J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “American history”

Stories of Christmases Past

Here are some stories about what the South experienced during the War Between the States. By 1862, inflation in the South was rampant, as the following article describes.

CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS IN MISSISSIPPI

Confederate President Jefferson Davis celebrated Christmas in his home in Mississippi.

“After an absence of nearly two years,” he said, “I again find myself among those who…have ever been the trusted object of my affection.”

But Confederate Christmas celebrations in the area were cut short by reports of Union troop movements on the Mississippi threatening Vicksburg.

In the fall of 1862, Confederate refugees from the fighting in the areas surrounding the capital began to flood into the city. They included those who fled farms and towns now in Union-held territory, wives of Confederate soldiers looking for employment, and the destitute.

This influx of refugees drove rent prices much higher than they’d been previously, and wartime inflation sent prices on everyday goods skyrocketing. In the city, ten pounds of bacon, which cost $1.25 in 1860, now cost $10. Four pounds of coffee jumped from $0.50 to $20.

Richmond diarist and author Sallie Brock Putnam wrote about the sadness of Christmas for families who had lost soldiers in the war:

The Christmas dinner passed off gloomily. The vacant chairs were multiplied in Southern homes, and even the children who had curiously questioned the cause of the absence of the young soldier brother from the festive board, had heard too much, had seen too much, and knew too well why sad-colored garments were worn by the mother, and why the fold of rusty crape placed around the worn hat of the father, and why the joyous mirth of the sister was restrained, and her beautiful figure draped in mourning. Congratulations were forced, and tears had taken the place of smiles on countenances where cheerfulness was wont to reign.

Christmas of 1862 saw an important cultural development with the emergence of the modern image of Santa Claus. Famed illustrator FOC Darley published an edition of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) featuring drawings of Santa as a plump man with a pipe, furry coat and pointed hat.

Santa

Thomas Nast, who in the late 19th century produced what came to be regarded as the definitive representations of St. Nick, published his first Santa drawing in Harper’s Weekly, January 3, 1863. “Santa Claus in Camp“ showed a star-spangled Santa in his reindeer-drawn sleigh handing out presents to jubilant soldiers.

Santa in camp

General Robert E. Lee in Gordonsville reported 40,000 soldiers watched a baseball game at Hilton Head, S.C., between the 165th New York Zouave regiment and a picked team from other units. One of the players was Abraham Gilbert Mills, later president of the National League.

Across the South there were movements of troops. Confederate General John Hunt Morgan engaged in his famous Christmas Raid in Kentucky; on that single day, Morgan’s men destroyed everything they possibly could of the improvements that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had made along 35 miles of track from Bacon Creek to Lebanon Junction.

Robert E. Lee wrote his wife, “What a cruel thing is war. To separate & destroy families & friends & mar the purest joy and happiness God has granted us in this world…. I pray that on this day when ‘peace & good will’ are preached to all mankind that better thoughts will fill the hearts of our enemies & turn them to peace.”

Meanwhile, along the Rappahannock River, the two armies faced each other, probing their opponent’s lines looking for weak spots and capturing prisoners and supplies. Soldiers in both armies did what soldiers normally do during the winter. They rested and refitted. They entertained themselves with games and tournaments. They exchanged supplies with their fellow Americans across the river.

 

(Written by Peter Doré – English Friends of the South)

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

Time was short as final preparations were underway for General Thomas J. Jackson’s famous Stonewall Brigade. Jackson had received orders from General Robert E. Lee to move his corps east from the Shenandoah towards the Rappahannock River. The Federal army under the command of General Burnside was gathering in great numbers across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in an attempt to sweep around Lee’s eastern flank and attack Richmond.

Jackson’s corps numbered over 38,000 soldiers, the largest command he had ever had. Among these troops were his old reliable, tried and true, Stonewall Brigade, also referred to informally as “Virginia’s First Brigade”. Organized and trained personally by Jackson at Harper’s Ferry in April 1861, the brigade would distinguish itself at the Battle of Manassas, and become one of the most famous combat units in the war.

Snow lay on the ground in Winchester at the Frederick County Courthouse as new volunteers were organized and drilled for their march to meet the enemy. A young soldier was given a Christmas gift made by his sweetheart. Like so many couples, they did not know what the future held.

A Winchester resident watching the men pass through the town remarked how poor looking the soldiers were. “They were very destitute, many without shoes, and all without overcoats or gloves, although the weather was freezing. Their poor hands looked so red and cold holding their muskets in the biting wind….They did not, however look dejected, but went their way right joyfully.”

 

THE CHRISTMAS CAROL

The years of 1861 and 1862 had been momentous for Thomas J. Jackson. He had gone from being an unknown VMI professor with a Major’s commission, to the rank of Lieutenant General commanding the II Corps in General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In battle after battle Jackson’s army had defeated those who opposed them. “Stonewall” was now one of the most famous and feared generals of the war.

Snow blanketed the countryside on November 22 as Confederate divisions gathered in Winchester. General Lee’s communiqués to Jackson made it clear that it was time to consolidate the army, preparing for the Union Army’s next move. Jackson’s Corps numbered 33,000 troops, the largest he had ever commanded. The task of organizing and preparing the new II Corps was daunting, but the General was up to the challenge and kept on the move.

On an early November morning at the Opequon Presbyterian church, members of the choir practiced a favorite Christmas carol for the passing Stonewall Jackson and his men. With the fate of his army and possibly the South to be decided in the coming days, the beautiful melody of a Christmas carol in the distance uplifted General Jackson and his men as they prepared to leave for Fredericksburg.

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“The Christmas Carol”
Opequon Presbyterian Church, Kernstown, Virginia – Winter of 1862
Artwork by John Paul Strain

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“The Christmas Gift”

Men of the Stonewall Brigade, Frederick County Courthouse – Winchester, Virginia Winter of 1862

Artwork by John Paul Strain

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1452, vol. 42, issue no. 12, Dec. 2018 ed.)
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An Unrealistic Comparison

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Only ten years ago, Southern history, especially in regard to the Civil War, was honored and celebrated. Now that same history is under attack, and some will stop at nothing to change it, erase it, lie about it, and misinterpret history with every means possible. Here is another ludicrous example of how the Confederacy is being portrayed today, and how one letter to the editor proves the audacity of this comparison.

Nazi Flag

Confederacy Compared to Nazi Germany

To the Greenville, East Carolinian.

