J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “soldiers”

Stories of Christmases Past

Here are some stories about what the South experienced during the War Between the States. By 1862, inflation in the South was rampant, as the following article describes.

CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS IN MISSISSIPPI

Confederate President Jefferson Davis celebrated Christmas in his home in Mississippi.

“After an absence of nearly two years,” he said, “I again find myself among those who…have ever been the trusted object of my affection.”

But Confederate Christmas celebrations in the area were cut short by reports of Union troop movements on the Mississippi threatening Vicksburg.

In the fall of 1862, Confederate refugees from the fighting in the areas surrounding the capital began to flood into the city. They included those who fled farms and towns now in Union-held territory, wives of Confederate soldiers looking for employment, and the destitute.

This influx of refugees drove rent prices much higher than they’d been previously, and wartime inflation sent prices on everyday goods skyrocketing. In the city, ten pounds of bacon, which cost $1.25 in 1860, now cost $10. Four pounds of coffee jumped from $0.50 to $20.

Richmond diarist and author Sallie Brock Putnam wrote about the sadness of Christmas for families who had lost soldiers in the war:

The Christmas dinner passed off gloomily. The vacant chairs were multiplied in Southern homes, and even the children who had curiously questioned the cause of the absence of the young soldier brother from the festive board, had heard too much, had seen too much, and knew too well why sad-colored garments were worn by the mother, and why the fold of rusty crape placed around the worn hat of the father, and why the joyous mirth of the sister was restrained, and her beautiful figure draped in mourning. Congratulations were forced, and tears had taken the place of smiles on countenances where cheerfulness was wont to reign.

Christmas of 1862 saw an important cultural development with the emergence of the modern image of Santa Claus. Famed illustrator FOC Darley published an edition of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) featuring drawings of Santa as a plump man with a pipe, furry coat and pointed hat.

Santa

Thomas Nast, who in the late 19th century produced what came to be regarded as the definitive representations of St. Nick, published his first Santa drawing in Harper’s Weekly, January 3, 1863. “Santa Claus in Camp“ showed a star-spangled Santa in his reindeer-drawn sleigh handing out presents to jubilant soldiers.

Santa in camp

General Robert E. Lee in Gordonsville reported 40,000 soldiers watched a baseball game at Hilton Head, S.C., between the 165th New York Zouave regiment and a picked team from other units. One of the players was Abraham Gilbert Mills, later president of the National League.

Across the South there were movements of troops. Confederate General John Hunt Morgan engaged in his famous Christmas Raid in Kentucky; on that single day, Morgan’s men destroyed everything they possibly could of the improvements that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had made along 35 miles of track from Bacon Creek to Lebanon Junction.

Robert E. Lee wrote his wife, “What a cruel thing is war. To separate & destroy families & friends & mar the purest joy and happiness God has granted us in this world…. I pray that on this day when ‘peace & good will’ are preached to all mankind that better thoughts will fill the hearts of our enemies & turn them to peace.”

Meanwhile, along the Rappahannock River, the two armies faced each other, probing their opponent’s lines looking for weak spots and capturing prisoners and supplies. Soldiers in both armies did what soldiers normally do during the winter. They rested and refitted. They entertained themselves with games and tournaments. They exchanged supplies with their fellow Americans across the river.

 

(Written by Peter Doré – English Friends of the South)

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

Time was short as final preparations were underway for General Thomas J. Jackson’s famous Stonewall Brigade. Jackson had received orders from General Robert E. Lee to move his corps east from the Shenandoah towards the Rappahannock River. The Federal army under the command of General Burnside was gathering in great numbers across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in an attempt to sweep around Lee’s eastern flank and attack Richmond.

Jackson’s corps numbered over 38,000 soldiers, the largest command he had ever had. Among these troops were his old reliable, tried and true, Stonewall Brigade, also referred to informally as “Virginia’s First Brigade”. Organized and trained personally by Jackson at Harper’s Ferry in April 1861, the brigade would distinguish itself at the Battle of Manassas, and become one of the most famous combat units in the war.

Snow lay on the ground in Winchester at the Frederick County Courthouse as new volunteers were organized and drilled for their march to meet the enemy. A young soldier was given a Christmas gift made by his sweetheart. Like so many couples, they did not know what the future held.

A Winchester resident watching the men pass through the town remarked how poor looking the soldiers were. “They were very destitute, many without shoes, and all without overcoats or gloves, although the weather was freezing. Their poor hands looked so red and cold holding their muskets in the biting wind….They did not, however look dejected, but went their way right joyfully.”

 

THE CHRISTMAS CAROL

The years of 1861 and 1862 had been momentous for Thomas J. Jackson. He had gone from being an unknown VMI professor with a Major’s commission, to the rank of Lieutenant General commanding the II Corps in General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In battle after battle Jackson’s army had defeated those who opposed them. “Stonewall” was now one of the most famous and feared generals of the war.

