a really interesting article I found, so check it out: https://people.howstuffworks.com/friday-thirteenth1.htm

Speaking of all things macabre, there was plenty of that going on during the Civil War. One of the grossest things that struck me while I was researching the strange and interesting Victorian era was the fact that, because medicine at that time was so primitive, doctors stole cadavars to conduct experiments and learn more about human anatomy. Ew!

Frankenstein

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us, describing the nightmarish practice. BTW, Mary Shelley’s infamous novel, Frankenstein, published in 1818, brought to the surface integrated fears of resurrecting the dead, but not to their previous state of being. We have always had a profound interest in death and the undead, like the vampire rage a few years back, Pet Cemetery by Stephen King, and the recent zombie fascination.

ARAU Medium

Excerpt From A Rebel Among Us

“Where’s the feller who was occupyin’ this cot?” David asked him.

The man seemed too weak to respond, but finally uttered, “Dead house.”

Stunned, David quickly walked to the morgue. He entered to see several attendees place frozen bodies into pine coffins. The cadavers’ bones cracked as they were forced into their eternal chambers. David grimaced. Meandering down an aisle, he unwittingly found a coffin with a wooden marker tied to the top of it that read:

Ltn Hershel P Harrison

42nd Mississippi

Died 2-5-1865

He stood over the pine box, staring down at the chiseled lettering. A cart lumbered up and came to a halt outside the morgue. With a heavy sigh, David departed the cold charnel. He barely noticed the other inmates, who loaded coffins onto the back of a wagon before transporting them to Woodlawn Cemetery.

One of the attendants saw him and said, “No need to fret. John Jones will tend to them proper.”

“Who’s John Jones?” he asked.

“He’s the ex-slave who’s markin’ every grave. Doin’ a right thorough job of it too.”

David watched for a moment, still trying to comprehend that Hershel was truly gone. He slowly shuffled through the deep snow, dismally wondering if he might soon end up the same way. He remembered what one of the Tar Heels had told him about grave robbers. According to Sherwood, the loathsome ghouls unearthed buried cadavers and sold them to area doctors who conducted experiments on them. He hoped such a fate wouldn’t befall Hershel’s body.

Making his way past the guardhouse used for solitary confinement, he looked up. A few feet in front of him, sitting on its haunches, was the largest rat he had ever seen. It looked to be at least the size of a tomcat. The enormous rodent bared its long, yellow teeth at him. Astonished, David gasped. He hurried back to his bunk; continuously glancing over his shoulder to make sure the giant rat wasn’t coming after him. All the while, he shivered from the cold, and from the sight of the frightful creature he had just encountered.

Reaching the sanctuary of his confines, he rubbed his hands together for several minutes, sat down, and forced himself to construct a sympathy letter to Hershel’s family. The sad event filled his heart with melancholy. He was thankful he didn’t have to tell them in person.

Glancing around, he noticed how some of the convicts were invested in lively games while their comrades lay dying on the beds beside them. It appalled him that no one seemed to take notice. Death was nothing more than a trite matter of circumstance. But to him, it was a life-changing event. He knew he would never forget Hershel. Struggling to hold back tears, he started writing.

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