J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Victorian”

What the Dead Can Teach Us

Elmwood 2

This may sound a bit morbid, but I love exploring old cemeteries. In my opinion, the older, the better. One of my favorites is Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. A person can learn a lot about that city’s history, just from walking around. There is a section for Confederate soldiers, including some officers, another area filled with small pox victims from the epidemic in 1873, and a slave section, where most slaves didn’t even receive the honor of a headstone. The ornate, Victorian headstones and monuments are beautiful and sad. One that stands out to me is an empty swing, which is near the grave of a child.

Swing

Author Shelby Foote, who wrote volumes on the Civil War and was featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, is buried there. He was so enthralled with Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Forrest family that he requested to be buried near them. He got his wish.

http://www.elmwoodcemetery.org

New-Orleans-St-Louis-cemetery-no-1-tombs

Another fascinating place to visit the dead is in New Orleans. The graves in the cemeteries are all above ground because the sea level is so high. Many graves were washed into the sea before people placed the deceased in mausoleums.

Marie

One fascinating character buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans is none other than the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau. The crypt where she is buried is usually covered with trinkets, charms and Mardi Gras beads. This cemetery is believed to be the most haunted cemetery in the country.

celtic-crosses-in-an-old-irish-cemetery-mark-e-tisdale

Some of the oldest cemeteries are, of course, in Europe. I have seen several Irish graveyards, and I think they are profoundly beautiful. Filled with Celtic crosses, these old cemeteries are certainly filled with ghosts, too. I’d love to be able to hear some of their stories.

Irish Cemetery

Here in Colorado, there are many old cemeteries as well. Some consist of the graves of miners, who came here looking for fortune, but instead, found sickness and poverty. The Gold Camp Victorian Society dresses in period clothing and provides tours of the Mount Pisgan Cemetery near Cripple Creek. An interesting stop on the tour is the headstone of Fred E. Krueger. No, not the horror character, but a mere 15-year-old boy who died of mysterious causes in 1897.

Fred

https://gazette.com/premium/the-mysterious-headstone-of-fred-e-krueger-found-west-of/article_d76db5d6-ee9f-11e9-a5a1-572389059672.html

Many take it upon themselves to provide the upkeep of these national treasures. My husband’s SCV camp cleans up a small cemetery in Horn Lake, Mississippi every year. I think it’s crucial that we respect and revere these honored dead. They are an important part of this country’s history, and of our own history as well.

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 13)

Today is the final day of Confederate Heritage/History Month, as well as Women’s History Month. Likewise, this post is the last one in my series about Confederate Women. The last installation of this series is about the most famous Confederate woman of all, President Jefferson Davis’ wife.

Varina Davis

Varina Howell Davis 

     The namesake of my UDC chapter is one of the most famous women of the Confederacy. Yet, she didn’t wish to be. 

     Varina Banks Howell was born on May 7, 1826 at her family’s plantation, the Briars, near Natchez, Mississippi. She was one of eight surviving children. Her parents were a unique pair, in that her father was a Yankee from New Jersey, and her mother, a Southern Belle, was the daughter of a wealthy planter. Because of that, the First Lady of the Confederacy was an irony, referring to herself as a “half-breed.” Varina’s father managed to provide for his family, but prosperity was intermittent, as he squandered his wife’s inheritance and made poor investment decisions. 

     Varina was not considered attractive by nineteenth century standards: she was tall, thin, and had an olive complexion. She was very well educated, however, and learned to play the piano beautifully. She was able to attend Madame Greenland’s School in Philadelphia, but the money soon ran out, so she returned home to complete her education with a private tutor. She established the reputation of being highly intelligent but outspoken, which was frowned upon in Victorian society.  

     Seven years later, when Varina was seventeen, she was invited to spend the Christmas season with an old family friend, “Uncle Joe” Davis, at his plantation, the Hurricane. While there, she met his much younger brother, Jefferson. It was the first time she had met any of Joseph’s extended family, and although Jefferson was immediately smitten with her, Varina was reluctant. She wrote to her mother: 

He impresses me as a remarkable kind of man, but of uncertain temper, and has a way of taking for granted that everybody agrees with him when he expresses an opinion, which offends me; yet he is most agreeable and has a peculiarly sweet voice and a winning manner of asserting himself. The fact is, he is the kind of person I should expect to rescue one from a mad dog at any risk, but to insist upon a stoical indifference to the fright afterward. 

