J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Gettysburg”

Book Trailer For My New Novel

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Here is a link to the book trailer for my new novel. Check it out and let me know what y’all think!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tILNmZIukmc

The book is available for pre-order through Smashwords. It will be on sale this coming Monday, and I will have a launch party next Tuesday. Stay tuned for more details!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/665424

 

Cover Reveal in One Week!

I am so excited to announce my new novel, A Rebel Among Us, is near completion. The book is due to launch in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I would like to tell you about the book, as well as the process I went through to get it published.

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Originally, I wrote A Beckoning Hellfire after visiting the Gettysburg battlefield. Coming from Colorado, I had never seen an actual Civil War battlefield before, so as you can imagine how astounded I was. Silly me, I thought it would be the size of a football field. Far from it! Needless to say, after I experienced this event, I was inspired to write a novel about it, but not a typical Civil War novel about officers and presidents, or even Union soldiers, such as The Red Badge of Courage. No, my novel would be about a typical Southern soldier. So I chose to write about a Confederate cavalryman who originated from North Alabama near Huntsville (Ryan Crossroads, to be exact).

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art

I wrote my heart out, and by the time I was finished, I realized I had enough material for two novels, so I split the book in two. The second book became A Rebel Among Us. From there, I wrote a sequel, which has yet to be published. And then I went back and wrote a prequel to the story, which is titled A Beautiful Glittering Lie. So what started out as a single book became a series, which I call the Renegade Series. I intend to write a fifth novel in the series later on.

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The first two books in the Renegade Series were self-published. I also self-published A Rebel Among Us, but then I found a new hybrid publisher called Booktrope. This publisher provided me with an excellent team of talented people. We were just about to publish the book when the company folded. ARGH! So I had to start all over. Luckily, I had a contact through NaNoWriMo ( which stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November). Because I had entered A Rebel Among Us in this contest, I learned of a new startup small publisher located in Mississippi. Enter Foundations, LLC, who loved my book and agreed to publish it. Finally, my book will see the light of day! Thank you Foundations!

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All of the books in the Renegade Series center on a family from North Alabama and how the war impacts them. For each novel, I spent about six months researching and six months writing. I traveled to the battlefields I wrote about, as well as the Pennsylvania countryside, where A Rebel Among Us primarily takes place. This book is a little different than the first two in the Renegade Series, because it involves more romance and less battle. I learned a lot along the way, received amazing help from many people, and had a blast writing the story. I can’t wait for it to come out and for you to get a chance to read it. Please tune in next Thursday for the big cover reveal. It is nothing less than awesome!

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More Absurdity

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The Confederacy is still under attack across the country, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. Now, Sons of Confederate Veterans’ camp signs are being taken down. I’m sorry, but this is a living history group that does a lot of good things for their communities. If it was any other group being attacked, I’m sure there would be a lot more outrage. But because of all the misconceptions surrounding the Confederate battle flag, it seems to be okay that everything Confederate should be eradicated, because it is now considered to be all evil, racist, hateful, and wrong. However, this  misconstrued image is, in itself, wrong.

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Another example is a group of schools in Houston, Texas. They include Lee High School, Albert Sidney Johnston Middle School, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson Middle School, John Reagan High School, Richard Dowling Middle School, Sidney Lanier Middle School, and Jefferson Davis High School. The school board voted in May to change the names, and has approved to spend $1.2 million to do so. What a waste of money! Wouldn’t it be better spent in educational programs? Just sayin’.

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Protests are underway to get rid of the Confederate battle flag during Civil War reenactments. One such case was heard prior to this year’s anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Democratic state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown said she has “been to a lot of reenacting and the reenacting does not tell the stories accurately.” What? Republican Rep. Dan Moul says it doesn’t make sense to not use a Confederate flag when reenacting Civil War battles. I’m with him.

