J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Gettysburg”

New Review for A Rebel Among Us

I recently received another amazing review for my novel, A Rebel Among Us. This is the third book in the Renegade Series. Thank you, US Review of Books, for your fantastic review!

A Rebel Among Us: A Novel of the Civil War (The Renegade Series Book 3)
by J. D. R. Hawkins
Westwood Books Publishing
book review by Mihir Shah


“The anguish in her eyes broke David’s heart. He gazed down at her and, as reassurance, gave her a sorrowful smile.”


How one acts in the face of adversity is often a true reflection of one’s character. This is no different for the protagonist, Anna Brady, a teenager who harbors a soldier from the Confederate Army as the Civil War is reaching its most pivotal point. Despite fears of being labeled complicit in a crime, Anna finds herself mesmerized by Alabama native David Summers. More than that, though, she recognizes that he is near certain death after being wounded at Gettysburg, and if she doesn’t help, his blood will be on her. As the story unfolds, Hawkins does a masterful job of using the Civil War as a stage to highlight the torturous choices faced by those who lived through these times.


Centered around the dichotomy between love and war, the entirety of the premise revolves around a forbidden love story that clashes head-on with the throes of war and egos. Using strong character development to showcase the instant bonds that Anna and her two younger sisters, Abigail and Maggie, form with Summers’ horse, Renegade, the author does a commendable job of keeping the plot flowing with energy. The work is largely driven by the developing relationship betwwen Anna and David (a teenager blossoming into a woman and a perceived traitor to his country) and the inevitable chaos that will ensue when the truth comes out.

The antagonist of the story, Stephen Montgomery, ironically a Union sergeant, is a thorn in the side of Anna and David’s love story. But in reality, the thematic question that the author tests to its limit is at what point and at what cost can love still reign supreme? That internal battle pits Anna and David against their individual duties. For David, the burden of filling the void left behind by his father and supporting his family weigh heavily against his desire to be with Anna, while Anna is mired in caring for her sisters after the loss of her father.


With one obstacle after another continually in their way, the couple’s resolve is almost endlessly tested, whether it is by Anna’s aunt, Sarah, who encourages David to understand the ramifications of his and Anna’s union, or Maggie, the sister who refuses to accept David. In the story, readers are exposed to the perspective of the Confederacy, how they would have viewed President Lincoln, and the ruthlessness of Union soldiers toward captive soldiers. As historical fiction, Hawkins’ work is especially intriguing because of the raw, authentic settings and tension that is being created. Conjuring the palpable feeling of a nation divided amongst itself is downright harrowing, and the contentious dynamic between Stephen Montgomery and David Summer is simply the epitome of that.


While Anna and David are front and center, numerous other storylines are simultaneously heartwarming and gut-wrenching, such as Claudia and Abigail’s expression of childhood innocence and exuberance and the genuine friendship formed between David and Patrick, a neighbor in whom Anna confided wholeheartedly. Above all else, what makes this story so intriguing is the purity of a love story grounded in the faith of the human spirit and unwavering resolve, come what may. Acceptance, or the lack thereof, is a strong theme that resonates universally in Hawkins’ work. Against the backdrop of the Civil War, the duality of war and love create a riveting environment that holds the reader’s attention from cover to cover.


RECOMMENDED by the US Review
©2022 All Rights Reserved • The US Review of Books

In Honor of Our Veterans

Today is Veterans Day, the day we honor all those who served in the American armed forces. To show their appreciation, many restaurants are offering free meals to vets today, and some places are holding parades. This is the least we can do for our brave veterans who risked their lives to secure our freedom, some of which who paid the ultimate price. Thank you, veterans, for your service.

I wanted to emphasize that, because I’m a Civil War author, the fact that all Confederates were essentially declared American war veterans is easily overlooked these days.

Confederate soldiers, sailors, and Marines who fought in the Civil War were made U.S. Veterans by an act of Congress in in 1957. U.S. Public Law 85-425, Sec 410, Approved 23 May, 1958, gave Confederate veterans the same legal status as U.S. veterans in terms of pension rights. This made all Confederate Army/ Navy/ Marine Veterans equal to U.S. Veterans. Additionally, under U.S. Public Law 810, Approved by the 17th Congress on 26 Feb 1929, the War Department was directed to erect headstones and recognize Confederate gravesites as U.S. war dead gravesites. Just for the record, the last Confederate veteran died in 1958. So, in essence, when you remove a Confederate statue, monument or headstone, you are in fact, removing a statue, monument or head stone of a U.S. VETERAN.