To the editor: article comparing the Confederacy to Nazi Germany and its battle flag to the swastika is highly offensive, especially to those of us who are Jewish, & shows he knows little about either the Confederacy or the Nazis. Some 3,500 to 5,000 Jews fought honorably and loyally for the Confederacy, including its Secretary of War & later State, Judah Benjamin (See Robert Rosen’s The Jewish Confederates and Mel Young’s Last Order of the Lost Cause). My great grandfather also served, as did his four brothers, their uncle, his three sons, and some two-dozen other members of my Mother’s extended family (The Moses’ of South Carolina and Georgia). Half a dozen of them fell in battle, largely teenagers, including the first and last Confederate Jews to die in battle. We know first hand, from their letters, diaries, and memoirs, that they were not fighting for slavery, but rather to defend themselves and their comrades, their families, homes, and country from an invading army that was trying to kill them, burn their homes and cities, and destroy everything they had. If you want to talk about Nazi-like behavior, consider the actions of the leading Union commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, whose war crimes included the following actions:

Ordering the expulsion on 24 hours notice of all Jews “as a class” from the territory under his control (General Order # 11, 17 December, 1862), and forbidding Jews to travel on trains (November, 1862); Ordering the destruction of an entire agricultural area to deny the enemy support (the Shenandoah Valley, 5 August, 1864). Leading the mass murder, a virtual genocide, of Native People, mainly helpless old men, women, and children in their villages, to make land available for the western railroads (the eradication of the Plains Indians, 1865–66). What we euphemistically call “the Indian Wars” was carried out by many of the same Union officers who led the war against the South – Sherman, Grant, Sheridan, Custer, and other leading commanders. Overseeing the complete destruction of defenseless Southern cities, and conducting such warfare against unarmed women and children (e.g., the razing of Meridian, and other cities in Mississippi, spring, 1863).

Grant

Contrast these well-documented atrocities (and many others too numerous to list) with the gentlemanly policies and behavior of the Confederate forces. My ancestor Major Raphael Moses, General James Longstreet’s chief commissary officer, was forbidden by General Robert E. Lee from even entering private homes in their raids into the North, such as the famous incursion into Pennsylvania. Moses was forced to obtain his supplies from businesses and farms, and he always paid for what he requisitioned, albeit in Confederate tender. Moses always endured in good humor the harsh verbal abuse he received from the local women, who, he noted, always insisted on receiving in the end the exact amount owed. Moses and his Confederate colleagues never engaged in the type of warfare waged by the Union forces, especially that of General William T. Sherman on his infamous “March to the Sea” through Georgia and the Carolinas, in which his troops routinely burned, looted, and destroyed libraries, courthouses, churches, homes, and cities full of defenseless civilians, including my hometown of Atlanta.

It was not the South but rather our enemies that engaged in genocide. While our ancestors may have lost the War, they never lost their honor, or engaged in anything that could justify their being compared to Nazi’s. It was the other side that did that.

Sincerely yours,

Lewis Regenstein

(Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Sons of Confederate Veterans Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Hernando, MS., vol. 42, no. 10, October 2018 ed.)

An Insight into the Confederate Cavalry

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I find it interesting how Civil War soldiers, especially those from the South, managed to sustain on what little food was provided to them, yet still had the strength to fight and survive during the harshest climates. Most soldiers lived on hardtack, pork belly, and cornmeal. There were various names for their concoctions, including slush and cush.  My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes some of the situations Confederate cavalrymen went through during the War Between the States.

CAVALRY COOKING

The rations on which the Confederate army subsisted were from the first scant, and often of poor quality. They would have been bad enough even if properly prepared, but were usually rendered worse by poor cooking. The cavalryman’s most valuable cooking utensil was his ramrod, on which he broiled his meat, and even baked the flour bread that he “made up” in his haversack. As a dishrag a corn shuck was invaluable, and was also a good substitute for paper in which to wrap cooked rations. While in camp, of course we had camp-kettles and frying- pans, and could then enjoy the luxuries of “boiled and fried vittles,” but this was not often.

One of the “old gang ” tells an amusing story of how the cooking was managed in his mess: “Our rule was,” said he, “that each member of the mess should cook a week, provided nobody growled about the cooking; in which event the growler was to take the cook’s place. As may be imagined, this rule was not very conducive to good cooking, and some of the revolting messes we uncomplainingly swallowed would have destroyed the digestion of any animal on earth except that of a rebel cavalryman.

Once the cook, finding that he was about to serve out his week in spite of his efforts to the contrary (consisting of sweetening the coffee with salt, salting the soup with sugar, etc.,) grew desperate, and proceeded to boil with the beef a whole string of red pepper. Of course it made a mixture hot enough to blister the nose even to smell it. John got the first mouthful, and it fairly took his breath away. As soon as he could speak , he blurted out, ” Great Caesar, boys, this meat is as hot as hell — but (suddenly remembering the penalty of complaining) it’s good, though..”

 

http://civilwarcooking.blogspot.com

Southern Historical Society

(Source: Campaigns of Wheeler and his cavalry.1862- 1865 by W.C. Dodson, Historian, 1899)
Link to free e=book: https://archive.org/…/cu319240309…/cu31924030921682_djvu.txt

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Hernando, MS., Vol. 42, Issue 10, October 2018 ed.)

An Amazing Discovery

Cold Harbor

Every once in a while, stories like this pop up. It wasn’t too long ago that a Confederate soldier who had died at the Battle of Chickamauga was identified and buried with honors. There must be many long-forgotten little cemeteries and family plots that contain Civil War soldiers’ remains. Here is another example of a recent discovery.

cemetery

TEXAS CEMETERY DISCOVERY
A routine survey of a small East Texas towns cemetery revealed an amazing discovery. Over a half-dozen War Between the States veterans are buried there.

The find was made at the East Mountain cemetery in Gregg county.

For a town of only 800 people, the find at old East Mountain cemetery was remarkable.

Several of the men had moved to Texas after the war, like many did to start a new life. Texas was “the land of opportunity.”

Cemetery board members plan on having a historical marker dedication to commemorate the site in October.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, September 28, 2018 ed.)

Favorite Ban

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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

Image result for gone with the wind

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.