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This political correctness is nothing less than absurd, but because a small minority complains, the rest of the country has to bow down to their ridiculous, hysterical whims. To me, these attacks are also attacks on our freedom of speech and expression. It has to stop now before it’s too late, and all of our history, regardless of whether it is considered to be good or bad, is gone.

http://candler.allongeorgia.com/confederate-emblems-removed-in-reidsville-after-racial-concerns/

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/state/article95634022.html

http://abc27.com/2016/06/30/pa-lawmaker-questions-use-of-confederate-flags-in-battle-reenactments/

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

 

An Eerie Sighting

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Social media websites have been abuzz with posts about a photograph that was taken by a man from Houston. The photo was shot at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The photographer claims that when he took the picture of the hotel’s entryway and grand staircase, no one else was in that area with him. However, the photo revealed otherwise. On the landing is what looks like a woman dressed in period, turn of the century (circa 1900) clothing.

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I find this fascinating, since I have been to the Stanley many times. Colorado is home for me, and Longmont is only a few miles from Estes Park, so my family and I have been up there frequently. The Stanley Hotel wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar if it wasn’t for author Stephen King. He stayed at the Stanley, which inspired him to write his famous novel, The Shining. The original movie was not shot at the hotel, but a subsequent miniseries was later on.

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My husband and I have stayed at the Stanley, but alas, we didn’t see any ghosts. However, I definitely felt a presence when I performed at the Concert Hall, which is a stone’s throw away from the hotel. The Stanley has a reputation of being haunted, and this newly released photograph seems to be the latest proof.

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It’s amazing how many places around the world are reportedly haunted. My husband is a skeptic, but I believe, because I’ve had some weird, unexplained experiences happen to me. Many historic buildings, landmarks, forests, and battlefields are haunted. Gettysburg is one of the most haunted places in the world. Not only is the battlefield haunted by Civil War soldiers, but by medical personnel and citizens who lived there as well. The scent of peppermint often wafts through the air. (Peppermint was used to mask the odor of death after the battle.) I can attest to the fact that Gettysburg is haunted, which makes it all the more intriguing to me. Sightings and eye witness accounts only prove that the inexplicable exists.

http://www.today.com/money/ghostly-image-captured-stanley-hotel-inspiration-shining-t86986

http://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/06/gettysburg_150_12.html

A Bright Spot in the Dark

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With all the negativity that has been cast toward the Confederacy, there are still a few things that have happened recently. They disregard the nasty notion that the South was evil and fought to defend slavery.

One positive is that the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a preliminary injunction preventing the city of New Orleans to move ahead with removing four Confederate monuments. The injunction will remain in place while the case is being appealed.

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3509449/Removal-Confederate-symbols-turns-nasty-New-Orleans.html

Another advancement is the updating being done in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; specifically, General Lee’s headquarters. The Civil War Trust has begun a renewal project, and has started demolition of the hotel and restaurant that were built onto the historical building way back when. The Mary Thompson House will be restored to look like how it appeared in 1863.

My book, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes in detail the cavalry battle that took place outside of Gettysburg.

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You can purchase it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459277699&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

For more information regarding the renovation of Lee’s headquarters, check out:

http://www.civilwar.org/education/war-department/lees-headquarters-update.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=Marchupdate2

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/gettysburg-history-articles/ten-facts-about-lees.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=Marchupdate2

On the Bright Side…

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I know I’ve been posting a lot lately about anti-Confederate sentiment, or Confederate cleansing as I like to call it. However, there are a few bright spots here and there around the country where people are getting tired of all the political correctness and have chosen to keep the Confederate battle flag and other symbols. After receiving criticism, the police department in Gettysburg, South Dakota, chose to keep its symbol, which pictures the American flag and the Confederate battle flag together. The small town was founded by Civil War veterans who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, and that is how the design originated.

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In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Sons of Confederate Veterans will sponsor a Confederate Flag Day to honor Southern history. The gathering will be held at the Farnsworth House Inn off Baltimore Street on March 5, from 2-4 p.m.

