J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “soldier”

Life is Short

Over the past week, I have been faced with a personal situation that has left me thinking about my own mortality and about how fragile life is. Since I am a Civil War author, I have read and written about death a lot, and have incorporated many soldiers’ journal entries into my writing.

Here is an example from my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray, of one faithful steed who served during the Civil War. Roderick was a war hero who gave his life for his beloved commander, General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Horses in Gray Cover

On the morning of March 5, Union general John Coburn’s troops approached Confederate forces stationed near Thompson’s Station, a small train depot nine miles south of Franklin, Tennessee. Skirmishing continued all day. At 10:00 a.m. the following morning, Confederate guns announced the opening of the battle. Coburn ordered a charge, but the Confederates drove them back.

            Forrest led a frontal attack while mounted on his favorite war horse, Roderick. The dark chestnut Saddler had a reputation among Forrest’s men as being an unusually loyal horse and reportedly had often trotted after Forrest in camp like a hunting dog.27 Roderick even tried to come into Forrest’s tent on occasion.

The devoted steed was hit three times by enemy fire, but despite his suffering he valiantly struggled forward. Realizing the severity of Roderick’s wounds, Forrest rode to the rear. He handed Roderick over to Willie before returning to the front on a fresh mount.

Roderick was attracted to the sounds of battle. He broke away and galloped across the battlefield in search of Forrest. The brave war horse leapt three fences on his way. Just before reaching Forrest, he received his fourth and fatal wound. He died at Forrest’s side.

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With tears streaming down his cheeks, Forrest left Roderick and returned to the battle. Roderick was buried not far from where he fell, near the small Buford family plot, although the exact location of his grave was never marked.28

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The Slaves of General Forrest

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There has been a lot of controversery surrounding General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Some say he started the Ku Klux Klan, which is untrue. In fact, General Forrest called for the KKK to disband after the group became too violent. Another false assumption is that he was a cruel slave owner. He was a product of his time, and although he owned slaves, he never abused them or split up families. In fact, his slaves adored him so much that they fought with him during the Civil War. They even stayed with him after the war and mourned his death. General Forrest strived to bring the races together after the war ended.

Here a few excerpts from my book, Horses in Gray, which describe how General Forrest treated his slaves.

Horses in Gray Cover

Chapter 4

The Thirty Horses of Forrest

 

Those hoof beats die not upon fame’s crimson sod,

But will ring through her song and her story;

He fought like a Titan and struck like a god,

And his dust is our ashes of glory.1

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest often stated that he was “a horse ahead”2 at the end, meaning that he had thirty horses shot out from under him and killed twenty-nine men during the course of the war. It is virtually impossible to trace all thirty horses, since at times Forrest appropriated a horse on the spot. On one occasion, he ordered a Union officer to dismount, got on the officer’s horse, and rode away.

On June 14, 1861, Forrest, who had remained silent on the issue of secession, walked into the headquarters of Capt. Josiah White’s Tennessee Mounted Rifles and enlisted as a private. His brother, Jeffrey, and son, Willie, enlisted with him. The Forrests were ordered to Camp Yellow Jacket, a training camp sixty-five miles north of Memphis. These troopers in training would become the famous Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, which fought until the end of the war under Forrest’s leadership.

John Milton Hubbard was a private in Hardeman’s Avengers, which would later be attached to the Seventh Tennessee Cavalry. He was stationed at Camp Yellow Jacket and remembered meeting Forrest: “Two cavalry companies from Memphis were in camp near us—Logwood’s and White’s. In riding near these one day, I met a soldier speeding a magnificent black horse along a country road as if for exercise and the pleasure of being astride of so fine an animal. On closer inspection, I saw it was Bedford Forrest, only a private like myself, whom I had known ten years before down in Mississippi. I had occasion afterward to see a good deal of him.”3

            In October, Forrest was given command of a regiment and named it Forrest’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion. He posted advertisements in the Memphis Appeal, calling for “five hundred able-bodied men, mounted and equipped with such arms as they can procure (shotguns and pistols preferable), suitable to the service. Those who cannot entirely equip themselves will be furnished arms by the State.”4

In its editorial columns, the Memphis Appeal supported the notice: “To Arms! We invite attention to the call of Col. N.B. Forrest in today’s paper. There are still hundreds of young men in the country anxious to engage in the military service. Those whose fancy inclines them to the cavalry service will find no better opportunity to enlist under a bold, capable and efficient commander. Now is the time.”5

            Part of Forrest’s command included an escort company of between forty and ninety men, which Forrest referred to as his Special Forces. Among these troopers, who were the finest, most elite soldiers in his cavalry, were eight of Forrest’s slaves.