1938 Battle of Gettysburg Reunion

 This, in my opinion, is why it is so offensive to be taking down statues and monuments representing Confederate soldiers, because they are honoring our American war vets. My father, who was a Marine in the Korean War, would be ashamed of what America has become, and how disrespectful it is. (I’m glad he’s not alive to see this.) I feel it is our responsibility to stand up to tyranny and put a stop to it.

Haunted Gettysburg and the Farnsworth House

One of the most haunted Civil War battlefields, and places on Earth, for that matter, is Gettysburg. I have been there several times and attended a ghost tour, but I failed to witness any apparitions. The town and battlefield did inspire me to write a book, however, and the book became a series called the Renegade Series. My husband and I stayed overnight once in the Farnsworth House, which is a beautiful home that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. The interior is filled with gorgeous antiques. Bulletholes are visible on the outside brick of the house, which makes you wonder what it would be like. If only its’ walls could talk.

 It should come as no surprise that hauntings have taken place in various parts of the country in regard to the Civil War since the war ended. In fact, stories and folklore have been passed down about ghosts appearing even before the War Between the States.


Disputably, the most haunted place is Gettysburg. This is because the town rests on what is known as a “lei line,” where two intersecting fractures in the earth’s crust meet. It has something to do with energy fields beneath the earth’s surface.
Within Gettysburg, probably the most haunted place is the Farnsworth House. Now an inn, the Farnsworth House has seen its share of violence. Confederate sharpshooters used the garret (attic) as a vantage point to fire upon Union troops positioned on Cemetery Hill. One bullet fired by a sharpshooter supposedly traveled down the street, hitting Jennie Wade, who was the only civilian killed during the battle. Afterward, the house was used as a Federal headquarters.

There are over 100 bullet holes visible on the south side of the house, and some of the bullets that were lodged in the brickwork are on display inside. The house boasts a fabulous restaurant, a cozy tavern decorated with memorabilia from the movie, “Gettysburg,” and the guest rooms are decorated in beautiful Victorian style. Guests and staff have witnessed strange occurrences on several occasions. Some of the servers have had mysterious encounters, claiming that someone or something yanks on their aprons. Others have seen apparitions in the forms of women in period dress and soldiers, or have been tapped on the shoulder. Phantom footsteps echo through the two-story house, and strange, eerie shadows abound. The Farnsworth House sponsors ghost tours, and has a seance room in the spooky basement to replicate the Victorian notion of communicating with the dead.

Haunted Gettysburg and the Farnsworth House

One of the most haunted Civil War battlefields, and places on Earth, for that matter, is Gettysburg. I have been there several times and attended a ghost tour, but I failed to witness any apparitions. The town and battlefield did inspire me to write a book, however, and the book became a series called the Renegade Series. My husband and I stayed overnight once in the Farnsworth House, which is a beautiful home that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. The interior is filled with gorgeous antiques. Bulletholes are visible on the outside brick of the house, which makes you wonder what it would be like. If only its’ walls could talk.

 It should come as no surprise that hauntings have taken place in various parts of the country in regard to the Civil War since the war ended. In fact, stories and folklore have been passed down about ghosts appearing even before the War Between the States.


Disputably, the most haunted place is Gettysburg. This is because the town rests on what is known as a “lei line,” where two intersecting fractures in the earth’s crust meet. It has something to do with energy fields beneath the earth’s surface.
Within Gettysburg, probably the most haunted place is the Farnsworth House. Now an inn, the Farnsworth House has seen its share of violence. Confederate sharpshooters used the garret (attic) as a vantage point to fire upon Union troops positioned on Cemetery Hill. One bullet fired by a sharpshooter supposedly traveled down the street, hitting Jennie Wade, who was the only civilian killed during the battle. Afterward, the house was used as a Federal headquarters.

There are over 100 bullet holes visible on the south side of the house, and some of the bullets that were lodged in the brickwork are on display inside. The house boasts a fabulous restaurant, a cozy tavern decorated with memorabilia from the movie, “Gettysburg,” and the guest rooms are decorated in beautiful Victorian style. Guests and staff have witnessed strange occurrences on several occasions. Some of the servers have had mysterious encounters, claiming that someone or something yanks on their aprons. Others have seen apparitions in the forms of women in period dress and soldiers, or have been tapped on the shoulder. Phantom footsteps echo through the two-story house, and strange, eerie shadows abound. The Farnsworth House sponsors ghost tours, and has a seance room in the spooky basement to replicate the Victorian notion of communicating with the dead.

