Category Archives: Excerpts

Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years

Book 2 1Since we are so close to publishing the print version of An Eternity of Four Years, I thought another teaser to get your interest up might be helpful. This scene takes place during the early days of the Battle of Chancellorsville as Stonewall Jackson’s staff considers the options for the Confederates facing a much superior force.


Since re-crossing the Rappahannock and making another frontal attack at Fredericksburg was not an option for Hooker, in Late April 1863 he deployed 70,000 of his men to the west and moved them quickly across the river upstream in an attempt to flank Fredericksburg. Lee parried the move but left Early with the 1st Louisiana to hold Fredericksburg. Some skirmishes between Lee and Hooker resulted, but Fighting Joe suddenly drew back to defensive positions around Chancellorsville on the south side of the Rappahannock and sat there.

I was present when Jackson was studying a map with his staff, and one man quietly mused to himself, “What’s Hooker doing?”

Though deep in thought, Jackson must have heard him and looked up. He jabbed his finger at the map. “He wants to draw us out. He wants to choose the ground and have us come to him, so he can fight from a strong defensive position; thinks he can beat Lee that way.” Jackson looked around at his staff to observe their reaction to what he had just said and stopped when he got to me. “Captain, I have seen that expression on your face before back at the Institute. Something on your mind?”

I was somewhat startled but tried to quickly recover. “Yes, sir. I would have thought Hooker would understand that wars are not won fighting from the defensive. One must go on the offensive to completely defeat the enemy.”

Old Jack smiled. “As I recall, you were one of the few who remained awake during my lectures. You’re right. It is possible that Hooker could win the battle but only if he inflicts unsustainable casualties on us. But he’ll not win the war this way, and why will he not, Captain?”

I shook my head in the negative and replied softly. “Lee won’t fall into that trap.”

“And you would be correct. Lee is no fool. If you were Lee what would you do?”

I looked closer at the map and the dispositions of the two forces. “Well, sir, if a frontal attack is out of the question, then the alternative is a flanking maneuver.” I looked to Hooker’s left flank, the preferred choice to flank him, since it would sever his avenues of supply and retreat. “Hooker’s left flank is anchored on the Rappahannock, so we can’t get around that way; we would have to punch through it, which is almost the same as a frontal attack against the center.” My focus shifted to the western end of Hooker’s line. “His right flank appears to be in the air. If so, and he hasn’t reinforced it in anticipation of a flanking move, we might be able to move a large force undetected through the Wilderness and get around him that way.”

Old Jack nodded. “You did pay attention in class. See any problems with that maneuver?” I felt like I was back at VMI and being tested by Jackson. All eyes were on me to see how well I would do in this exam. “Yes, I do. Longstreet’s Corp is still detached, and Early is holding at Fredericksburg, so the Army of Northern Virginia has already been divided into thirds.” I pointed to Chancellorsville on the map. “To take this largest third here before Hooker’s much superior force—and divide it again—is something any text on military strategy would advise against.” Several nodded in agreement. I looked to Jackson and smiled. “But that’s precisely what you have in mind to do.”


Though the Battle of Chancellorsville ended in a victory for the Confederates, it was at an enormous cost, one that would haunt the Army of Northern Virginia for the rest of the war, especially during the coming fight at Gettysburg: General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, perhaps Lee’s most able and talented commander, was killed.

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Rachel Sees the Elephant

All of my excerpts from An Eternity of Four Years have featured scenes with Ethan. Rachel is still very much in the story and has an even stronger role than she had in The Last Day of Forever. In An Eternity of Four Years, the two are separated and have very different life experiences.

Why is that? Well, you will have to read the book to find out.

In this series of excerpts, you see her experiencing the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. Until this point in the story, she has been largely isolated from any direct effects of the war, but it has now caught up with her. The battle was fought all around her, and in its aftermath, she gets to experience the horrors of a battlefield.


Book 2 115 July 1863 (From diary entries recording earlier events.)

Both armies are gone, and we are left with the remnants of the great battle. Words cannot begin to describe what awaited us as we ventured out of our homes and hiding places after the armies left. Broken wagons, gun carriages, caissons, abandoned muskets, canteens, sabers, ration boxes, ammunition—all manner of military equipage is everywhere, not to mention all the damaged or destroyed buildings.

