J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “historical”

Off to the Races!

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This Saturday (my birthday, BTW), the Belmont Stakes will take place, and after five years, we may have a chance to see another triple crown winner with a magnificent three-year-old colt named Justify. This is so exciting, and I really hope Justify wins! I love watching horse races, because each event happens so quickly, and the horses are so beautiful to watch when they run around the track and cross the finish line.

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Our modern-day horse races originated from the Civil War, and the first Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1875. This was ten years after the war ended. Prior the war, Southerners relished racing their beautiful Thoroughbreds. When the war broke out, cavalrymen still held races for amusement, and placed bets in hopes of making a profit, although they were betting with small items and valueless Confederate currency.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describing one such race.

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On the morning of April 25, following roll call and breakfast, David saddled Renegade. He and Jake walked over to the wide, emerald field designated as the race course. No one else had arrived, so they said a quick prayer for the safety of horse and rider and for the chance to show the other cavalrymen in Rooney Lee’s brigade just how fast a little horse from the back hills of Alabama could run. Talk of the race had spread from company to company until the entire brigade caught wind of the event, and several other riders expressed interest in racing as well. This didn’t worry David in the least, since he’d been racing Renegade for nearly a year at every opportunity that presented itself in Morgan County. They had always won.

He checked Renegade’s legs for heat or swelling. “Tell me again which regiment you’ll be with,” he said to Jake.

“The 26th Alabama, under Colonel O’Neal,” Jake replied. “Reckon when I git over there, they’ll issue me a haversack.”

“You’ll be needin’ somethin’ better to walk in,” David observed, glancing down at Jake’s dusty riding boots.

“These’ll git me by for a while.” Jake kicked a stone. “At least until I can locate me a pair of brogans.”

He looked across the field, and David followed his gaze. Men on horseback approached, along with a crowd of soldiers on foot. Two troopers fashioned a finish line constructed of a thin rope at the other end of the field. The crowd grew louder. David and Jake walked toward the commotion.

“Are you in the race?” a young soldier in gray asked.

David nodded.

The soldier pointed at the starting line, which was also to serve as the finish line. David stepped into the stirrup and mounted.

“Good luck, Zeke!” Jake yelled. Removing his slouch hat from his head, he waved it in the air.

David grinned. He directed Renegade over to the starting line, took his place on the end, and glanced over at the other six horses. They were all taller and more muscular than his little colt. Their riders turned to sneer and chuckle at him. David touched the brim of his hat in response. Two fiddlers commenced to play “Camptown Races” in harmony.

“Gentlemen,” an officer announced, a pistol in his hand. “When I fire, y’all are to ride around the edge of this field, counterclockwise, which is a quarter of a mile in length, until returnin’ to this spot. Anyone cuttin’ across will be disqualified. Good luck, and may the best man win!”

The crowd cheered. At the outburst, some of the horses grew frantic and reared. The officer raised his pistol into the air and fired. Renegade sprang, easily pulling ahead in great stretches, his hooves thundering against the ground in rapid rhythm.

David lowered himself close to the horse’s neck. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two other riders closing in on him. He held Renegade back until he thought they were about three quarters of the way around the track. One of the other riders jeered at him, yelling about how that homely spotted pony couldn’t outrun his steed. David let him pull ahead by a length.

The horses grunted with each stride, their hoof beats drumming down upon the turf in quick cadence. The riders whooped and hollered to make their mounts go faster. A couple of the contestants thrashed at their steed’s flanks with sticks.

David glanced back over his shoulder. The other five horses were close at his heels. He looked ahead and spoke into Renegade’s ear, using every ounce of love and trust between them to coax the stallion into giving his all.

“Okay, Renie! Let ‘em have it!”

He slapped Renegade with the ends of the reins. The little horse surged forward, ever faster, easily passing the rider in front of him. He pulled far into the lead and galloped toward the crowd of people. David’s heart thumped in his ears with exhilaration as the wind whipped his face. Horse and rider burst through the finish line. The spectators cheered. The six other contestants came in five lengths behind. David eased back on the reins, letting his horse slow to a trot. He walked Renegade back to the finish line where a mass of soldiers swarmed around.

“That was some race!” one exclaimed.

“I never expected this funny-lookin’ one to win!” said another.

“Summers, I don’t reckon I ever saw a horse run that fast!” John yelled. “And you jist won me five dollars!”

David grinned, removed his hat, and brushed his damp hair back from his forehead. He looked around for Jake who was standing near the back of the crowd with his arms folded in front of him, smiling and shaking his head.

“Private Summers.” Colonel Beale rode up to him on his horse. “Congratulations! That was remarkable!”

“Thank you, sir,” David replied.

“General Stuart would like to have a word with you.” He pointed to a knoll at the other end of the field. David looked over to see four officers on horseback.

“With me?” he asked, awestruck.

