J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “historical fiction”

A Grand Review

As I stated in my previous blog post, General Lee is one of my favorite personalities of the War Between the States. In this excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, protagonist David Summers, age 18, meets the general for the first time, and is awestruck by his encounter. This event takes place shortly before the Battle of Brandy Station, which took place on June 9, 1863, and was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place in North America.

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Later that evening, the men were informed that another Review was to be held, because General Lee had been detained from attending the day’s events. The troopers were required to polish their tack and metal two days later for the benefit of the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

On June 8, the Review was held between Culpeper and Brandy like before, but no civilians were present this time. General Hood’s infantry came to watch the military exercise. While the cavalrymen rode past to take their positions on the open field of the Auburn Estate, the suntanned foot soldiers jeered at them.

“Come down off’n that horse!” one yelled. “I can see your legs a-danglin’!”

“Come out from under that hat!” another hollered. “I can see your ears a-wigglin’!”

“They’re jist jealous of us because we git all the pretty girls’ attention!” Michael yelled over at David and flashed a grin.

The horsemen reached the open field and lined up in columns, their regimental colors rippling above them. Ordered to halt, they sat with all eyes on their commanding officer. 

General Lee rode the two-mile line at a brisk trot. He searched out saddle-sore horses and deficient carbines, mandating corrective actions as he carried out his inspection. He came to a halt in front of Renegade. 

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“Is this the little horse that won the race I heard tell about?” he asked.

Stunned that the magnificent general was speaking to him, David’s heart leaped. He found it difficult to reply, let alone comprehend that General Lee was actually addressing him. The general, dressed in flawless brass and gray, his white beard and entire appearance immaculate, gazed at him intensely. He didn’t know if he was required to salute, so he just sat there, stupefied.

“Yessir,” was all he could finally manage to say. 

General Lee nodded, glanced over Renegade once more, and spurred his gray steed away. The cavaliers surrounding David turned to gawk at him. He looked at John, who winked at him. 

“Reckon he’s got plans for you!” Michael said, grinning as he raised an eyebrow.

David wondered what those plans were, and couldn’t help cracking a smile. Although he’d given up on his fantasy of becoming a Pony Express rider, he hoped now to be chosen for some dangerous, daring mission on behalf of the Confederacy, since the adventure he and Jake had dreamed about seemed to have eluded him thus far. His utmost desire was to receive a perilous assignment, one that no one else was willing to take, because he was prepared to lay down his life for his beloved country. If that happened, there would be no doubt that he would acquire exoneration for Tom’s death. He wanted to die in honor and glory, just like his father and Jake had done. But he hoped, most of all, that he wouldn’t be sealed in an unmarked grave and forgotten.

Sitting astride Traveller, General Lee watched from the top of a hillock. General Stuart, with his usual flamboyance, wore a long, black ostrich plume in his hat, and his horse, Virginia, was adorned with a wreath of flowers around her neck. Stuart signaled; the bugles blared. Twenty-two cavalry regiments wheeled into columns of four, and three bands commenced to play “The Bonnie Blue Flag” while General Stuart led the parade of prancing horses. The cavaliers walked their mounts down the length of the field before turning into a trot. An immense cloud of dust billowed up from the ground. There was no mock charge against the guns this time, so following the reviewing maneuvers, the men were congratulated and released.

They led their horses back to camp, and celebrated the splendor of their review. The supply and baggage trains had been loaded, awaiting the cavalry’s departure across the Rappahannock with the infantry, which was now encamped on the other side of a hill. Unbeknownst to David and his fellow cavaliers, however, an ominous presence lurked in the shadows. Morning would come much sooner than expected. 

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Another Christmas Story

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It is a joyous, sacred occasion, and has always been a special holiday for me, filled with happiness, celebration, and time to spend with family and friends. But the holiday season can be difficult for so many.

There have been many instances in our nation’s history when the holidays presented sadness and difficulty, along with the unknown perils of what the future might hold. This excerpt, from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, shows just one example of how a rural family from Alabama dealt with such a blow.

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But what a cruel thing is war. To separate and destroy families and friends and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world. To fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world¼My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.

Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, December 25, 1862

 

Chapter One

“Here it is! Come quick!”

David sauntered across the dead grass toward his little sister. Amused by the way she was jumping up and down like a nervous flea, he couldn’t help but grin. Obviously, she was too excited to care that her petticoats were showing from under the brown coat and green calico dress she wore, or that her long auburn hair had broken free from its bondage as her bonnet slid from her head and dangled down her back.

“Which one, Josie?” he asked, stifling a snicker.

She planted her feet and pointed to a small yellow pine near a cluster of sweet gum and ash trees. “Right here!” she exclaimed.

Glancing down at the sapling, he gave her a crooked smile. “Well, that’s a mighty fine tree, but ain’t it kinda scrawny?” He estimated the pine to be three feet tall at most.