Men must relieve themselves even during war. The smell of urine and human excrement can be encountered almost anywhere, unless it is overpowered by the smell of death, which is often the case. The entire town is permeated with the stench of corruption. Dead animals and dead men have lain out putrefying in the hot July sun, some for as long as five days! One cannot escape the smell. It seeps into everything, your home, your clothing, your very being, it seems.

The flies have descended upon the town like some Biblical plague. They are everywhere, and you cannot escape them! They are in your face, in your nose, and even your mouth if you open it too wide to speak. Eating a meal, if one can stomach food with the smell of death so strong, is a battle with the flies.

Rats! Rats are everywhere! Where have they come from and so soon after the battle? They feed on the dead and seem not the least concerned when humans approach them, sometimes even behaving aggressively if you venture too close.

It has been five days since the battle was joined; four days since Cemetery Hill, and three since the great Southern charge against the Union’s center that some are calling “Pickett’s Charge,” so named for the general who led it—and they are still finding wounded men on the many fields and in the woods and buildings all around Gettysburg. Poor hurt men incapable of escaping the heat of day, dying for want of a sip of cool water to quench their thirst, exhausted from crying out for help, or unconscious from the pain of it all.


The sun fully set and our charges removed to the church, we joined Doctor Anderson in an ambulance for the short ride to Cemetery Hill. As we approached, we saw men with lanterns moving over the north face and the top of the hill. With the weak ethereal light of the lanterns casting ghostly dancing shadows as the men moved about the hill and examined the many bodies there for some flicker of life, it looked like a picture out of some hideous nightmare.

We dismounted near the gate of the cemetery. They had tents set up, and in the light of lanterns, we saw litters of wounded men lying out in the open air for as far as could be seen in the weak light.

And the stench of death! It was even stronger there!

Doctor Anderson brought us inside a large tent set up as an operating room with several tables for conducting procedures, each held a wounded man with orderlies or surgeons tending to them. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to fall down and weep for what these poor men had been going through, but I steeled myself and called upon the Lord to give me the strength to endure what I knew I would be facing. And I needed every ounce of help He would give me.

Doctor Anderson assigned Doctor J to one of the tables. An orderly and I assisted. This went on through the night. As soon as one man was attended to, his wound treated, his arm or leg amputated, they carried him off and brought in another, one long stream of broken men, one after another.

With the coming of dawn, Doctor Anderson brought us coffee and suggested we rest for a while. I took my coffee to go outside and get away from the blood and gore to hopefully enjoy the sunrise. Doctor Anderson followed me. “Miss Rachel, I would suggest you remain inside,” he cautioned.

I ignored his warning. “I must see the sun!” But when I stepped outside, and my eyes adjusted to the light of the early dawn, I dropped my coffee! What was hidden by darkness during our arrival was now fully visible.

Death! It was everywhere! I looked to the north and saw the bodies of men clad in blue and gray, some stacked upon each other, some sprawled across broken gun carriages, some with their bodies twisted into positions God never intended them to ever assume, and still others only a part of a man with missing arms, legs, heads, and sometimes missing a whole half of his body, his entrails spilled out on the ground.

I fainted! Doctor Anderson caught me as I went down.


He literally took me by the arm and escorted me from the tent and instructed an orderly to take me home. I was too exhausted to resist.

Once back at the house, the mess in which we had left it days before was still there to greet me: dried blood on the floor, the table, and even the walls. Bloody bandages and sodden bedding had been left by the wounded. The house stank nearly as bad as Cemetery Hill. Tired as I was, I set about cleaning it up by first throwing open the windows to air the place out. I then set about scrubbing floors, disposing of the refuse left by the wounded, and changing our bedding.

I don’t know how long it took, but I got the house clean enough I could tolerate it (my standards of cleanliness were, by then, greatly reduced from what they had been before the battle). After getting a good fire going in the stove, I fried our last two eggs and very nearly inhaled them. I then boiled water, made myself a cup of tea and poured myself a steaming hot bath. With my cup of tea in hand, I slipped into the tub and sank into pure heaven on earth. That bath felt better than any I had ever experienced in my entire life. I soaked until the water was tepid then washed with soap from head to toe—three times to be sure I was completely clean! I put on a clean nightgown, fell into a freshly made bed, and was fast asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.


