J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Brandy Station”

What Led Up to Gettysburg

 

It seems incredible in this day and age to imagine what led up to the Civil War. Slavery was an issue, but an underlying issue when the war started. In 1863, abolition had become more prevalent. 
Following the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863,  J.E.B. Stuart and his Confederate cavaliers moved north into enemy territory. For nearly the entire month of June, they traveled northward, sometimes through unfamiliar territory, to screen General Lee’s troops. Their movements came to fruition in the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1-3, 1863.
Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, which describes the Confederate cavalry’s travels and challenges.
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The horses plodded along with their eyes closed. A few of the drivers fell asleep, and their drowsy mules walked off the road into the ditch, pulling their wagons behind them. Some bucked, brayed and kicked in protest to their hunger and fatigue. Assigned soldiers rode up and down the line in the dark, looking for delays, barely coherent themselves. A few men slept while their horses jumped over fences, sending them sprawling, but even then they were too tired to awaken.
As dawn approached, General Stuart cantered alongside them, singing his battle song at the top of his lungs. His obedient soldiers, happy to see their commander alive and well, stirred themselves to sing along.
“Well, we’re the boys that rode around McClellian,
Rode around McClellian, rode around McClellian,
We’re the boys who rode around McClellian,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!
“If you want to have a good time, jine the cavalry!
Jine the cavalry! Jine the cavalry!
If you want to catch the Devil, if you want to have fun,
If you want to smell Hell, jine the cavalry!”
The words inspired and rejuvenated the troopers. They began conversing amongst themselves in every effort to stay awake as the sky grew brighter, but the sun failed to appear, hidden behind thick clouds. The cavaliers wondered if, once again, they would be riding through a rainstorm.
“Wish there was somethin’ to eat besides dust,” Michael noted sarcastically as their mounts slowly walked along behind the wagon train.
“And I could go for a dunk in a lake right about now,” added John.
“I wouldn’t mind gittin’ me some new boots,” Custis commented. He pulled one of his feet from a stirrup and held it in the air, revealing a hole clean through the sole. “These here are plumb worn out, and I wasn’t lucky enough to snag me a pair back in Culpeper.”
“Well, if’n we’d ever git paid, I’d buy me two pairs of socks from the quartermaster, or a lucky feller who got some from home,” said Peter Smith, “make them into puppets, and send one to each of my daughters.”
David snickered at the thought of Peter drawing puppet faces on his socks.
“Seems the only one of us with any money is Summers,” Michael observed.
The men all looked over at David.
“Whatcha aim on doin’ with the grayback you won in that race?” Michael asked.
David hesitated for a moment. He realized that he was the only one in the group who’d been capable of earning rewards by racing and writing letters home, even though the practice of reciprocation had been outlawed by General Lee sometime before David’s enlistment.
“Well, I was thinkin’ of savin’ it up for college,” he casually replied.
The other troopers laughed.
David glared at them, astonished by their reaction.
“Son, you’ll be lucky if’n that gits you two cords of wood by the war’s end,” John remarked.
David frowned.
John continued, “what with the way things is goin’ with the price of things, that is. Sorry to be the one to inform you.” He smiled sympathetically.
David sighed. Even though his hope of going to school was just a pipe dream, he held onto it as tightly as he’d grasped hold of the $100 note. Now it seemed inevitable that he was destined to be a farmer all his life.

 

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J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry

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Tomorrow marks a significant event in American history. On June 8, 1863, a Grand Review was held by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station, Virginia. The event was reportedly a magnificent display of military tactics and cavalry maneuvers. Unfortunately, the dust the horses stirred up caught the attention of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg, whose cavalry was nearby. Early the following morning, on June 9, 1863, Stuart’s cavalry was taken by surprise when Gregg’s troopers attacked, and a fierce battle ensued, raging all day. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil.

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The outcome was that, even though the Yankees now displayed their ability to compete with Confederate cavalry, Stuart managed to ward them off and keep General Robert E. Lee’s infantry screened as they made their way north. You can read more about this in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319?ie=UTF8&keywords=a%20beckoning%20hellfire&qid=1465328752&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Stuart is one of my favorite Civil War personalities. Not surprisingly, his name is under the current politically correct attack to change all things Confederate and eradicate Southern history.

A school bearing General Stuart’s name is under scrutiny and the PC are trying to force its removal. This goes against what the polls and petitions show: that the vast majority do not favor this institutional vandalism. However, it doesn’t seem to matter or make any difference what the people want.

