J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “battlefield”

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/

 

Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt. 5)

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In the spirit of Halloween, I have been posting about hauntings related to the Civil War. The number of haunted places and things associated with the War Between the States is virtually limitless. New reports of strange occurrences surface nearly every day, and each story is more fascinating and creepy than the last.

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It goes without saying that the most haunted place in America associated with the Civil War is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This small, sleepy town suddenly found itself in the crossfires on July 1, 1863. The battle would last three days and claim over 50,000 lives (including dead, wounded, and missing). The tragedy left a lasting imprint on the land. Over 150 years later, ghostly apparitions still dwell on the battlefield and nearby town.

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The Farnsworth House is reportedly one of the most haunted places in Gettysburg. The house was riddled with bullets during the battle, and the scars still exist outside the building’s facade. Tourists say they have seen a specter of a distressed man carrying a child in a quilt, as well as the ghost of a fallen Confederate sharpshooter. Outside of town, the Daniel Lady Farm, which served as a Confederate field hospital where over 10,000 Confederate soldiers lost their lives, is host to numerous hauntings.

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At the Cashtown Inn, the first soldier of the battle was killed. The owners claim to have photographic evidence of spirits floating around the premises. Guests have witnessed someone knocking on doors, lights turning off and on, and doors locking and unlocking by themselves.  The Gettysburg Hotel and the Baladerry Inn are also reportedly haunted.

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Gettysburg visitors have reported hearing the sound of whirring bullets and the screams of fallen horses and soldiers. Some have had direct encounters with the deceased.  Devil’s Den is one of the most haunted places on the battlefield. So is the Triangular Field and Sachs Bridge. Visitors have captured apparitions on camera. In one instance, a long-haired young man told a tourist, “What you are looking for is over there.” The ghost then quickly vanished.

Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt 1)

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(Ghostly apparitions on the Chickamauga battlefield. Photo courtesy of Danial Druey)

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. What better time to write about spooky happenings and haunts as related to the War Between the States? Now through Halloween, I will share with you some of the scariest Civil War-related places.  First up is the Chickamauga battlefield.

“Wherever there has been great suffering, people are always seeing strange things.”

The Battle of Chickamauga was a costly one. On September 19 – 20, 1863, approximately 35,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing. It was considered a Confederate victory because the Rebels halted the Federal advance. Chickamauga, meaning “River of Death” in Cherokee, lived up to its name. Not surprisingly, the site of the battle in Georgia is reportedly haunted.

In 1876, thirteen years after the battle, ex-Confederate Jim Carlock participated in a centennial celebration. While walking across the battlefield, he and his friends saw something ten feet high with a “big white head.” He said the entity appeared to be a black woman carrying a bundle of clothes on her head.

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Edward Tinney, former historian and chief ranger at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park from 1969 to 1986, said ghostly sightings are not uncommon. The most famous phantom is known as “Old Green Eyes.” This ghost takes on many different shapes, including a Confederate soldier and a green-eyed panther. Old Green Eyes was spotted soon after the battle ended when surviving soldiers saw the strange specter.

“Green Eyes is rumored to be a man who lost his head to a cannonball, frantically searching the battlefield at night for his dislocated body,” Tinney said.

According to legend, the ghost of Old Green Eyes existed years before the battle took place, possibly during the time that Native Americans lived on the land.

One night in 1976, Tinney was on the battlefield checking on camping reenactors. A man over 6 feet tall, wearing a long black duster, with stringy black, waist-length hair, walked toward him. Intimidated, Tinney crossed to the other side of the road. The man reached him and flashed a devilish grin. His dark eyes glistened. Just then, a car came down the road and the scary apparition vanished.

Another ghost appears in the form of a lady in a white wedding dress. Known as the “Lady in White,” the ghost is supposedly searching for her lover. Many visitors have reported hearing gunshots and hoof beats, or smelling the strong scent of alcohol. Reports of ghostly encounters and paranormal activities number in the hundreds.

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(Ghost horse behind reenactor. Photo courtesy of Rick Kanan)

Several years ago, David Lester was camping on the battlefield with several other reenactors. Some of his comrades wandered over to a neighboring camp to say hello to the soldiers. They talked for several hours before returning to their camp. In the morning, they returned to the camp, only to discover that there was no sign of a campfire or any trace of human occupation. There was only undisturbed land.

(Quote courtesy of Edward Tinney)

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.