     After Varina returned home, Jefferson asked her parents’ permission to court her, but Varina’s mother objected. She was concerned that Jefferson was far too old for her daughter (eighteen years her senior), that he was still in love with his deceased wife, Sarah Knox Taylor (daughter of President Zachary Taylor), that he was too devoted to his relatives (his older brother, Joseph, raised him after their father died and financially supported him), and that his political views were different (he was a member of the new Democratic Party, but Varina’s family were Whigs). She eventually gave in, and the two were engaged. An enormous wedding was scheduled to take place at the Hurricane, but just before the event happened, the wedding was cancelled. Varina fell ill, and out of concern, Jefferson frequented her home. The two managed to reconcile, and were wed on February 26, 1845 at the Briars with only a small group of the bride’s family in attendance. Their honeymoon was spent visiting Jefferson’s aged mother and the grave of his deceased wife. 

     The newlyweds set up housekeeping in a two-room cottage on the Brierfield plantation, which was adjacent to the Hurricane. Trouble soon appeared in the form of Jefferson’s widowed sister and her seven children, who moved in without Varina’s approval or consent. Her own family’s financial reliance on them was also an embarrassment to her. Addition problems arose when Jefferson left to campaign for Congress and serve in the Mexican War, leaving Varina to deal with domineering Joseph herself.  

Jefferson was elected to the Senate, so he and Varina moved to Washington, where she thrived. She adored the city and was intrigued by politics. As her husband rose in his political career, she rose in Washington elite society, becoming one of the city’s youngest and most popular hostesses. But when the Civil War broke out, Jefferson resigned his Senate seat, and the two returned to the South. It wasn’t long before Jefferson learned that he had been selected as the new president of the Confederacy. This dismayed Varina deeply, for she knew that her husband didn’t want the job, and that the South would most likely lose the war. However, she dutifully supported him. 

     During the first two years as First Lady, she held extravagant parties. Her friend, Mary Boykin Chesnut, enjoyed and admired her, but others weren’t so supportive. Varina received criticism for being over-extravagant, for not being extravagant enough, for playing favorites, for meddling in politics where she didn’t belong, and for influencing her husband’s decisions. Despite the reticule, she supported the troops by knitting clothing for them, donating rugs for blankets, making shoes from scraps, and visiting wounded Yankee and Confederate soldiers in the hospitals, but she resisted her husband’s insistence to become a volunteer nurse.  

     Jefferson and Varina lost one of their children in the spring of 1864 when he fell from a second-story window of the White House of the Confederacy. A few weeks later, Varina gave birth to a daughter, and nicknamed her Winnie, who later became known as the “Daughter of the Confederacy.” Varina also rescued a young slave boy named Jim Limber, and took him in as her own. In early 1865, Jefferson ordered her to flee Richmond with their children. She financed the trip by selling everything they owned, which came to $8,000 in gold. The family was reunited in Georgia, but Jefferson was soon captured and sent to Fort Monroe prison, where he remained for two years. In the meantime, Varina was prohibited from leaving Georgia. Jim Limber was taken from her, never to be heard of again. After a freed slave threatened one of her children with a gun, Varina sent them to Canada with her mother, and petitioned relentlessly for Jefferson’s release. Finally, he was freed, but he was sickly and frail. 

     The family traveled to Canada and Europe for several years. Jefferson was never convicted of war crimes, but was never able to make a go of any financial endeavors, either. High strung Varina suffered from a nervous breakdown in 1876. While she recovered in Europe and their children studied abroad, Jefferson returned home. He established an insurance company in Memphis, but the business went belly up. He sought the companionship of the wife of a fellow inmate, but the press leaked the news, and Varina, of course, was enraged. Somehow, the two managed to reconcile again, probably because they lost two of their sons (bringing the total to four lost sons). 

     An old friend, Sarah Dorsey, invited Jefferson to live with her at her beachfront home, Beauvoir, in Biloxi. He accepted, thinking that the sea air would do his ailments good, and Varina later joined him. Before Mrs. Dorsey died, she bequeathed Beauvoir to them. Jefferson proceeded to write his memoirs. He died in 1889 while visiting a friend in New Orleans. Varina sold his memoirs the following year, but the book was a failure. She remained at Beauvoir for another year before she sold it to the state of Mississippi for $10,000 to be used as a Confederate veterans’ home, stipulating that it be preserved as “a perpetual memorial sacred to the memory of Jefferson Davis” and the Confederate cause. 

