J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Yankee”

Confederate Cavalry

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Over one hundred and fifty years ago, two significant Civil War cavalry battles took place. The first was on June 9, 1863, and was the largest cavalry battle to take place in North America. The battle near Brandy Station, Virginia, occurred after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s troopers were surprised by Union General David McMurtrie Gregg’s cavalry forces. The battle was a turning point for the Confederate cavalry. Up until then, they were far superior to the Federal cavalry, but the Yankees improved their skills, and by 1863, became worthy foes. This event lead up to the Battle of Gettysburg. My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes the Battle of Brandy Station, and explains the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

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

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Romance and the Civil War

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Welcome to the Indie Love Blog Hop! As part of this blog tour, I have been asked to highlight an indie author, so I chose myself! Therefore, I have included a synopsis of my two printed novels and a short, romantic interlude from each book. Please read to the end to find out how you can win a book!

First up, a synopsis and excerpt from A Beautiful Glittering Lie:

Synopsis:

In the spring of 1861, a country once united is fractured by war. Half of America chooses to fight for the Confederate cause; the other, for unification. In north Alabama, the majority favors remaining in the Union, but when the state secedes, many come to her defense. Such is the case with Hiram Summers, a farmer and father of three. He decides to enlist, and his son, David, also desires to go, but is instead obligated to stay behind.

Hiram travels to Virginia with the Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment. Although he doesn’t intentionally seek out adventure, he is quickly and inevitably thrust into combat. In the meantime, David searches for adventure at home by traipsing to Huntsville with his best friend, Jake Kimball, to scrutinize invading Yankees. Their escapade turns sour when they discover the true meaning of war, and after two years of service, Hiram sees enough tragedy to last a lifetime.

A Beautiful Glittering Lie addresses the naivety of a young country torn by irreparable conflict, a father who feels he must defend his home, and a young man who longs for adventure, regardless of the perilous cost.

Excerpt:

Unintentionally, he fell asleep. He awoke to find his room dark. Quickly rising, he went outside to feed the animals, but was informed by Rena that his chores had already been done, so he ambled back to his room, lit the oil lamp, and picked up his guitar. He sat upon his bed, gently strumming it. Already, he had managed to figure out five different chords, and could play his favorite, which was the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” For some reason, that song made him proud to be a Southerner, and for believing in the cause that his father was about to defend, even though the concept was rather vague to him. He knew a few other melodies, too: “Old Zip Coon,” “Aura Lea,” “Old Dan Tucker,” and his favorite, “Cindy.” When he had gone through his repertoire a few times, long enough for his fingertips to start hurting, he put the instrument back in the corner.

Deciding to go outside, he stepped onto the breezeway. Voices were speaking from just beyond the corner, so he moved up close enough to see around it. His mother and father were sitting side by side, their silhouettes illuminated by the pale moonlight.

“Now don’t forget to write to me every chance you git,” she was saying.

He snickered. “I won’t forget, honey.”

“And I expect you to attend services every Sunday.”

“I will.”

“I’ll send you packages every week.”

“That’ll be jist fine.”

They sat in the dark momentarily as the faint hoot of an owl punctuated the silence.

“I don’t want you to go,” she finally said, “even though I know it’s your duty to uphold.”

“Now, Caroline, darlin’, you know I’ll be fine.”

“Yes, I do. But I’ll still fret about you.”

He softly chuckled. “There’s no need for you to worry your purty lil head.”

She took his hand. “I’ll miss you, my dear,” she tenderly whispered.

There was another extended silence, and then Hiram responded in a low, passionate voice, “I’ll miss you, too. You know that, Caroline. My heart belongs to you, and it always will.”

David stepped back into the shadows to the sanctuary of his room. He quietly closed the door behind him. For some reason, he felt consumed with gloom, but pushed the feeling aside. His father was leaving in the morning for excitement, honor, and glory. He forced his heartache to turn into anticipation.

And now, a synopsis and excerpt from A Beckoning Hellfire:

Synopsis:

During the bloody American Civil War, the stark reality of death leads one young man on a course of revenge that takes him from his quiet farm in northern Alabama to the horrific battlefields of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

On Christmas Eve 1862, David Summers hears the dreaded news: his father has perished at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Reeling with grief and thoughts of vengeance, David enlists and sets off for Richmond to join the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

But once in the cavalry, David’s life changes drastically, and his dream of glamorous chivalry becomes nothing but a cold, cruel existence of pain and suffering. He is hurled into one battle after another, and his desire for revenge wanes when he experiences first-hand the catastrophes of war.