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The Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, on the other hand, has scored a major victory with the restoration of the statue of General Stuart on Monument Avenue in Richmond. Thanks to this project, as well as a maintenance program which will be launched soon, the statue will be a gleaming tribute to General Stuart for years to come.

http://www.stuart-mosby.com/

Hallowed Ground Retained

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Recently, two separate Civil War battlefields received more protected ground due to the efforts of the Civil War Trust. One is the area known as Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station, Virginia. During the course of the war, Brandy Station changed hands several times between Union and Confederate troops. It is also the site of the largest cavalry battle to ever happen in North America. This battle took place on June 9, 1863. Prior to the preservation, Fleetwood Hill was privately owned, and houses were built on it. But now, this 56-acre hill crest has been converted back to its original state, and appears the way it did 150 years ago.

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The second battlefield to attain protection is a plot of land known as the North Woods Tract at Antietam National Military Park. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) took place on September 17, 1862. Although the battle was a draw, President Lincoln declared it a Union victory, and used it as a catapult to launch his Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of battle that this country has ever seen. The Civil War Trust raised $300,000 in 45 days to acquire 1.2 acres of the North Woods Tract.

These two victories are part of an ongoing process. Sadly, many battlefields and significant places are being destroyed. The Civil War Trust strives to preserve these national treasures. For more information, visit civilwar.org.

http://www.civilwar.org/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=NorthWoods2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwpt/sets/72157660370326701

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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New Interview by J.D.R. Hawkins

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I’m honored to have been asked to give another interview to indieBRAG, which sponsors the B.R.A.G. Medallion award to a chosen number of indie published works. My novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, is the recipient of this prestigious award. The interview is re-posted below:

Interview Part II with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D.R. Hawkins
July 14, 2014 by layeredpages

JDR Hawkins

Stephanie: I would like to welcome back J.D.R. Hawkins for a follow up interview about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, “A Beautiful Glittering Lie.”. She is an award-winning author who has written for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, e-zines and blogs. She is one of a few female Civil War authors, uniquely describing the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Ms. Hawkins is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, the Mississippi Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Writers and Pikes Peak Writers. She is also an artist and singer/songwriter. Her two previous novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, have received numerous honors and awards. Ms. Hawkins is currently working on a nonfiction book about the Civil War, as well as a Young Adult historical fiction and a memoir. Learn more about J.D.R. here.

Hello, J.D.R.! Thank you for visiting with me again to talk about your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Please bring readers up to speed about the premise of your story.

J.D.R.: The novel is the first in a four-book series, which I call “The Renegade Series.” It’s a saga about the Summers family from North Alabama, and what happens to them when the Civil War erupts.

Stephanie: I think it’s great that you have written a story about a Southern Soldier & a family rather than an officer or strictly about warfare tactics. I believe you bring readers closer to the events that took place during that time by doing so. What are a couple of this soldier’s struggles he faces during the Civil War?

J.D.R.: The first struggle that the father, Hiram Summers, faces is whether or not to support Alabama when the state secedes. The second is leaving his family once he decides to enlist. And from that point on, surviving every battle, from First Manassas to Fredericksburg, is a struggle.

Stephanie: In my last interview with you, you said that part of your research was travelling to various battlefields. What are the names of the battlefields you visited and what were some of the thoughts and emotions you experienced?

J.D.R.: My husband and I visited many Virginia battlefields, including Manassas (Bull Run), Sharpsburg (Antietam), Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. We also went to Brandy Station, where the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War took place. And, of course, we went to Gettysburg. That battlefield was the most profound. How those foot-weary soldiers fought over such rugged terrain amazes me. And seeing the National Cemetery, with all the unknown soldiers’ markers, as well as the mass graves of the Confederates, was overwhelming. So many gave their lives, and that was just in one battle.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and what were some of the challenges?

J.D.R.: It took me about six months to research and six months to write, so a year overall. I think the biggest challenge was trying to make the battle scenes come to life from a soldier’s perspective. A Beautiful Glittering Lie is based on a journal by one of the soldiers who fought with the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. By referring to his observations and perceptions of the battles he participated in, it was easier to visualize what those men went through.

Stephanie: Did you learn anything new about the Civil War in your research you didn’t know before?

J.D.R: I discovered much about how Alabama was affected by the war. Hiram’s son, David, sees firsthand the devastation taking place when he sneaks into occupied Huntsville. Union soldiers were not always gentlemanly in their treatment of the locals, women, and especially, black people. The scenes described in the book, as well as the Union officers who were in Huntsville and the surrounding area, are based on fact.