Snow blanketed the countryside on November 22 as Confederate divisions gathered in Winchester. General Lee’s communiqués to Jackson made it clear that it was time to consolidate the army, preparing for the Union Army’s next move. Jackson’s Corps numbered 33,000 troops, the largest he had ever commanded. The task of organizing and preparing the new II Corps was daunting, but the General was up to the challenge and kept on the move.

On an early November morning at the Opequon Presbyterian church, members of the choir practiced a favorite Christmas carol for the passing Stonewall Jackson and his men. With the fate of his army and possibly the South to be decided in the coming days, the beautiful melody of a Christmas carol in the distance uplifted General Jackson and his men as they prepared to leave for Fredericksburg.

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“The Christmas Carol”
Opequon Presbyterian Church, Kernstown, Virginia – Winter of 1862
Artwork by John Paul Strain

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“The Christmas Gift”

Men of the Stonewall Brigade, Frederick County Courthouse – Winchester, Virginia Winter of 1862

Artwork by John Paul Strain

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1452, vol. 42, issue no. 12, Dec. 2018 ed.)
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Another Assault on Southern History

This event happened on November 24. Let me know what you think about this article and how the media handled the situation. Personally, I think the media tainted the situation to make it look like the SCV was committing some kind of crime or something.
ARKANSAS SATURDAY NIGHT

Saturday night the city of Springdale, Arkansas enjoyed its annual Christmas parade. The event was made a little less enjoyable for the Southerners in the crowd.

In the parade a float sponsored by the Arkansas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). On the float were two men dressed up as Confederate soldiers, one holding a rifle with a bayonet.

AR Parade

KNWA in nearby Rogers, Arkansas carried some video of an incident involving the SCV float in which the cameraman asked, “Why are there Confederate soldiers out here?”

One of the SCV re-enactors waved to the section of the crowd where the cameraman man was. The trailer slowed to a stop, with children in the background yelling for candy. A woman’s voice could faintly be heard asking a question: “Why do you have a rifle with a bayonet on it?” As she repeated her question, the soldier answered: “I’m looking for Yankees.” Then a man’s voice was heard: “Y’all fighting for slavery?…Y’all fighting for slavery?”

“No. We are against it, sir,” another man said from the trailer.

“Isn’t that what the South fought for?” The man from the street said.

With that the segment was ended. Hopefully one of our compatriots in Arkansas gave the crowd and cameraman a much needed history lesson.

Sach Oliver, a member of the board for the Rodeo of the Ozarks, the group which sponsored the parade, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the Downtown Springdale Alliance had a “stern message” for the Confederate float: “The November 24th Christmas Parade of the Ozarks float featuring the Confederate flag and soldiers was not approved by DSA, nor is its message condoned by our staff or board of directors.”

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Nov. 30, 2018 ed.)

The Plot to Burn New York City

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In the closing months of 1864, with the Federal noose ever tightening, the Confederate government began to contemplate enacting a so-called, “War of Attrition” in an effort to bring about negotiations to end the conflict. One such strategy would involve the burning of New York City. November 1864 would see a hand- picked group of former Southern soldiers leave their Canadian base and arrive in the city to carry out the deed. Commanded by Col. Robert Martin, the eight men were determined to bring to the North some of the horrors being suffered by the citizens of the Confederacy.

Armed with 144 bottles of “Greek Fire,” each man was detailed a specific location to set ablaze, mainly around the Broadway district. However, when the appointed time came, only a few of the group stepped up; the others were frightened by the arrival of large numbers of Federal troops to garrison the city when rumors of an attack leaked out. These bluecoats would leave the city by November 15, believing that danger had passed.

Election Day, November 25, 1864 came and the Southern plan went into effect; each remaining man was given 10 bottles of the incendiary and went from hotel to hotel setting fires before quickly making their escape to an appointed place. James Headley set fire to his room in the Astor House before continuing onto the City Hotel, Everett House and United States Hotel. As he left the last, he heard fire alarms ringing across the district and saw the consternation on the streets.

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Also, on fire was Barnum’s Museum, a place that was not part of the original plan. One of the raiders, Capt. Robert C Kennedy, having carried out his mission, paid a visit to a local hostelry, where his patriotism was restored, and still armed with the fiery liquid, Kennedy went into the museum and set it ablaze. Amazingly, no casualties ensued despite there being over 2,500 people attending a theatrical performance. Throughout the night, firemen rushed to quench the fires, dawn revealing that the Southern plot had done very little damage to the city while the search for Martin, Headley, Kennedy and their accomplices began. They would make their escape to Toronto before returning to the South, all successfully, except one; Capt. Robert Kennedy.