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And in another excerpt:

After the war, Forrest set up housekeeping with his wife, Mary Ann, near Memphis. In August 1866, Federal cavalrymen rode past Forrest’s house. King Philip, who was grazing in the front yard, saw the blue coats and instantly recognized them as the enemy. Watching the men dismount and start toward the house, King Philip charged at them with teeth bared, head and tail raised, and front feet flailing. He did not stop until he had chased every Federal soldier from the lot. One of the cavalrymen who had been injured by the horse declared that he would kill King Philip, but Jerry (Forrest’s previous body servant) rushed to the horse’s defense. “The Gin’ral,”58 as Jerry called him, emerged from the house, took control of King Philip, and had Jerry lead the spirited steed off to the stable.

“General,” the Federal captain in charge said, “now I can account for your success. Your Negroes fight for you, and your horses fight for you.”59 

Sadly, King Philip died of colic later that year.

Forrest passed away on October 29, 1877. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, but in 1904 his remains were interred in Memphis’s Forrest Park. All of the sidewalks in the park were named after officers who served under him—except for one, which was named for his war horse King Philip.

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(The statue of General Forrest mounted on King Philip was illegally removed by the city of Memphis last month. Stay tuned for more details.)

https://www.amazon.com/Horses-Gray-Famous-Confederate-Warhorses/dp/145562327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515730595&sr=8-1&keywords=horses+in+gray

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.

Cover Reveal For My New Book!

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I’m thrilled to introduce the new cover to my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. This book was previously published with another company and had a different cover (thank you, Dan Nance). However, since I changed publishers last year, two of my previously self-published titles have been republished. Now all three books in the Renegade Series are available from Foundations, LLC.

A Beckoning Hellfire is the second book in the Renegade Series. It tells the story of Confederate cavalryman David Summers and the battles he witnesses from Chancellorsville to Gettysburg. The first book in the series is A Beautiful Glittering Lie, and the third book in the series is A Rebel Among Us. Now that the first three books in the series have been published, all the covers are consistent (thank you, Dawne Dominique). Look for the fourth book in the series to be released next year.

A Beckoning Hellfire is available in e-book format for pre-sale. The cost is only .99 cents! Here is the link. Sign up for your copy today!
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/75984

Ole Miss Misses the Mark (Again)

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Another event took place last week involving the never ending assault against the Confederacy. Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) announced its marching band won’t play “Dixie” at football games this fall. This decision was made by the athletic department. In a statement, they said the song will be replaced by something “more inclusive for all fans.”

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What? How is “Dixie” non-inclusive? First of all, the song was written before the Civil War. Second, it was written by a Northerner. Third, it was President Lincoln’s favorite song. Fourth, there is nothing in the lyrics that implies racism, which is what all these idiots are now claiming everything Confederate is. Fifth, Ole Miss should be ashamed of doing away with its unique, wonderful heritage.

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The University Greys were students from the school who went to fight in honor of the South. None of them survived. Their bodies were returned, and they were buried on campus. This is a great dishonor and tragedy, because whoever is in charge at Ole Miss is seriously missing the point. Instead of misrepresenting the history of this school, they should be embracing it. They’ve already replaced Colonel Reb and renamed Confederate Avenue. And they refuse to fly the Mississippi state flag on campus: the same state that funds them. I guess getting rid of the Rebel name and the Confederate soldier statue will be next, because who knows who that might offend. If I was an alum of Ole Miss, I would be very offended by what is going on, and I wouldn’t hesitate to let them know. Cutting off funding might get through to them.

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Shame on you, Ole Miss. Shame on your leadership for misdirecting the school. And shame on you for discrediting your history and categorizing all your Southern heritage as racist.

https://socialismisnottheanswer.wordpress.com/tag/ole-miss-wont-play-dixie/

http://www.gopusa.com/ole-miss-to-stop-playing-dixie-at-football-games-this-fall/

My Interview with Vanessa Kings

Recently, I was interviewed by blogger Vanessa Kings about my novels and my writing style. The interview follows:

Our guest this week is J.D.R. Hawkins she is the author of  A Beautiful Glittering Lie  among other books.

Please tell us a little about yourself and your latest book.
I am an award winning author who has had several titles published. My latest book is A Beautiful Glittering Lie. It is the first book in the Renegade Series.