A haunting look at the human side of one of America’s most tragic conflicts, A Beckoning Hellfire speaks to the delusion of war’s idealism.

Excerpt:

“Oh, Jake, darlin’,” Calle crooned, turning her face to his, “please go in and fetch me my shawl.”

Jake mooned over her. “Of course, Callie,” he said.

His countenance was that of pure adoration, dripping with too much sweetness for David’s taste. He watched Jake’s performance with one eyebrow cocked, and for a moment, looked away so that they wouldn’t see him frown. It was obvious that Jake wouldn’t be enlisting with him after all.

“Oh, and I believe your mother wishes to speak with you,” Callie added over her shoulder as Jake opened the screen door and went inside. She turned back to face David. “I would like to have a word with you privately,” she informed him.

“Yes, miss,” he responded.

A strange, awkward pause ensued. She moved closer to him. He could feel his face flushing.

“Do you remember last summer, when we were at the fishin’ hole with Jake and your two sisters?” she turned her head slightly to look at him out of the corner of her eye.

He nodded. This was making him uncomfortable. Callie reached out and grabbed hold of his hand. He felt like she was cornering him.

“Do you recollect what happened after they all left, and it was jist you and me remainin’?”

“Yeah.”

Regardless of how badly he didn’t want to remember, he couldn’t help but think back to the event. Jake had volunteered to escort Rena and Josie home. David made fun of the way Callie’s hair looked, she splashed him, he splashed her back, and then she swam right up to him, clasped onto his head with her hands, and planted a big wet kiss straight on his mouth. He recalled how shocked he was, completely taken aback, this coming from the girl who was supposed to be Jake’s. He remembered protesting, telling her that he had to leave, that Jake loved her, and that Jake was the one she should be doing that to. But to his surprise, she laughed, amused by his bewildered embarrassment. She informed him that, if anything were to ever happen to Jake, he would be her next choice. Reliving the moment in his mind made him feel even more awkward now. He looked down at his feet.

“David, I want you to know that I love the both of you,” she said. She reached out and pulled his chin up, forcing him to look at her. “And you know that I intend to marry Jake. But if he decides to go off to war, and somethin’ should happen to him …”

“Callie Mae Copeland,” he interrupted, “don’t you be thinkin’ that way.”

Callie looked deeply into his eyes. David blinked. She drew closer.

“If anything should happen, promise me you will return to take his place.”

“I don’t reckon he’s fixin’ to go.”

“He ain’t made up his mind yet.” Her penetrating stare bore into him. “Promise me you’ll come back to claim me as your bride.”

He felt his resolve melting. “All right, I promise,” he reluctantly agreed, knowing that it was the only way to escape the confrontation.

As part of this blog hop, I am sponsoring a book giveaway. What I ask is that you answer the following questions and email them to me at jdrhawkins@gmail.com. The contest runs through February 21, after which I will announce the two winners on my blog. Good luck and Happy Valentine’s Day!

  1. Describe your perfect Civil War soul mate:
  1. What is their name?
  2. Where are they from?
  3. What is their occupation?
  4. What is their age/gender?
  5. What are some of your soul mate’s personality traits?
  6. Please specify if you would like a copy of A Beautiful Glittering Lie or A Beckoning Hellfire.

Thanks for participating! I can’t wait to read what you send me. Stay tuned – winners will be announced on February 22!

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Confederate Cannonballs, Cartridges and More Found in River

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Researchers are trying to figure out the best way to get War for Southern Independence munitions out of the Congaree River in South Carolina. Historians have used sonar and metal detection to get an idea of where cannonballs, cartridges and knapsacks were dumped near the Gervais Street bridge in downtown Columbia.

On their way out of town, Union troops led by General William T. Sherman (“Willy T” for short) unloaded supplies into the river. In 1954, a gas-producing plant closed near the Congaree River in Columbia, South Carolina. But its presence lingers in the form of roughly 40,000 tons of “taffy-like” black tar that needs to be removed from the river. A most unusual side effect of damming the river to do so: the possible recovery of Confederate munitions seized and then dumped by Sherman’s Yankee army a century and a half ago.