Between 1861 and 1864 there were at least three plots discussed in Canada; individuals involved in these were Clement Clay, Col. Jacob Thompson and John W Booth. One was the “Kidnapping Plot” whereby President Lincoln was to be taken captive and brought to face President Davis. This plan was shelved as it was considered too dangerous to carry out. A second plan was to assassinate President Lincoln, Vice-President Johnson and Secretary Seward led by John W. Booth. The third plan was the destruction of as many Northern cities and towns as possible.

(Irish In Blue & Gray: Remembering the Irish in America 1861-1865, editors: Liam and LaDona McAlister)

Additional information provided by this editor:

“Robert C. Kennedy was tried as a spy for his part in the setting of numerous fires in New York City in November, 1864. Places burned by him and others (who were never tried) included a number of hotels and Barnum’s Museum. He was executed on Governor’s Island. He was buried in an unmarked grave on the island in New York Harbor. All of the bodies buried on the island were disinterred in the late 1870’s and re-buried in Cypress Hills. It is probable that he is buried in an unmarked grave in the National Cemetery ” – John F Walter

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey camp 1452, Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 42, issue no. 11, Nov. 2018 ed.)

 

Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt. 6)

Fort_Pulaski_Civil_War

Most people think of cemeteries and battlefields when they hear about strange apparitions that exist in regard to the Civil War. However, many old fortresses are rumored to host the spirits of soldiers as well. As my final installation of “Halloween Hauntings,” I bring to you the forts that time forgot.

Delaware

Fort Delaware, located in Delaware City, Delaware, is an imposing structure that is said to be one of the most haunted places in America. It is no wonder, considering the suffering that took place during the War Between the States. The fort unintentionally became a prisoner of war camp, with most of its inhabitants being captured at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The fort, located on six acres, with 32 foot high walls and surrounded by a medieval moat, housed over 40,000 men by war’s end. The fort had the highest mortality rate of any POW camp: 2500 to 3000 men died. The ghosts of incarcerated Confederates reportedly still inhabit the place, as does a woman and several children. Across the river is Finn’s Point National Cemetery, where most of the Confederate soldiers are buried. Sadly, only one marker is placed, which reads, “Erected By The United States To Mark The Burial Place Of 2436 Confederate Soldiers Who Died At Fort Delaware While Prisoners Of War And Whose Graves Cannot Now Be Individually Identified.”

Fort Monroe, where President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned following his capture after the fall of the Confederacy, is another ominous place that seethes with spiritual energy. Located in Virginia, which ranks as the most haunted place in America according to the National Register of Haunted Locations, the fort has reported many spiritual sightings, including those of Abraham Lincoln and General U.S. Grant.

Off the gulf coast of Alabama exists two ancient forts that have now become tourist attractions: Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. Both forts have a long history of military service, surviving many wars, and not surprisingly, both have their share of supernatural inhabitants. Visitors have reported hearing footsteps, seeing strange apparitions that follow them out of the park areas, and noticing ghosts that observe them while they are there.

 

Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt. 5)

gettysburg_ghost

In the spirit of Halloween, I have been posting about hauntings related to the Civil War. The number of haunted places and things associated with the War Between the States is virtually limitless. New reports of strange occurrences surface nearly every day, and each story is more fascinating and creepy than the last.

haunted_places_gettysburg

It goes without saying that the most haunted place in America associated with the Civil War is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This small, sleepy town suddenly found itself in the crossfires on July 1, 1863. The battle would last three days and claim over 50,000 lives (including dead, wounded, and missing). The tragedy left a lasting imprint on the land. Over 150 years later, ghostly apparitions still dwell on the battlefield and nearby town.

gettysburg-farnsworth-3580

The Farnsworth House is reportedly one of the most haunted places in Gettysburg. The house was riddled with bullets during the battle, and the scars still exist outside the building’s facade. Tourists say they have seen a specter of a distressed man carrying a child in a quilt, as well as the ghost of a fallen Confederate sharpshooter. Outside of town, the Daniel Lady Farm, which served as a Confederate field hospital where over 10,000 Confederate soldiers lost their lives, is host to numerous hauntings.

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At the Cashtown Inn, the first soldier of the battle was killed. The owners claim to have photographic evidence of spirits floating around the premises. Guests have witnessed someone knocking on doors, lights turning off and on, and doors locking and unlocking by themselves.  The Gettysburg Hotel and the Baladerry Inn are also reportedly haunted.

gettysburg

Gettysburg visitors have reported hearing the sound of whirring bullets and the screams of fallen horses and soldiers. Some have had direct encounters with the deceased.  Devil’s Den is one of the most haunted places on the battlefield. So is the Triangular Field and Sachs Bridge. Visitors have captured apparitions on camera. In one instance, a long-haired young man told a tourist, “What you are looking for is over there.” The ghost then quickly vanished.

An Insight into the Confederate Cavalry

battle-of-brandy-station-counter-attack

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

CAVALRY COOKING

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

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

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

 

http://civilwarcooking.blogspot.com

Southern Historical Society

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

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

The Silent Sam Controversy

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It seems the incident earlier this week has sparked considerable outrage. Protesting is one thing, but destruction of property is quite another, and should be treated as a crime. Why is it okay to destroy monuments that have been standing for over 100 years? It’s baffling, to say the least.

