J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “J.E.B. Stuart”

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 5)

Laura Ratcliffe

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If it wasn’t for Laura Ratcliffe, Colonel John Mosby, the infamous “Grey Ghost,” might have been captured by the Yankees. Not only did she aid Mosby in his mission to serve the Confederacy as a Partisan Ranger, but she also provided valuable information to Confederate cavalry commander Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart. 

Laura Ratcliffe was born on May 28, 1836 in Fairfax City, Virginia. Her parents were Francis Fitzhugh and Ann McCarty (Lee) Ratcliffe. Laura was a distant cousin to General Robert E. Lee on her mother’s side. When her father died, she moved with her mother and two sisters to Frying Pan (now Herndon) in Fairfax County, just south of Washington D.C. Once the Civil War broke out, the area bore witness to numerous raids and encampments from both sides. 

Laura and one of her sisters volunteered to serve as nurses. During the winter of 1861, while they were assisting wounded soldiers, Laura met General J.E.B. (James Ewell Brown) Stuart, and the two became friends.  He wrote several personal letters and four poems to her, imploring her to continue with her espionage. In return, she provided him and fellow cavalryman Colonel John Singleton Mosby with valuable information concerning Union troop activity in the county. 

A year later, Stuart led his cavalry on several raids in the area, and he visited Laura at her home many times. While at the Ratcliffe home, Mosby asked if he could remain there and continue operations instead of going into winter quarters. Stuart consented, and departed the area. Mosby and nine other soldiers from the 1st Virginia Cavalry continued to use the Ratcliffe home as their headquarters. Oftentimes, Mosby met Laura at a large rock near the top of Squirrel Hill to exchange information. Following one particularly lucrative raid, he requested that Laura keep the Federal greenbacks he had confiscated for safekeeping, so she stashed them beneath the rock. 

In February 1863, Mosby captured several Federal soldiers, and returned their plunder to local citizens. Laura discovered that the Yankees had set a trap for Mosby, so she warned him of the intended ambush. Because of her valuable information, Mosby avoided arrest and captured a sutler’s wagon.   

Captain Willard Glazer with the 2nd New York Cavalry complained that Laura “is a very active and cunning rebel, who is known to our men, and is at least suspected of assisting Mosby not a little in his movements … by the means of Miss Ratcliffe and her rebellious sisterhood, Mosby is generally informed.”  

In March, Mosby managed to capture Union Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton by surprising him in his sleep. Arriving in the general’s room, Mosby asked him, “Do you know Mosby?” 

“Yes,” replied the general. “Have you captured the devil?” 

“No,” Mosby responded. “The devil has caught you.” 

Mosby captured the general, two of his captains, and 58 horses without firing a single shot. When President Abraham Lincoln heard of the event, he reportedly said that generals are replaceable, but he deeply regretted the loss of so many good horses. 

Although it was obvious to the Federals that Laura’s house was being used for Confederate headquarters, she was never arrested or tried for any crime. After the war ended, she lived with her mother in an old farmhouse named “Merrybrook.” In 1890, Laura, who was now 54 years old and destitute, married a neighbor, Union veteran Milton Hanna. She became wealthy because of it, but her husband died in an accident seven years later. 

Laura was a very private person, and never sought or received recognition for her courageous contributions to the Confederacy. Instead, she directed her attentions to the poor and unfortunate. In 1914, she fell and presumably broke her hip, but because she refused to receive medical treatment from a male doctor, the diagnosis was never verified. However, the accident left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Before her death at age 87 on August 8, 1923, she requested that “a neat grey granite stone” be placed at her gravesite with the names of Ratcliffe, Coleman, and Hanna carved into them. In 2007, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Laura Ratcliffe Branch, erected such a marker.  

Merrybrook is now under direct threat. The current owners are striving to have the home preserved, but development is encroaching. The rock where Laura and Colonel Mosby exchanged information still exists, and a monument on the country highway nearby has been erected with an inscription that reads: 

This large boulder, located just south of here, served as an important landmark during the Civil War, when Col. John S. Mosby’s Partisan Rangers (43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) assembled there to raid Union outposts, communications, and supply lines. Laura Ratcliffe, a young woman who lived nearby and spied for Mosby, concealed money and messages for him under the rock. Mosby credited her with saving him from certain capture by Federal cavalry on one occasion. She also was a friend of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. 

Among the items discovered in her effects after her death was a gold-embossed brown leather album, which contained several poems, as well as the signatures of General J.E.B. Stuart, Colonel Mosby, and Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee, son of Robert E. Lee. A gold watch chain belonging to Stuart was also found with her possessions. 

For more information, and to learn how you can help with preservation, please visit:  

www.lauraratcliffe.org. 

 

 

 

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The Battle of Gaines Mill

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On this date in 1862, the Battle of Gaines Mill took place in Hanover County, Virginia. The battle was also known as the First Battle of Cold Harbor and the Battle of Chickahominy River. It was the third battle in the Seven Days Battles, and the first major victory for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. His pre-war reputation was stellar, but after losing the Battle of Cheat Mountain in 1861, some were unsure whether he could take the place of Joseph E. Johnston, who had been the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia until he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862.