Josie frowned at her older brother, who had one eyebrow cocked from under his slouch hat. His hands were tucked into his brown trousers, and his linen shirt hung loosely on his tall, lanky frame. “No,” she said, “ it’s jist right. We’ll string some corn on it, hang some nuts and berries on it, and it’ll look right smart in the corner of the front room.”

With a shrug, he said, “All right. If you reckon this is the one.”

She nodded, her bright blue eyes reflecting her elation.

David relished the moment, for he knew Christmas was her favorite holiday. He had only heightened her anticipation on the way out to the woodlot by reminding her what would happen that evening, how Santa would be stopping by later when she was sound asleep. Of course, he had no explanation as to how eight tiny reindeer could pull a sleigh all the way to Alabama. Josie promptly informed him that she wasn’t a child any longer. She was all of thirteen, and didn’t believe in those farfetched stories anymore, but he knew better. She would be lying in her bed tonight, listening and waiting.

“Well, go on now, cut it down!” Josie insisted.

He put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and gave a high, shrill whistle. Noticing how the gray sky was growing darker, he looked over at the edge of the clearing where they stood and saw the underbrush rustle. Suddenly, two hound dogs bounded out of the trees, followed by a gangly young stallion.

“Come on, Renegade. Over here,” he called out to the colt, who responded by cantering to him.

Josie giggled at the sight. “Your dumb horse thinks he’s a dog!”

“He ain’t dumb. I’ll wager he’s a lick smarter than you are, li’l sister,” David teased.

The horse blew and stomped his front hoof.

“Why, that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. And not only is he dumb, he looks right silly, too. He can’t decide if he should be spotted or palomino!”

David observed his horse for a moment. Renegade’s face was piebald. His dark chestnut coat was highlighted with white spots and patches concentrating on his underbelly, and his mane and tail were light flaxen. He had white socks up to his knees. His unusual eyes were brownish green. David remembered how he had heard that a horse with strange-colored eyes like Renegade’s was considered sacred and chosen by the Cherokee Indians. Several people had noticed the strange coincidence, and his other sister, Rena, also frequently commented that he and his horse had the same colored eyes.

“I reckon he knows what he is,” David remarked. “Besides, he’s unusual, and that makes him unique.”

“Oh, he’s unique all right,” Josie said, giggling again. She pulled her hair back from her face and replaced her bonnet.

David untied a saw from a leather strap attached to Renegade’s saddle. He knelt down, quickly sawed through the little tree’s trunk, picked it up, and tied it across the saddle’s seat. His two black and tan dogs sniffed around the tree’s sawed off stump. Suddenly, they both lifted their noses into the air with their ears pricked. They bolted across the open clearing, baying at an unseen curiosity as they disappeared into the woods.

“Caleb! Si!” David hollered after the two hounds. “Well, there they go,” he observed wryly. “All right, Renegade, take it on home.” He patted his horse on the shoulder.

Renegade nickered softly, shook his head, and trotted off in the same direction as the two hounds.

Josie gasped. “Look, David! It’s startin’ to snow!” She tilted her head back and stuck out her tongue, trying to catch snowflakes on it.

He chuckled.

“Come on, you do it, too,” she coaxed him.

He obliged his little sister by imitating her.

Josie laughed, spinning around with her arms extended while snow fell silently down around them.

“Oh!” David clasped his hand to his face. “One fell in my eye!”

Josie giggled.

He couldn’t help but smile, although he was careful not to let her see, and snorted to cover up his delight. “Well, I’m right glad you think it’s so funny.” He looked at her, trying to keep a straight face. “Come on, Josie girl. We’d best be gittin’ on back.”

He allowed her to go ahead of him as they started on the bridle path that cut through the woods.

“Let’s sing Christmas carols!” she said. “That new one we heard last year. Jingle Bells!”

“You start,” he prompted.

“Dashin’ through the snow…”

He joined in. Their voices grew stronger in unison.

“In a one-horse open sleigh…”

They came to an empty field, and trudged through, stepping over mud puddles while they continued singing.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”

Their house stood quaintly at the far end of the field. Smoke circled from its two chimneys, dissolving into the gray sky. The sweet smell of burning hickory reached out, inviting them closer. From a distance, the structure appeared to be two separate cabins sitting side by side, but upon closer observation, one could see that they were connected by a covered breezeway. Each section contained two rooms and a fireplace. A wide flat porch on the front of the split log building served as an entryway. The tin roof, which seemed to expel heat in the summertime, also managed to repel snow during winter months.

The cold, damp air encroached upon brother and sister. As they sang, their breath escaped, floated out across the fields, and vanished in phantom gusts.

“Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!”

On the last note, Josie’s voice jumped an octave. They laughed at their grand finale and walked around to the front of the house, where Renegade was waiting patiently for the tree to be removed from his saddle. A buckskin horse stood beside him.

“Whose horse is that?” Josie asked.

“It looks like Bud Samuels’ horse.”

David and Josie looked at each other, wide-eyed. “Pa!” they both exclaimed.