Stephanie: What about this period of time in American history impacted you the most to write this story?

J.D.R.: I have always been fascinated with the Victorian era, and the Civil War in particular. The war was not completely about slavery, which is a popular belief. The causes were far more complex, but basically, the war was a result of economics and political greed. As is the case in many instances in American history, citizens become pawns to politicians’ schemes and disagreements.

Stephanie: Which character in your story are you most partial to and why?

J.D.R: I’d have to say that I’m most partial to David. At the beginning of the story, he is just a teenager. Instead of going to fight, which is what he wants to do, he stays behind to tend to the family’s farm, thus fulfilling his promise to his father. However, like any teenage boy, he is hungry for adventure, so he goes off to find it, but bites off more than he can chew.

Stephanie: Writing Historical fiction can be tricky with blending the right amount of fiction with fact. What advice would you give a new writer wanting to do so?

J.D.R.: My advice would be to immerse yourself in the period you want to write about. Read letters, journals, speeches, newspaper articles, and books written about and during that era to get a feel for what people experienced and how they expressed themselves. Study the fashions, the political undercurrent, fads, music, artwork, and photographs. I listened to Civil War music while I wrote to get myself in the right mindset. Know your facts inside and out, but don’t go overboard with description, because that can bore your readers. Instead, sprinkle tidbits throughout your book. Once you are completely familiar with the era you want to write about, develop your plot. Let your characters grow with the story. I ended up writing things that weren’t in the original outline because my characters seemed to take on personas of their own, especially in their dialogue. If possible, visit the places you are writing about to learn the terrain, the architecture, and regional dialects.

Stephanie: What is up next for you and will there be more stories that take place during this period?

J.D.R.: I plan on publishing the third book in “The Renegade Series.” (The second book, A Beckoning Hellfire, has been published.) I’m also working on a nonfiction book about the Civil War, a Young Adult novel, and a memoir.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

J.D.R.: I learned about it from Writer’s Digest magazine.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

J.D.R.: The book is available everywhere. It can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at all other book retailers. Readers can also purchase it through my website.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.D.R. Hawkins, who is the author of, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

More Advancement for Brandy Station

Recently, The Civil War Trust, which is America’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, secured a contract with a property owner to obtain 61 acres of Fleetwood Hill. The hill is a significant part of the Brandy Station Battlefield which, on June 9, 1863, became the site of the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil.

The CWT plans to eventually preserve the entire battlefield site. So far, its efforts have secured 1,800 acres of Brandy Station – more land than at any other battlefield in the country. Right now, houses dot the landscape of what was once a pre-Gettysburg contest between Confederate Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s troopers and Union Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s men.  Approximately 20,000 troopers fought it out, and about 1,000 died, were wounded or went missing. Right now, the main goal is to raise the $3.6 million required to secure the land.

During the Civil War, Culpeper County, Virginia changed hands 78 times. The Battle of Brandy Station was a Confederate victory, but also a wake up call for Stuart and his men, who had considered themselves invincible up until that point. After being surprised and nearly overtaken, the Confederates marched on into Pennsylvania, arriving at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. They were two days late, as the battle commenced on July 1. This year marks the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Brandy Station and the Battle of Gettysburg. For more information, please visit:

www.brandystationfoundation.com

www.civilwar.org

Saved By the Cavalry!

This weekend marks anniversaries of two very significant cavalry battles that took place during the Civil War. Saturday will be 149th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil, and yet, it is obscure in that most people have never heard of it. The battle was a confrontation between Confederate cavalry commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart, and Union cavalry under General David Gregg. It was considered a Confederate victory, even though it was more like a draw, and the Rebels were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the battle. For more information, please read my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

On the battlefield is a fascinating piece of history that was nearly lost. The Graffiti House stands near the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. After years of neglect, the building was almost demolished, but in 1993, a discovery was made. Under layers of paint, signatures of both Union and Confederate soldiers, along with drawings they made, were written in charcoal on the walls, one of which was by General Stuart himself. Since that time, the structure has become part of the Brandy Station Foundation, and is in the process of being restored.

Another significant event, which took place on June 10, 1864, was the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Lee County, Mississippi. Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 4,787 cavalrymen confronted the 8,100 troopers of Union General Samuel D. Sturgis. Despite the odds, Forrest came out victorious. It is a remarkable example of how his genius prevailed by the use of better military tactics, mastery of the terrain, and aggressive use of offensive action. 