How did you come up with the title of “A Beautiful Glittering Lie”?
The title is based off a quote from a Confederate soldier who fought in the Civil War. He referred to battle as a “glittering lie.” I loved that reference, so I expanded on it.

What is your favorite character of “A Beautiful Glittering Lie”?
My favorite character is David Summers, the son of a Confederate infantryman. Although he is obligated to stay at home, his longing for adventure leads him into trouble.

What genre do you enjoy writing the most and why?
Primarily, I write historical fiction. It is fascinating to research history and see what ghosts, secrets, and little known facts I can discover.

How would you describe your writing style?
I think my books are fast paced, easy, exciting reads.

What authors inspire your writing? Do you have a mentor?
Other authors who have inspired me include Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Margaret Mitchell, J.K. Rowling and Charles Frazier. I don’t have a mentor.

What would you like to be if you weren’t a writer?
A musician and/or an artist. (I have music available on iTunes as Julie Hawkins)

What are you working on now?
My nonfiction book about the Civil War, Horses in Gray, will be published in a few months. I also have the third book in the Renegade Series coming out later this year.

Do you have any advice for new authors?
Never give up! Write every chance you get. Take classes, go to conferences and join a writing group. The more you immerse yourself in the craft, the better you will become.

If you have to choose only one book to keep, knowing the others would be destroyed, which one would you save?
The Holy Bible.

Thank you very much J.D.R. Hawkins for stopping by to answer our questions!

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150th Anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville

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This weekend marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville. In commemoration, a reenactment of one of the last major battles of the Civil War took place near Four Oaks, North Carolina. The event also featured lectures, living history displays, sutlers’ tents, and soldier encampments. Thousands attended the event, which was expected to be the largest crowd to attend a Civil War reenactment in North Carolina.

The Battle of Bentonville took place near Four Oaks on March 19-21, 1865. Union General W.T. Sherman, on his rampage across the South, ripped through the state, dividing his army into two as it headed north from Fayetteville to Goldsboro. Confederate General Joseph Johnston tried to stop Sherman’s advance, but was unsuccessful when the two Union forces reunited. The battle led to Sherman’s ability to capture Raleigh on April 13.

Many spectators expressed their appreciation for the event, including Leon Dockery. “I’ve never been to a reenactment and I was curious about how that worked … I wanted (my children) to be exposed to more than what they may hear from me or read in a textbook,” he said.

The Fight to Reclaim America’s Battlefields

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150 years ago on November 30, 1864 — Union and Confederate soldiers fought their way across a Tennessee field in Franklin just as reenactors do today. But it was no spectator sport that day. A crippling defeat for the Confederacy; the Battle of Franklin came to be known as “Bloody Franklin.”

The casualties on both sides added up to almost 10,000. Nearly 1,500 of the Confederate dead are buried nearby in the McGavock Family Cemetery at Carnton Plantation.

“When you look today at the battlefield, what do you see? I see Targets and Hardee’s and businesses,” said bestselling author Robert Hicks. “We can over this next decade undo some of that.”

In 2005, if you stood in the cemetery and looked over the fence to where hundreds of the soldiers died, you saw a golf course.

“Hopefully, the day will come that it will be back to what it was,” said Hicks.

The golf course is a park now, and Franklin has become the poster child for something almost unheard of: a major victory in the war to reclaim Civil War battlefields.

“If we’d failed on the golf course, then we would never have gone on,” said Hicks.

“Parts of them disappear every day,” said James Lighthizer who heads the Civil War Trust, which raises money to save endangered properties. “We guesstimate at about 30-40 acres a day because of development, so it’s going pretty fast.”

Gettysburg, site of the bloodiest battle ever on American soil, became a National Military Park in 1895. But significant landmarks were left out, including Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters.Today, a motel stands next to Lee’s headquarters.

“It’s a sacrilege,” said Lighthizer. “I mean, it’s a destruction of a part of American history.”

For $120 a night, you can actually stay upstairs — that is, for a while longer. The Civil War Trust is raising $5.5 million to buy and restore the property and tear down the motel next door.

“When it comes to preserving land, it’s really all about money,” said Lighthizer. “There’s nothing else to it. Good intentions are just that — they get you nowhere.”

According to the Civil War Trust, 42 percent of the principal battlefields have been lost, or close to it —  casualties to development. The fights are not always black-and-white, and good guys against bad guys.

Last November, Franklin, Tennessee came one demolition closer to reclaiming another big piece of its battlefield. A decade ago, it had been written off as lost. But then Franklin had a change of heart – thanks in part to Robert Hicks and lawyer Julian Bibb.