Lest We Forget

There are so many sad stories involved with any war, but especially, the Civil War. Basically, the only way to communicate was through letters. The telegraph was fairly new, and was mostly reserved for officers and the wealthy. Therefore, many people had no way of knowing what happened to their loved ones who went off to fight and didn’t return. This is the reason for Confederate monuments and memorials, and it has NOTHING to do with racism. This was how they honored their lost loved ones, and it took decades to save up enough money to erect the monuments.

WHAT THE CIVIL WAR DID TO  FAMILIES 

(And the Mule Came Home Alone)

Here is the story of what happened to four University of Mississippi students and their families during and after the war. They all lived within 10 miles of each  other and all knew each other growing up. Three grew up in Holmes County, Mississippi near Richland, and those three all went to the Little Red Schoolhouse. The  fourth lived about 10 miles South in Camden, Mississippi, in Madison County. He may have gone to the Little Red Schoolhouse. If only I could know for sure. 

Richard C. Lipsey was his parents only child. His father was a farmer. Richard was UM Class of 1864. He joined the University Greys and he was wounded in the leg in the famous cornfield at Sharpsburg, the bloodiest 40 acres in America. His leg was amputated, and he came home to try to farm. How  does a one-legged man farm? He somehow farmed, raised mules, and got elected County Supervisor and then County Treasurer for 20 years. He was the last University Grey to die in 1920. From letters I have of his, he wanted to see any of his old friends for the last 20 years of his life. The Greys never did have a reunion. Lipsey never got to see his friends again. 

Jeremiah Gage was one of 4 Gage brothers. Three  were military age and one was 11 when the war started. Gage was UM Class of 1860, and UM Law Class of 1861. His Father died in 1860. Gage joined the Greys and he was mortally wounded at Gettysburg. He wrote his mother one last, sad letter before he died.

His older brother, Matthew was killed by a cousin in a business dispute in 1865. He had survived the war only to be killed by a cousin! Jeremiah’s younger brother was wounded in the shoulder during the war, and he lost the use of that arm from nerve damage. He came home to try to farm to support his mother and several younger sisters and brother. How does a one armed man farm? 

James F. Walton was UM Class of 1861. His Pastor father died in 1861. His only 2 brothers were at a church picnic in 1855, one of them started to drown in the swimming hole, a friend jumped in and was pulling him to shore. The other brother jumped from the bank to help, he landed on the other two, and they all three drowned. James joined the 29th Mississippi Regiment and he was wounded twice in the war. In 1864 he took sick. His mother heard he was bad sick in the hospital, and went to see him in Georgia. She found his body servant bringing the casket containing her last son home, at a train depot while changing trains. She took him home to bury him. 

James R. Montgomery was UM Class of 1858, and UM Law Class of 1861. Montgomery joined the University Greys. One younger brother was killed at Vicksburg. James was mortally wounded at Talley’s Mill in 1864. His only other brother survived the war. In 1869, four years after the war, that brother went out with the family mule to plow a field. Late that afternoon, the mule came back by himself. His father went out looking for his son. Apparently, his son had finished plowing the field, he unhitched the mule, and was leading him home. A lightning bolt hit his son and killed him, and the mule came home alone. 

As Jeremiah Gage wrote in a letter just a few months before he died, “War is a terrible thing, I hope another one never comes in my time.” 

That is only four families who lived close together, and their sons were friends. I can tell 100 of these stories from my research. Nobody knows, but me.

STARKE MILLER – Miller Civil War Tours 

(Article Courtesy of the Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Sons of Confederate Veterans, President Jefferson Davis Chapter, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, Volume 45, Issue No. 8, August 2021)

VOLUME 45, ISSUE N0. 8 – AUGUST 2021 

Here’s to the Irish!

March is Irish heritage month, and because I’m part Irish, I feel very compassionate about my ancestors and what they had to go through. They risked their lives to be free of English tyranny, escape starvation in their beautiful, native country, and sail across the Atlantic to an unknown existence based solely on here say. They arrived in America to ridicule and rampant discrimination. This country has a rich Irish history due to their stamina and determination, not to mention their wonderful sense of humor. Many Irishmen fought on both sides during the Civil War. Some were recruited fresh off the boat, while others enlisted by their own design. The famous Irish Brigade still exists today, and many Irish fought for the Southern side as well. Here is one example.

images

Predominantly Irish Regiment

A predominantly Irish regiment, over 1,000 strong, the 6th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry was raised in New Orleans just after the state had seceded. It was organised by June of 1861 at Camp Moore and went on to become one of the hardest fighting regiments in the Confederate Army, seeing action in most of the major battles in the Eastern Theatre.