     Once again, Varina received criticism when she moved to New York City to accept a job as a journalist for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Herald, and took her daughter, Winnie, with her. She befriended Julia Dent Grant, the widow of President and Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Southerners were shocked and offended by her moving to New York and becoming friends with the wife of a dreaded enemy. Not only that, Varina attended a reception and socialized with Booker T. Washington, treating him, to the Southerner’s dismay, like he was an equal. She declined offers to return to the South, and even turned down a residence offered to her in Richmond. On many occasions, she attended both Union and Confederate veterans’ reunions. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

     Varina’s heart was broken when Winnie passed away in 1898. Following a bout with double pneumonia, she too died on October 16, 1906 in her apartment overlooking Central Park. She was eighty years old, and was survived by only one of her six children (a daughter), and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Following a funeral procession through the streets of New York City, her body was returned to Richmond and laid to rest beside Jefferson and Winnie in Hollywood Cemetery. 

     One of Varina’s last remaining prized possessions, her diamond and emerald wedding ring, was housed in the museum at Beauvoir, but when Hurricane Katrina hit, the ring was lost. Amazingly, it was discovered on the grounds a few months later, and returned to its rightful place at Beauvoir. 

Friday the 13th

16521360921_26e739f5b9_b

As you know, today is Friday the 13th. This year, there are only two. The first one was in April. Today is a celebration of all things macabre, thanks to long-time superstitions.

“The fear of Friday the 13th stems from two separate fears — the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays. Both fears have deep roots in Western culture, most notably in Christian theology.

“Thirteen is significant to Christians because it is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles). Judas, the apostle w­ho betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.”

32680439656_111b6dc9d2_b

This is from a really interesting article I found, so check it out: https://people.howstuffworks.com/friday-thirteenth1.htm

Speaking of all things macabre, there was plenty of that going on during the Civil War. One of the grossest things that struck me while I was researching the strange and interesting Victorian era was the fact that, because medicine at that time was so primitive, doctors stole cadavars to conduct experiments and learn more about human anatomy. Ew!

Frankenstein

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us, describing the nightmarish practice. BTW, Mary Shelley’s infamous novel, Frankenstein, published in 1818, brought to the surface integrated fears of resurrecting the dead, but not to their previous state of being. We have always had a profound interest in death and the undead, like the vampire rage a few years back, Pet Cemetery by Stephen King, and the recent zombie fascination.

ARAU Medium

Excerpt From A Rebel Among Us

“Where’s the feller who was occupyin’ this cot?” David asked him.

The man seemed too weak to respond, but finally uttered, “Dead house.”

Stunned, David quickly walked to the morgue. He entered to see several attendees place frozen bodies into pine coffins. The cadavers’ bones cracked as they were forced into their eternal chambers. David grimaced. Meandering down an aisle, he unwittingly found a coffin with a wooden marker tied to the top of it that read:

Ltn Hershel P Harrison

42nd Mississippi

Died 2-5-1865

He stood over the pine box, staring down at the chiseled lettering. A cart lumbered up and came to a halt outside the morgue. With a heavy sigh, David departed the cold charnel. He barely noticed the other inmates, who loaded coffins onto the back of a wagon before transporting them to Woodlawn Cemetery.

One of the attendants saw him and said, “No need to fret. John Jones will tend to them proper.”

“Who’s John Jones?” he asked.

“He’s the ex-slave who’s markin’ every grave. Doin’ a right thorough job of it too.”

David watched for a moment, still trying to comprehend that Hershel was truly gone. He slowly shuffled through the deep snow, dismally wondering if he might soon end up the same way. He remembered what one of the Tar Heels had told him about grave robbers. According to Sherwood, the loathsome ghouls unearthed buried cadavers and sold them to area doctors who conducted experiments on them. He hoped such a fate wouldn’t befall Hershel’s body.

Making his way past the guardhouse used for solitary confinement, he looked up. A few feet in front of him, sitting on its haunches, was the largest rat he had ever seen. It looked to be at least the size of a tomcat. The enormous rodent bared its long, yellow teeth at him. Astonished, David gasped. He hurried back to his bunk; continuously glancing over his shoulder to make sure the giant rat wasn’t coming after him. All the while, he shivered from the cold, and from the sight of the frightful creature he had just encountered.

Reaching the sanctuary of his confines, he rubbed his hands together for several minutes, sat down, and forced himself to construct a sympathy letter to Hershel’s family. The sad event filled his heart with melancholy. He was thankful he didn’t have to tell them in person.

Glancing around, he noticed how some of the convicts were invested in lively games while their comrades lay dying on the beds beside them. It appalled him that no one seemed to take notice. Death was nothing more than a trite matter of circumstance. But to him, it was a life-changing event. He knew he would never forget Hershel. Struggling to hold back tears, he started writing.