The colonel smiled and turned his horse. David rode alongside toward the other end of the field. As he neared, he recognized two of the officers immediately. One was General Rooney Lee, whom he had met upon his arrival, and the other was General Stuart, the commanding officer of the Confederate cavalry. David had eagerly anticipated catching a glimpse of the legendary general but had never considered meeting him in person. Riding up onto the knoll, he saluted modestly. The officers returned the gesture.

“This is Private David Summers, who jist recently jined us from Alabama,” General Rooney Lee explained, his eyes twinkling. “He’s with the 9th Virginia.”

“Private Summers,” said General Stuart. “I am very impressed with the way you ride.”

David was astounded by the man before him. General Stuart wore a gray jacket with gold braiding in the configuration of the Austrian knot on his collar and sleeves, a wide yellow sash around his waist, elbow-length gauntlets, dark blue trousers with gold stripes, a red-lined cape, and golden spurs attached to his high riding boots. On his head of curly brown hair perched a wide-brimmed gray felt hat, turned up on one side and clasped with a gilded palmetto star. A black ostrich plume feathered out from behind it. His tanned face was covered with a light brown moustache flowing into a cinnamon-colored beard that reached down to his chest. His bright blue eyes sparkled from beneath the brim of his hat as though laughing at the world and amused with everything in it.

“Thank you, sir,” David said.

“This is Colonel Von Borcke.” General Stuart motioned toward a large man on his left with a long, blond, curly moustache and short beard. “And this is Major R.C. Price,” he introduced, nodding toward the young man on his right, who didn’t look much older than David.

“I would like to have the opportunity to race your little stallion in the near future,” Colonel Von Borcke said with a heavy Prussian accent. “I’m certain that my horse will win!”

The officers chuckled.

David grinned. “I’d be honored, sir,” he replied.

“Private, I would like to take the opportunity to use you as need be for special assignments,” said General Stuart. “That is, for errands where speed will be of the utmost importance.”

“Yessir,” David said.

“I assume your horse is sound,” said the general.

“Yessir.”

“And you are willin’ to take certain risks for the good of your country.”

“Yessir.”

“Very good, Private. It is my opinion that a good man and a good horse can never be caught, and you have displayed admirable qualities.”

David grinned with delight. “Thank you, sir.”

“You are dismissed,” the general said.

David saluted. General Stuart put his gloved hand to his hat and smiled slightly. He released the salute. David turned Renegade toward the base of the knoll.

“Congratulations on your victory,” General Stuart called after him.

“Thank you, sir!” David called over his shoulder.

He spurred Renegade into a trot across the field. All the while, his heart was rapidly thumping. He couldn’t wait to tell Jake about what just happened. Now he truly was one of Stuart’s “invincibles.”

The crowd had thinned, but Jake waited beside the officer who had fired the starting gun.

“Zeke!” he yelled. “Git over here and collect your winnin’s!”

David looked at Jake quizzically and coaxed Renegade toward  his friend.

“Here you are, son,” the officer said. He handed David a one hundred dollar Confederate note. “Congratulations! I hope we git to see that little horse run again soon!”

David’s eyes grew wide in astonishment. “Thank you, sir!”

He stared in exhilarated awe at the note that read, “Confederate States of America, one hundred dollars.” Pictures of two soldiers, a woman’s face in profile, and a man he assumed to be a politician were displayed on the front of the scrip. He hadn’t expected to win anything, especially not this much money. His only desire had been to race for the recognition and to rectify Renegade’s bad behavior in front of his company.

Glancing back at the knoll, David saw that the officers had gone, and with them, his moment of glory. He sighed, dismounted, and walked alongside Jake back to camp.

 

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Beauvoir asks New Orleans for Jefferson Davis statue

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Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, has renewed its appeal to the city of New Orleans to send Davis’ statue to Biloxi.

On April 12, the Board of Directors at Beauvoir sent a letter to a New Orleans task force charged with deciding what to do with confederate statues removed last year. Beauvoir is appealing to the city’s newly elected Mayor Latoya Cantrell.

New Orleans removed the Jefferson Davis statue amid national controversy surrounding Confederate symbols. Beauvoir wants the statue on it’s property and hopes the Crescent City agrees to let it be shipped to the Mississippi Coast.

The board says Beauvoir would be an appropriate place for the statue.

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Beauvoir is sending it’s 3rd letter to New Orleans to ask for the Jefferson Davis statue, which was removed from the Crescent City last year.

“I think we would all love for that to happen. This is where it should be. If the residents of the city of New Orleans don’t want it, in the city of New Orleans, then this is the logical place for it to be. That is our mission statement to educate people about the life and times of Jefferson Davis and the confederate soldier,” said Museum Director Jay Peterson.

The Davis statue and three others were taken down after New Orleans decided the confederate era monuments were offensive and divisive. This is the third letter Beauvoir has sent to New Orleans, the first since Mayor Cantrell appointed a committee to study what to do with the statues.