Josie sprang onto the porch, burst through the front door, and went inside while David untied the small yellow pine. He set it aside, pulled the saddle from Renegade’s back, and removed his bridle.

“Go on into the barn, Renie,” he said. “Or you’ll be one big ole snowball in a minute.”

The colt blew and trotted around the side of the house.

David carried his tack into the breezeway. He placed it on a horizontal board, which was supported by a plank on each end. Collecting the tree, he heard the sound of Bud’s voice coming from inside.

“I had some trouble gettin’ here,” Bud was saying as he entered. “But I convinced the Home Guard to follow me home so’s I could show them my furlough paper.”

David produced the tiny tree. “I know it’s small,” he said with a grin, “but Josie insisted, and…” The sight that befell him inexplicably filled him with dread. His smile faded. He looked around at the faces before him and let the tree fall onto the wooden floor. Warmth from the fireplace did nothing to relieve the chill that grasped him. “What is it?” he asked.

“Come in, darlin’, and close the door,” his mother said from her high-backed chair, which sat near the empty corner they had readied for the Christmas tree. Her brown skirt encircled her like a puddle. Her dark brown hair, streaked recently with gray, was parted in the middle and contained in a white cotton hair net. She clenched her hands in her lap, and her lips were pursed. The flickering firelight accentuated the grooves on her face, which, for some reason, David had never noticed before. After closing the door behind him, he looked at Rena, who was sitting beside the hearth. She vacantly stared back, her violet eyes welling up with tears.

“Rena?” he asked her.

She looked away and hugged Josie, who had taken the chair beside her.

David walked across the room to their neighbor, Bud.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Samuels,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. “How’s Pa? Is he comin’ home for Christmas, like he wrote?”

“Have a seat, David.” Bud’s eyes filled with concern. He scratched his straggly, graying beard.

Obeying the command, David slowly sank into a chair, keeping his eyes fixed on Bud’s face.

“I’m afraid I have bad news.” Bud cleared his throat, then slowly, deliberately said, “Your father’s been killed at Fredericksburg.” He looked down at the floor. “A little over a week ago. I know he was lookin’ forward to seein’ y’all. I’m…immensely sorry.”

He pulled a folded piece of yellowed paper from his coat pocket. The gray coat was torn and tattered in places, not at all like the beautiful piece of clothing that had been provided to him nearly two years earlier. His trousers and the kepi he held in his hand were weathered, too.

“Miss Carolyn, Hiram wanted me to give you this here letter…in the event of his death.” He solemnly handed her the note.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Carolyn held it to her mouth. Tears streamed down her weathered face. “Thank you, Bud,” she finally said. “You’ve been a good friend to my Hiram. I know he appreciated you dearly.”

Bud nodded. “Please let the missus or me know if there’s anything we can do,” he offered, and walked toward the door.

“I surely will.” Carolyn wearily stood, followed him to the door, and walked him out.

Bud placed his kepi on his head, untied his horse, mounted, and galloped off down the lane. The rhythm of hoof beats faded.

Turning from the doorway, Carolyn somberly gazed at her children. Her two daughters came across the room to hug her. The three of them burst into tears. Carolyn gazed at her son, who was sitting motionless across the room, his handsome young face drained of color, his hazel eyes growing a darker brown.

“David,” she said, her voice filled with the sorrow that had now overtaken the room.

He looked over at her, his face blank with grief-stricken shock.  Finding no comfort in her anguished expression, he glanced up at the ornately-carved mantle clock, the one his father had given to her as a wedding gift. It read ten minutes past five. Beside it sat a framed tintype of his father, adorned in Confederate glory, ready to march off to victory, but now he was never to return. David’s eyes wandered, and he noticed things he’d taken for granted before: the raised oval portrait of his paternal grandmother on the wall, the paintings of flowers his mother liked so well that hung on the opposite wall, the fieldstone fireplace that his father had built, and the pine furniture that had been there ever since he could remember. Somehow, all of it seemed irrelevant.

Moving numbly, he rose and walked across the room to pick up the little tree he had dropped earlier. A tiny pool of water remained where it had fallen. He carried the tree outside, leaving a trail of moisture that splattered onto the floorboards. The cold winter air, uncluttered with snow, barely whispered, its breath deathly quiet and still. Dusk was rapidly approaching.

David hurled the tree as hard as he could. It landed with a rustled thud out in the yard. Without pausing, he walked into the breezeway past his mother and sisters and grabbed a kerosene lantern. He carried it outside, lit it, and threw it at the pine. The glass shattered upon impact. Kerosene trickled out onto the tiny branches and within seconds, flames engulfed the little tree. He stoically watched tongues of fire consume the sapling. Slowly, he turned to face his mother and sisters, who were standing on the porch, watching him while they wept.

“I reckon we won’t be celebratin’ Christmas after all,” he said, his voice raspy with distress.