A list of what Union troops logged as having captured from their Confederate counterparts in the seizure of the city on Feb. 17, 1865: 1.2 million ball cartridges, 100,000 percussion caps, 4,000 bayonet scabbards, 3,100 sabers, 1,100 knapsacks, and more. Whatever they didn’t bring with them as they marched toward North Carolina; they dumped in the Congaree River to keep it out of Confederate hands. The munitions lie beneath a layer of tar that oozed from the long-closed gas-making plant located near what is now the Governor’s Mansion. Consultants hired by the SCANA Corp. as part of the utility’s river cleanup found evidence of the artifacts. The energy company, SCANA Corp, will facilitate the Congaree cleanup, which involves exposing about 15 acres of riverbed and removing a tar cap that’s, on average, 2 feet thick—along with any Civil War artifacts, which would note would belong to the state of South Carolina.

While the company’s Director of Environmental Services says “we don’t have any direct knowledge of ordnance,” he also didn’t deny the findings of a September draft report SCANA commissioned that involved the use of sonar and metal detectors. That report identified 218 sites as “exhibiting signature characteristics that could be associated with ordnance.”

Though items have been documented as being salvaged in the 1930s, 1970s, and 1980s, the state’s underwater archaeologist, James Spirek, isn’t expecting a mass cache to surface this time around. “I’m sure there will be some interesting items. I don’t anticipate huge volumes,” he says. He also said the ordnance likely will be housed at the Confederate Relic Room in downtown Columbia.

(This article courtesy of General William Barksdale Camp 1220 Sons of Confederate Veterans newsletter, “Barksdale’s Mississippians,” Columbus, Mississippi, February, 2015)

The Battle of Fredericksburg

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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.

The Second Battle of Manassas

From August 28-30, 1862, the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place in Prince William County, Virginia.The battle between General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops and General Pope’s Union forces resulted in a Confederate victory.

The first day of battle ended in a stalemate, and the second day nearly ended the same way, until C.S.A. General Longstreet’s army arrived to support Jackson. When Pope renewed his attack on August 30, Longstreet retaliated by sending his 28,000 Confederates to counterattack. It was the largest simultaneous mass attack of the war. The Yankees were driven back, and the battle nearly ended in a repeat of the 1861 battle, when the Union army literally ran back to Washington City (Washington D.C.).

 

Another Excellent Review

I just wanted to share with you a very nice review I received from a reviewer for my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Here is an excerpt:
 
“In a nation divided into two due to different ideologies and political thought, the common man is forced to take sides and fight a battle which becomes his own. The American Civil war was one such event in History. When the North fought the South, Hiram, a farmer in Alabama, chose to enlist and was assigned to the newly constituted 4th Alabama Infantry of the Confederate Army.
 
“The Novel plots his travails on the battlefield and of his family bearing his absence. His son David is unwillingly left behind and tries to find adventure nearer home and risks his life by repeatedly visiting Huntsville, which has been invaded by the Yankees, with his friend Jake Kimball. Caroline, Hiram’s wife and his daughters wait for him. They try to live a normal life and take care of their farm helped and protected by David, now the “Man” in the family. Does Hiram come back? Will David become responsible? It will be a startling discovery for the reader and a very intriguing read all the way to the end.
 
“The work provides a proud revelation of the gallant effort of the 4th Alabama, relating true incidents from the recordings of Mr. R.T Cole, a soldier in the volunteer Infantry. The realistic portrayal of unflinching patriotism and chivalry of the soldiers, their camaraderie and friendship is touching and awe-inspiring. At the same time it is like watching the war from close quarters and it makes one realise the futility of it when every loss of life brings grief.
 
“When Hiram realises the meaninglessness of war, the reader empathises with him. It portrays how in times of strife families are torn apart and their lives are changed forever, notwithstanding the reasons and justifications of war. How the youth have to grow up suddenly when they are forced to take the places of their fathers and their innocence and exuberance is smothered in the aftermath, hits home after reading the story.
 
“The novel is presented as a prequel to the author’s first novel “A Beckoning Hellfire”. For someone who has not read it yet, it will be a very interesting story after the prequel. For someone who has read it will be still more interesting to know what lead to it all.”

 You can read the entire review at:

http://zealotreaders.blogspot.in/2013/05/a-beautiful-glittering-lie-by-jdr.html

Shiloh (“Peaceful Place” in Hebrew)

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This weekend marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. Last year was the big event, with over 10,000 spectators and reenactors in attendance (myself included). Although nothing as monumental is slated for this year, the Shiloh National Military Park will still hold discussions and tours of the battlefield.