Mary Anna Custis Lee, Wife of General Robert E. Lee

Born on October 1, 1808, Mary Anna Randolph Custis was the only surviving child of Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, who was George Washington’s step-grandson. Mary Anna was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. She enjoyed all the benefits of growing up in a wealthy family, and spent most of her time at Arlington, which her father built in honor of George Washington.

Mary had many suitors, and received a marriage proposal from Sam Houston. The man who stole her heart, however, was her second cousin, Robert Edward Lee, whom she had known since childhood. They were married at Arlington on June 30. 1831. Robert had already become an established military man, so he brought Mary with him to West Point. It wasn’t long before she gave birth to a boy, and over the course of several years, bore two more sons and four daughters. She was fluent in four languages, and was an avid painter, author, and horticulturalist, propagating eleven rose varieties in her garden at Arlington. Mary was also deeply religious, and as her rheumatoid arthritis progressed, she accepted it as the will of God. She inherited Arlington after her father passed away in 1857, and two years later, published his memoirs, which she entitled “Recollections.” She included an editor’s note stressing the urgency of reconciliation between northern and southern states, as the approaching Civil War seemed imminent.

Following Virginia’s secession, Mary’s sons enlisted, and Robert resigned from his position with the U.S. military to serve under the newly-formed Confederate States of America. He traveled to Richmond, but Mary remained at Arlington until May, when she received word that Union soldiers were crossing the Potomac from Washington to seize her estate. Reluctantly, she departed, believing that the move was only temporary. How strange she must have felt knowing that she, the descendant of George Washington, was now the enemy. She traveled to different family-owned plantations until the encroaching Yankees forced her to retreat to Richmond. Once there, she set up housekeeping at several locations, all the while diligently knitting socks and mittens for her husband and his soldiers, despite her crippling arthritis.

In 1863, following the Battle of Brandy Station, Mary witnessed the arrest of her wounded son, Rooney, who had been transported to a local plantation home to recuperate under Mary’s care. She found it necessary to travel to hot springs because of her condition, where she learned of the battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Once she returned to Richmond in the fall, she busied herself with knitting, even though inflated costs made it difficult for her to obtain yarn, and she was saddened by the loss of a daughter due to typhoid fever. Rooney’s two children and his frail wife also succumbed to disease.

During the war, she rarely saw her husband or sons. While her daughters attended services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on April 2, 1865, they observed as President Davis was called away, and learned afterward that General Lee’s forces had fallen back: Richmond was being evacuated. Mary, however stubborn, refused to leave, and watched from her window as residents scrambled to get out before the Yankees invaded. Following a still quiet, bummers entered the city, looting, cursing, and setting fires. Still, Mary resiliently held tight. Union forces soon appeared, restoring order, and a sentry was placed at her door for protection. Out of the goodness of her heart, she sent down a breakfast tray every morning to the weary soldier who stood outside her door. It wasn’t long before she learned that her husband had surrendered his army. Robert, along with their sons, returned home soon afterward.

Once the war ended, Robert received many job offers, finally accepting the position as president of Washington College in Lexington. By December, Mary joined him. They spent many happy years together until the summer of 1870, when Robert caught a cold that aggravated the angina he’d developed seven years earlier. He died on October 12, and was buried in a crypt beneath the campus chapel. Mary did not attend the funeral.

Bedridden for a month, her health finally improved. She was allowed to remain at what was renamed Washington and Lee College, since her son, Custis, had been elected to succeed his father. In 1872, she filed a petition with the Judiciary Committee of Congress to receive payment for Arlington, but her request was denied. Meanwhile, her arthritis had grown so bad that she could no longer sew, so she painted and sold tinted photographs of herself, Robert, and George and Martha Washington, donating the proceeds to charity. The following year, she toured Virginia, where her travels brought her back to her beloved Arlington. Appalled by the desecration, she remained in the carriage as old servants ran out to greet her. Grand trees that had once stood on the property had been reduced to stumps, and headstones cluttered the lawn. She returned to Alexandria, and continued her charity work. In October, her daughter, Agnes, died, which broke Mary’s heart. The loss was too much for her: on November 5, 1873, she, too, passed away. Per her request, she was entombed in the basement of the college chapel next to her husband.

(In 1874, Custis took up his mother’s crusade to obtain Arlington and won. Because the house was surrounded by a cemetery, he immediately sold it to the U.S. Government. Ownership was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. Eventually, all of the Lee children’s remains were moved to the Lee Chapel.)

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