“The battlefield, which had been looked at as forgotten or, ‘Gosh, it’s gonna be way too expensive to do what you all are trying to do,’ that took the convincing,” said Bibb. “And once that began to happen, it completely changed the support we were recognizing politically, locally and statewide.”

“This year we will probably have over 100,000 people come to Franklin [as] heritage tourists,” said Hicks.

The worst part of the fighting was around the site of the Carter House (now a museum) and a Pizza Hut when we first came to Franklin in 2005. Since then, It’s been “now you see it, now you don’t” — one property after another gone. Just like Dominoes, which will be going away in January. All to make way for a 20-acre park on the reclaimed land. The price tag: $14 million. So far, from private donations, the Civil War Trust, and the city, state and federal governments.

“This is hallowed ground” said Hicks. “I don’t know how to say it any other way. Something holy happened here.”

Who knew that people would still be fighting the Battle of Franklin today, 150 years after the fact? The front lines then . . . are the front lines now.

(Courtesy of General William Barksdale Camp 1220 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Columbus, Mississippi, January, 2015)

Haunted Lincoln

It is said that ghosts are the spirits of people who met traumatic, violent, untimely deaths. Abraham Lincoln, of course, is one, because he was murdered by John Wilkes Booth about a week after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to General Grant at Appomattox, and on Good Friday at that. Before his assassination, the president foresaw his own death in a dream, where he was wandering around the White House, and was told by a soldier that the president had been killed.

Since then, Lincoln’s ghost has been roaming the halls of the White House. Jenna Bush, one of President George W. Bush’s daughters, said that she had heard phantom opera music coming from the fireplace in her bedroom while she was living at the White House. In the same breath, she expressed her disappointment about never seeing the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. It’s common knowledge that Lincoln’s spirit still resides within the Executive Mansion, as the White House was called during the Civil War. Several heads of state have witnessed the ghost of Lincoln, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, President Coolidge’s wife, Grace, President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Maureen.

The president’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, said that her husband’s ghost often visited her. She became an avid believer in the supernatural and regularly attended seances, usually under an assumed name to disguise her identity. In one photograph, an eerie manifestation of Lincoln appears behind her. It could have been a photographer’s trick, but many other witnesses have seen his ghost as well.


Sightings of Lincoln’s ghost have occurred near his grave in Springfield, Illinois, and at his former home there. It has also been seen at the Loudon Cottage in Loudonville, New York, which belonged to one of the women who was sitting in the president’s box at Ford’s Theatre when he was shot. The President’s spectral funeral train has been observed on the anniversary of its journey from Washington D.C. to Springfield, thundering through the darkness to its spooky destination.

Fortress Monroe, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was incarcerated for several years following his capture at the end of the war, is said to be haunted by Lincoln, as is Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was shot.

Haunted Battlefields

It seems that every battlefield, whether significant or minor, seems to inhabit its share of Civil War ghosts. Experts of the supernatural say that people who die sudden, unexpected, violent deaths are the ones whose souls get caught in limbo. Common occurrances are the sounds of gunfire, men yelling and marching, and ghostly apparitions of soldiers roaming around.

Gettysburg is the most famous haunted battlefield. It is believed that this is because it lies on a lei line (mineral deposits under the soil that criss-cross). These places attract apparitions because the electrical current caused by the lei lines coaxes spirits like moths to a flame. Voted “America’s Most Haunted,” Devil’s Den on the battlefield is so charged with energy from ghosts that people have difficulty taking pictures. The spirits drain the charge from their batteries within minutes. Besides the battlefield, numerous structures in town are also rumored to be haunted.

Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi has plenty of supernatural inhabitants as well. It is no wonder, since the citizens and Confederate army were under siege for weeks, forced to live in caves along the riverbank and eat vermin, dogs, etc. in order to survive. The town is filled with old abandoned buildings, but it is rumored that many are not completely empty. Spirits have been seen wandering the streets at night, along with frequenting local establishments, including old antebellum homes that have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts.

The Battle of Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War (Gettysburg being the first). Besides sightings of the usual soldier-ghosts, an entity that has come to be known as “Old Green Eyes,” and over the years, has been sighted by thousands of people. The creature sounds like something straight of a Grimm fairytale. With a hairy body, fang-like teeth, and glowing green eyes, it walks upright on two legs and wears a cloak. Besides Old Green Eyes, a woman in a wedding dress roams the area, as does a creepy soldier who stares at visitors until they leave.

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