Condoning Crimes of Genocide
To: UNC President Margaret Spellings president@northcarolina.edu | 919-962-6983
103 South Building, Campus Box 9100, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC,27599
President Spellings,
The total destruction of the statue of Silent Sam by students of your university is inexcusable, and what is even worse is that the police were ordered to stand down while this crime was being committed. It is your duty to pursue the arrests and convictions of these criminals. Silence will only embolden other historically ignorant people to do the same thing in other areas. If these criminals are not made an example of, then we can be assured of seeing this same offense repeated many times. This statue was erected to honor the students who left their studies to fight in the defense of the Confederacy. No, they were not fighting to preserve slavery, but to repel Lincoln’s illegal invasion of rapists, looters, murderers of civilians, and arsonists. The fact that we have had 150+ years of Marxist rewritten history shoved down our throats is the very reason all this cultural genocide is taking place. If the high schools and universities in this country would teach the truth about the War of Northern Aggression, instead of the fabricated lies which are so prevalent, we would not be seeing all this senseless destruction of property, or names being changed on our schools, streets, and parks. Ignorance is the disease. Truth is the cure. These lies which have been force fed for decades are easily refuted and dispelled with facts. The Corwin Amendment, the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution, thousands of letters from Confederate soldiers, as well as Lincoln’s own words, prove that the War was not fought for the purpose of ending or perpetuating slavery. Statues erected to honor our Confederate dead should not be targets of defacement and destruction. These soldiers fought with valor, dignity, and honor, unlike their counterparts dressed in blue. President Spellings, you have a duty to perform here and those of us who know the truth of our history and honor our Confederate dead hope that you will take steps to see that the criminals who are guilty of this horrid deed will be brought to justice, and that no such crime is ever repeated on your campus.
Jeff Paulk
Tulsa, OK
Dear Progressives/Homegrown Commies,

Confederate Statues, Memorials, Plaques, ect. were not erected out of bigotry, racism or hatred of blacks. Right or wrong, slavery was solely about economic gain by the 5% of Southerners who owned slaves, nothing more & nothing less. What about the 95% who did not own slaves? You are not endearing them to yourselves or your Cause.

Those Confederate Statues, etc. are WAR MEMORIALS to those who fought for the South during that war. Just as every war America has fought in has WAR MEMORIALS to the service members of their respective war.

For you to claim in 2018 that they are anything else is making the issue about YOU, not them, for your own political gain at the expense of true history. In my opinion you are nothing more than Marist perpetuating a grand scheme to not only erase & rewrite Southern history but, all of America`s history.

You seek to tell any lie & commit any crime to destroy this whole country & rebuild it into the communist fantasy (nightmare) you think it should be. You are disgusting, repulsive reprobates who cannot receive the justice you so richly deserve & have earned, soon enough.

The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves over your attacks on everything they stood for!

Billy E. Price
Ashville Alabama
(Courtesy of Southern Heritage News and Views, August 23, 2018 ed.)

Horses in Gray Receives Another Five-Star Review

Horses in Gray Cover

My nonfiction book, Horses in Gray, received another five-star review! This is so exciting and such a great honor. Thank you “Jerry G!” Here is the review:

August 6, 2018

This book is a must read for equine scholars as well as those who want to learn more about the Civil War era. I was a skeptic that this book would hold my interest but am now a believer. Hawkins details the relationships of Civil War Soldiers to their beloved horses which she describes so aptly as, “…his horses are the second self of the active soldier.” I particularly found it educational and entertaining as she explains the color of the horse signified their ” rank or role” in the war such as the “grays” because they were easily identified by the officers who wanted to issue a call to battle.

Dog Days of Summer

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By the time July starts winding down, the heat is beginning to wear on everyone, and we  all start thinking about when school will resume again. I’m fortunate in that I live in the mountains, so if it gets too hot, we can head up to the hills to cool off.

Although summer was the most likely time for battles to take place during the Civil War, there was also a lot of down time. The soldiers were left to their own devices to entertain themselves. Many wrote letters to their loved ones. Others passed the time by playing cards, gambling, reading weeks-old newspapers, or shooting the bull, as they called it.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describing typical southern soldiers who passed the time away while waiting for the next big battle.

ABeckoningHellfire_MED

Jake and David led their horses to the edge of the field to graze and fell down upon the damp grass in sheer exhaustion. Two other members of their company approached and lay down on the grass next to them. They welcomed each other with a weary, “Hey.”

“We heared y’all were from Alabama, so we thought we’d come over and make your acquaintance. You boys jist git in last night?” one asked.

“Yeah,” David replied.

He introduced himself and Jake. The two veterans did the same, stating that their names were John Chase and Michael Tailor.