Beauvoir believes the statue is more than just a monument to the President of the Confederacy. “It’s a piece of artwork that was done during the early part of the 20th century. It needs to be preserved and it needs to be brought here so people can appreciate it,” Peterson said.

In the letter, the Beauvoir Board writes that the monument will be given a place of prominence on the 52 acre property and be well protected. Beauvoir plans to enlist the help of the state to pay the costs and accept responsibility for the transfer of the Davis statue.

“Once approved by the Board of Directors and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Beauvoir will assume all responsibility for the monument. This will include transportation of the monument from its current place of storage to our grounds,” according to Peterson.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell says she will consider the Monument Task Force’s recommendations. Meanwhile, the group Take them Down NOLA is opposed to sending the Davis statue to Beauvoir.

http://www.wlox.com/story/38240756/beauvoir-asks-new-orleans-for-jefferson-davis-statue

(Courtesy of the Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Sons of Confederate Veterans, June 2018 ed. v. 42 issue #6, and WLOX, Biloxi, MS, David Elliott, News Anchor.)

Battle of Chancellorsville

Today and tomorrow mark the 155th anniverary of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. To commemorate the anniversary, the Civil War Trust will be posting live from the battlefield on its Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/civilwartrust/

Many events are planned, so check it out here.

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My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, discusses the battle and its terrible aftermath. Here is an excerpt.

 

It is well war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it.

—General Pendleton

Personal Recollections of General Lee

David rode Renegade at a walk for a few miles, unsure which direction to follow. The early morning sky and surrounding forest were so dark that he could barely make out the road, let alone anyone foolhardy enough to be out in the unfamiliar countryside…like him. He hoped he wouldn’t encounter any Yankees. The possibility of being apprehended and thrown into a Northern prison was all too real, but his desire to find Jake outweighed his fear. After riding for nearly an hour, he encountered a Rebel soldier on picket duty, who directed him to where he thought O’Neal’s brigade was camped.

“You’re on the Orange Plank Road now,” the picket said, gazing out from under his forage cap. Even though it was still night, David could make out dark circles under the picket’s eyes. “Go up a ways until you reach Brook Road, and keep goin’ till you git to the Orange Turnpike. You’ll see the Hawkins farmstead and the Wilderness Church in front of you. Turn right and keep travelin’ on the turnpike until you see their camp. You should run into them before you reach Chancellorsville.”

“Thank you kindly,” David responded.

The picket turned, walked back to a fence post, and lit a pipe. The glow from his burning tobacco faded into the darkness behind David as he proceeded in the direction that the picket had indicated. Reaching the intersection, he could barely make out the Hawkins farmhouse, which sat back from the road. The chapel, a small, whitewashed frame building, stood closer to the road, giving him a sense of reassurance as he rode by. A zigzagged wooden-post fence lined the turnpike, and behind it in the fields, David thought he could distinguish objects on the ground. He assumed they were bodies of dead Yankees. The smell of burnt timber hung in the air, making the darkness feel even thicker.

He rode another mile or two. At long last, he saw rows of white tents off to the side of the road. The soldiers within them were just beginning to stir, rising with the dawn. He asked one man for directions to O’Neal’s brigade. The soldier pointed without saying a word. Nudging Renegade, David headed off on the route the silent soldier had specified. He saw another foot soldier, asked for the location of O’Neal’s command, and was directed to a different area. Over and over he was misled, until almost an hour and a half later, he finally found O’Neal’s brigade. He didn’t recognize anyone, so he asked one of the soldiers if he knew where Private Jacob Kimball might be. The infantryman shook his head.

“Don’t reckon I know a Kimball,” he stated.

“He’s a new enlistee,” said David.

The soldier stood shaking his head and scratching his dark beard. “We’ll be havin’ roll call in a few minutes. You can find out if he’s here then.”

David swung down from the saddle and tied Renegade. He followed the infantryman to a clearing where several other members of the brigade congregated. A bugler signaled reveille, prompting more tattered soldiers to wander over to the gathering. David looked closely for Jake or one of his friends but didn’t recognize a soul.

The sun peeked out from the horizon, casting long shadows around camp. An eerie, stifling stillness hung in the cold morning air, and a sharp breeze pierced the soldiers bedraggled and soiled clothing. They stood shivering in irregular rows, their breath casting misty puffs into the chilly air.

An officer approached. He glanced over at David before calling out names. “Albright,” he hollered.

“Here,” came a reply.

“Allen.”

“Here.”

“Andrews.”

The officer hesitated, looking around at his soldiers before speaking the name again, but still no one answered. He continued to callout names on the list. Some received responses, some did not.

“Kimball.”

David’s heart leaped. His eyes darted around the group of soldiers. There was no answer.

“Kimball!”

Silence. Then the officer continued on to the next name.

“Reckon you ought to check the hospital,” the soldier with the dark beard whispered loudly to David. He heard his name called, and bellowed, “Here!”