 

To Build and Not Destroy

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With all the destruction of Confederate monuments going on, it’s refreshing to see one Southern city defend its heritage and erect a new monument in honor of an historic occasion. Kudos for not bowing to political correctness and unfounded threats.

NEW MONUMENT GOING UP
Robert Hayes, former director of the South Carolina League of the South, along with the State’s division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, will erect an 11-and-a-half foot monument on Secession Hill dedicated to the 170 signers of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession, ratified in Charleston a month after the Abbeville speeches.

To unveil the monument on Nov. 10, the town of Abbeville, which has its first black mayor, is hosting a parade.

The Abbeville monument weighing about 20 tons with a full inscription of the state’s secession ordinance, is planned for Secessionist Hill fronting a well-traveled corridor on Secession Avenue.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans picked Hayes’ property in Abbeville only after it was rebuffed twice in its attempts to place it on public land near Charleston, where the secession ordinance was signed and the Civil War started.

The group first eyed a location near Charleston Harbor in 2010 but the Patriots Point Development Authority rejected the offer in a split vote.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey then offered a spot in Riverfront Park but withdrew after he said “some who stand on both sides of this issue have attempted to divide our council and our city along racial lines.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ secession monument, paid with private donations, landed on Hayes’ property because it’s privately owned and historical.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, September 14, 2018 ed.)

The Battle of Antietam

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On this date in 1862, the single bloodiest day in American history took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle claimed over 22,000 casualties. Although the battle was later declared as a draw, President Abraham Lincoln used it as an opportunity to launch his Emancipation Proclamation, which would go into effect on New Years Day, 1863. However, his freeing slaves only applied to Southern states that had seceded from the Union, and didn’t apply to slave holding states in the North.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/battle-of-antietam

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, describing the battle from the perspective of solders who fought for the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

ABGL Medium

At 3:00 a.m., the men were awakened to the sound of McClellan’s army attacking the Georgians, who had come to their relief the previous night. For an hour and a half, the battle raged, until General Hood was called upon for assistance. He brought his two brigades to the front, one of which included the 4thAlabama. As they were ordered to line up,

Orange Hugh approached his messmates in a panic.

“Have y’all seen Bo?” he asked. “I woke up, and he was gone.”

“Nope. Ain’t seen him,” replied Blue Hugh with a smirk. “He might be buzzard food by now.”

“Don’t pay him no mind,” said Hiram. “Bo will show up. He’s likely jist hidin’ somewhere.”

“I surely hope so,” replied Orange Hugh. “We’re both anxious to git back to Richmond so we can visit Miss Betsy!”

Blue Hugh chuckled. “Don’t be such a skylark. We ain’t headed back there. I heard tell General Lee wants us to march up to Harrisburg.”

“Is that a fact?” inquired Bud.

“It’s what I heard.”

The men were instructed to advance toward their enemy. They audaciously marched across an open field in front of the church, in perfect alignment, while a hailstorm of Minié balls rained down on them. Because it was still too dark to see, the men could hardly determine who was shot, except for random screams that came across the field both near and far, and they were unable to distinguish between blue and gray uniforms. Solid shot cracked into skulls and bones, which sounded like breaking eggshells.

They stumbled along, making their way to a grove of trees. Hiram heard Lieutenant Stewart and his comrade, Lieutenant King, yelling at someone. He could make out that it was Dozier, who had fallen down and was refusing to get back up. The officers grew frustrated, so they kicked the young private before they continued on and left him behind.

Springing to his feet, Dozier sprinted back toward the church.

The Confederates advanced into the trees, skirmishing with their enemies as they drove them out. Captain Scruggs, who fell wounded, was quickly replaced by Captain Robbins. Realizing they were at an advantage, the Rebels shot down scores of Yankees while concealing themselves in the cover of trees, fighting savagely despite their extreme hunger and fatigue. Other regiments of their brigade, the Texans, South Carolinians, and Georgians, were out in the open on their left, and suffered because of it. As dawn began to lighten the sky, Hiram noticed a Union general riding around the field on a large white horse.

“Who do you reckon that is?” he asked, to no one in particular.

Smoke billowed across the field, but the white horse still remained visible.

“That there’s Fightin’ Joe Hooker,” Lieutenant King informed him.

“He’s makin’ himself an easy target, ain’t he?” The lieutenant laughed at the Union general’s absurdity.

Yankee artillery fired into General Hood’s right flank and rear, causing the Rebels to fall back. The ground was scattered with bodies, most of which were clad in blue. Many Confederate soldiers had exhausted their ammunition when Lieutenant Stewart informed them they had been fighting for nearly three hours straight. Fearing the enemy would chase after them, they quickly re-formed, but discovered their haste was unnecessary, as the Yankees failed to respond. The Alabamians took much-needed time to replenish their ammunition and catch their breath.

General Hood directed his men back to the church to retire.

Suddenly, a shell flew by, blowing off the top of Lieutenant King’s head. The body dropped limply into a pool of blood and brain matter. Bud and Hiram looked at each other, dazed, their faces blackened by gunpowder. They turned and walked away, putting the horrific sight behind them, both knowing there was nothing they could do for the man.

Finally, Hiram said, “I won’t ever git used to seein’ that.”

“I already am,” Bud remarked indifferently. “I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but after a while, those boys jist look like dead animal carcasses to me.”

Hiram glared at him for a moment, shocked by his callousness.

“Life is uncertain, but death…is certain,” Bud added under his breath.

While they walked across the field, which was strewn with bodies, they tried not to look into the pinched faces, whose eyes stared vacantly up at the sunny morning sky. Young men not more than eighteen, their cheeks once rosy with the blossom of vigor and manhood, lay cold and still, bathing in their own hearts’ blood. Some didn’t even look human, while others were missing heads, arms, legs, or torsos. Several members of the regiment scurried around the battlefield, placing the wounded on stretchers. The victims cried out in anguish, their blood leaking from their broken bodies like fractured wine bottles as they were carried away. Bud heard a persistent whimpering sound, so he followed it, and walked around an enormous oak tree, its trunk riddled with bullet holes.

“Hiram! Y’all had best git over here!”

Hiram and Blue Hugh walked over to see what Bud was gawking at. They went around the tree, and saw Orange Hugh with his little dog, Bo, sitting on his lap. The young man seemed to be asleep sitting up, his body leaning back against the trunk. Bo whined pathetically, and licked Orange Hugh’s face like he was trying to wake him.