“Do we drill tomorrow, too, or do we git a day of rest, bein’s it’s the Sabbath?” asked David.

“There’ll be no drillin’ tomorrow. Ole Beauty’s a stickler for lettin’ us off on Sundays,” John said, referring to Stuart by a nickname the general had acquired at West Point.

“Where y’all from?” asked Jake.

“We’re from Georgia,” John replied.

“How come y‘all are in a company of Virginians?” asked David.

“Well, we were over here with my cousin,” explained Michael. “Us and some other fellers from our company. Kerr, Smith, Crawford, and Campbell. Anyway, we were supposed to leave to go down south with our brigade, but when we got back, they were already gone!”

“What brigade is that?” asked David.

“Hampton’s,” John responded. “We’re with the Jeff Davis Legion. Reckon we’ll have hell to pay when they git back up here!” He and Michael chuckled. “So y’all will jist have to tolerate a few of us Georgians around the place,” he went on. “Least till our fellers git back.”

“Reckon we can overlook it if y’all can,” Jake said with a grin.

John snickered, raising an eyebrow. “I’m inclined to think that us Rebels are all in this together, so I’ll forgive y’all for bein’ from Alabama.”

David and Jake looked at each other and shrugged.

“I have cousins in Alabama,” Michael told them. “Y’all know the Ryan’s?”

Jake and David gaped at each other in astonishment.

“There are a lot of Ryan’s around our parts,” Jake replied.

“How about that!” Michael laughed. He seemed happy to hear of any news from home, however obscure it might be. They talked about their families for a while until he stood and said, “All this nostalgic talk is makin’ me well up.”

John pulled himself to his feet. “Let’s meet up tonight, and we’ll shoot the bull,” he suggested.

Jake and David agreed before following the Georgians back into camp.

“Hey,” John said over his shoulder. “Do either one of you boys know how to write, because I’ve been longin’ to send a letter home to my wife, but I jist can’t figure out how to put it in words.”

“We can write a letter for you,” said David, happy to oblige.

John smiled and trudged back toward camp.

Hesitating until the Georgians were out of earshot, Jake gave David a shove, which caused him to stumble.

“What was that for?” he angrily fired back.

“I ain’t volunteerin’ to write a letter for every soldier out here,” Jake stated.

David gave him a crooked grin, knowing that his friend wasn’t very good at writing. “Well, I’ll jist do it, then,” he said.

They returned to camp and scrounged around for something to eat, but could only manage to find the same staples they’d consumed earlier. After they tied their horses out to graze, Sergeant Williams came by and invited them to his fire. Jake and David followed him to discover a large iron kettle hanging over a flame.

“Put that Yankee coat in here, and the dye will turn it butternut,” the sergeant instructed.

David removed the coat he’d been wearing since the previous evening. He let it fall into the boiling concoction. “What do you use for dye?” he asked.

“Walnut hulls, acorns, and lye,” William replied.

They chuckled at the rhyme. Standing over the kettle, they watched the boiling water roll over the garment as it gradually washed the dark blue coat to brownish-yellow.

When he was satisfied with the result, William retrieved the coat with a stick and hung it on a bush to dry. “You’ll have to leave this here till tomorrow,” he told David, “but you can borrow my saddle blanket if you want.”

“Thanks,” David said. “I reckon I’ll be all right.”

The two troopers exchanged smiles. After bidding goodnight to the sergeant, Jake and David returned to their site, but were surprised by what awaited them. Six men were standing there, waiting for their return.

“There they are!” exclaimed John, a wide grin parting the thick fur on his face. “These boys will write home for us!”

Jake looked at David, scoffed, and shook his head. “I’m illiterate all of a sudden,” he muttered.

One of the Georgians they hadn’t yet met held out a pen and a piece of wallpaper. David wondered whose wall he’d peeled it from.

“How do,” the Georgian said, “I’m Custis Kerr.” He held out his other hand and grasped onto David’s. “John and Michael here said y’all can write a letter for us.” He had a scraggly beard that reminded David of a wire-haired dog he’d seen once. Pausing momentarily, Custis added, “I’d be willin’ to give you somethin’ for it.”

“Do you have anything to eat?” Jake inquired.

“Well, I have a cornpone and some honey,” said Custis.

David smiled, took the pen and paper from him, and seated himself on the log next to their fire. Custis sat beside him, grinning from ear to ear. Positioning the wallpaper on his thigh, David poised the pen erect and glanced over at him.

“Ain’t you holdin’ it in the wrong hand?” Custis asked.

“I’m left handed,” David explained.

The Georgians howled.

“We ain’t never seen a lefty afore!” one of them exclaimed.

David felt a little awkward, but had grown up enduring such teases, so he shrugged it off.

“Whatcha want me to write?”

“Dear Mother,” Custis dictated, “I am feelin’ well and believe the weather is becomin’ more mild.”