David looked down at the trampled ground and drew a heavy sigh. He returned to Renegade and mounted, starting his search again. His heart hurt, but he was determined to find his best friend. As the sun appeared above the horizon, he sent up the same prayer request he’d repeated since the start of the battle.

Please, dear Lord, protect Jake and keep him safe from harm’s way. Amen.

He asked for directions to the army hospital. A short, stocky soldier directed him back to the turnpike toward Chancellorsville. He rode for a few miles, asking several infantrymen if he was headed in the right direction. All of them knew the exact location of the hospital.

By midmorning, he reached the hospital tents marked with bold red flags. He dismounted, tied Renegade out to graze, and after inhaling a breath of courage, went inside one of the tents. Immediately, the smell of death assaulted him. He quickly backed out, nauseated, struggling not to gag, and took in huge gulps of fresh air before attempting to reenter. More cautiously this time, he pulled open the tent flap and stepped inside.

Book Blitz – The Brotherhood of Merlin

About the Book:

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Merlin returns to Lycenea a hero, victorious over the Visi-Gauls in a gruesome and exhaustive campaign that claimed the life of one of his men and saw the annihilation of the Visi-Gauls’ Southern Army.

Merlin’s peaceful reprieve is cut short however, as he must now find and expose the corrupt Senator who initiated the war in the first place and plots to subvert the Empire for himself. He is aided by the powerful sorceress, Morgana and Felinius, a former disgraced and condemned knight who knows the inner workings of the Brotherhood.

Merlin must also protect two of the captives he rescued during the war with the Visi-Gauls, one of whom is a boy named Dante, whose power has been prophesized to defeat Herod Antipaz, the corrupt Senator, and his deadly allies who threaten to destroy Gilleon.

Herod makes plans of his own for eliminating Dante. The boy’s problems continue to mount precipitously- for not only is he being ruthlessly hunted down by Herod’s minions, but he must also face down a brutal training program in Round Table Academy, where he faces elimination on a daily basis. Should he be eliminated, he will no longer be under the protection of Merlin and his Brotherhood and his death almost a foregone conclusion.

His only hope, his only salvation is Merlin- as is the country of Gilleon.

Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon

Get Your Copy of Book One: Gilleon for FREE!

Check Out Book One: Gilleon

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Five hundred years after the death of King Arthur, a sadistic tyrant of Visi-Galia, attacks unprotected and vulnerable townships in Gilleon, igniting a deadly chain of events. Because he was unfairly denied a proper chance to compete for valuable mine rights and outbid by a Councilman from Gilleon, he reasons that he can invade Gilleon’s vulnerable townships and force the Council to negotiate with him.

Merlin, the lead knight in Lycenea, has foreseen just such a predicament. With the gifts of premonition, telepathy and intelligence, he and 9 of his most formidable knights go into battle against Jason and his force of nine thousand.

At stake is everything. The fate of the prisoners who are awaiting to be sold into slavery rests in the hands of the deadly knights. Specifically, two girls who were attacked in Missalia and are now orphaned, are at the mercy of the sadistic King. Will Merlin and his band of knights be able to rescue them in time?

Adele, the older sister, has plans of her own for escape. Will she prove successful or will her plans be foiled? If she is caught, what will become of her and her sister, Sylvia?

Dante, a boy from Coifen, is also now orphaned. He is the sole survivor of a brutal attack on his family. An unlikely heroine has come to his rescue- a mysterious white wolf. Unfortunately, the attack has left him blind. He and his guardian make their refuge in a remote cave. He clings desperately to the hope that God has spared him for a reason. Every night he goes to bed, he says a prayer to his talisman, the Merlin, a game piece that his father gave him before he was forced to abandon him. It was the last gift he received before all hell broke loose. Will he be rescued? Will he find a permanent haven? His fate also lies in the hands of the Merlin.

Merlin and his troupe lead the Visi-Gauls in a high stakes game of cat and mouse. Jason, though capricious, is not stupid. He uses every means at his disposal to eliminate Merlin. Who will prove the victor? Fighting a severe war of attrition, it seems at times that Jason will inevitably win; but don’t count the Merlin out. He is beyond slippery. Every time it seems that Jason has the gifted knight, he is thwarted yet again.

Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon

Character Study – Renault

     Deadly. Volatile. Vengeful. Sadistic. Cruel. Compassionate. Courageous. Heroic. He is a dedicated and loyal brother to the Merlin and a champion to the innocent and defenseless, but he also enjoys killing and watching his targets suffer as he inflicts agony on them before he finishes them off.  He is a walking contradiction and the right hand of the Merlin. When faced with an impossible mission, Merlin knows that he count on Renault to achieve his goals.

     Like Merlin, he is cunning, calculating, manipulative, resourceful and a master at strategy and logistics. He is also a telepath and can glean information from his targets. He should be a Godsend to Merlin but nothing is so simple.  