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“We as the sons revere the history of our families of the South and of America, and with that we wish to keep our history alive and our heritage along with that,” said Gary Casteel of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Critics of the flag, including Greater Harrisburg NAACP president Stanley Lawson, say our history of slavery is nothing to celebrate. “The Confederate flag does not unite the country, it divides the country,” Lawson said. “I think this time in our history we need to be together.”

“The Confederate flag may have done some nasty things, so did the American Flag, so why don’t we take them both down? Why don’t we destroy both of them and turn our backs on them?” Casteel said. “It’s simple. We are Americans. We have the right to choose to like or dislike. The right way is to accept and move and learn by it.”

“Four Score and Seven…”

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On this date in 1863, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to deliver what would become known as the “Gettysburg Address.” Although some revere Lincoln while others despise him, I think this short speech is one of the greatest American achievements. In honor of this event, here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, A Rebel Among Us, when the main character sees Lincoln face to face.

The family arrived to find throngs of people clogging the road into Gettysburg. David drove slowly toward the center of town, past two- and three-story brick, stone, and weatherboard houses. Abolitionists lined the street, holding signs degrading the South and singing “John Brown’s Body.” Students from Pennsylvania College gathered near street corners in clusters. Union soldiers were everywhere. A group of them walked over and surrounded the landau. David’s heart raced wildly. All of his battlefield memories rushed over him. He continuously drew deep breaths in order to contain his composure and repeatedly wiped his sweaty palms against the coat Anna had provided him.

She glanced at him and noticed his wary expression. “Are you all right?” she asked.

All he could do was nod in response. He was terrified, but he couldn’t let his fears be known to the family.

Pulling Alphie to a halt, he climbed down, tied him to a post, assisted the ladies from the carriage, and escorted them toward a wooden platform that had been erected for the occasion. Someone handed him a program, so he smiled politely, being careful not to speak. The Stars and Stripes waved from atop a flagpole overlooking the gathering, its stars now totaling thirty-five, which included all of the states of the Confederacy. Behind him, he saw rows of graves, their white markers protruding from the dead earth, gleaming in the bright sunshine. Remnants of the fierce battle still remained. Scarred trees, pieces of wagons, rifle pits, scraps of clothing, broken fences, canteens, and other personal artifacts cluttered the sacred ground. Adjacent to the new Soldiers Cemetery was the old town graveyard. Ironically, a sign had been posted there before the great battle: All persons found using firearms on these grounds will be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law.

The Yankee dignitaries, lined in procession, finally appeared. Parading through the center of the enormous crowd, they made their way to the platform, which had a sofa and several chairs positioned on it. Four military bands began to play “Hail Columbia.” Union soldiers filed in. They stood only a few feet from David as the procession came through.

“There’s the president!” a man behind him said.

“He’s quite a Chesterfield,” remarked another.

David turned to see Mr. Lincoln atop a gray horse, riding toward the platform. Either the horse was too small or the president was too tall. His legs nearly touched the ground.

The soldiers saluted, and the president returned the gesture. David almost did, too, but caught himself in time. He gazed at the tall, slender, dark-bearded man who wore a long black suitcoat and stovepipe hat. President Lincoln’s expression was somber. His large eyes glanced over the crowd, and a faint, sad smile crossed his lips. Awestruck, David took in the sight of the man he’d heard so much about. The president’s weathered face, both homely and attractive at once, showed sensitivity and remorse. David felt overwhelmed to be in his presence. He continued to stare while the president rode past him. Mr. Lincoln turned his head and looked directly at him, apparently sensing his gaze. Their eyes met. David’s heart leaped into his throat. The president dismounted and stepped up onto the platform. His kind, gentle expression showed compassion. David wondered how he could intentionally proceed with the war, set the slaves free, and pass laws to cripple the South.

Just before noon, the program commenced with the Birgfield’s Band of Philadelphia playing “Homage d’un Heros.” Called to prayer, the audience was reminded of how so many young men had departed from their loved ones to die for their cause. The Reverend T.H. Stockton spoke with such soulful entreaty his listeners were overcome with emotion. When he was finished, the United States Marine Band played “Old Hundred.”