David raised an eyebrow as he scribbled down the words, wondering if this soldier had anything more important to say.

“I am doin’ fine and look forward to seein’ you a’gin.” Custis spoke like he was reading, slow and deliberate, so that David would catch every word. “I am writin’ to M.S.B. and C.L.S.”

Throwing a glance at him, David wondered how many letters he was expected to write for each and every soldier. He started to regret his hasty offer to John and Michael.

“If you don’t have anything more to say, I’ll close for you,” he said, hoping Custis would take him up on his offer.

“Hold on a minute.” The Georgian raised his hand. He nodded and pointed to the wallpaper, coaxing his transcriber to continue. “Received the parcels you sent from home. Many of the boys enjoyed them also.” He stopped to rub his beard in thought. “Reckon that’s all. Jist put down your lovin’ son, Custis.”

David finished writing and handed the piece of wallpaper to him. Custis clutched onto it like it was a gold nugget.

“Oh, what’s your name?” he asked.

“David Summers.”

“Thanks kindly, Summers,” Custis said, and walked off.

Another Georgian, Peter Smith, had David write home to his wife and two daughters in exchange for dehydrated vegetables. Alfred Crawford dictated a letter to his sweetheart, gave David a sewn bag of pennyroyal leaves for his effort, and instructed him to place it at the foot of his bed to repel fleas. A newlywed, Robert Campbell, sought assistance in addressing a letter to his wife. He rewarded his comrade with saddle soup and graybacks amounting to three dollars. David also wrote one letter each for John and Michael. In the time it took for him to write the soldiers’ letters, he learned more about each cavalryman than most of the others would ever know about each other. Graciously, he accepted their offerings in return.

When he had finished, he realized it was getting dark. Thankfully, Jake had taken the initiative to fry some salt pork, so he and David devoured it along with the newly-acquired cornpone and crusted honey. They cleaned up and relaxed, lying on their backs and gazing up at the stars. David’s writer’s cramp left him too disabled to pen a letter to his own family, but he reasoned that he could do it tomorrow, since it would be a day of rest. He started dozing off, but heard voices growing louder.

“Mind if’n we jine you?” Michael asked.

David opened his eyes and glanced at Jake, who shook his head, grinning as he sat up.

John chuckled. “You look right tuckered out. Did we run you ragged today?” He chuckled again. “We came over to shoot the bull with you fellers.”

David pried himself up. The two veterans seated themselves on logs. John pulled a meerschaum from his pocket and lit it. The pungent odor of rich tobacco intermingled with the smell of burning firewood.

“By the way,” Michael said, his dark eyes twinkling in the firelight. “I’d recommend you get rid of that can of desecrated vegetables Smith gave you.”

“Why?” asked David.

“I’ve heard tell that if’n you eat those critters, they’ll expand in your stomach and make you explode!”

David’s eyes grew large. He retrieved the can of dehydrated vegetables from his saddlebag, threw it into the fire, and watched along with the others. The can sizzled, popped open, and was quickly consumed by flames. Inexplicably, the recollection of Tom’s terrible death back home in the barn entered his mind. He looked away.

“I heard that last month they caught ole Abe Lincoln in a drunken stupor,” John remarked nonchalantly. “Heard from a source in Washin’ton City that he was on a binge for thirty-six hours and was still drunk when he left the drinkin’ establishment!” He laughed heartily.

Jake winked at David. It was obvious their guests were extravagant liars, but amusing, nonetheless.

“I heard tell that General Burnside passed on in his sleep,” Michael said, “and that General Beauregard was accompanied on a march by concubines and wagonloads of champagne.”

Jake and David chuckled.

“I heard from a couple of Louisiana Zouaves that the good people of New Orleans printed a picture of General Butler on the bottoms of their chamber pots!” exclaimed John. He guffawed loudly. “That’s one way to git even with that damned Yankee general!” he exclaimed, referring to the dreadful officer who had taken over the city nearly a year ago. The four soldiers laughed loudly at this.

“Is it truthful that General Stuart’s a teetotaler?” asked Jake.

John nodded, enjoying his pipe. “That he is, and a ladies’ man, but a devoted husband and father over all.”

“Where in Georgia are y’all from?” David inquired.

“Savannah,” said Michael.

“I heard it’s right purty over there,” said Jake. “Y’all have any land?” he asked.

“I have about a hundred acres,” John replied, “and a few niggers to help run the place, but Michael ain’t got any, ‘cept what his kinfolk live on. We’ve got plenty of big plantations’round our parts.”

“When we were ridin’ in,” Jake said, “we heard some fellers talkin’ bout a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, but we didn’t know what they meant by it.”

“Oh.” John took a puff from his clay pipe. “The plantation owners and their overseers are exempt from fightin’ if’n they have twenty slaves.”

“That don’t seem right,” said David.