     Living in the relatively peaceful town of Helganon with his family, Renault clings to his peaceful reprieve in between his deadly missions for the Merlin. But with his volatile temper and his urge to protect the innocent at all costs, his demons push him closer to the brink, alienating himself in the process.

     When Renault’s temper pushes him past the threshold of composure, he lashes out and makes enemies not only among his own trusted brethren but also on both sides of a dangerous feud between the Ostra-Gauls and the Sene-Gauls. And so he finds himself in a desperate circumstance with the walls beginning to close around him.

     Will Renault’s demons push him too far, making him a liability among his brethren? Will his dire circumstances invade his own peaceful refuge at home with his beloved family? When Merlin’s own dire circumstances necessitate the need for Renault and his skill set, will he be ready?

About the Author:

Rory D Nelson

Author Rory D Nelson is an accomplished actor and has been seen in several high school productions of “Oedipus Rex,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” He owns a window cleaning business in the Sacramento area, enjoys wine tasting, snowboarding, traveling and working out. Rory D Nelson is an eclectic and prolific writer, having written numerous comedy skits, commercial parodies, and ghost-written many humorous t-shirts. He has the most unusual imagination of any fantasy author, since he also brings his deranged sense of humor into play in his books.

Contact the Author:

Website * The Brotherhood of Merlin * Facebook * Twitter 

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Another Five-Star Review for Horses in Gray

Horses in Gray Cover

I just received another five-star review for my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray. The review is as follows:

“Excellent book, particularly if you love history and pet love (horses).”

Short but sweet! Thank you, Russell C., for your kind review!

Here is another excerpt from the book. Hope you enjoy it!

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Crucial to the infantry, cavalry soldiers served a special purpose, as they were the eyes of the army. Cavalry units could easily cover thirty to seventy miles a day, and scouting units could travel as much as one hundred miles a day.

Throughout the course of the war, the Confederacy raised an estimated 137 mounted regiments; the North, nearly twice that many. The US Army supplied mounts to their cavalry, while Confederate soldiers provided their own.

The Confederate cavalry consisted of regiments containing eight hundred to one thousand men. Regiments were made up of ten brigades of one hundred men each and were commanded by a colonel, a lieutenant colonel, three majors, and a lieutenant. Regiments also included a surgeon and his assistant, a quartermaster sergeant, a commissary sergeant, a saddler sergeant, a blacksmith, a wagoner, hospital stewards, and musicians.

Equipment used by officers was usually non-regulation. Saddles were flat or English style, and Confederates of all ranks often used imported types, as well as McClellan and Jennifer saddles. A cavalryman’s gear also included iron stirrups, breast and crupper straps, a running martingale, a bridoon or snaffle bit, and a curb bit. Saddlebags had straps attached for tying on bedrolls, cooking utensils, ponchos, and other necessities.

When a horse threw a shoe, blacksmiths, or farriers, as they later came to be known, were called upon to remedy the situation. But sometimes the farriers were inaccessible. In these instances, the trooper had to shoe his own horse by nailing on one of the two spares he carried in his saddlebags. The South had much less iron than the North, so when shoes became scarce, cavalrymen were compelled to wrench shoes from dead horses.13

For the first two years of the war, the Confederate cavalry was far superior to its Northern counterpart. This was because Southern soldiers came from rural upbringings, and their horses were generally more agile compared to the draft horses used up north. Many Confederate officers were experienced foxhunters, so they were well-versed in jumping ditches and fences and galloping through woods.

Some soldiers who were not as learned around horses were taught tricks by their seasoned comrades. Lt. Col. William Willis Blackford, Stuart’s aide-de-camp, wrote in his memoirs: “I recollected a thing Von Borcke14 had once told me. He was taught in the Prussian Cavalry schools for this very emergency, and I made a courier twist the horse’s ear severely and keep it twisted while he led the horse off the field with Von Borcke on him, the horse becoming perfectly quiet immediately.”15

Tactics during the war changed. Instead of staging direct attacks, cavalry officers learned to use their horses for swift mobility to bring soldiers closer to the enemy. Once the soldiers reached a close proximity, the horsemen dismounted and fought on the ground, with one man in each group of four holding the reins of his comrades’ horses.

Horses were valuable, sacred commodities. Blackford explained it this way: “To a cavalry officer in active service, his horse is his second self, his companion and friend, upon whom his very life may depend.”16 Because of this, cavalrymen put the needs of their horses before their own.

