J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Sioux Falls”

The Hunt for the Irish Connection

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Writing has helped me make some fascinating discoveries over the years. Because I write historical fiction, I have learned to extensively research my topics before delving into a manuscript. Finding little known facts has given me an interest in researching various subjects. My passion lies with the Victorian Era, but I also love writing about the Roaring 20’s and Prohibition, as well as other aspects of American history like the 1960’s and 70’s.

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Through my research, I have uncovered some interesting things. For instance, I apparently have distant relatives living in Alabama that I never knew about. This tidbit would never have come to my attention if I hadn’t been doing research for one of my novels. I also discovered some of my husband’s long lost relatives who lived in Virginia near Chancellorsville. This came to my attention after conducting research for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

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Now I am on the hunt for my Irish roots. After moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, two years ago, I learned that my great grandfather lived here once he divorced my great grandmother. I looked through old city and county records, and found out his exact date of birth, death, and the name of his daughter, who would have been my great step aunt. I even learned why his body was sent to Tucson, Arizona. After more research, I learned the names of his siblings and his parents. Now I just have to find out where in Tipperary, Ireland, they came from and which port of entry they came through. I’m hoping that the New Year will provide me with unanswered questions and help me find my Irish connection.

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Homestead Day Harvest Festival

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The Blue and the Gray united once again at the annual Homestead Day Harvest Festival, which was held last Saturday at the Beaver Creek Nature Area near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Union and Confederate soldiers were on hand to demonstrate living history, reenact camp life, and teach new recruits the art of handling rifles.

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The event is held every year and attracts thousands. Besides Civil War reenactors, gunslingers were there to show spectators how to effectively draw a pistol in a gunfight. There were also displays of pioneer life, including candle making, chair caning, blacksmithing, butter churning, panning for gold, wagon rides, wood carving, rope making, spinning, weaving, shucking corn, and hoeing a field with the use of horse-drawn plows. Music was provided by SD Old Time Fiddlers. There was even a snake oil salesman!

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Little Rebels and Yankees had fun aiming and firing their weapons, and the soldiers had fun teasing them by firing black powder and making the kids jump! Although not many reenactors were there, it was still a fun-filled, educational event.

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(Greg Olsen, Union, and Kevin Gansz, Confederate)

The War against the Flag Rages On (But You Can Win!)

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Since I posted on my blog last week, numerous developments have occurred in regard to the desecration of the Confederate battle flag. Not only have several big box stores vowed to discontinue sales, but Apple has taken down some of their games as well. Since then, sales of the Confederate battle flag have doubled. TV Land has stopped showing The Dukes of Hazzard, and rumor has it that Facebook will not allow postings of the Confederate battle flag (we’ll see if this gets posted).

NASCAR C.E.O. Brian France said that the flag is an “offensive and divisive symbol.” However, he somewhat changed his stance. Instead of banning the flag from races, he has offered a flag exchange, and is asking that spectators fly the Stars and Stripes instead of the Confederate battle flag this weekend in honor of Independence Day.

Ft. Sumpter has furled its Confederate battle flags, and all Confederate flags are being removed from the entrance to Stone Mountain. Some nut is even circulating a petition to have Stone Mountain blown up.

Baltimore’s mayor and city council have taken up a proposal to remove three Confederate monuments in the city. And Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton wants something even worse. He has announced a proposal to have the bodies of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife exhumed from Forrest Park (recently renamed Health Sciences Park by Wharton and the city council), and moved to Elmwood Cemetery. He would also like for the statue of General Forrest to be removed from the park. There is no word as to where the city would move it, or if they plan on moving the body of General Forrest’s grandson, who is also buried at the park. Absurdity reigns.

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The Ku Klux Klan has stated that they will march in South Carolina later this month to protest the removal of the Confederate battle flag. In my opinion, this is derogatory to the cause. Because of them and their racist views, the Confederate battle flag has been associated with them. However, most of us know this is not the case.