“Nothin’ in war is right, Summers,” Michael said, “and you’ll find that out soon enough. But General Hampton’s supposed to be the largest slave owner in the South, and he’s fightin’. Say, you ain’t a conscript, are you?”

“No sir,” David responded proudly. “We’re both enlistees.”

John nodded and smiled, clenching the pipe in his teeth. He puffed again. “That’s good. We ain’t real fond of conscripts ’round here. Anyone forced to jine up ain’t worthy of the fight, and those fellers will run off first chance they git. Jist like those cowards from our home state who refuse to fight. We call them Georgia crackers. It’s downright unpatriotic.”

Jake leaned in toward his friend. “You should ask him about your pa,” he reminded.

The other soldiers looked at David, waiting for him to speak. He took a deep sigh, and said, “My pa is buried here somewhere, and I was wonderin’ if y’all might know where I could find him.”

The Georgians exchanged glances.

“Can’t rightly direct you,” Michael said. “The burial site’s mighty large, and not every grave is marked. It could take days, or even weeks, and you still might not find him.”

David bit his lower lip and gazed into the fire, disappointed with the answer he’d received.

Jake quickly changed the subject and they were soon engaged in telling one chilling horror story after another, most of which the other soldiers made up. David enthralled them with “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story by Edgar Allen Poe, which none of the others had heard before. To his amusement, the others actually shivered at his telling of the story. The four soldiers talked on into the night until they realized it was late and decided to retire. As the Georgians departed, Jake leaned back, mumbling something unintelligible. David fell asleep but was soon startled awake by the bugler’s invasion.

“I thought we got today off,” he muttered to Jake while they pulled on their boots.

“Reckon they have roll every day,” Jake said with a yawn.

He and David sauntered to the field where they again went through military procedures. Their company was informed that General Fitzhugh Lee, who was the nephew of Robert E. Lee, had taken his cavalry brigade northward. After being released, the boys stood in line for rations, disappointed with the lack of variety once more, but they ate it anyway, grateful for the meager nourishment. Afterward, they gave their mounts some seed corn and oats.

Finally finding free time, David settled in to read from his Testament. He opened the leather flap. Inside was the miniature Southern Cross Josie had sewn for him. His heart grew heavy at the thought of her, Rena, and their mother. He had hardly been gone a week, yet it seemed like years.

Flipping through the sacred pages, he found a scripture that caught his eye: So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jake sat down beside him, holding a newspaper he had found.

“Where’d you git that?” David asked.

“Down at the sink,” Jake replied, opening the paper. “It’s a few weeks old, but it’s somethin’ to read.”

“Couldn’t find better use for it?” David snickered.

Jake glared at him. “You wouldn’t think it was so funny if you had this ailment,” he grumbled.

David shrugged. “Seems to me some of that salt pork should’ve worked its way out by now.” Unable to help himself, he snickered again.

Jake threw the newspaper down on the ground and stood. “Reckon I’ll see what’s goin’ on around camp,” he announced, and stomped off.

Deciding it would be a good time to write a letter home, David found his pencil and paper and began writing.

 

Dear Ma and sisters,

I take pencil in hand to inform you that Jake and I arived yesterday evening and are being aclimated to our suroundings. We have plenty to eat and are feeling fine and our horses are fine. We have yet to see General Stuart. To-day is Sunday and you will be glad to know that I am studying scripture and find it very reasuring. Please tell Callie I wish her well if you see her. I would like very much if you could rite to me every particular of what is going on back home. I am thinking of you fondly and will rite again in the near future.

Your son and brother until deth,

David

 

Intentionally excluding any reference to Tom Caldwell, he placed the folded letter into an envelope.

They must have heard by now, he thought. They must know that I killed him.

Deciding to hunt for Jake and deliver his letter to the post, he walked around camp, taking notice of the activities around him. He was stunned to see men gambling, pitching horseshoes, cursing, drinking, betting, and slapping papers while they played their poker hands, not only because it was the Sabbath, but also because it was only one week after Easter. One soldier asked David to join him for a sip of “Pine Top,” but he refused. Drinking, especially on a Sunday, appalled him. Curious as to why there were no services, he asked another trooper.

“In the beginnin’,” the soldier said, “we held services faithfully every week.” He cocked his head at David.   “But truth be told, as time went on, we all got too tired of the war to care anymore.”

David nodded, and turned to search out his best friend. Jake stood in a throng surrounding two Rebels who were seated at a table. In front of them, a Federal canteen lay on its side. The men yelled and squinted at it.

“Come on, Howitzer!” one hollered.

“Go, Minié Ball!” another exclaimed. The spectators shouted excitedly.

“What’s goin’ on?” David asked his friend.

“They’re havin’ lice races,” Jake replied. He grinned at David before looking back at the table.

The crowd cheered. One of the contenders sprang from the table and threw his arms up in victory.

“Better luck next time!” he bellowed, shaking his opponent’s hand.