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Horse killed with its owner, Col. Henry B. Strong, 6th Louisiana, at the Battle of Antietam, September 1862 

As the war progressed, Southern cavalrymen found it more challenging to replace their mounts. In the summer of 1862, the Union army captured and cut off the great horse-breeding states of Kentucky, Missouri, parts of Tennessee, and western Virginia. This forced Gen. Robert E. Lee’s men to scour the South, where remounts became more and more scarce. There were plenty of mustangs in Texas, but most of them were too small for military service.17

Whereas Confederate infantrymen were paid eleven dollars per month, cavalrymen were paid forty cents per day, or thirteen dollars a month; the two extra dollars could be used to provide for their horses. The men were also given horseshoes when they were available. If a horse was killed in the line of duty, the government compensated the trooper for his loss. But if the horse was captured, disabled, or lost, the trooper was not paid anything. In either case, the cavalryman was required to replace the mount himself. This could be a difficult task, as by the end of 1863, horses in the South were selling for $2,000 to $3,000 each.18

While on furlough to find a horse, a trooper was considered to be on “horse detail.”19 Horseless soldiers were said to belong to Company Q, a nonexistent company composed “not only of good soldiers, but no-goods, malingerers, and inefficients as well.”20 Blackford wrote about a flaw of this arrangement: “We now felt the bad effects of our system of requiring the men to furnish their own horses. The most dashing trooper was the one whose horse was the most apt to be shot, and when this man was unable to remount himself, he had to go to the infantry service and was lost to the cavalry. Such a penalty for gallantry was terribly demoralizing.”21

When soldiers were riding Shanks’ Mare, it meant that they were on foot. This was the most common means of transportation used for getting home after the war. “You place your feet on the ground and move,” one Tennessean described. “Walk in the direction you are going. You are now riding Shanks’ Mare.”22

https://www.amazon.com/Horses-Gray-Famous-Confederate-Warhorses/dp/145562327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524634560&sr=8-1&keywords=horses+in+gray

New Review for Horses in Gray

Horses in Gray Cover

I received a very flattering review for my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray. Thank you so much, Mr. Greg Seeley, for your wonderful five-star review!

Horses in Gray – A Gem Not to be Missed

J.D.R. Hawkins’ latest work is like a rare gem – something that doesn’t come along often but to be prized when discovered. The work’s rarity derives from its unique subject matter, its detailed research, and its reader-friendly storytelling.

Notable throughout the entire book is Hawkins’ reverence and passion for horses. She covers in this book a subject I have never before seen in my readings of the American Civil War. Many stories have been told, some true and some not-so-much, of the exploits of Civil War generals. Largely forgotten, except in a few obscure cases, have been the exploits of the horses who made their heroics possible.

Horses in Gray is so well documented that it could easily pass as a Master’s Degree thesis. However, the author never lets the documentation get in the way of providing a fascinating read. One becomes keenly aware of the strong bond between horse and rider that is never weakened by long marches, harsh weather, or the noise of battle. She presents the horses as loyal servants with personalities as unique and varied as those of the men who rode them, and the masters as caring owners who treat them as faithful companions, not mere tools of battle.

Interwoven into the stories of the Confederate war horses and their riders are insightful vignettes of the actions they shared. Some of the actions were major ones such as the battles of Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Pittsburgh Landing, others largely forgotten except among military scholars and Civil War buffs – notably raids by John Mosby and Turner Ashby. As a student of the war, I was never before aware of the extent to which horses “changed sides” as the result of being captured or that General Grant, himself, rode a captured horse named Jeff Davis.

The author of Civil War novels such as A Beckoning Hellfire and A Rebel Among Us does not disappoint with her foray into non-fiction. If you consider yourself even a casual student of the Civil War, or if you are a more serious scholar, Horses in Gray is a must read.  I rate it five stars and look forward to more of Hawkins’ work.

Greg Seeley – Goodreads author, Henry’s Pride.

Civil War Gold Found?

I’m always fascinated to learn about long-lost items from the Civil War that have been discovered. When I lived in Mississippi, it was fun to see what some of my WBTS enthusiast friends found with their metal detectors – from coins to belt buckles to buttons. The most interesting find was a Confederate sabre that a friend found buried on his farm. There are lots of theories about what happened to the Confederate gold, and now, some say they have found Union gold. I hope you find this article as fascinating as I do!

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RUMORED SITE OF $55M IN CIVIL WAR-ERA GOLD DRAWS FBI’S ATTENTION, REPORTS SAY

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President Abraham Lincoln reportedly ordered the shipment to help pay Union Army soldiers, Dennis Parada, owner of local treasure-hunting group Finders Keepers, told WJAC-TV.

“I’m not going to quit until it’s dug up,” Parada told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and if I die, my kid’s going to be around and make sure it’s going to be dug up.

Dozens of FBI agents, Pennsylvania state officials and members of a treasure-hunting group dug in a remote Pennsylvania site earlier this week, on rumors of Civil War-era gold being buried there.

A 155-year-old legend has it that a Civil War-era gold shipment bound for a U.S. Mint in Philadelphia was either lost or hidden northeast of Pittsburgh around the time of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

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“There’s something in there and I’m not giving up.”

Based on different stories, the shipment was composed of either 26 or 52 gold bars, each weighing 50 pounds, meaning it would be worth $27 million to $55 million today.

