J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “battle”

Antietam (Sharpsburg) Remembered

Today marks the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. It was a game changer in many ways. Mostly, it gave President Lincoln a vehicle to bring his Emancipation Proclamation to life and give it authenticity. Prior to the battle, slavery wasn’t the prominent reason for the onset of the Civil War. But by September 1862, Lincoln realized he needed a more poignant excuse to fight the South and thus recruit more Union soldiers. However, at that time, neither North or South had any interest in fighting to preserve or end slavery. It was about economics, westward expansion, and the invasion of the South by Union troops. Slavery at that time was an underlying issue. Even Lincoln didn’t care about setting slaves free. That’s why the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to Northern slave-holding states.

The Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) was, and still is, the bloodiest day of fighting in American history. Terrible casualties occurred, and Antietam Creek ran red with blood, literally, from all the dead soldiers bleeding along its banks into the water.

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Dead Confederate soldiers at Dunker Church (Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress)

At that time, most Americans didn’t have any comprehension about the carnage of war, especially if they were far removed from the battlefields. Enter Mathew Brady, as well as his field photographer, Alexander Gardner. These two men changed the way people would forever see war – not as the heroic and glamorous way previous wars were depicted in paintings, but as gruesome, in-your-face, black and white reality.

Two days after the battle ended, Garner ascended on the battlefield with his crew. It’s obvious that some of the photos were staged, but they would still prove to be shocking to naive Victorians, nevertheless. The photographs were displayed in New York at Brady’s studio, and the exhibit was titled “The Dead of Antietam.”

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Burying the dead on the battlefield of Antietam (Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress)

These shocking photos were described by the New York Times, which stated that Brady was able to “bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along streets, he has done something very like it…”

The American Battlefield Trust has preserved the epicenter of the battlefield, as well as 461 additional acres and over 2,000 acres of the Maryland Campaign, “ensuring that generations of today and tomorrow never forget the sacrifices made on this hallowed ground.”

If you would like to donate to this noble cause, please visit their website:

https://www.battlefields.org/?emci=43a144bd-2dd6-e911-bcd0-2818784d4349&emdi=61842fa2-57d9-e911-b5e9-2818784d6d68&ceid=315208

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Reenactment Saved

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As of last week, it seemed that a staple in the Civil War reenacting world, the annual Battle of Gettysburg reenactment, had been cancelled next year. The organization that has been sponsoring the event, the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee (GAC), posted on their website:

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee (GAC) would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to all the reenactors, visitors, and local staff that have participated in the Annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactments for the past 25 years; making those dusty old history books come alive. We are honored to have hosted over 100,000 reenactors, 500,000 visitors, and provided well over 1000 community staff positions. GAC has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to many worthy community organizations and supported our community economically. At this time, GAC does not anticipate organizing or hosting a 157th Reenactment.  Please refer to Destination Gettysburg’s Event Schedule for a wide array of historical, cultural and entertaining events in the Gettysburg and Adams County area throughout the year.”

How sad to end a well-participated event after doing it for 25 years. According to GAC’s Operations Manager, Randy Phiel, reeanactors’ aging demographic and varied visitor interest indicates “the hobby is declining somewhat.” He also said reenactments are most successful every five years, so spreading them out may build anticipation and visitor interest.

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Fortunately, someone has come to the rescue. According to The Washington Times, a veteran Civil War reactor from Pennsylvania plans to take over the 2020 reenactment next July. Dustin Heisey, who has been participating in reenactments since he was 14 years old, says he wants to keep the tradition alive.

“My primary focus is, let’s bring honor back into our hobby and, we’re portraying these men who sacrificed so much for their country, I want them to be remembered and I think it should be done every year,” Heisey told The (Hanover) Evening Sun.

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https://gettysburgreenactment.com

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/sep/8/gettysburg-reenactment-saved-reenactor-after-organ/

 

Five-Star Review!

Here is another five-star review for my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Thank you so much, Linda Thompson, for your positive review!

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It was amazing!
When it comes to war (no matter the era), men tend to gravitate toward the bloody bodies and the weaponry, and while some women thing the idea of war as romantic, others are horrified at the cruelty. I’ve never seen war as romantic, anything to be proud of, or even remotely good, and parts of JDR Hawkins book was difficult for me to read. That being said, A Beautiful Glittering Lie is a very good story, well written with extremely engaging characters. The historical aspect is excellent and once I could get my head wrapped around the war and violence, I found this Southern family very engaging. I’m very interested in learning where the next book in Hawkins’ series will take us.

In Honor of His Ancestor

I absolutely love this story. It seems the tide against everything Confederate is finally starting to wane, and thankfully so. Those who think they are offended by the Southern Cross, Confederate monuments, streets and schools named after Confederate officers, etc. are nothing less than ignorant, in my opinion, and need to learn their history.