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Nostalgia – The PTSD of the Civil War

Recently I wrote a post about a malady back during the Civil War called “nostalgia.” I commented that both Ethan and Rachel ended up dealing with it. You may want to read that post before reading this excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years.


Book 2 1I lost consciousness after the fight and did not regain full awareness of my surroundings until I awoke in a hospital in Richmond nearly a week later. I had only some vague memories of being jostled around in an ambulance on the way to Richmond but nothing more of how I got there. Blue told me I had a fever much of the time and spoke nonsense about all manner of things, mostly Rachel and someone named Tom Sullivan.

The fight in that bottom slowly began to come back to me, and I recalled what I had done. In my mind’s eye, I could see him lying there on the ground, bleeding out from my knife thrust to his heart, and I again became sick at my stomach and nearly threw up, which would have been exceedingly painful with my broken ribs. Of all the men in the world I could come face-to-face with on a battlefield, why him? I sank into a melancholy that was deep and long.


“I’m worried about you, Captain Ethan. The doc say you ain’t getting any better. In fact, he told me you was getting worse. I can tell something is paining you in the head. Maybe you should talk to Old Blue about it?”

He was right. I was getting worse, but I did not care any longer. “Not something I want to talk about, Blue. Just leave me alone.”

“You already alone—inside your head, and you need to come out where the rest of us are.”

I became angry and replied sharply, “I said, leave me alone!”

He snorted a half laugh. “That ain’t goin’ to happen, Captain Ethan. I told you way back in New Orleans I’m responsible for you now. I’m not going to let you just go crazy. Now, tell Blue what happened out there?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“I’m making it my bidness.”

“Well, don’t bother!’

“Then let’s try this: where is your God, Captain Ethan? You should be prayin’ and callin’ on Him right now”

I snorted a half laugh. “Why? He doesn’t care about me.”

“Look at you, a sorry mess of a man all soaked with sweat and talkin’ crazy. God does care ‘bout you! Where’d you get that silly notion? God loves you!”

I turned over and glared at him as hard as I could in my addled state …

“You need to get him out of here.” I heard a surgeon tell Blue. “This place is doing him no good.”

“I can see that, but where’ll I take him?”

“Some of the local citizens are taking in the wounded to convalesce, perhaps one of them? If he stays here, he’ll die—or go insane, if he hasn’t already. You need to get him out of this melancholy state he is in. To do that, he needs to be away from the war for a while.”

Then I heard a woman’s voice join the conversation. “And what have we here?”

“Ma’am, the captain here is badly hurt,” the surgeon replied. “His body is slowly healing, but his mind is not. He is suffering from nostalgia. There’s nothing more I can do for him. You know anyone who can take him in until he heals?”

“Oh, dear.” She bent over and touched me on the shoulder, expecting I would turn to face her. “Captain?”

“Go away!”

She paused, making no reply as she cocked her head.

“Somethin’ wrong, Missy?” asked Blue.

“I thought…” she started to say something then shook her head. “Captain, I’m here to help with the wounded. Won’t you let me help you?”

That voice sounded familiar. I turned over to face her, and she gasped, “Ethan?”


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The Last Day of Forever Update and Excerpt

Book 2 1Moving right along with the printed proof of An Eternity of Four Years, the exciting conclusion to the Catahoula Series. Not making promises, but looks like it will be available as soon as three weeks from now. You have seen two previous excerpts from An Eternity of Four Years here and here. This scene takes place during the battle of Port Republic in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862.


Taylor summoned me early the next morning, Sunday, 8 June, and I was given some dispatches to deliver to Jackson in Port Republic. I saddled Pepper and rode out of camp and headed for Port. The dawn was breaking clear and promised a day without rain for a change. I soon arrived at Port, crossed the North River bridge, and made my way down Main Street to Jackson’s headquarters at the Kemper Estate at the far end of town.

I was not more than two squares down Main Street, when I heard the unmistakable scream of an artillery round overhead. I looked up and, to my utter shock, saw the shot falling directly towards me! There was no time to do anything but close my eyes in preparation for meeting my Maker. It crashed into the street right between Pepper’s legs and exploded with a deafening roar, knocking both Pepper and me to the ground.