Local lore that the federal gold might be buried at the Dents Run site in Benezette Township, Pa., about 135 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, caught the FBI’s attention.

So earlier this week agents from the bureau and officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) set up a search area off Route 555, the Courier-Express reported.

The site is west of Driftwood, where a crew delivering the gold was attacked in an ambush, lone survivor Sgt. Jim Connors reportedly told his Army superiors at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. But the Army reportedly doubted his story and Connors died in a “western outpost,” leaving the loot unfound. 

This week the FBI wouldn’t say why it was at the site, revealing only that it was conducting “court-authorized law enforcement activity.”

Historians have cast doubt that the shipment of gold was lost on its way to Philadelphia. Finders Keepers also said Pennsylvania’s Historical and Museum Commission claims the legend of the lost gold is a myth, the Inquirer reported.

But the lost treasure recovery group has insisted for years that it discovered buried gold in a state forest at Dents Run (within the township) using a high-powered metal detector, but federal law wouldn’t allow it to conduct a dig in search of more, the Courier-Express reported.

A spokesman from the Pennsylvania DCNR said that the group previously asked to excavate the site, but elected not to pay a required $15,000 bond.

The spokesman also referred questions on Tuesday’s activity to the FBI, and Parada said he was under FBI orders not to discuss the site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/rumored-site-of-dollar55m-in-civil-war-era-gold-draws-fbis-attention-reports-say/ar-BBKk5dO?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

(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 42, Issue No. 4, April 2018)

      

The University Greys

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Following South Carolina’s secession from the Union, Mississippi seceded on January 9, 1861. Fervor about the impending war grew, with most thinking it would be little more than a skirmish that would last no more than ninety days. (If only they had been right.) Young men across the South gathered in preparation and formed militia-type military units. Once Ft. Sumter was fired upon in April, newly-elected President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to serve as “the militia of the several States of the Union…in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.” His actions only spurned more aggression, and Southerners felt they were left with no choice but to retaliate.

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On May 4, 1861, male students attending the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), as well as many professors, joined the fight. Known as the University Greys, 135 young men enlisted in the Confederate Army as Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. This was nearly all of the student body. In fact, only four students showed up for class the following fall, so the University closed for a time.

The University Greys fought in nearly every engagement of the Civil War, and participated in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, where they sustained a 100% casualty rate, in that everyone was either killed or wounded. Following Gettysburg, what was left of the University Grays merged with Company G, the Lamar Rifles, and fought until the end of the war.

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A special cemetery was set aside on campus for the fallen University Greys. Each grave was designated by a wooden marker. However, according to local legend, one day, a groundskeeper decided it would be easier to mow the grass if he removed all the markers. Unfortunately, once he was done with his chore, he couldn’t remember where the markers were supposed to go, so he stored them in a shed, where they were kept for years.

Although no one knows exactly where each soldier is buried, a large monument designates the sacred area and speaks of the sacrifices these admirable young men suffered. Every May, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other historical groups gather to pay their respects for the University Greys by holding a special service in honor of them.

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It’s a shame Ole Miss is consistent in forgetting how its students fought for what they deemed a worthy cause at the time. In recent years, the university has done away with its mascot, Colonel Reb, and has refused to fly the state flag. They have discussed removal of statues on campus as well as changing various street names honoring their brave warriors. Political correctness has taken precedence over historical remembrance. I certainly hope Ole Miss retains some of its amazing artwork, instead of caving in to political correctness and to those who wrongly deem all Confederate images as racist.

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https://civilwartalk.com/threads/memorial-window-to-the-university-grays-co-a-11th-mississippi.91879/

The Hunt for Confederate Gold

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Myths surround what happened to the Confederate gold. After President Jefferson Davis fled Richmond at the end of the Civil War, the gold from the Confederate capital’s treasury disappeared. Some say it was buried somewhere in Georgia, where Davis was captured. Others say it was distributed throughout various southern states and is still being guarded by descendants today. And a third theory is that Michigan cavalry, who captured Davis, took the gold and hid it in a boxcar sunk at the bottom of Lake Erie. All of these hypotheses are interesting, to say the least.

Now the History Channel has been attracted to the century-old mystery. Here is an article about the History Channel’s coverage regarding the missing Confederate gold.

History Channel exploring Confederate Gold in Michigan

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A theory involving Confederate Gold and Muskegon’s most well-known philanthropist might be featured on The History Channel.

A television crew visited the Hackley Administration Building on Oct. 27, under the guise of interest in its bell tower’s architecture.

“We had The History Channel here,” said John Snyder, Muskegon Public Schools facilities and transportation supervisor, at a committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 14. “It had to do with Charles Hackley and the Masons and Confederate Gold.”

The visit wasn’t what he was expecting, but was “interesting,” he said. Snyder was told the show would air during April.