“Dear Lord,” said Hiram under his breath.

“It’s a damned shame,” remarked Bud, slowly shaking his head.

Blue Hugh stared down at his comrade for a moment. “Reckon he’s seen his last fight,” he blurted. “Good-bye, Hugh.” He turned and walked away.

Hiram frowned, appalled by the man’s insensitivity.

Returning to the church, the Alabamians settled in, and sustained on what meager rations they had left: half an ounce each of beef and green corn. Noticing Bo wander into their bivouac, Bud took the little dog into his arms. One of the men said that after the 4th had started across the field that morning, he saw Bo climb out of a hole from under the church.

As artillery blasted away in the distance, Bud and Hiram reflected on the day’s events, sadly conveying their regret for losing such a fine young friend and soldier as Orange Hugh.

Intentionally changing the subject, Hiram remarked, “Strange how all the wildlife knows when there’s a battle brewin’. They all high tail it out of there. Even the bugs vanish.”

“I’ve noticed that myself,” said Bud. “I’m right glad for it, too. I hate seein’ innocent critters suffer, like those poor warhorses with their legs blown off.”

Hiram grunted. “It bothers you to see dead horses, but not dead soldiers?”

“Of course it bothers me. I’ve jist built up a tolerance for it, is all. Except when it comes to someone I know. That’s different.”

With a sigh, Hiram said, “They all remind me too much of David. I don’t reckon I’ll ever build up a tolerance for that.”

“It makes you not want to git too close to any of them,” said Bud.

Hiram grew solemnly quiet, considering his own mortality.

An hour passed. McLaws’ Division arrived from Harpers Ferry, moved to the front, and immediately became engaged, while the 4th Alabama was held in reserve. The fighting was intense, until darkness finally interrupted it, with neither side emerging triumphant. Soon the Alabamians fell asleep from utter exhaustion, but were roused in the middle of the night, and marched across the Potomac to the Virginia side.

https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Renagade/dp/1544842481/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1537244747&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beautiful+glittering+lie

Dog Days of Summer

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By the time July starts winding down, the heat is beginning to wear on everyone, and we  all start thinking about when school will resume again. I’m fortunate in that I live in the mountains, so if it gets too hot, we can head up to the hills to cool off.

Although summer was the most likely time for battles to take place during the Civil War, there was also a lot of down time. The soldiers were left to their own devices to entertain themselves. Many wrote letters to their loved ones. Others passed the time by playing cards, gambling, reading weeks-old newspapers, or shooting the bull, as they called it.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describing typical southern soldiers who passed the time away while waiting for the next big battle.

ABeckoningHellfire_MED

Jake and David led their horses to the edge of the field to graze and fell down upon the damp grass in sheer exhaustion. Two other members of their company approached and lay down on the grass next to them. They welcomed each other with a weary, “Hey.”

“We heared y’all were from Alabama, so we thought we’d come over and make your acquaintance. You boys jist git in last night?” one asked.

“Yeah,” David replied.

He introduced himself and Jake. The two veterans did the same, stating that their names were John Chase and Michael Tailor.

“Do we drill tomorrow, too, or do we git a day of rest, bein’s it’s the Sabbath?” asked David.

“There’ll be no drillin’ tomorrow. Ole Beauty’s a stickler for lettin’ us off on Sundays,” John said, referring to Stuart by a nickname the general had acquired at West Point.

“Where y’all from?” asked Jake.

“We’re from Georgia,” John replied.

“How come y‘all are in a company of Virginians?” asked David.

“Well, we were over here with my cousin,” explained Michael. “Us and some other fellers from our company. Kerr, Smith, Crawford, and Campbell. Anyway, we were supposed to leave to go down south with our brigade, but when we got back, they were already gone!”

“What brigade is that?” asked David.

“Hampton’s,” John responded. “We’re with the Jeff Davis Legion. Reckon we’ll have hell to pay when they git back up here!” He and Michael chuckled. “So y’all will jist have to tolerate a few of us Georgians around the place,” he went on. “Least till our fellers git back.”

“Reckon we can overlook it if y’all can,” Jake said with a grin.

John snickered, raising an eyebrow. “I’m inclined to think that us Rebels are all in this together, so I’ll forgive y’all for bein’ from Alabama.”

David and Jake looked at each other and shrugged.

“I have cousins in Alabama,” Michael told them. “Y’all know the Ryan’s?”

Jake and David gaped at each other in astonishment.

“There are a lot of Ryan’s around our parts,” Jake replied.

“How about that!” Michael laughed. He seemed happy to hear of any news from home, however obscure it might be. They talked about their families for a while until he stood and said, “All this nostalgic talk is makin’ me well up.”

John pulled himself to his feet. “Let’s meet up tonight, and we’ll shoot the bull,” he suggested.

Jake and David agreed before following the Georgians back into camp.

“Hey,” John said over his shoulder. “Do either one of you boys know how to write, because I’ve been longin’ to send a letter home to my wife, but I jist can’t figure out how to put it in words.”

“We can write a letter for you,” said David, happy to oblige.

John smiled and trudged back toward camp.

Hesitating until the Georgians were out of earshot, Jake gave David a shove, which caused him to stumble.

“What was that for?” he angrily fired back.

“I ain’t volunteerin’ to write a letter for every soldier out here,” Jake stated.

David gave him a crooked grin, knowing that his friend wasn’t very good at writing. “Well, I’ll jist do it, then,” he said.

They returned to camp and scrounged around for something to eat, but could only manage to find the same staples they’d consumed earlier. After they tied their horses out to graze, Sergeant Williams came by and invited them to his fire. Jake and David followed him to discover a large iron kettle hanging over a flame.

“Put that Yankee coat in here, and the dye will turn it butternut,” the sergeant instructed.

David removed the coat he’d been wearing since the previous evening. He let it fall into the boiling concoction. “What do you use for dye?” he asked.

“Walnut hulls, acorns, and lye,” William replied.

They chuckled at the rhyme. Standing over the kettle, they watched the boiling water roll over the garment as it gradually washed the dark blue coat to brownish-yellow.

When he was satisfied with the result, William retrieved the coat with a stick and hung it on a bush to dry. “You’ll have to leave this here till tomorrow,” he told David, “but you can borrow my saddle blanket if you want.”

“Thanks,” David said. “I reckon I’ll be all right.”