The loser presented a Confederate note to his rival, and men within the crowd exchanged currency as well.

David observed the spectacle with amazement, glad that no man of the cloth was there to witness it. He felt a twinge of humiliation for the soldiers in attendance, and wondered why they didn’t display any moral responsibility. Deciding he’d seen enough, he walked back over to his campsite. Jake followed, talking all the while about the carefree life of a soldier.

“Do you reckon I’ll be able to find Pa’s grave?” David asked him.

Jake’s joviality quickly changed to solemn reserve. He shrugged in response. “Sounds like the gravesite’s mighty large. It could take us days to find him, and besides, the major might notice us missin’.”

“Well, maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow if he knows where Pa might be.”

“Why don’t you ask him now?” Jake grinned, motioning for him to follow.

They walked through camp to a white canvas tent and timidly entered.

“Sir,” Jake said quietly to catch the major’s attention.

Major Warner looked up from the map he was studying. David followed Jake inside the tent, and the two saluted.

“At ease,” the major softly commanded. “What can I do for you boys?”

“My friend was wonderin’ if you might know where his pa’s buried,” Jake explained. “He was killed here last December.”

“Do you know which regiment he was with?” asked Major Warner.

David nodded. “Yessir. He was with the 4th Alabama. Uh, the North Alabamians infantry division.”

The major scratched his head. “What was your father’s name, Private?”

“Hiram Summers, sir.”

“Well, let me look into it, and I’ll git back to you in a day or two.”

“Yessir.”

The boys saluted and exited the tent. Once again, David was disappointed with the response he’d received, but decided he had no choice but to wait.

https://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-Renegade/dp/197963372X/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532666094&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

The Olympics

IOCrings

The 2018 Winter Olympic games commenced today in PyeongChang. South Korea. The first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece on April 6, 1896. Olympic games were held in Olympia, Greece 1503 years prior to this, from 776 BC through 393 AD.

Soldiers who fought in the Civil War had a lot of time to kill between battles, so they invented their own games to compete in, from baseball to “throwing papers,” otherwise known as gambling, to horseracing. But the most interesting winter “sport” they participated in was snowball fighting. Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, describing the snowball fight that took place prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

ABGL B.R.A.G. Medallion

Hiram glanced around at his comrades, who were entrenched on either side of him, waiting for another Yankee advance. With time to reflect, he thought back to the previous month’s events. The 4th Alabama had abandoned their encampment and moved to Culpeper Court House. They remained there until November 22, when Lee discovered Burnside was headed north from Richmond, so he assembled his troops near the quaint town of Fredericksburg. The Confederate army swelled to almost twice its size, due to returning soldiers who had become ill prior to their march into Maryland. Remaining on the south side of the icy Rappahannock River, the Rebels gazed at the church spires that rose up from the town like bony, skeletal fingers, reaching to the heavens for sanctuary.

They waited for Burnside to pounce, but their wait was long-lived, for he hesitated. Since the men were required only to attend dress parade and roll call, they idled away their time by staging snowball fights, some so zealous that several soldiers were wounded, and a few were killed.

Snowball

They also spent time exploring the town, as well as the terrain north of camp. Fredericksburg had been nearly evacuated, except for a few citizens who still remained, because their only other option was to camp in the snowy woods until danger passed. On a few rare occasions, the 4th Alabama was detailed to picket duty in town, where they stayed inside deserted homes that housed fine paintings, extensive libraries, and lovely furniture, or they stood guard outside on the piazzas, and in the immaculate sculptured gardens, gazing across the river at the Union soldiers’ tents. They noticed how finely outfitted the Yankees were in their splendid blue uniforms, but the Confederates, in contrast, were clothed in ragged, tattered, dingy butternut.

Some of the Rebels managed to converse with the enemy, even though it was strictly forbidden, and exchange their tobacco for much-desired coffee and sugar. After a while, though, a treaty was established, and the Southerners sent across a plank, with a mast made from a current Richmond newspaper. The Federals sent their “boat” to the Southern port, using a mast constructed from a Northern newspaper. Thus, the two sides stayed abreast of what the media was saying.

On several occasions, Hiram heard music float across the river. The Yankee bands played new songs he had never heard before. One sounded like “John Brown’s Body,” but the words had been changed. This, he learned, was the Union army’s new anthem, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” He didn’t appreciate the lyrics, since they equated the Confederates to devils, but listened with interest, nonetheless. Another Yankee song they played repetitively was called the “Battle Cry of Freedom.” He liked that one better, but it still didn’t make his spirit soar like “Dixie” did. The Federals played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hail Columbia,” songs the Southerners once held dear, and waited for Confederate bands to reply, but no reprisal came. As if reading Hiram’s mind, the Yankees rambunctiously played “Dixie’s Land.” Men on both sides of the river burst into cheers, which fell away to mutual laughter.

 

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