I rolled clear and could do little more than lay there stunned by the blast with my ears ringing. Pepper struggled to his feet screaming to wake the dead. From the sounds he was making, I was sure I would find his gut torn open, and I would be forced to end my noble steed’s agony with a shot from my Colt. My terror-stricken warhorse found his footing and bolted like a cannon shot in the direction from which we had just come. I rolled over and looked up the street to see my faithful mount deserting under fire. He slowed just long enough to decide he wanted nothing to do with that bridge and turned left and headed up the road following the North River. I whistled for him to come to me, but he did not stop and only whinnied back in answer, which if it could have been translated into English, I am sure he was saying something to the effect that I could go straight to the Devil. I figured, if he could move that fast, he couldn’t be hurt all that bad, and I turned my attention to my own wounds.

To my immense relief, I found only a minor scratch on my left forearm. Except for that and ringing ears, I was unhurt. Meanwhile, I heard another round coming in and turned over onto my belly, covering my head with my arms. It exploded down the street, and I scrambled to my feet to get away from my exposed position. The second round was followed by two more, one of which slammed into the steeple of a church we were using as a hospital.

As I stood, I saw Federal cavalry crossing the Upper Ford and cursed Pepper for leaving me there like he had. Our own cavalry were in retreat and scampered through town in their haste to get away from the advancing Federals and very nearly ran me over in the process. I ran up Main Street as more artillery shells careened into the town. I took cover near the church, and Jackson came riding by. Doctor McGuire was busy loading wounded into wagons and swearing at the slow moving orderlies, as was his usual manner. Stonewall reined in his mount and admonished the doctor, “Sir, don’t you think you can manage these men without swearing?” McGuire nodded and promised to try. Satisfied, Jackson spurred his mount into action and headed for the bridge at a gallop. Most of his party barely escaped capture and crossed the bridge just as Federal cavalry entered Main Street at that end of town. Colonel Crutchfield, Jackson’s artillery chief, was not so quick and was taken prisoner only to escape later.

I drew my revolver and prepared for a fight as Union cavalry thronged the bridge end of town. Soon two cannons were brought up and unlimbered at the entrance to the covered bridge, their muzzles pointing across the river. I figured we were in a real fix then. Jackson and his army were across the river, cut off from their escape route by Union artillery and cavalry sitting on the only bridge. I knew I couldn’t storm their position alone and wasn’t doing any good staying where I was. I figured the Federals would surely go for the supply train sitting conspicuously out on the road at the other end of town and made my way toward the Kemper Estate as fast as my legs would carry me in the hope that I could find others with whom I could make a stand.

In Kemper’s yard, I found Captain Sam Moore of the 2nd Virginia and his small company of only twenty muskets, which had been assigned to guard the fords. He was preparing to make a stand at the Kemper house and had already placed his company along a plank fence that surrounded it. I attached myself to this small band, and we set ourselves for the charge that was sure to come. We had not long to wait. Blue Coat cavalry came up Main Street at a walk and turned the corner headed straight for Kemper’s house and our ambush. We crouched behind the fence and allowed them to get closer. When he felt they were close enough, Moore stood and yelled, “Fire!” And twenty muskets barked. I stood and fired with them. The startled Yankees never knew what hit them, and we emptied numerous saddles. They retreated in haste back up Main Street but began regrouping for another go at us.

Captain Joseph Carrington and his Charlottesville Light Artillery with a battery of two guns joined our little group. Carrington ordered both guns unlimbered moved them closer to the fence. He loaded with double canister as the Federals came up Main Street towards us. Carrington hadn’t the time to take down the boards on the fence in front of his guns. He aimed them as best he could, point blank, and moved to rip down the boards. “Leave them,” I yelled. “Just shoot through them!” He nodded and stood by his pieces, as the Yankees came at us again, at a gallop this time. With a jerk of the lanyards the two guns roared, blowing big holes in the fence boards, and we fired with pistol and musket, emptying more Yankee saddles. Once more they retired in disarray, leaving more dead and wounded on the street.

Major Dabney of Jackson’s staff arrived from the Kemper house and did little but encourage us. Carrington limbered up his guns and moved them closer to the river for a shot directly down Main Street. Moore and the rest of the infantry moved to support the guns. The Yankees charged again, and once more we let them have a taste of canister and Minié. The canister swept the street and sent the survivors running for cover at the far end of town.