By War’s end, place names like Port Republic; Sharpsburg; Gettysburg; Spotsylvania & Petersburg (to name JUST a few) would adorn the colours of the regiment.

Headstone

By the time it surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865, the 6th LA. had fewer than 75 men in it’s ranks.

The ten companies that made up the 6th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry were designated thus:

Co. A- “Union & Sabine Rifles”: Co.B- “Calhoun Guards”; 

Co.C- “St. Landry Light Guards”; Co.D- “Tensas Rifles”; 

Co.E- “Mercer Guards”;

Co.F-“Irish Brigade, Company B”; Co.G- “Pemberton Guards”; 

Co. H- “Orleans Rifles”; 

Co.I- “Irish Brigade, Company A”; 

Co.K- “The Violet Guards”

The flag accompanying this post is the flag of Co.H, “The Orleans Rifles”, 6th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry.

flag

Article forwarded by Liam McAlister, (Irish in Blue & Gray, 1861-1865).

(Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private A. Hughey Camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, vol. 40, issue #8, August 2016 ed.)

 

Bringing the Dead to Life

With Halloween rapidly approaching, costumes, parties, and Trick-or-Treating are imminent. One popular costume that has been prevalent for a few years is the zombie. My youngest son loves them. He even made a music video last year featuring numerous zombies. 

Preview YouTube video In The Wilderness – Apocalypse (Official Music Video)

The undead have always been fascinating – hence the popularity of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.  Following several Civil War battles, the dead were heaped up in piles. Amazingly, after the carcasses were being carried off for burial, some men buried under the carnage came back to life and lived to tell about it. I have always found it interesting how the Victorians saved hair from their loved ones, both dead and living, and made hair flower pictures out of them. They also loved to pose deceased people for photographs, making them look as lifelike as possible. They even went so far as to paint pupils on their subjects’ eyelids, and prop them on stands to make them look like they were standing up. Creepy!

Disturbing-Victorian-Art-Of-Death

Some old photos of the Civil War, which of course were all originally in black and white, have had color added. I think that it adds a lot to the photos, and brings them to life. It’s hard to imagine the people and scenes in the old tintypes, because they seem so ancient. But with added color, it makes them seem more real, somehow.

Civil War

My grandson is dressing up as a Ghostbuster this year. His dad did when he was little, too. Like zombies, ghosts are always fascinating. There are too many haunted places related to the War Between the States to mention. Some are more eery than others, but all are interesting. Of course, Gettysburg is probably the most haunted battlefield, since it is positioned on a lay line. There are also many haunted mansions, prison camps, cemeteries, and museums located all over the country. Even the White House is haunted with Lincoln’s ghost. Alas, these apparitions just cannot be brought back to life. If they could, think of the amazing stories they could tell.

ghost

Historical Victory!

gettysburg-plank-farm-hero

Earlier today, I received an email from the American Battlefield Trust with wonderful news. Because of donations, 143 acres at the Plank Farm on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania battlefield has been preserved.

According to the American Battlefield Trust,

“On all three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, and for many weeks after Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia made its retreat, this farm (owned by J. Edward Plank at the time of battle) served as one of the largest hospitals in all of Gettysburg. Soldiers on each side traversed these 143 acres, and more than 1,500 soldiers were treated on this land, including Confederate General John Bell Hood. There were more than 60 documented burials on the property. The soldiers buried there were later reinterred in proper cemeteries.

Unknown

“Now … this sacred land and the stories that it holds will be preserved, forever! This transaction was truly a team effort, with the Trust and other partners raising funds to enable the Land Conservancy of Adams County to protect the farm with a conservation easement. Because (investors) have secured this land now, (they) are proactively protecting this part of the battlefield from commercial or residential development while further securing the integrity of nearby hallowed ground, like the 18 acres Trust members … preserved at Seminary Ridge earlier this year and the preserved and restored Lee’s Headquarters site we saved in 2014.”

I think this is an awesome accomplishment! If you would like to support the American Battlefield Trust, here is a link to their website:

https://www.battlefields.org/?emci=56cf5d34-7dd9-e911-b5e9-2818784d6d68&emdi=ace04701-a1df-e911-b5e9-281878540838&ceid=315208

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/

 

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.
ABeckoningHellfire_MED
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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