The two troopers exchanged smiles. After bidding goodnight to the sergeant, Jake and David returned to their site, but were surprised by what awaited them. Six men were standing there, waiting for their return.

“There they are!” exclaimed John, a wide grin parting the thick fur on his face. “These boys will write home for us!”

Jake looked at David, scoffed, and shook his head. “I’m illiterate all of a sudden,” he muttered.

One of the Georgians they hadn’t yet met held out a pen and a piece of wallpaper. David wondered whose wall he’d peeled it from.

“How do,” the Georgian said, “I’m Custis Kerr.” He held out his other hand and grasped onto David’s. “John and Michael here said y’all can write a letter for us.” He had a scraggly beard that reminded David of a wire-haired dog he’d seen once. Pausing momentarily, Custis added, “I’d be willin’ to give you somethin’ for it.”

“Do you have anything to eat?” Jake inquired.

“Well, I have a cornpone and some honey,” said Custis.

David smiled, took the pen and paper from him, and seated himself on the log next to their fire. Custis sat beside him, grinning from ear to ear. Positioning the wallpaper on his thigh, David poised the pen erect and glanced over at him.

“Ain’t you holdin’ it in the wrong hand?” Custis asked.

“I’m left handed,” David explained.

The Georgians howled.

“We ain’t never seen a lefty afore!” one of them exclaimed.

David felt a little awkward, but had grown up enduring such teases, so he shrugged it off.

“Whatcha want me to write?”

“Dear Mother,” Custis dictated, “I am feelin’ well and believe the weather is becomin’ more mild.”

David raised an eyebrow as he scribbled down the words, wondering if this soldier had anything more important to say.

“I am doin’ fine and look forward to seein’ you a’gin.” Custis spoke like he was reading, slow and deliberate, so that David would catch every word. “I am writin’ to M.S.B. and C.L.S.”

Throwing a glance at him, David wondered how many letters he was expected to write for each and every soldier. He started to regret his hasty offer to John and Michael.

“If you don’t have anything more to say, I’ll close for you,” he said, hoping Custis would take him up on his offer.

“Hold on a minute.” The Georgian raised his hand. He nodded and pointed to the wallpaper, coaxing his transcriber to continue. “Received the parcels you sent from home. Many of the boys enjoyed them also.” He stopped to rub his beard in thought. “Reckon that’s all. Jist put down your lovin’ son, Custis.”

David finished writing and handed the piece of wallpaper to him. Custis clutched onto it like it was a gold nugget.

“Oh, what’s your name?” he asked.

“David Summers.”

“Thanks kindly, Summers,” Custis said, and walked off.

Another Georgian, Peter Smith, had David write home to his wife and two daughters in exchange for dehydrated vegetables. Alfred Crawford dictated a letter to his sweetheart, gave David a sewn bag of pennyroyal leaves for his effort, and instructed him to place it at the foot of his bed to repel fleas. A newlywed, Robert Campbell, sought assistance in addressing a letter to his wife. He rewarded his comrade with saddle soup and graybacks amounting to three dollars. David also wrote one letter each for John and Michael. In the time it took for him to write the soldiers’ letters, he learned more about each cavalryman than most of the others would ever know about each other. Graciously, he accepted their offerings in return.

When he had finished, he realized it was getting dark. Thankfully, Jake had taken the initiative to fry some salt pork, so he and David devoured it along with the newly-acquired cornpone and crusted honey. They cleaned up and relaxed, lying on their backs and gazing up at the stars. David’s writer’s cramp left him too disabled to pen a letter to his own family, but he reasoned that he could do it tomorrow, since it would be a day of rest. He started dozing off, but heard voices growing louder.

“Mind if’n we jine you?” Michael asked.

David opened his eyes and glanced at Jake, who shook his head, grinning as he sat up.

John chuckled. “You look right tuckered out. Did we run you ragged today?” He chuckled again. “We came over to shoot the bull with you fellers.”

David pried himself up. The two veterans seated themselves on logs. John pulled a meerschaum from his pocket and lit it. The pungent odor of rich tobacco intermingled with the smell of burning firewood.

“By the way,” Michael said, his dark eyes twinkling in the firelight. “I’d recommend you get rid of that can of desecrated vegetables Smith gave you.”

“Why?” asked David.

“I’ve heard tell that if’n you eat those critters, they’ll expand in your stomach and make you explode!”

David’s eyes grew large. He retrieved the can of dehydrated vegetables from his saddlebag, threw it into the fire, and watched along with the others. The can sizzled, popped open, and was quickly consumed by flames. Inexplicably, the recollection of Tom’s terrible death back home in the barn entered his mind. He looked away.

“I heard that last month they caught ole Abe Lincoln in a drunken stupor,” John remarked nonchalantly. “Heard from a source in Washin’ton City that he was on a binge for thirty-six hours and was still drunk when he left the drinkin’ establishment!” He laughed heartily.

Jake winked at David. It was obvious their guests were extravagant liars, but amusing, nonetheless.

“I heard tell that General Burnside passed on in his sleep,” Michael said, “and that General Beauregard was accompanied on a march by concubines and wagonloads of champagne.”

Jake and David chuckled.

“I heard from a couple of Louisiana Zouaves that the good people of New Orleans printed a picture of General Butler on the bottoms of their chamber pots!” exclaimed John. He guffawed loudly. “That’s one way to git even with that damned Yankee general!” he exclaimed, referring to the dreadful officer who had taken over the city nearly a year ago. The four soldiers laughed loudly at this.

“Is it truthful that General Stuart’s a teetotaler?” asked Jake.

John nodded, enjoying his pipe. “That he is, and a ladies’ man, but a devoted husband and father over all.”

“Where in Georgia are y’all from?” David inquired.

“Savannah,” said Michael.

“I heard it’s right purty over there,” said Jake. “Y’all have any land?” he asked.

“I have about a hundred acres,” John replied, “and a few niggers to help run the place, but Michael ain’t got any, ‘cept what his kinfolk live on. We’ve got plenty of big plantations’round our parts.”

“When we were ridin’ in,” Jake said, “we heard some fellers talkin’ bout a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, but we didn’t know what they meant by it.”

“Oh.” John took a puff from his clay pipe. “The plantation owners and their overseers are exempt from fightin’ if’n they have twenty slaves.”

“That don’t seem right,” said David.