Back in the Saddle Again!
Retired Wall Street banker Edwin Payne, of upstate New York, recently partnered with the American Battlefield Trust to place a monument to his Confederate ancestor on the Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper County.

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“I want to be on the right side of this,” said Payne, who grew up in North Carolina. “I am interested in history and the preservation of history and knowing our history so we don’t repeat it. There are a great many lessons to be learned from studying history. We don’t want this kind of thing to happen again, but it doesn’t mean you can erase it.”
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His ancestor to whom the monument was placed was Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, founder of the famed Black Horse Cavalry. A Fauquier County lawyer and gentleman farmer, he joined the Confederacy at war’s outset and earned promotions based on his leadership, battlefield valor and meritorious service, according to the monument recently dedicated to mark the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station, fought June 9, 1863.

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Gen. Payne was wounded and captured three times during the war while at Brandy Station – the largest cavalry battle in North America. He took over command of a North Carolina regiment after its commanding officer, Col. Solomon Williams, was killed a mile from where the monument was placed, down a gravel road near the intersection of Beverly Ford Road and St James Church Road. He subsequently led the regiment at Gettysburg and later served in the state legislature.

Jim Campi, with the American Battlefield Trust, said it is very rare for the preservation organization to allow placement of monuments on battlefield land it owns. “Each monument has to go through a rigorous process, and we turn down far more than we accept,” he said Monday. “In this instance, we thought it appropriate to facilitate construction of the monument to W.H.F. Payne … by one of his descendants.”
Read about the Battle of Brandy Station in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.
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(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, July 20, 2018 ed.)

The Haunting of the Perryville Battlefield

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Most people wouldn’t think of Perryville, Kentucky as being one of the most haunted places in the country. But on October 8, 1862, a terrible tragedy took place there that forever left an imprint on the land. Union and Confederate troops clashed for several hours, leaving approximately 7,600 young soldiers either, wounded, dead, or missing. The nearby Chaplin River ran red with blood from the fallen. The battle decided the fate of the state, and although the battle was a tactical victory for the Confederates, the Union army received enough reinforcements to force Confederate General Braxton Bragg back into Tennessee. His army would never again enter Kentucky. Because of this, the Federals had the opportunity to properly bury their dead. The Confederates, however, were unceremoniously thrown into mass graves and haphazardly left in unmarked plots on the battlefield.

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(Photo courtesy of Steve Stanely)

It isn’t surprising, then, that countless visitors to the battlefield have witnesses ghostly figures wandering the grassy fields, sometimes in broad daylight. Many reported seeing full-bodied apparitions marching across the fields, and have heard the deep percussion of heavy artillery and cannon fire echoing across the rolling hills. Disembodied voices have been captured on audio, responding to questions with intelligent responses that were indicative of 1862.

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Not only is the battlefield haunted, but so is the nearby Dye House, which served as a makeshift hospital after the battle. The structure witnessed hundreds of emergency surgeries, amputations, and painful, gruesome deaths. So much blood was spilled on the floors that, to this day, has been impossible to remove.  People have heard footsteps descend the stairs, and doors open and close by themselves. Recordings have been made where ghostly voices claim to be Civil War doctors.

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Joni House, the park’s preservation and program coordinator, has also witnessed strange occurrences. “I’m in my office and I hear people talking to me and nobody else is in the building. Or I come in here and see things that have happened in the museum. There’s no real explanation for why a mannequin’s head has been pulled off and is now in the middle of the floor.”

(The Perryville Battlefield was one of the Civil War Trust’s 10 most endangered battlefields in 2008.)

Stay tuned: on Halloween – It isn’t a battlefield but it’s still very scary.

Court Battle Over Confederate Monuments

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Take Em Down NOLA (TEDN), a multiracial coalition working to remove Confederate statues in New Orleans, teamed up with several lawyers and filed an amicus brief last Monday, January 11.The brief, filed in federal court, is in retaliation to a lawsuit filed by an opposing group that includes the Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Inc., Beauregard Camp No. 30, Inc., and the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group filed a lawsuit on December 17, 2015, and sued the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, the City of New Orleans and Mayor Mitchell Landrieu.

The monuments in question are of Confederates Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard. The Battle of Liberty Place Monument is also up for removal. A federal judge will hear the first argument in the case today.

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The amicus brief supports the authority of the New Orleans City Council to remove statues considered to be public nuisances.”Section 146-611 (b) of the New Orleans Code of Ordinances empowers the City Council to remove statues from public property when those statues are a nuisance. Part One of the ordinance defines a nuisance a “thing honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens as provided by the constitution and laws of the United States, the state, or the laws of the city and gives honor or praise to those who participated in the killing of public employees of the city or the state or suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious or racial superiority of any group.”

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H & O Investments of Baton Rouge was hired to take down the monuments, but quit after receiving death threats, and other businesses threatened to cancel their contracts with the company, city attorney Rebecca Dietz told the court today.  “The city has been in negotiations with private landowners” for the creation of a Civil War park in which the monuments would be placed, Dietz said.