A Battlefield Victory

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It’s always amazing when something like this happens. A few days ago, I received an email from the Civil War Trust, stating that they had secured 10 acres of the battlefield at Brandy Station. The area is known as Fleetwood Hill, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart had his headquarters before the surprise battle took place.

The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to take place on North American soil. It happened on June 9, 1863, following  a Grand Review by Stuart’s troops. Union General Gregg saw the dust that was stirred up and surprised the Confederates early the following morning. The Rebels managed to reign the day and fulfill their mission, which was to mask General Robert E. Lee’s infantry as they made their way north. Brandy Station was a prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg.

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Last year, the CWT secured 56 acres of the battlefield. This is significant, because housing developments had been encroaching on the area for years. It doesn’t make sense how this could have been allowed to happen, since it is hallowed ground in my opinion, but it isn’t the only Civil War battlefield that has been neglected or destroyed. The CWT has now secured over 1,900 acres at Brandy Station.

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Other significant battlefields that the CWT has been working on include Antietam and Gettysburg. A few years ago, I visited the Wilderness Battlefield, and was appalled to see how many houses were built on the hallowed site. Hopefully, the CWT can secure more land in that area as well.

Read more about the Battle of Brandy Station in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462942766&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

Why I Write About the Civil War

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Frequently, when I’m at book signings and speaking engagements, I am asked why I chose to write about the Civil War. To me, this is one of the most captivating times in U.S. history. I was never into history when I was in school, but over the years, I have developed an interest in certain aspects of world and American history, as well as genealogy. Perhaps this is part of becoming more mature, but curiosity has compelled me to search out my ancestors and find out just where, exactly, I came from.

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The same goes for writing about the War Between the States. I have always been interested in the Victorian era, especially after living in Colorado for 25 years and seeing the old mountain and mining towns that still exist. Some even have residents who live like people did in the late 1800’s. Of course, there’s Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, Central City, and Glenwood Springs, where Doc Holliday is buried. These places have always fascinated me, and they still do.

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While living in Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit Gettysburg. I had never seen a Civil War battlefield before, so when I did, you can imagine how awestruck I was. It impressed me so much that I was inspired to write my first novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. From there, the book expanded to a series. After I wrote three books in the Renegade Series, I went back and wrote the prequel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie.

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Now I am in the process of editing the third book in the series. I have also written a nonfiction book about Confederate warhorses. Unfortunately, the publisher for that book had to close up shop and file for bankruptcy during the same month that the book was supposed to be published. So needless to say, I am looking for a new publisher. (If you know of any, please send them my way!)

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While researching my first novel, I came upon some information about my husband’s family. After a genealogy search, we learned that his great-great grandfather was a Cherokee interpreter who fought under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. It just goes to show what you can discover when you start digging!

Haunted Battlefields

It seems that every battlefield, whether significant or minor, seems to inhabit its share of Civil War ghosts. Experts of the supernatural say that people who die sudden, unexpected, violent deaths are the ones whose souls get caught in limbo. Common occurrances are the sounds of gunfire, men yelling and marching, and ghostly apparitions of soldiers roaming around.

Gettysburg is the most famous haunted battlefield. It is believed that this is because it lies on a lei line (mineral deposits under the soil that criss-cross). These places attract apparitions because the electrical current caused by the lei lines coaxes spirits like moths to a flame. Voted “America’s Most Haunted,” Devil’s Den on the battlefield is so charged with energy from ghosts that people have difficulty taking pictures. The spirits drain the charge from their batteries within minutes. Besides the battlefield, numerous structures in town are also rumored to be haunted.

Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi has plenty of supernatural inhabitants as well. It is no wonder, since the citizens and Confederate army were under siege for weeks, forced to live in caves along the riverbank and eat vermin, dogs, etc. in order to survive. The town is filled with old abandoned buildings, but it is rumored that many are not completely empty. Spirits have been seen wandering the streets at night, along with frequenting local establishments, including old antebellum homes that have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts.

The Battle of Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War (Gettysburg being the first). Besides sightings of the usual soldier-ghosts, an entity that has come to be known as “Old Green Eyes,” and over the years, has been sighted by thousands of people. The creature sounds like something straight of a Grimm fairytale. With a hairy body, fang-like teeth, and glowing green eyes, it walks upright on two legs and wears a cloak. Besides Old Green Eyes, a woman in a wedding dress roams the area, as does a creepy soldier who stares at visitors until they leave.

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