“Nothin’ in war is right, Summers,” Michael said, “and you’ll find that out soon enough. But General Hampton’s supposed to be the largest slave owner in the South, and he’s fightin’. Say, you ain’t a conscript, are you?”

“No sir,” David responded proudly. “We’re both enlistees.”

John nodded and smiled, clenching the pipe in his teeth. He puffed again. “That’s good. We ain’t real fond of conscripts ’round here. Anyone forced to jine up ain’t worthy of the fight, and those fellers will run off first chance they git. Jist like those cowards from our home state who refuse to fight. We call them Georgia crackers. It’s downright unpatriotic.”

Jake leaned in toward his friend. “You should ask him about your pa,” he reminded.

The other soldiers looked at David, waiting for him to speak. He took a deep sigh, and said, “My pa is buried here somewhere, and I was wonderin’ if y’all might know where I could find him.”

The Georgians exchanged glances.

“Can’t rightly direct you,” Michael said. “The burial site’s mighty large, and not every grave is marked. It could take days, or even weeks, and you still might not find him.”

David bit his lower lip and gazed into the fire, disappointed with the answer he’d received.

Jake quickly changed the subject and they were soon engaged in telling one chilling horror story after another, most of which the other soldiers made up. David enthralled them with “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story by Edgar Allen Poe, which none of the others had heard before. To his amusement, the others actually shivered at his telling of the story. The four soldiers talked on into the night until they realized it was late and decided to retire. As the Georgians departed, Jake leaned back, mumbling something unintelligible. David fell asleep but was soon startled awake by the bugler’s invasion.

“I thought we got today off,” he muttered to Jake while they pulled on their boots.

“Reckon they have roll every day,” Jake said with a yawn.

He and David sauntered to the field where they again went through military procedures. Their company was informed that General Fitzhugh Lee, who was the nephew of Robert E. Lee, had taken his cavalry brigade northward. After being released, the boys stood in line for rations, disappointed with the lack of variety once more, but they ate it anyway, grateful for the meager nourishment. Afterward, they gave their mounts some seed corn and oats.

Finally finding free time, David settled in to read from his Testament. He opened the leather flap. Inside was the miniature Southern Cross Josie had sewn for him. His heart grew heavy at the thought of her, Rena, and their mother. He had hardly been gone a week, yet it seemed like years.

Flipping through the sacred pages, he found a scripture that caught his eye: So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jake sat down beside him, holding a newspaper he had found.

“Where’d you git that?” David asked.

“Down at the sink,” Jake replied, opening the paper. “It’s a few weeks old, but it’s somethin’ to read.”

“Couldn’t find better use for it?” David snickered.

Jake glared at him. “You wouldn’t think it was so funny if you had this ailment,” he grumbled.

David shrugged. “Seems to me some of that salt pork should’ve worked its way out by now.” Unable to help himself, he snickered again.

Jake threw the newspaper down on the ground and stood. “Reckon I’ll see what’s goin’ on around camp,” he announced, and stomped off.

Deciding it would be a good time to write a letter home, David found his pencil and paper and began writing.

 

Dear Ma and sisters,

I take pencil in hand to inform you that Jake and I arived yesterday evening and are being aclimated to our suroundings. We have plenty to eat and are feeling fine and our horses are fine. We have yet to see General Stuart. To-day is Sunday and you will be glad to know that I am studying scripture and find it very reasuring. Please tell Callie I wish her well if you see her. I would like very much if you could rite to me every particular of what is going on back home. I am thinking of you fondly and will rite again in the near future.

Your son and brother until deth,

David

 

Intentionally excluding any reference to Tom Caldwell, he placed the folded letter into an envelope.

They must have heard by now, he thought. They must know that I killed him.

Deciding to hunt for Jake and deliver his letter to the post, he walked around camp, taking notice of the activities around him. He was stunned to see men gambling, pitching horseshoes, cursing, drinking, betting, and slapping papers while they played their poker hands, not only because it was the Sabbath, but also because it was only one week after Easter. One soldier asked David to join him for a sip of “Pine Top,” but he refused. Drinking, especially on a Sunday, appalled him. Curious as to why there were no services, he asked another trooper.

“In the beginnin’,” the soldier said, “we held services faithfully every week.” He cocked his head at David.   “But truth be told, as time went on, we all got too tired of the war to care anymore.”

David nodded, and turned to search out his best friend. Jake stood in a throng surrounding two Rebels who were seated at a table. In front of them, a Federal canteen lay on its side. The men yelled and squinted at it.

“Come on, Howitzer!” one hollered.

“Go, Minié Ball!” another exclaimed. The spectators shouted excitedly.

“What’s goin’ on?” David asked his friend.

“They’re havin’ lice races,” Jake replied. He grinned at David before looking back at the table.

The crowd cheered. One of the contenders sprang from the table and threw his arms up in victory.

“Better luck next time!” he bellowed, shaking his opponent’s hand.

The loser presented a Confederate note to his rival, and men within the crowd exchanged currency as well.

David observed the spectacle with amazement, glad that no man of the cloth was there to witness it. He felt a twinge of humiliation for the soldiers in attendance, and wondered why they didn’t display any moral responsibility. Deciding he’d seen enough, he walked back over to his campsite. Jake followed, talking all the while about the carefree life of a soldier.

“Do you reckon I’ll be able to find Pa’s grave?” David asked him.

Jake’s joviality quickly changed to solemn reserve. He shrugged in response. “Sounds like the gravesite’s mighty large. It could take us days to find him, and besides, the major might notice us missin’.”

“Well, maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow if he knows where Pa might be.”

“Why don’t you ask him now?” Jake grinned, motioning for him to follow.

They walked through camp to a white canvas tent and timidly entered.

“Sir,” Jake said quietly to catch the major’s attention.

Major Warner looked up from the map he was studying. David followed Jake inside the tent, and the two saluted.

“At ease,” the major softly commanded. “What can I do for you boys?”

“My friend was wonderin’ if you might know where his pa’s buried,” Jake explained. “He was killed here last December.”

“Do you know which regiment he was with?” asked Major Warner.

David nodded. “Yessir. He was with the 4th Alabama. Uh, the North Alabamians infantry division.”

The major scratched his head. “What was your father’s name, Private?”

“Hiram Summers, sir.”

“Well, let me look into it, and I’ll git back to you in a day or two.”

“Yessir.”