David glanced around; relieved no one could detect his secret. His eyes met Maggie’s. She mouthed the word “Rebel” at him, and glared so harshly he felt compelled to look away.

Edward Everett of Massachusetts began with an oration. He went on endlessly in an eloquent speech, referring to Athens, the occasion for which they all assembled, the significant victory, and the history of the war. Giving an elaborate account of the battle, he said nothing about the cavalry fight and predictably proceeded to castigate the South. In his opinion, the Confederacy had committed treason, comparable to the Bible’s “Infernal Serpent” by perpetuating wrong and injustice. He referred to the Rebels as Eversores Imperiorum, or destroyers of States.

David continuously scanned the crowd, half-expecting the soldiers to surround him at any moment. He noticed how some of the spectators yawned and wandered off to observe unfinished gravesites. After nearly two hours, Mr. Everett’s harangue finally ended. The Musical Association of Baltimore, accompanied by a band, sang “Consecration Hymn,” but the lyrics were so traumatic many people began to sob.

“Here, where they fell, oft shall the widow’s tear be shed.

Oft shall fond parents mourn their dead; the orphan here shall kneel and weep.”

David felt his throat tighten. He stared down at his boots, waited for the hymn to end, and remembered his comrades, his best friend, and his father.

At last, the President of the United States was introduced. The crowd applauded. Mr. Lincoln made his way to the front of the platform. Keeping his eyes downcast, he withdrew his steel-rimmed spectacles from a vest pocket. His visage remained staid and melancholy. Slowly, clearly, deliberately, he began to speak. David hung on every word. In spite of how he felt about the man, his heart began to swell.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

David thought it ironic the Northern President spoke with a hint of a Southern drawl, but then recalled Mr. Lincoln had been born in Kentucky. The president returned to his seat. A sprinkling of applause followed him. David thought he heard the President say, “Well, that fell on them like a wet blanket,” but he wasn’t close enough to be sure. Everyone around seemed surprised the president’s speech was so short, but David found himself overcome by the Yankee president’s words. Although they didn’t necessarily apply to his Southern beliefs, they were heartfelt and poignant.

A dirge was sung, a benediction given, and the soldiers completed the program with a cannon salute, which startled him and jolted his heart for a moment. The spectators filed out of the square. He glanced over at Maggie. The time was ripe for her to confess his true identity, but she merely stared at him with a smirk on her face.

 

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 Fight for Heritage Continues

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Last week, the Sons of Confederate Veterans won a major victory in Memphis, Tennessee, after a judge decided that they had the right to sue the city for changing the names of three parks. Forrest Park, named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the primary subject of the suit, because the SCV had placed a large sign at the edge of the park designating it as “Forrest Park.” The city removed the sign without notice, and changed the name of the park to Health Sciences Park. They also did away with Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park, renaming them as well.

The ruling is a tremendous victory for Constitutional rights. To remove all things “Confederate” is a criminal offense and should not be taken lightly. Confederate veterans were designated as American veterans way back in 1906, when a Congressional Act was passed as a move toward reconciliation. To destroy or mutilate any veteran’s grave or marker is a Federal offense and should be treated accordingly.

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This goes hand in hand with trying to do away with the Confederate battle flag – the flag for which these veterans so gallantly fought. It is disrespectful to omit the flag from public view because it is misconceived by a few. This has happened at Washington and Lee University. In the chapel where General Robert E. Lee is interred, Confederate flags have been removed. The Confederate battle flag that flew above the Confederate soldier’s monument on the State Capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina received national attention a couple of months ago after a massacre took place by a lunatic at a church, and was also removed.

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Several schools around the country are debating whether or not to remove the flag. Although a small town in Virginia decided to retain the flag and their mascot name, “the Rebels,” and Gettysburg, South Dakota declined removing the Confederate battle flag from their town’s logo and police cars, other towns have caved under the pressure brought on by hate groups such as the NAACP. In Kentucky, the debate will continue later this month when board members discuss replacing the flag that was previously flying over an elementary school in Floyd County but was taken down.

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