It’s bad representation like this that gives fuel to the fire of anti-Confederate nonsense. In a recent poll taken by USA TODAY/Suffolk University, the country is split on whether or not to do away with the flag. According to the poll, 42% believe it represents Southern history and heritage, while 42% believe the flag is racist and should be removed. More than half of whites who were polled believe the assault in South Carolina was an isolated incident committed by one lone gunman, and one-third say “it reflects a larger problem of racism in America.” However, among African Americans, three out of four say the battle flag reflects racism.

I would say that hypersensitivity is part of the problem. Why is it that three-fourths of blacks view the flag as racist? I’m sure part of the reason is because of the way the flag, and white Southerners in general, are portrayed by the media. Here in Sioux Falls, a local television station broadcast this story:

“A Sioux Falls couple feuding with their neighbors is flying the Confederate flag, hoping to offend people they don’t like who live close by. What would you think if this was your neighbor?”

Really? I find the wording to be offensive and misleading. We don’t know what their feud is about, or if there even is a feud. Is that really why they are flying the flag, or are they just proud to be from the South? Who knows, but in this case, it’s bad reporting. The cartoon below, which recently appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, is also very offensive. Associating the Confederate battle flag with ISIS is horrendous, to say the least.

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So what happens now? Will the flag continue to vanish, whether we like it or not? Why don’t we get a say in the matter? Why haven’t these issues been put to a vote? And what will this lead to? Will all books with the flag on the cover, historical or otherwise, be banned? Will all movies be banned as well? Gone with the Wind is already under scrutiny, and you can forget about ever seeing The Birth of a Nation on TNT again.

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In honor of the Confederate battle flag and those who fought under it, I am running a contest throughout the month of July. Please send an email to jdrhawkins@gmail.com stating what the flag means to you, and you will be entered to win both of the first two books in the Renegade Series – A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire. It’s my intention to show the Confederate flag in a positive light and educate people about the Southern cause, so please help spread the word.

Sioux Falls and the Civil War

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Last week, my husband and I attended a presentation hosted by the Minnehaha County Historical Society in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The program was held at the Old Courthouse Museum, and discussed “Civil War Veterans of Minnehaha County.” All of these veterans fought for the Union, and most were from the Midwest. Twenty veterans were highlighted, and most were founding fathers of Sioux Falls.

Bill Hoskins, director of the Siouxland Heritage Museums and a member of the 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment, Company D, was the speaker. According to Mr. Hoskins, there are 347 documented veterans of the Civil War who are buried in 18 cemeteries in the county. Five percent were held as prisoners of war in Andersonville, Georgia, Camp Floyd, Texas, and Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. There are only 55 Confederate soldiers who are buried in the Dakotas.

Over the course of the war, the Union army grew from 10,000 soldiers to over one million. Some were mustered out in the summer of 1866 in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. After the war, many veterans participated in westward expansion through the Homestead Act. According to Mr. Hoskins, ex-Confederates were not allowed to participate. Many Confederates who were held captive at Rock Island Prison Camp in Illinois stayed in the Dakotas to fight Indians after they took the oath.

Fort Dakota was built on the banks of the Big Sioux River in June, 1865, where Sioux Falls is now. Two hundred and twenty-one men were members of the G.A.R. in Minnehaha County, and seventy percent were farmers. Some had various professions at the same time, such as doctors and fire chiefs. They promoted veterans’ affairs, and many were members of the Mason’s. These men helped shape South Dakota into what it is today.

Festival of Books

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Last weekend, I had the distinct honor of meeting renowned author Kate DiCamillo. Kate has written such best-selling children’s books as “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux,” and most recently, “Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.” She is a Newberry Medal winner, and some of her books have been made into movies.

While she was visiting Sioux Falls for the Festival of Books, I met her at a book signing, and I have yet to meet a nicer person. It was obvious that she loves her craft, as well as the kids she writes for. Kate didn’t hesitate to answer everyone’s questions, including the one my husband posed. “How do you deal with rejection?” Her response was that you never get used to it, but you have to persevere.

The state of South Dakota holds the Festival of Books every year. Next year, it will be held in Deadwood. I’m hoping I can participate then, since I will have a new book out about the Civil War, and the Confederacy in particular. Please stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, support your local authors!

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