The boys saluted and exited the tent. Once again, David was disappointed with the response he’d received, but decided he had no choice but to wait.

https://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-Renegade/dp/197963372X/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532666094&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

A Not So Happy 4th

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This year marks the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. After three days of bloody conflict, Lee’s army retreated back to Virginia. It must have been a very sad 4th of July for the Confederacy indeed, as the South not only lost the battle in Gettysburg, but Vicksburg also fell.

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Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us, and how three sisters react to their unexpected “guest” on the 4th of July.

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She slept for a few hours until distant voices awoke her. Sliding into her pale blue summer dress, she combed through her long blonde hair, parted it down the middle, contained it in a beige snood, and went to check on the soldier. He had bled through his bandages, so she gently replaced them, trying not to stir him.

Once she had finished, she quietly opened the door to leave, but heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Her heart leaped. Should her guests find the intruder there, Anna and her sisters would undoubtedly be in dire circumstances. She knew her neighbors were avid Unionists. If they discovered a Confederate in her father’s room, it would mean certain death for him and, most likely, a jail sentence for her. Being the oldest, she would surely be held responsible. Quickly, she scurried down the hallway to intercept the unwanted guest.

“Hello, my dear,” Mrs. Montgomery greeted her. “I was just coming up to give you this.” She smiled and handed Anna a small basket of handmade soap. “I fragranced them with roses. Your favorite.”

Anna returned the smile. “Why, thank you very much, Mrs. Montgomery,” she replied. “I’ll set these in my room and be right down. Go on ahead and help yourselves to some lemonade.”

Mrs. Montgomery turned and went downstairs. Waiting until she was gone from sight, Anna tossed the basket into her room, closed the door, and came downstairs to find her neighbors in the parlor. All were dressed in their Sunday finery, even though it was Saturday.

Mrs. Montgomery embraced her this time. Her daughter, Mary, mimicked the gesture. Stepping back, she looked Anna over. “Why aren’t you in mourning?”

“Father specifically requested that we not wear black or cover the windows, so we’re honoring his wishes,” Anna explained.

She remembered her father’s words while he lay dying only a few months ago: I don’t want darkness to befall my sunny girls. This explanation seemed sufficient for Mary, who smiled at her and walked over to talk with Maggie. Anna hoped the soldier wouldn’t awaken or start making a lot of noise…or even worse, come downstairs himself.

Inviting everyone to the dining room for dinner, she graciously went around the table, serving her guests. She couldn’t help but glance several times into the hallway, waiting for the soldier to clomp down the wooden steps in his worn out boots.

“Anna, are you all right?”

She froze like a deer in the rifle sights. “Yes, of course, Mary,” she replied. Taking a seat, she spread her napkin across her lap. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just that you seem a bit distracted,” said Mary. “As though you are nervous about something.”

Anna and Maggie exchanged glances.

With a forced smile, Anna said, “It’s the heat. I’m fine, really.”

It was a lie. Truth be told, she wasn’t fine. Not at all. She wished they had never invited their neighbors over for an Independence Day celebration, and she also wished her guests would leave before something happened. Unable to eat, she dabbed at the perspiration on her forehead with her napkin. She listened for the slightest sound from upstairs and resisted the temptation to look out into the hallway or dash upstairs.

Once dinner was finished, everyone returned to the parlor. Abigail and Claudia played their piano piece flawlessly, encouraging everyone to sing along to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Their patriotic spirit soared.

Mr. Montgomery raised a toast for the preservation of the United States. “Here’s to our country’s victory,” he said. “To the Union!”

“To the Union!” everyone chanted together and raised their glasses. They sipped their lemonade like it was champagne.

“I’ve been informed this morning we have won the fight at Gettysburg,” Mr. Montgomery added. He lit a cigar and puffed on it while happily smiling.

Anna scowled. It’s as I thought. That Rebel did come from Gettysburg. She looked at Maggie, who raised her eyebrows, apparently thinking the same thing.

“What’s wrong, Anna?” asked Mary. “You appear to be unhappy about the news.”

Anna flashed a smile at her. “On the contrary. I’m elated.” She glanced around the room. “Why don’t we go out onto the porch,” she suggested. The room had become stiflingly hot.

They accepted her invitation and proceeded outside. As soon as they congregated with drinks in hand, it began to sprinkle.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Montgomery. “I’m afraid we’ll have to leave now, girls. I left the sheets out to dry, and the chickens are out in the yard.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that, Mrs. Montgomery. But thank you for coming,” Anna said, trying not to appear too eager to be rid of them, even though she couldn’t wait for them to go.

Mr. Montgomery assisted his wife and daughter into the buggy before climbing in.

“Anna, we had a lovely time,” Mary said, her blonde pipe curls bouncing as she exaggerated her compliment.

Anna didn’t know if she was sincere or not.

“I’m only sorry my brother couldn’t be here today,” Mary added.

“Have you heard from Stephen?” asked Maggie.

“Yes,” Mary replied, tying on her pale yellow bonnet. “He said he would be home on furlough in a few months. Anna, he wanted me to tell you that he misses you.”

She smiled cordially, but secretly, she wanted to scream. She knew she wasn’t what Stephen missed. His attitude had changed, and it alarmed her. What he really missed was her farm. The thought of his counterfeit attraction enraged her, and knowing that he would be back in a few months to woo her repulsed her even more.

“By the way,” Abigail said, “how’s your dog, Corky? The one Anna mended?”

Anna’s eyes grew large. She stared at Abigail and hoped she wouldn’t say anything about a Confederate being in their midst.

“Why, he’s doing just fine, sweetheart,” Mrs. Montgomery responded. “Spry and lively as ever.”

“Well, goodbye all,” said Mr. Montgomery. He smiled through his neatly-trimmed beard and slapped the reins.

Their tall, dark chestnut horse pranced down the lane, pulling the buggy behind it. Watching their neighbors drive away, all four girls let out a sigh of relief.

“Let’s go check on the Rebel,” Claudia suggested.

She and Abigail ran into the house. Maggie and Anna followed. The girls gathered around the big bed, gazing down at the unconscious soldier.

“Is he still breathing?” asked Abigail.

“Yes, unfortunately,” replied Maggie. She looked at Anna. “I’ll go clean up the dishes,” she said.

As she went downstairs, Anna called out to her. “Maggie, could you please bring a spoonful of tallow when you come back up?”