Impending darkness engulfed his heart. Feeling the need for solitude, he walked around the house toward the barn, vaguely hearing his mother call out to him. The sky opened, releasing icy rain. He stomped past the pigpen and the chicken coop. Upon reaching the old wooden barn, he went inside and blinked several times before his eyes adjusted to his dim surroundings. He caught glimpses of shadows dancing off the walls and up around the rafters. A pungent combination of dry, clean hay and musty wood enveloped him. The rain rattled down upon the barn’s tin roof and sounded like a thousand tiny drums. Three cows studied him with soft brown eyes. One mooed a welcome as he walked past them.

Sidestepping bales of hay stacked near the stall door, David paused to shake off cold drops of moisture that clung to his shirt and ran his hand over the top of his head, wiping the rain from his dark brown hair. A large Percheron, standing in the stall next to Renegade, gazed at David with his ears pricked.

“Hey, Joe Boy,” David said softly to the tall white gelding.

The draft horse sniffled at David’s pockets but seemed to lose interest and shuffled to the other end of his stall when David didn’t offer a treat like he usually did. Renegade looked up from his fodder and nickered softly. David walked over and gently stroked his muzzle. “I’m sorry I put you through all that trouble of bringin’ home a tree.” Anguish and anger welled up inside him. Searing-hot tears streamed down his cheeks. His hatred seethed. His grief was overwhelming, and he could hold it back no longer. Sobs escaped him. He grasped onto his horse’s mane, burying his face in Renegade’s neck. The colt stood quietly, seemingly to console him.

Speaking Engagement at UCCS

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS). This event was held in conjunction with NaNoWriMo. If you are unfamiliar of this acronym, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held during the month of November. The object of NaNoWriMo is to provoke writers and prospective authors into writing a novel. Authors don’t have to finish their projects. The goal is for them to complete writing a total of several thousand words by the end of the month, and the NaNoWriMo website tracks their progress. Since its start, NaNoWriMo has grown internationally. I have completed the challenge three times. In fact, I even got a t-shirt several years ago to prove it!

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My audience at the Writing Center was very attentive as I told them about my journey as an author and how my writing has evolved over the years. It was fun to see their expressions when I explained how I was originally inspired to write about the Civil War, how I conducted research, chose characters, and constructed plot lines. We talked about my writing process in general, how much time I spend researching each book, and self-publishing vs. traditional.

nanowrimo

Because all the students are participating in NaNoWriMo, I was curious to find out what projects they’ve been working on. I loved their enthusiasm as they told me about their prospective novels. Most are writing fantasy and Sci-Fi, which I found interesting, since they are all in their late teens and early twenties. One attendee said his novel is historical fiction with a bit of fantasy thrown in. He said he heard that all a writer has to do is include a unicorn to make their story a fantasy and then that author doesn’t have to be completely historically accurate. I thought his analogy was amusing! Speaking at UCCS was a great experience, and I’m grateful to have participated. Seeing new writers bud is the best!

My Recent Speaking Engagement Featured in Local Press

Recently, I was invited to speak at a local event sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This event, held in Colorado Springs, features local authors, and raises funds to provide college scholarships to women who could not afford to go to school on their own. It was heartrending to hear the stories about this year’s recipients, and I was very honored to be invited to speak on their behalf. Today, the local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, featured a story about the event, so I am sharing it here. I found the article to be very informative, except that my quote was taken out of context. The article is inaccurate in stating that I lock myself in a room, listen to Civil War music and lose myself in imagination. However, I thought the quote was quite amusing.

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Annual event celebrates local authors, awards scholarships

  • By:

Mary Taylor Young knows from personal experience that reading and writing is key to developing as a writer.

“People like reading things that are a part of their life. I try to find evocative words to create an image, so I read and write a lot,” the author told American Association of University Women’s Colorado Springs Branch (AAUW CSB) members during an Oct. 27 Author’s Day recognition breakfast.

Held at the Colorado Springs Shrine Club, the annual event celebrated the creative works of three local authors and raised money to provide college scholarships for local women. Authors J. D. R. Hawkins and Cindy Skaggs also were honored.

Since its inception, the AAUW CSB has presented numerous scholarships. In 2008, one $1,000 and one $500 scholarship were awarded and last year six $1,200 scholarships were presented. Proceeds will fund next year’s scholarships.

“Thank you for taking part in the success of these women which wouldn’t be possible without your support,” Scholarship Chair Char Gagne told the 100-plus guests who attended.

Branch President Nancy Holt welcomed guests, adding, “This room is full of women who love to read. Some love to write and are inspired by the authors who are here today.”

One of Colorado’s best-known nonfiction authors, Young has written about Colorado’s landscape and heritage for three decades. The award-winning author has penned 17 books including “Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years,” and “Land of Grass and Sky: A Naturalist’s Prairie Journey.”

For 16 years The Rocky Mountain News published Young’s “Words on Birds” column. The Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District named Young a 2018 Frank Waters Award winner for exemplary literary achievement.

Young’s passion for writing about the West originated from her family’s military roots and Rocky Mountain upbringing, she said. “My path to writing wasn’t a direct one. My dad was career Army and I lived in 10 different homes. Spending summers running through the mountains helped fix my path because writing originally wasn’t on my radar,” Young said.