Got a Spooky Ghost Story?

I’m holding a contest to see who has the scariest ghost story. Although my story is Civil War related, yours doesn’t have to be. Just tell us about the scariest experience you’ve ever had. I will choose one random winner on Halloween. Post your spookiest spook story on my blog at https://jdrhawkins.com/blog and you could win one copy of each of my first two books in the “Renegade Series” – A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire. Now, here’s my story.

I have had several scary encounters over the years, but the one that stands out is when I visited the site where the greatest cavalry battle took place on North American soil. I’m talking about the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It seems like a strange place to experience a haunting. Most people would assume haunted houses or popular, well-known battlefields, such as Gettysburg, would be prime places to experience a haunting. But mine happened in a small clapboard house that has come to be known as the Graffiti House.

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The Graffiti House is believed to have been built in 1858, and used for commercial purposes, since it is located next to railroad tracks. The house was used as a field hospital by both Union and Confederate troops. It was later abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was ready for demolition when, in 1993, someone discovered the unique artwork concealed beneath the wallpaper. Drawings made by both Union and Confederate soldiers have been revealed, and the house has been restored to its original condition. But, apparently, some of the soldiers are still there.

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When my husband and I first visited the Graffiti House, we were welcomed inside and given a tour. However, once we reached the top of the steps and entered one of the rooms, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly nauseous. I could definitely feel a presence in that room. Once I left the room, the feeling went away. I have been to the Graffiti House since, and have never experienced this feeling again. It was very strange, to say the least!

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For more information about the Graffiti House, visit:

http://www.brandystationfoundation.com/

The Banning Continues

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The latest company to jump of the censorship bandwagon is Harley-Davidson. In a statement released yesterday, the company has officially banned its dealers from selling t-shirts with the Confederate battle flag on them.

“It’s been our longstanding approach that the Confederate flag may not be used by the company, its licensees or its dealers in connection with the Harley-Davidson trademark or logo, on any products, signs or other materials,” the statement reads. “We have, over time, made a very few, short-term exceptions in which the Confederate flag appeared in a design with the Harley-Davidson brand. These exceptions were primarily in the historical context, understanding that for some of our customers and dealers, the Confederate flag represents a very rich and proud heritage. These designs were reviewed on a case- by-case basis (for example, there was a small group of designs approved to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and were primarily available at dealerships near battleground sites).

“In light of recent events and the evolving cultural discussion surrounding what the Confederate flag represents, we, like many other companies, have taken a very close look at how our brand has been used in conjunction with the Confederate flag…and will no longer consider limited exceptions to this approach. We believe this is consistent with Harley-Davidson’s role in welcoming people from all walks of life into our family of riders and fostering the common bond our brand represents in uniting riders of diverse backgrounds and experiences.”

Some dealers are upset about this recent action. In Union City, Tennessee, Russell Abernathy, who owns Abernathy’s Harley-Davidson dealership, posted on Facebook, and his comments quickly went viral.

“As of today, we have been informed Harley-Davidson will no longer let any Harley Davidson Dealership sell any T-shirts with the Confederate Battle Flag on the back. This is truly a sad day in the History of the United States. Pray for the future of this country, as it needs help now. God Bless America!!!!!!!!!!”

In 1977, Harley-Davidson released a Confederate Special Edition model with the battle flag painted on the gas tank. Those were the good ole days!

Confederate Cavalry

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Over one hundred and fifty years ago, two significant Civil War cavalry battles took place. The first was on June 9, 1863, and was the largest cavalry battle to take place in North America. The battle near Brandy Station, Virginia, occurred after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s troopers were surprised by Union General David McMurtrie Gregg’s cavalry forces. The battle was a turning point for the Confederate cavalry. Up until then, they were far superior to the Federal cavalry, but the Yankees improved their skills, and by 1863, became worthy foes. This event lead up to the Battle of Gettysburg. My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes the Battle of Brandy Station, and explains the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

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Another cavalry battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since.

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Time for Reenacting!

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Now that spring is here, Civil War reenactments are starting up around the country. This weekend, the reenactment of the Battle of Gainesville will take place in Alabama. The event will be held May 8-10, and will include a cavalry battle.

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Attending a reenactment is an excellent way to discover living history and see what Civil War soldiers went through. The people who do reenacting take their hobby very seriously, and some even characterize people who actually lived, like their ancestors. Of course, there are reenactors who play the parts of famous generals and other officers, and sometimes, Abraham Lincoln shows up, too.

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A typical reenactment includes several battles, period dress, rows of sutlers’ (shop owners) tents, weaponry, and Civil War medicine. They also usually include a ball complete with ladies in beautiful gowns, a ladies’ tea, and a period church service on Sunday morning. But the real excitement is in watching the battles themselves. The reenactors make them as believable as possible, and the rumble, boom, crack and smoke of the artillery and gunfire is exhilarating.

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