Featured on Awesomegang

Yesterday, I was a featured author on Awesomegang, which highlights authors and their work. Here is the interview:

j-d-r-hawkins

Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am an author and a singer/songwriter. I have written several books. So far, I have had three published. They are the first three books in the Renegade Series.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
A Rebel Among Us. I was inspired to write it after I visited the Gettysburg battlefield.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I like to listen to Civil War music when I write to help put me in the mood and mindset of Victorian America.

What authors, or books have influenced you?
Gone With the Wind, Cold Mountain, Widow of the South

What are you working on now?
A nonfiction book about Confederate warhorses.

What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
My own website, http://jdrhawkins.com, and various social media sites, as well as my publisher’s website, http://foundationsbooks.net/library.

Do you have any advice for new authors?
Keep writing and never give up. Write what’s important to you.

What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t get discouraged by reject letters. Use them to wallpaper your bathroom.

What are you reading now?
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

What’s next for you as a writer?
My nonfiction book will be out next year, and I will be publishing the fourth book in the Renegade Series.

If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The Holy Bible, Gone With the Wind, The Yearling, and Old Yeller.

Author Websites and Profiles
JDR Hawkins Website
JDR Hawkins Amazon Profile
JDR Hawkins Author Profile on Smashwords

JDR Hawkins’s Social Media Links
Goodreads Profile
Facebook Profile
Twitter Account
Pinterest Account

http://awesomegang.com/jdr-hawkins/

The Hunt for the Irish Connection

historical

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.

victoriandress121

netmapwrapper_mytopo

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.

tipperary-tourism-2

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.

Why I Write About the Civil War

civilwar-11-womandesk

Frequently, when I’m at book signings and speaking engagements, I am asked why I chose to write about the Civil War. To me, this is one of the most captivating times in U.S. history. I was never into history when I was in school, but over the years, I have developed an interest in certain aspects of world and American history, as well as genealogy. Perhaps this is part of becoming more mature, but curiosity has compelled me to search out my ancestors and find out just where, exactly, I came from.

Doc Holliday

The same goes for writing about the War Between the States. I have always been interested in the Victorian era, especially after living in Colorado for 25 years and seeing the old mountain and mining towns that still exist. Some even have residents who live like people did in the late 1800’s. Of course, there’s Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, Central City, and Glenwood Springs, where Doc Holliday is buried. These places have always fascinated me, and they still do.

9780595908561

While living in Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit Gettysburg. I had never seen a Civil War battlefield before, so when I did, you can imagine how awestruck I was. It impressed me so much that I was inspired to write my first novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. From there, the book expanded to a series. After I wrote three books in the Renegade Series, I went back and wrote the prequel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie.

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art

Now I am in the process of editing the third book in the series. I have also written a nonfiction book about Confederate warhorses. Unfortunately, the publisher for that book had to close up shop and file for bankruptcy during the same month that the book was supposed to be published. So needless to say, I am looking for a new publisher. (If you know of any, please send them my way!)

angel scan 2922

While researching my first novel, I came upon some information about my husband’s family. After a genealogy search, we learned that his great-great grandfather was a Cherokee interpreter who fought under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. It just goes to show what you can discover when you start digging!

The Battle of Fredericksburg

Picture3_brit_fred

The Battle of Fredericksburg took place a little over a week before Christmas, on December 11-15, 1862. The battle forced citizens of Fredericksburg out of their homes, and some had no recourse but to camp in the woods in subzero temperatures. Union forces invaded the town, looting, shelling, and burning much of it. The Yankees then marched up to Marye’s Heights, where Confederate troops were waiting for them. Because the Rebels were at an advantage, the Federals were forced to march up the hill through an open field, thus making them easy targets. Needless to say, thousands were slaughtered.

When the townsfolk were finally able to return to their homes, they found only destruction, but somehow, they managed to carry on through the terrible sadness that engulfed them. It is interesting to note that, during a lull in the battle, one soldier found the compassion to come to the aid of his enemies. His name was Sergeant Richard Kirkland, a Confederate from South Carolina. Without the protection of the white flag of truce, he braved the open field to provide water and blankets to the wounded and dying Union soldiers. Because of his bravery, the “Angel of Marye’s Heights” is immortalized with a statue at the Fredericksburg National Military Park.