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Known chiefly for her historical writing, Hawkins’ works include the Renegade Series: A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Rebel Among Us, both John Esten Cooke Fiction Award recipients. She is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, International Women’s Writing Guild, Pikes Peak Writers and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Holt praised Hawkins for the word imagery used to describe Civil War battlefields in her book, The Beckoning Hellfire. Extensive research, music and imagination were key elements for writing the book, Hawkins said. “I locked myself in my room, put on Civil War music and lost myself in imagination,” Hawkins said.

By contrast, it was stories about mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers and the last honest man that inspired Skaggs to write. To date she has written seven romantic suspense novels that include “The Untouchables” trilogy and a novella for Entangled Publishing titled “Untouchable, An Untouchable Christmas, Unforgettable and Unstoppable.”

Skaggs encouraged prospective authors to appreciate editors and to attend book conferences to pitch their idea to agents. “Self-publishing is expensive and can cost up to $2,000 before marketing,” Skaggs said.

Local resident Cindi Zenkert Strange attended the event because, “I love books and writers, and wanted to hear from local and regional authors who represent different genres.”

A silent auction comprised of sports clothing, wine and wine glass, and cheese and party mix baskets also figured in the celebration. Perry Park rounds of golf, two-night stay at The Lodge, at the Club at Flying Horse were among the gifts up for grabs.

A fiber-fusion collage created by local artist Barbara Diamond, and paintings by Japanese artist Kazuko Stern and Heddy DuCharme also were available. “President-Elect Kathy Olson invited me to show my stuff to the public. I am glad I am here,” said Diamond who is an instructor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

Founded in 1881, the AAUW promotes equity for all women and girls, life-long education and positive societal change. AAUW has more than 100,000 members in 1,000 branches throughout the nation. The event is held the last Saturday in October. “We’re non-partisan and welcome new members,” Olson said.

Hooked on Books volunteer Mary Ciletti handled book sales and Aspen Pointe Catering, the menu. To learn more contact Membership Vice President Melanie Hudson at 205-7639 or visit coloradosprings-co.aauw.net/scholarships/2017-authors-day/.

https://gazette.com/cheyenneedition/annual-event-celebrates-local-authors-awards-scholarships/article_e74ba01a-e835-11e8-8c59-2365de6bfe01.html

An Insight into the Confederate Cavalry

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I find it interesting how Civil War soldiers, especially those from the South, managed to sustain on what little food was provided to them, yet still had the strength to fight and survive during the harshest climates. Most soldiers lived on hardtack, pork belly, and cornmeal. There were various names for their concoctions, including slush and cush.  My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes some of the situations Confederate cavalrymen went through during the War Between the States.

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The rations on which the Confederate army subsisted were from the first scant, and often of poor quality. They would have been bad enough even if properly prepared, but were usually rendered worse by poor cooking. The cavalryman’s most valuable cooking utensil was his ramrod, on which he broiled his meat, and even baked the flour bread that he “made up” in his haversack. As a dishrag a corn shuck was invaluable, and was also a good substitute for paper in which to wrap cooked rations. While in camp, of course we had camp-kettles and frying- pans, and could then enjoy the luxuries of “boiled and fried vittles,” but this was not often.

One of the “old gang ” tells an amusing story of how the cooking was managed in his mess: “Our rule was,” said he, “that each member of the mess should cook a week, provided nobody growled about the cooking; in which event the growler was to take the cook’s place. As may be imagined, this rule was not very conducive to good cooking, and some of the revolting messes we uncomplainingly swallowed would have destroyed the digestion of any animal on earth except that of a rebel cavalryman.

Once the cook, finding that he was about to serve out his week in spite of his efforts to the contrary (consisting of sweetening the coffee with salt, salting the soup with sugar, etc.,) grew desperate, and proceeded to boil with the beef a whole string of red pepper. Of course it made a mixture hot enough to blister the nose even to smell it. John got the first mouthful, and it fairly took his breath away. As soon as he could speak , he blurted out, ” Great Caesar, boys, this meat is as hot as hell — but (suddenly remembering the penalty of complaining) it’s good, though..”

 

http://civilwarcooking.blogspot.com

Southern Historical Society

(Source: Campaigns of Wheeler and his cavalry.1862- 1865 by W.C. Dodson, Historian, 1899)
Link to free e=book: https://archive.org/…/cu319240309…/cu31924030921682_djvu.txt

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Hernando, MS., Vol. 42, Issue 10, October 2018 ed.)