ImageLast year, a week of events to commemorate the terrible battle took place, including two separate reenactments. Opening ceremonies included an appearance by Miss Tennessee, as well as reenactors portraying generals who fought there: Grant, Hardee, Albert Sidney Johnston (who was killed), Beauregard, Buell, Wallace, and Prentiss, to name a few.

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Simultaneous battles took place before several hundred spectators. A ladies tea and soiree, followed by an 1860’s fashion show, were held under a big tent, surrounded by food vendors and sutlers selling any era item imaginable.

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On Saturday evening, a period ball was held in the big tent, which was so filled with reenactors that it was difficult to move about. However, dancers still had a very enjoyable time. Music was performed by the 52nd Regimental String Band. Sunday morning began with a period church service. Officers spoke about the roles they played during the battle, and then another reenactment took place before the event came to a close.

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Laura Ratcliffe – Confederate Spy

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

www.lauraratcliffe.org.

 

Nancy Hart

 

“The Rebel in the Family”

The life of Confederate spy Nancy Hart is shrouded in mystery. Old documents refer to her with a mixture of fact and folklore. It is believed that she was born in Raleigh, North Carolina to John and Rebecca Hart in 1846. Her mother was a first cousin of Andrew Johnson, who later became president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The Harts were devout Christians, and her father frequently held family worship services. While Nancy was still an infant, they moved to Tazwell, Virginia.

Nancy was tall, lithe, and black-eyed. She was a middle child who had six, or possibly twelve, siblings. In 1853, she went to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Mary and William Clay Price, in Roane County, Virginia, which became West Virginia in 1863. The family lived in the wilderness, so Nancy learned how to be an accomplished hunter and rider, but she never learned how to read and write. When the Civil War began, the Roane County held divided loyalties. Friends, neighbors, and families were separated by opposing beliefs. William was not a Confederate soldier, but he did his part by assisting them. After drawing suspicion, Union soldiers confronted him at his farm and ordered him to go to nearby Spencer to take the oath of allegiance. He departed with the Yankees, but never made it to Spencer. His body was discovered three days later. He had been shot in the back and left in the road.

The murder of William spawned Nancy’s loathing for the Federals. She revered the Southern Cause, even though two of her brothers went to fight for the North. In early 1861, her neighbors, the Kelly’s, held a going away party for their two sons who had joined the Confederate Army. While the party was commencing, Union officers marched past the house in the moonlight. Nancy hollered, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” Four rifle shots rang out in response, and four minie balls struck the front stoop, one of which lodged in the door. Three days later, Nancy joined the Moccasin Rangers, who were pro-Southern guerrillas, and rode with their leader, Perry Conley (or Connolly) at the head of the column, leading the Rangers while working as a spy, scout, and guide to the local region. She travelled alone at night to deliver messages between Confederate armies, and slept during the day. She also saved the lives of many wounded Rebel soldiers by hiding them with Southern sympathizers and nursing them back to health. Posing as a farm girl, she peddled eggs and vegetables to Union detachments to obtain information, and scouted isolated Federal outposts to report their strength, population, and vulnerability to General Stonewall Jackson. She even led Jackson’s cavalry on several raids. In the fall of 1861, Conley narrowly escaped the Federals, but Nancy was captured. Deciding she didn’t know anything, they released her, which was a big mistake, because she reported back to Conley with valuable information about the Yankees.

Nancy married one of the Moccasin Rangers, Joshua Douglas. Conley was mortally wounded in an engagement with Ohio Infantry in early summer, 1862. He fought off his attackers until he ran out of ammunition, and then the Yankees clubbed him to death. Afterward, the Rangers disbanded. Nancy’s husband joined up with the 19th Virginia Cavalry, and she moved into the mountains of Nicholas County, where she continued her work as a messenger. A reward for her capture was issued, and it wasn’t long until Union Lieutenant Colonel Starr recognized “Peggy,” as Nancy was known by both armies. She and a female friend were discovered in a log cabin, crushing corn. They were taken prisoner, and confined to the second-story of an old, dilapidated house in Summersville.  Soldiers were quartered downstairs, and a sentry was posted to guard them in their room.