Soldiers who were away from home at Christmas suffered a particular kind of homesickness, different from the usual melancholy they usually felt. Because most soldiers who fought in the Civil War were Christians, the celebration of Christmas was a very special time for them. As Victorians, they believed that Christmas should be celebrated as a happy time of year. But with all the death surrounding them, it was difficult to feel that way, especially in December 1862.

Happy Halloween!

All Hallows Eve has finally arrived, the night when we celebrate all things unworldly, undead, unholy, and unknown. Or in other words, the night when kids can load up on free candy without fear of repercussions!

So many soldiers died during the Civil War (620,000) that a kind of spiritual revival took place in America. Victorian culture was odd in many respects, but some traditions have remained, like wearing black to funerals, although this tradition is gradually going by the wayside. The Victorians liked to make “wreaths” from their loved ones’ hair, cover their windows with black curtains when someone died, and send out postcards with deceased family members displayed in their coffins. Wearing black for a year after a loved one died was expected. During that time, communicating with the dead became a huge fad, and provided closure. (Many soldiers were MIA’s – their families never knew what happened to them.)

Seances became fashionable, and famous celebrities of the time participated. Ouija boards were popular, as were “spirit tables,” and many shady characters took advantage of mourners. Photographers of the day made a “killing” by experimenting with special effects to make it look like spiritual entities were lurking in the tintypes’ backgrounds. What we now consider to be spooky, Victorians considered seances to be consoling and intimate.

If you dare, you can participate in a Victorian seance at various locations around the country. The most popular place, of course, is in Gettysburg. It won’t take much effort to summon ghosts there.

Haunted Civil War Graveyards

Actors will portray many of the fallen heros in this cemetery.

Cemeteries have always been considered to be the most haunted places anywhere, and reports date back to ancient civilizations. The Celts are credited with beginning Halloween traditions by performing the Pagan rite of lighting up autumn produce (squash, pumpkins, etc.) to illuminate the spirits’ way.

Civil War cemeteries are no exception. So many spectral soldiers have been seen that the list seems endless. Virtually every cemetery that holds the remains of those brave men who fought in the War Between the States is said to be haunted, and of course, some graveyards are more active than others. Below is just a small example of places where paranormal activity has been reported:

Balls Bluff Cemetery – north of Leesburg, VA

Andersonville Cemetery – near the original site of the Andersonville Prison in Georgia

Prospect Hill Cemetery, Virginia

Alexandria National Cemetery, Virginia – Stonewall Jackson is buried here

Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, OH

Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA – Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General J.E.B. Stuart are buried here

Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, OH

Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, TN

Practically every state in the Union has old cemeteries where Civil War soldiers are buried and supposedly still walk to earth. I’ve been to both Hollywood Cemetery and Elmwood Cemetery, and in my opinion, these old graveyards, filled with ornate Victorian headstones, are spooky during the daytime, so I can just imagine how scary they are at night. Dare I say, I wouldn’t be caught dead in them? Kudos to the brave souls who go exploring in these creepy places at night to catch a glimpse of a Civil War specter.

Haunted Gettysburg and the Farnsworth House

 It should come as no surprise that hauntings have taken place in various parts of the country in regard to the Civil War since the war ended. In fact, stories and folklore have been passed down about ghosts appearing even before the War Between the States was over.


Disputably, the most haunted place is Gettysburg. This is because the town rests on what is known as a “lei line,” where two intersecting fractures in the earth’s crust meet. It has something to do with energy fields beneath the earth’s surface.
Within Gettysburg, probably the most haunted place is the Farnsworth House. Now an inn, the Farnsworth House has seen its share of violence. Confederate sharpshooters used the garret (attic) as a vantage point to fire upon Union troops positioned on Cemetery Hill. One bullet fired by a sharpshooter supposedly traveled down the street, hitting Jennie Wade, who was the only civilian killed during the battle. Afterward, the house was used as a Federal headquarters.

There are over 100 bullet holes visible on the south side of the house, and some of the bullets that were lodged in the brickwork are on display inside. The house boasts a fabulous restaurant, a cozy tavern decorated with memorabilia from the movie, “Gettysburg,” and the guest rooms are decorated in beautiful Victorian style. Guests and staff have witnessed strange occurrences on several occasions. Some of the servers have had mysterious encounters, claiming that someone or something yanks on their aprons. Others have seen apparitions in the forms of women in period dress and soldiers, or have been tapped on the shoulder. Phantom footsteps echo through the two-story house, and strange, eerie shadows abound. The Farnsworth House sponsors ghost tours, and has a seance room in the spooky basement to replicate the Victorian notion of communicating with the dead.

Post Navigation