Favorite Ban

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This is banned book week, when libraries, bookstores, and all things literary celebrate the tomes that have been banned throughout the years for various reasons. It is interesting to see what books made the list. But the amazing part is that they were even banned in the first place, especially here in the states, where freedom of speech and expression are supposedly within our constitutional rights.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_banned_books

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My favorite banned book is Gone With the Wind. I absolutely adore this novel. I always thought it was so amazing that Margaret Mitchell published her book in 1936, and it immediately became a bestseller. Only a few years later, in 1939, it became a phenomenal film that won eight Academy Awards, one of which was awarded to an African-American person for the first time, Ms. Hattie McDaniel, for Best Supporting Actress. The movie also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing, as well as two honorary awards for its use of equipment and color. It was the first color film to win Best Picture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind_(film)

I have to admit that, since I wrote my novels, the tide of Confederate sentiment has turned. It is quite strange and disturbing, but nevertheless, it has happened. I certainly hope my books don’t make the banned book list because of it, but if they do, they’re in good company.

 

The Battle of Antietam

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On this date in 1862, the single bloodiest day in American history took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle claimed over 22,000 casualties. Although the battle was later declared as a draw, President Abraham Lincoln used it as an opportunity to launch his Emancipation Proclamation, which would go into effect on New Years Day, 1863. However, his freeing slaves only applied to Southern states that had seceded from the Union, and didn’t apply to slave holding states in the North.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/battle-of-antietam

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, describing the battle from the perspective of solders who fought for the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

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At 3:00 a.m., the men were awakened to the sound of McClellan’s army attacking the Georgians, who had come to their relief the previous night. For an hour and a half, the battle raged, until General Hood was called upon for assistance. He brought his two brigades to the front, one of which included the 4thAlabama. As they were ordered to line up,

Orange Hugh approached his messmates in a panic.

“Have y’all seen Bo?” he asked. “I woke up, and he was gone.”

“Nope. Ain’t seen him,” replied Blue Hugh with a smirk. “He might be buzzard food by now.”

“Don’t pay him no mind,” said Hiram. “Bo will show up. He’s likely jist hidin’ somewhere.”

“I surely hope so,” replied Orange Hugh. “We’re both anxious to git back to Richmond so we can visit Miss Betsy!”

Blue Hugh chuckled. “Don’t be such a skylark. We ain’t headed back there. I heard tell General Lee wants us to march up to Harrisburg.”

“Is that a fact?” inquired Bud.

“It’s what I heard.”

The men were instructed to advance toward their enemy. They audaciously marched across an open field in front of the church, in perfect alignment, while a hailstorm of Minié balls rained down on them. Because it was still too dark to see, the men could hardly determine who was shot, except for random screams that came across the field both near and far, and they were unable to distinguish between blue and gray uniforms. Solid shot cracked into skulls and bones, which sounded like breaking eggshells.

They stumbled along, making their way to a grove of trees. Hiram heard Lieutenant Stewart and his comrade, Lieutenant King, yelling at someone. He could make out that it was Dozier, who had fallen down and was refusing to get back up. The officers grew frustrated, so they kicked the young private before they continued on and left him behind.

Springing to his feet, Dozier sprinted back toward the church.

The Confederates advanced into the trees, skirmishing with their enemies as they drove them out. Captain Scruggs, who fell wounded, was quickly replaced by Captain Robbins. Realizing they were at an advantage, the Rebels shot down scores of Yankees while concealing themselves in the cover of trees, fighting savagely despite their extreme hunger and fatigue. Other regiments of their brigade, the Texans, South Carolinians, and Georgians, were out in the open on their left, and suffered because of it. As dawn began to lighten the sky, Hiram noticed a Union general riding around the field on a large white horse.

“Who do you reckon that is?” he asked, to no one in particular.

Smoke billowed across the field, but the white horse still remained visible.

“That there’s Fightin’ Joe Hooker,” Lieutenant King informed him.

“He’s makin’ himself an easy target, ain’t he?” The lieutenant laughed at the Union general’s absurdity.

Yankee artillery fired into General Hood’s right flank and rear, causing the Rebels to fall back. The ground was scattered with bodies, most of which were clad in blue. Many Confederate soldiers had exhausted their ammunition when Lieutenant Stewart informed them they had been fighting for nearly three hours straight. Fearing the enemy would chase after them, they quickly re-formed, but discovered their haste was unnecessary, as the Yankees failed to respond. The Alabamians took much-needed time to replenish their ammunition and catch their breath.

General Hood directed his men back to the church to retire.

Suddenly, a shell flew by, blowing off the top of Lieutenant King’s head. The body dropped limply into a pool of blood and brain matter. Bud and Hiram looked at each other, dazed, their faces blackened by gunpowder. They turned and walked away, putting the horrific sight behind them, both knowing there was nothing they could do for the man.

Finally, Hiram said, “I won’t ever git used to seein’ that.”

“I already am,” Bud remarked indifferently. “I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but after a while, those boys jist look like dead animal carcasses to me.”

Hiram glared at him for a moment, shocked by his callousness.

“Life is uncertain, but death…is certain,” Bud added under his breath.