“What do you need tallow for?” asked Abigail.

“Never mind,” said Anna. “Why don’t you and Claudia assist Maggie?”

“Okay.”

Claudia followed Abigail out. Anna heard them descend the stairs. She listened to the three girls engage in lively colloquy, their conversation accented by clanking dishes. A strong breeze blew in through the open windows. She realized it was getting much cooler, so she partially closed them. Noticing the Rebel’s forgotten pile of clothing that had yet to be disposed of, she started a fire in the fireplace. It had been several months since a flame had been lit there, not because of warmer weather, but because of her father’s passing. While she waited for the fire to blaze, she heard a church bell chime repeatedly in the distance. She stood gazing out the window in the direction of the Lutheran church she knew was positioned just beyond the hill.

Maggie entered, carrying a tray which held a teapot, cup, and a spoonful of lard. She set it on the dresser next to the porcelain pitcher and bowl.

“What do you imagine the bells are for?” Anna asked. “The holiday?”

“No, I think it’s in celebration. Because we won the battle,” Maggie replied.

They both looked at the Confederate soldier, who was sleeping peacefully.

Maggie shook her head and sighed. “We’re going to round up the livestock,” she said. “There’s a storm headed our way.”

Anna nodded in response. Her little sister left the room. She poured herself a cup of tea, carried the cup and spoon over to the bedside, and sat next to the Rebel. Gently, she rubbed the tallow over his dry, cracked lips with her fingertips in hopes it would soothe them. A chill wind blew in through the partially opened windows. Glad she’d lit the fire, she watched the flames grow higher before tossing in the Confederate’s clothing. She gazed into the fire as it consumed the worn-out garments. Once they were destroyed, she seated herself beside him, lit the kerosene lamp on the table next to her, picked up her needles, and commenced knitting. Rain began pelting against the glass. She stood, walked to the window, and looked out into the yard to see her sisters and Claudia scurrying about to gather the last of the chickens. They contained them in the coop and ran toward the house. She heard them enter downstairs.

Gazing back at the wounded soldier, she wondered how his horse was doing. Abigail and Claudia had secretly informed her during the party that they had gone out earlier to observe the spotted horse when they noticed his injured hoof. Finally relieving him of his saddle and bridle, they rummaged through the Rebel’s saddlebags and discovered a container of ointment, which they assumed was to be used on the horse. They also found a small Bible, along with some personal effects, a few items of clothing, and his slouch hat. Abigail had proudly informed her older sister she had brushed the horse down with his curry comb and applied the liniment to his hoof. She and Claudia had cleverly snuck the soldier’s belongings upstairs and hidden them in a dresser drawer while everyone else was enjoying dinner.

Upon this recollection, Anna walked over to the dresser. The Rebel’s hat, coiled belt, and buckle sat on top. She pulled the top drawer open. Beside her father’s forgotten socks, she found some of the soldier’s personal effects, including a tiny sewing kit, a pocket knife, a pouch of tobacco, and a Testament. She picked up the little Bible. Pulling the flap open, she discovered a tiny, hand sewn Confederate flag inside. It was saving a page of Scripture, Psalms 23. She glanced over the words.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Curious why his Bible was covered with dirt, Anna looked over at the young man. She noticed that, even though all of his items were from the South, they looked the same as any she’d ever seen. She placed the Testament back in the dresser drawer, set the Rebel’s hat in her father’s armoire, and returned to the rocking chair.

 

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you a very happy New Year. May all your hopes and dreams come true in 2018.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. It is New Year’s Eve, 1863, and the antagonist, David, finds himself in a predicament he never could have imagined. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the past.

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That evening, the family and their friends gathered in the parlor for a New Year’s Eve celebration, but David kept to a corner, avoiding the others. Anna had given him some wine, so he sat alone, contentedly sipping, and gazed at the two Currier and Ives paintings. Claudia and Abigail amused themselves with their stereographs and the carousels he had made for them. Anna and Maggie talked happily while Sarah and Grace conversed in the opposite corner. At midnight, they all gathered in the center of the room. Anna stood close to him as the mantle clock chimed twelve times.

“Happy New Year!” the ladies exclaimed, raising their glasses.

They clanked their crystals together, and everyone took a sip of wine. David glanced over at the doorway where a strand of mistletoe had been hung. He wished he was standing beneath it with Anna, so he would have an excuse to kiss her. Claudia and Abigail went around the room hugging everyone before they went up to bed. Once David had finished his glass, he excused himself and retired to his room.

He lit the fire, undressed, heated a bed warmer in the embers of the fireplace, and set it on the bed. While he waited for it to warm the flannel sheets, he checked on his Colt .44 and saw that it was just as he’d left it. Returning the warmer to its place near the hearth, he climbed into bed and shivered slightly, his breath barely visible in the firelight.

Closing his eyes, he thought of everything that had taken place the previous year: how he had traveled to Virginia and fought with so many fearless commanders and comrades, and how he had lost Jake and had ended up at the Brady farm. His mind wandered to home. He wondered how his mother and sisters were getting along and whether the Yankees had taken over their land. He hoped 1864 would see an end to the terrible war, but he also wished the South would be triumphant somehow. He thought of his hospitable hostesses and how they had saved him: Miss Maggie, who obviously loathed him; Miss Sarah, who tolerated him; and Anna, lovely Anna. If the war ended, she might be interested in him for some other reason than to provide her with an alibi. It seemed the only people who really liked him for who he was were the two little girls.

Thank God for their innocence, he thought.

His mind drifted back to Anna and her amazing smile. What this year held in store for them, he hadn’t a clue. Perhaps he would be able to return to Alabama soon, after all. It would be a welcome escape from the predicament he now found himself in. Anna was too close, too personal. He knew he was falling further with each passing day. His portentous, precarious situation reminded him of soldiers he’d seen walking enemy lines. He knew sparks could never fly between the two of them. It was the worst forbidden, foreboding situation he could have ever imagined. His affections toward her might potentially place Anna in horrific danger. The Yankees could blame her for treason. She would stand to lose her farm, or even worse, her life. Where would that leave her younger sisters? Guilt washed over him. He couldn’t restrain his feelings, yet he knew he had to. His only choice was to submit to his present condition: the most challenging, heart-wrenching situation he had yet to endure. He knew his family missed him and Callie needed him, but in his heart he wasn’t ready to go home.

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