During the Battle of Gaines Mill, the Confederates unusually outnumbered the Federals. Lee led an attack with over 32,000 soldiers at 7 p.m., and this charge is considered to be the biggest assault by the Confederates during the entire war. Union Brig. Gen. Phillip St. George Cooke counter attacked, but the result did little to affect the outcome. Once it was over, the Battle of Gaines Mill was the second bloodiest day of battle in American history.

General Cooke was the father-in-law of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, who led the Confederate cavalry. When Stuart learned that Cooke had decided to stay true to the Union, he said, “He will regret it only once, and that will be continually.”

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Both Confederate and Union troops flew hot air balloons over the battle. This was significant, because it was the first time observation balloons from both sides flew at the same time. The balloons were used for reconnaissance and spotting artillery. Union balloons stationed at the Gaines’ Farm were able to observe what was going on in downtown Richmond, which was only about seven miles away. The largest balloons, such as the Intrepid (pictured below) could carry five people in its basket and held 32,000 cubic feet of lifting gas.

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Read more about the battle in my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Civil/dp/1469771748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466993220&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Beautiful+Glittering+Lie

J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News!

With all the attacks on anything related to the Confederacy, there are some things that are still being held intact. The following letter describes one of these instances. Although J.E.B. Stuart’s birthday anniversary was last week, I just received this letter, and I think it’s a wonderful victory. What do you think?

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JEB Stuart Portrait Returns to Display in Patrick County Building
Shortly after Patrick County Judge Martin Clark committed the disgraceful  act of having a portrait of Patrick County native and Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart removed from the Patrick County Courthouse, and following a swift and very vocal outcry of disgust with Judge Clark’s action by her citizens,  the Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted  to display the portrait on the “Wall of Honor” on the second floor of the Patrick Veterans Memorial Building. The portrait has been restored and encased in special glass, and a new bronze plaque has been installed.
Tomorrow, Thursday, May 12th, the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust will host an official and public unveiling of the portrait, on the anniversary of his death.  The ceremony will take place at 10:0 a.m. and will include Patrick County and town of Stuart officials, Stuart family members, and JEB Stuart re-enactor Wayne Jones, who organized and led a rally to protest the removal on the Courthouse steps shortly after the portrait was removed, and who will be a guest speaker at the event.
The ceremony is open to the public. The Patrick Veterans Memorial Building is at at 106 Rucker St. in Stuart, Virginia.
In this case, the PC attempt by Judge Clark to remove a beloved hero and Patrick County son from public view failed miserably, and has led to the portrait being restored and put on display in another public building where it can be seen by even more citizens.
Please take a moment to thank the members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors for their efforts in having the portrait installed on the Wall of Honor, and their courage in going against the popular trend to dishonor our veterans.
Contact info here:  http://www.co.patrick.va.us/county-supervisors
God bless the memory of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and God Save the South!
Virginia Flaggers
(Courtesy of Southern Heritage News & Views, May 16, 2016 ed.)

A Battlefield Victory

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It’s always amazing when something like this happens. A few days ago, I received an email from the Civil War Trust, stating that they had secured 10 acres of the battlefield at Brandy Station. The area is known as Fleetwood Hill, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart had his headquarters before the surprise battle took place.

The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to take place on North American soil. It happened on June 9, 1863, following  a Grand Review by Stuart’s troops. Union General Gregg saw the dust that was stirred up and surprised the Confederates early the following morning. The Rebels managed to reign the day and fulfill their mission, which was to mask General Robert E. Lee’s infantry as they made their way north. Brandy Station was a prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg.

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Last year, the CWT secured 56 acres of the battlefield. This is significant, because housing developments had been encroaching on the area for years. It doesn’t make sense how this could have been allowed to happen, since it is hallowed ground in my opinion, but it isn’t the only Civil War battlefield that has been neglected or destroyed. The CWT has now secured over 1,900 acres at Brandy Station.

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Other significant battlefields that the CWT has been working on include Antietam and Gettysburg. A few years ago, I visited the Wilderness Battlefield, and was appalled to see how many houses were built on the hallowed site. Hopefully, the CWT can secure more land in that area as well.

Read more about the Battle of Brandy Station in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462942766&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

Battle of Brandy Station

Today marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil, and yet, it is obscure in that most people have never heard of it. The battle was a confrontation between Confederate cavalry commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart, and Union cavalry under General David Gregg. It was considered a Confederate victory, even though it was more like a draw, and the Rebels were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the battle. For more information, please read my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

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

For more information, visit:

http://brandystationfoundation.com/

Colorado Desperados (Part 2) – The Two Texas Jacks

As a matter of coincidence, two interesting characters of the Old West were nicknamed “Texas Jack.” They might have even crossed paths during the Civil War. Both were from Virginia, and both fought under General J.E.B. Stuart.