While they walked across the field, which was strewn with bodies, they tried not to look into the pinched faces, whose eyes stared vacantly up at the sunny morning sky. Young men not more than eighteen, their cheeks once rosy with the blossom of vigor and manhood, lay cold and still, bathing in their own hearts’ blood. Some didn’t even look human, while others were missing heads, arms, legs, or torsos. Several members of the regiment scurried around the battlefield, placing the wounded on stretchers. The victims cried out in anguish, their blood leaking from their broken bodies like fractured wine bottles as they were carried away. Bud heard a persistent whimpering sound, so he followed it, and walked around an enormous oak tree, its trunk riddled with bullet holes.

“Hiram! Y’all had best git over here!”

Hiram and Blue Hugh walked over to see what Bud was gawking at. They went around the tree, and saw Orange Hugh with his little dog, Bo, sitting on his lap. The young man seemed to be asleep sitting up, his body leaning back against the trunk. Bo whined pathetically, and licked Orange Hugh’s face like he was trying to wake him.

“Dear Lord,” said Hiram under his breath.

“It’s a damned shame,” remarked Bud, slowly shaking his head.

Blue Hugh stared down at his comrade for a moment. “Reckon he’s seen his last fight,” he blurted. “Good-bye, Hugh.” He turned and walked away.

Hiram frowned, appalled by the man’s insensitivity.

Returning to the church, the Alabamians settled in, and sustained on what meager rations they had left: half an ounce each of beef and green corn. Noticing Bo wander into their bivouac, Bud took the little dog into his arms. One of the men said that after the 4th had started across the field that morning, he saw Bo climb out of a hole from under the church.

As artillery blasted away in the distance, Bud and Hiram reflected on the day’s events, sadly conveying their regret for losing such a fine young friend and soldier as Orange Hugh.

Intentionally changing the subject, Hiram remarked, “Strange how all the wildlife knows when there’s a battle brewin’. They all high tail it out of there. Even the bugs vanish.”

“I’ve noticed that myself,” said Bud. “I’m right glad for it, too. I hate seein’ innocent critters suffer, like those poor warhorses with their legs blown off.”

Hiram grunted. “It bothers you to see dead horses, but not dead soldiers?”

“Of course it bothers me. I’ve jist built up a tolerance for it, is all. Except when it comes to someone I know. That’s different.”

With a sigh, Hiram said, “They all remind me too much of David. I don’t reckon I’ll ever build up a tolerance for that.”

“It makes you not want to git too close to any of them,” said Bud.

Hiram grew solemnly quiet, considering his own mortality.

An hour passed. McLaws’ Division arrived from Harpers Ferry, moved to the front, and immediately became engaged, while the 4th Alabama was held in reserve. The fighting was intense, until darkness finally interrupted it, with neither side emerging triumphant. Soon the Alabamians fell asleep from utter exhaustion, but were roused in the middle of the night, and marched across the Potomac to the Virginia side.

https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Renagade/dp/1544842481/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1537244747&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beautiful+glittering+lie

Second Manassas

ABGL Medium

Today and tomorrow mark the 156th anniversary of the Second Battle of Manassas. I have always found it strangely interesting how this battle took place on the same ground where the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place. Soldiers found old skeletons buried in shallow graves at the battlefield that were left there from a year before. Virginia is unique in that many Civil War battlefields overlap each other. Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, Yellow Tavern, Brandy Station, and Antietam are all very close in proximity. It must have been weird to have lived in Virginia and Maryland during that time and have so many tragic battles take place within just a few miles of each other. Richmond and Washington D.C., the two capitals, were also close together. And yet, an entire country was involved in the war. What a sad, strange time it must have been.

My novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, describes this battle. The book delves into the first half of the War Between the States from the Southern point of view, and specifically portrays the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. This book is based on actual testimony that was recorded by a soldier who witnessed the battles. The 4th Alabama was one of only a few regiments who survived until the end of the war.

 

Book Blitz – Storm From Taxila

~ Book Blitz ~

Storm From Taxila by Shreyas Bhave

15th to 17th August

Book Cover

About the Book:  

BHARATVARSHA, LAND OF THE ARYAS: 270 BC

Bindusar, the Samrat Chakravartin of all the Aryas, ruler of the Indian subcontinent, is dead. Chaos rules across the empire. The royal succession turns upon intrigue, dark coalitions, violence and death. The realm stands divided and civil war ensues.

In Vidishanagri: Asoka kills his brother’s Ashwamedha stallion and marches to Patliputra with his army. The ancient Brahminical order rises in his supports, awaiting his entry into the capital. Have they made the right choice?

In Taxila: The rightful heir, Sushem, raises an army to meet the challenge posed by his ambitious and gifted brother, Asoka. He prepares to march to the capital and seize the throne by force. Will history repeat itself; will Sushem achieve what his grandfather Chandragupta did 50 years ago?

In Junagarh: Guild Master Hardeo sets out on a private mission to acquire the great salt pans of Sindh. Will he succeed in his secret enterprise?

In Vidishanagri: Radhagupta travels to fulfill the task allotted to him by the Order. Kanakdatta, the Buddhist, stands up to stop him. Will Radhagupta fail in his mission?