While there, 20-year-old Nancy was allowed to roam the jail grounds of her own free will. She gained the attention of several soldiers, including telegrapher Marion H. Kerner, who convinced Starr to transfer the young women to the Summersville jail, and supplied them with sewing materials and illustrated papers. When an itinerant photographer showed up to hone his trade, Kerner pursuaded Nancy to pose for a picture, although she said that she didn’t have clothes “fittin’ to be pictured in.” Kerner requested clothing from some Union women, and fashioned a Yankee officer’s hat by folding the bill and inserting a plume. The resulting photograph is the only one in existence of Nancy Hart, who, according to legend, refused to smile because she had to wear Yankee attire.

Here is where the story differs. One version states that, later that night, Nancy tricked a naive soldier. After talking to him extensively, she convinced him to show her his pistol. The young, enamored Yankee willingly obliged. She promptly fired into his heart, killing him instantly. Nancy jumped headlong out of a second-story window into a clump of tall jimson weeds, and escaped bareback on Lieutenant Colonel Starr’s horse.

A week later, on July 25, she returned with 200 Confederate cavalrymen. She was still riding Lieutenant Colonel Starr’s horse. At 4:00 a.m., the Rebels burned three buildings, including the commissary storehouse. They also destroyed two wagons, and captured eight mules and twelve horses. In all, only ten shots were fired, and two soldiers were wounded. The Confederates easily arrested the slumbering Yankees, including Starr, who was shipped off to Libby Prison with his officers. Marion Kerner was also captured, but Nancy convinced the Confederate officers to release him because of the kind treatment he had shown her. He was immediately arrested, however, after attempting to send a telegraph to Union forces.

Nancy faded out of the picture as an active partisan, no doubt knowing that, if she were to be captured again, a rope would be waiting for her. After the War Between the States ended, her husband returned, and they lived in Greenbrier County, raising two sons. Nancy’s last public appearance was in 1902, when she testified at the Courthouse in Lewisburg on behalf of her son, Kennos, who was charged with killing a man at a dance. Nancy died in either 1902 or 1913.

The other version of her story isn’t nearly as colorful, and is much sadder. According to Hart family legend, Nancy was born to rebel, and paid with her life after she was arrested and confined in Summersville. Because Union troops didn’t want the locals to know, her hanging on Cold Knob Mountain was kept a secret. Nancy remained calm, but once allowed to speak, she hollered out the Rebel yell, as well as “Wahoo! Whoop! Hurrah!” and “Yay for the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis!” However, there is little or no evidence suggesting that Nancy was executed by hanging. On the other hand, there is little or no evidence stating that she ever married, either, and no official record of her killing a Union soldier. Census records are sketchy at best, as are family records.

She is buried at Mannings Knob Cemetery in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, near Richwood, where the Mannings family buried their slaves. The cemetery is also known as Nancy Hart Cemetery. She was originally buried with only a pile of stones to mark her grave. Years later, Jim Comstock, a publisher and Civil War buff, decided that she deserved a proper marker, so he and Nancy’s granddaughter found the top of Mannings Knob, but the area had been bulldozed to make room for a beacon tower. Her grave was never located. However, a marker was erected in the cemetery in her honor. 

Marion H. Kerner, the Union officer who convinced Nancy to pose for a photograph, said that the last glimpse he caught of her was shortly after the Summersville raid, and he never “heard of her since. She may be dead.”  He later wrote about her, making her story famous in Leslie’s Weekly Magazine. The article was published in 1910. A large rock, known as “Nancy’s Dancing Rock,” still exists on the West Fork of the Little Kanawha River, near the place where Nancy grew up.

Battle of Fredericksburg

This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. It was during this battle that Burnside’s Union forces faced defeat at the hands of General Lee’s Confederates, who were entrenched on Marye’s Heights. The Yankees were literally mowed down, and during the course of the bitter cold night, suffered tremendously, their cries and moans echoing in the still December air to the distraught ears of the Rebels.

One remarkable soldier laid his life on the line to assist the poor soldiers he was fighting against. This is a profound gesture, because the Union soldiers had pillaged the town upon their arrival, driving the remaining citizens into the woods to fend for themselves. Private Richard Rowland Kirkland, only nineteen years old, ventured out onto the battlefield to offer fallen Yankees sips of water from his canteen. Because of his bravery, he is forever known as “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.

The battlefield has been honorably preserved, as has a house that survived the midst of battle and still has bullet hole pock mark scars to prove it. In two of my novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, the battle is described in detail. Once the fighting ceased, Northern Lights became visible in the winter sky. This was extremely unusual, as they are normally not seen that far south. The Confederates took it as a sign from God that he approved of their victory.

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