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Texas Jack Vermillion

When John Wilson Vermillion (1842–1911) was asked why he was called “Texas Jack,” he said, “Because I’m from Virginia.” Jack was born in Russell County. He served in the Civil War, and fought for the Confederacy under J.E.B. Stuart. In 1865, he married an Indiana girl. They moved to Missouri, where he accepted a position as a territorial marshal. His wife, young son, and daughter all died in a diphtheria epidemic while Jack was away.

Jack floated around the country, first to Dodge City, Kansas in the late 1870’s, and then to Tombstone, Arizona. He became friends with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. On March 21, 1882, he participated in the Vendetta Posse that chased after members of the Cowboys following the death of Frank Stilwell.

In 1882, he was back in Dodge City, where he killed a card cheat. Between 1883 and 1889, he acquired the nickname “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack” Vermillion. In 1888, he joined the Soapy Smith gang in Denver, Colorado. He was involved in a train depot shootout in Pocatello, Idaho in August, 1889. Around 1890, Jack returned to Virginia, remarried, and had another son and daughter.

There is confusion as to how Jack died. One source says he drowned in a lake near Chicago, but another says he died peacefully in his sleep. Family history records indicate that he killed a man in a shootout in 1890, and that he lived until 1911.

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Texas Jack Omohoudro                                                                                                   

John Baker Omohoudro (July 26, 1846 – June 28, 1880) had a completely different, but just as fascinating, story. He was also born in Virginia (near Palmyra). In his early teens, he traveled to Texas and became a cowboy. When the Civil War broke out, he was unable to join the Confederate Army because he was too young, so he enlisted as a courier and scout. Ironically, in 1864, he also enlisted under J.E.B. Stuart, and served as a courier and scout.

After the war, Jack returned to Texas and resumed his life as a cowboy. He participated in the Chisholm Trail cattle drive, among others. It was during one of these drives that he acquired the nickname “Texas Jack.” He adopted a five-year-old boy whose parents had been killed by Indians, and named him Texas Jack Jr.

In 1869, Jack moved to Cottonwood Springs, Nebraska. It was there that he met William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The two participated in buffalo hunts and Indian skirmishes. They also acted as guides, and in 1872, Jack led a highly publicized royal hunt for the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia. In December, 1872, Cody and Jack went to Chicago, where they premiered their show The Scouts of the Prairie. This was the very first Wild West show, and Jack was the first person to demonstrate roping techniques on the American Stage. During the 1873-74 season, Jack and Cody invited their friend, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, to join them in a stage presentation titled The Scouts of the Plains.

When he wasn’t performing, Jack spent his time hunting on the Great Plains, and guided hunting parties for political figures and European nobility. In August, 1873, he married one of his co-stars, Giuseppina Morlacchi, from Italy. In 1877, he headed his own acting troupe in St. Louis. He also wrote articles for eastern newspapers and popular magazines, describing his adventures as a hunter and scout. His legend grew and was popularized in dime novels. In 1900, Jack was featured in a fictional series about the Confederacy, which was published in the Saturday Evening Post. Jack died of pneumonia in 1880. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville, Colorado.

His son, Texas Jack Jr., carried on his father’s legacy by appearing in Wild West shows around the world. In 1980, the Texas Jack Association was established to promote and preserve his memory, and in 1994, he was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in the Hall of Great Western Performers.

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(Ned Buntline, Buffalo Bill Cody, Giuseppina Morlacchi, Texas Jack Omohundro)

Gettysburg 150th (continued)

Here are some more pictures I took while in Gettysburg for the 150th. Hope you enjoy them!

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Photo 1 – Ready to face the Union army

Photo 2 – Confederate camp

Photo 3 – General J.E.B. Stuart wields his sword

Photo 4 – Confederate artillery

Photo 5 – Confederate infantrymen ready to fight for the cause

Gettysburg 150th

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(J.E.B. Stuart posing with one of my books)

My trip to Gettysburg was amazing! I met so many great people there during the course of four days, including other authors, local celebrities, and reenactors. From what I was told, the event drew over 300,000 people. The battles were awesome, and the dance on Saturday night was so much fun!

While in the author’s tent, I met Jeff Shaara, as well as Dan Nance, whose painting is featured on the cover of one of my books. I also met Abraham Lincoln, General Robert E. Lee, General Custer, and General J.E.B. Stuart!

While at the reenactment, I obtained enough footage to make a book trailer or two for my Renegade Series. Thanks to everyone for your continued support! Because of you, I sold out of books and received numerous orders. The event was a huge success!

The Cavalry to the Rescue!

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the largest, most famous cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil, which happened during the War Between the States at Brandy Station, Virginia in 1863. The flamboyant J.E.B. Stuart and his boys were confronted by the enemy in a surprise attack. After clashing, capturing several Union guns, and chasing their adversaries off, the Rebels came out victorious, although they were greatly surprised and outnumbered. This event lead up to the great battle of Gettysburg. In my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, I discuss the Battle of Brandy Station at length, and explain the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

 

Another cavalry battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered (as usual) his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since, and was used by the German’s during WWII.

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