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“I thought it was about the historical architecture and the clock tower,” Snyder said in a follow-up email. “They tied it into Confederate gold, the Masonic Temple masons (and) how Hackley was getting richer while other lumbermen were losing money. A lot tied in with a previous MLive article about Hackley Park looking like a Confederate flag/bible.”

The theory is that Charles Hackley paid tribute to the Confederacy with park’s layout.

Prometheus Studios of Los Angeles emailed MLive on Dec. 6 to ask permission to use content from a series of stories on the theory that were published in March.

Programs produced by Prometheus Studios include “Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color” and “America’s Book of Secrets,” according to its website. It’s clients include The History Channel and H2.

Associate Producer Rick George did not immediately return a call for comment.

Dykstra – one of two researchers behind the Muskegon-Confederate Gold theory – couldn’t say much.

“That grew some very long legs – very long legs,” he said of MLive’s coverage of his theory. “It got the interest in moving things along. … There’s an exciting project going on.”

Dykstra and research partner Brad Richards theorize that Hackley was part of a plot to hide and transport the Confederate Treasury – $10 million-worth of gold and silver – from Irwinville, Ga., to Muskegon, Mich., after the Union Army’s Michigan 4th Cavalry captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1865.

They further theorize that Hackley used his share of the take to donate numerous buildings and endowments to the Muskegon community, including Hackley Park, Hackley Administration Building, Hackley Public Library, Hackley Art Gallery and Hackley Hospital.

“It’s farfetched,” said Annoesjka Soler, executive director of the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon in a previous interview after hearing Dykstra and Richards present their theory.

“We don’t feel there are a lot of facts in there cited from primary literature,” she said. “They’re going to have fun with it … I’m sure it will bring up a lot of interest. It’s very speculative, a lot of conjecture tying a lot of loose pieces together.”

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Many historians have called the theory into question, especially because they say it was disproven that Davis had the treasury with him when he was captured.

(Courtesy Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Dec. 29, 2017 ed.)

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you a very happy New Year. May all your hopes and dreams come true in 2018.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. It is New Year’s Eve, 1863, and the antagonist, David, finds himself in a predicament he never could have imagined. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the past.

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That evening, the family and their friends gathered in the parlor for a New Year’s Eve celebration, but David kept to a corner, avoiding the others. Anna had given him some wine, so he sat alone, contentedly sipping, and gazed at the two Currier and Ives paintings. Claudia and Abigail amused themselves with their stereographs and the carousels he had made for them. Anna and Maggie talked happily while Sarah and Grace conversed in the opposite corner. At midnight, they all gathered in the center of the room. Anna stood close to him as the mantle clock chimed twelve times.

“Happy New Year!” the ladies exclaimed, raising their glasses.

They clanked their crystals together, and everyone took a sip of wine. David glanced over at the doorway where a strand of mistletoe had been hung. He wished he was standing beneath it with Anna, so he would have an excuse to kiss her. Claudia and Abigail went around the room hugging everyone before they went up to bed. Once David had finished his glass, he excused himself and retired to his room.

He lit the fire, undressed, heated a bed warmer in the embers of the fireplace, and set it on the bed. While he waited for it to warm the flannel sheets, he checked on his Colt .44 and saw that it was just as he’d left it. Returning the warmer to its place near the hearth, he climbed into bed and shivered slightly, his breath barely visible in the firelight.

Closing his eyes, he thought of everything that had taken place the previous year: how he had traveled to Virginia and fought with so many fearless commanders and comrades, and how he had lost Jake and had ended up at the Brady farm. His mind wandered to home. He wondered how his mother and sisters were getting along and whether the Yankees had taken over their land. He hoped 1864 would see an end to the terrible war, but he also wished the South would be triumphant somehow. He thought of his hospitable hostesses and how they had saved him: Miss Maggie, who obviously loathed him; Miss Sarah, who tolerated him; and Anna, lovely Anna. If the war ended, she might be interested in him for some other reason than to provide her with an alibi. It seemed the only people who really liked him for who he was were the two little girls.

Thank God for their innocence, he thought.

His mind drifted back to Anna and her amazing smile. What this year held in store for them, he hadn’t a clue. Perhaps he would be able to return to Alabama soon, after all. It would be a welcome escape from the predicament he now found himself in. Anna was too close, too personal. He knew he was falling further with each passing day. His portentous, precarious situation reminded him of soldiers he’d seen walking enemy lines. He knew sparks could never fly between the two of them. It was the worst forbidden, foreboding situation he could have ever imagined. His affections toward her might potentially place Anna in horrific danger. The Yankees could blame her for treason. She would stand to lose her farm, or even worse, her life. Where would that leave her younger sisters? Guilt washed over him. He couldn’t restrain his feelings, yet he knew he had to. His only choice was to submit to his present condition: the most challenging, heart-wrenching situation he had yet to endure. He knew his family missed him and Callie needed him, but in his heart he wasn’t ready to go home.

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