The winds of war howl over the sub-continent, blowing every last person one way or the other. Blood will be spilled, secrets revealed and men ruined. History shall be made.

In Book II of the epic Asoka Trilogy, the storm approaches; the harbinger of death and destruction. When the dust finally settles, the great question will be answered: Who is the next Samrat of the holy Lands of the Aryas?


Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon

book 2 gothic

Read an Excerpt:

Asoka was sitting on the steps to the throne, fastening his knee-high boots when Chanakya entered the chamber in his wheeled chair, dressed not in his usual long robe, but a cotton undershirt. Asoka did not look up but kept tightening the straps of his boots with both hands. The burning torches dispelled the darkness that blanketed everything outside.

As Chanakya rolled forward, his shadow fell upon the throne. “Why are you in armour, Prince?” he asked.

“I am in armour because we are under siege,” Asoka said, finishing his task.

“We have been under siege for a week,” Chanakya reminded him.

“But tonight the enemy is hammering at our walls,” Asoka replied, pointing a thumb over his shoulder.

“The walls will hold Prince.”

“I do not doubt that. It is I who cannot hold on any longer.”

Chanakya wheeled nearer. “What do you mean?”

Asoka got to his feet. “Order the Captain of the Guards to assemble his reserve force at the stables.” “But why?” Chanakya asked, perplexed.

Asoka looked down at him. “I plan to sally out,” he said coolly.

“I beg your pardon, Prince, but why such a foolhardy action?”

“It is military slang,” Asoka explained, looking around for his shield, “sallying out signifies a foray by the defenders, in the middle of the night, to carry out a surprise raid on the besieger’s camp.” 

“Well you are not sallying out,” Chanakya said firmly.

“Why do you say that, Prime Minister?”

“Isn’t it obvious? It is dangerous!”

“Great things cannot be achieved without facing danger, Prime Minister. You of all people should know that.”

“Great things!” Chanakya laughed mockingly. “What do you plan to achieve by sallying out, Prince?”

“Small things in this case,” Asoka replied, reaching for his scabbard. “We have about forty horses in the stables, Prime Minister. I and some of the city guards will ride out under the cover of night and raid Sushem’s camp. I am certain we will catch his men totally unawares. If we are lucky, perhaps Maharaja Sushem will fall to my sword.”

“And if you are unlucky,” Chanakya said, “you may fall to his.”

Asoka shrugged as he pulled out his sword and checked its sharp edge by moving a finger over it. “I am not afraid of dying,” He said.

“You do not need to do this, Prince,” Chanakya pleaded. “Everything is under control.”

Asoka pushed his sword back into the scabbard. “Everything will be under control once I am done with this raid,” he said softly.

“Your friend, Shiva of Avanti, comes with your army soon,” Chanakya said, following Asoka in his chair. “He will attack Sushem from behind and force him to lift the siege. That is the plan!”

“The plan!” Asoka stopped and turned around. “Is that your plan? Is that what you wish the people of Patliputra to say, that they were saved by others while their leader hid in the palace?” “Even your grandfather, Chandragupta, was not afraid to hide,” Chanakya said. “He knew that…”

“Stop!” Asoka said, raising one hand. “Look well, Prime Minister! Look at who stands before you! I am not my grandfather. I do not look like him. I do not think like him. Nor do I speak like him. But I am sure about one thing. If he were in my shoes today, he would do the same as I.”

“You are making a mistake,” Chanakya told him. “You will regret it later.”

Asoka sighed. “I regret not doing this on the first day of the siege.”

About the Author:

14731221

Shreyas is a 21 year old guy currently pursuing his B.Tech in Electrical Eng. from VNIT Nagpur. His love for history since his childhood prompted him to write his take on the story of Asoka who was one of the towering figures in the history of India, which has been taken up as ‘The Asoka Trilogy’ by Leadstart Publishing.

The first part of the trilogy called ‘The Prince of Patliputra’ has been published in January 2016 and garnered positive responses.

He is also presently working on several other manuscripts and completing the final year of his engineering Course.

Connect with the Author:

Website * Facebook * Twitter

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Another Five-Star Review for A Beautiful Glittering Lie

ABGL Medium

I was recently interviewed by Linda Thompson of the Author’s Show on her podcast. After the interview, Linda expressed interest in reading my book, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. I’m very flattered with her five-star review. Thank you so much, Linda!

Here is the review:

August 2, 2018
When it comes to war (no matter the era), men tend to gravitate toward the bloody bodies and the weaponry, and while some women think the idea of war as romantic, others are horrified at the cruelty. I’ve never seen war as romantic, anything to be proud of, or even remotely good, and parts of JDR Hawkins book was difficult for me to read. That being said, A Beautiful Glittering Lie is a very good story, well written with extremely engaging characters. The historical aspect is excellent and once I could get my head wrapped around the war and violence, I found this Southern family very engaging. I’m very interested in learning where the next book in Hawkins’ series will take us.

~ Linda Thompson, Host of www.TheAuthorsShow.com

https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Renagade/dp/1544842481/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

 

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