Across the river, the 37th Virginia Regiment, under Jackson’s instructions, was preparing to assault the covered bridge, while the Rockbridge Artillery pounded the Federal positions from the far shore. Meanwhile, Taylor had been ordered to bring his brigade on the double quick. At least a regiment of Federal infantry was moving for the fords, but artillery fire personally directed by Jackson from the far side of the river forced the Federals to quit their positions at the covered bridge, abandoning their guns just as the Virginians charged. To my astonishment, the retreating Federals failed to burn the bridge. Had they done so, the events of that afternoon and the next day might have turned out very differently.

We pushed them back across the fords, and our artillery pounded their retreating ranks. We had won the day. That surprise attack could have been a disaster for us had they burned that bridge and separated Jackson and his army from his supplies.

The brief little fight over, I was standing near the Kemper’s house fence reloading my Colt, when I heard a familiar whinny and looked up to see my wayward steed standing there, looking for all the world to be as contrite as the most repentant sinner on a Sunday morning. “So, you came back! Skedaddled and left me to face a Yankee horde alone!” I fairly yelled at Pepper. He whinnied and shook his head as if he understood what I was saying and was making his defense.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Jackson had returned and was witnessing my outlandish verbal attack on my horse. “Cowardice under fire! Ran from the enemy you did! I cannot believe that you would do such a thing to me after all I have done for you!”

Pepper snorted forcefully, and I heard laughter coming from behind me. I turned and saw Jackson and his staff watching the show and realized what a spectacle I was making of myself by talking to a dumb horse in such a manner.

Jackson’s expression was as stern as ever. “Shall I have him court marshaled, Captain?” asked Old Jack without cracking a smile.

I grinned sheepishly, and I know I was red in the face. “No, sir,” I replied. “It’s the first time he ever did that. With your permission, I’ll give him a chance to redeem himself.”

“Very well. As you wish, Captain.” Jackson nodded and rode on up to Kemper’s house, his staff following, some still laughing. To this day, I believe Jackson was serious about the court martial.

I turned my attention to Pepper and examined him for wounds but found only some minor scratches on his belly and two of his legs, nothing of any consequence. “Scared you, didn’t it?” I grunted at him.

“Sure did!” he replied in a high-pitched whinny. It at first startled me, but I heard snickers coming from the other side of Pepper and looked under his belly to see one of Carrington’s gunners about to split a gut laughing. Others who had been in on the joke burst out laughing then, and we all had a good belly-grabber at my expense. Lord knows we needed it.


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An Eternity of Four Years – UPDATE

Heads up! Better get with finishing up your read of The Last Day of Forever, because I just uploaded the files to CreateSpace for the exciting conclusion to this epic story.

Here I go making predictions again… I expect to have it published in June.

Meanwhile, here is a teaser for you from An Eternity of Four Years. This scene takes place in the spring of 1862 and the boys from Louisiana are joining Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley for the start of Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign.


Book 2 1As the sun rose on the morning of 19 May 1862, we marched out of camp. Ewell went north, and the Louisiana Brigade went west. Taylor had me ride along with him so he could question me about Jackson. Blue rode along with Taylor’s servant.

As we drew near New Market and Jackson’s camp, Taylor had his regimental commanders tighten up the formation. The men of Taylor’s Louisiana Brigade, 3,000 strong, marched down the Valley Turnpike and into Jackson’s camp that evening with regimental bands playing smart martial airs, the drums beating the cadence, and bayonets and polished gun barrels glistening in the warm glow of the setting sun. It was a sight to stir the hearts of even the most hardened.

Taylor and his staff were in the vanguard, followed by Wheat’s band playing The Girl I Left Behind, then the Tiger Rifles in their fancy zouave uniforms following close behind the band. The Virginians and Marylanders of Jackson’s command poured out of camp and lined the road on either side, hooting and cheering us on. That only served to make us prouder. The bands played louder, and we put even more snap into our step. I am here to tell you that there was no grander sight than this magnificent brigade marching proudly up the turnpike under our blue pelican battle flags. My heart fairly wanted to burst from my chest!

Jackson watched from a distance as his fresh new brigade trooped smartly by. He soon sent a member of his staff to greet us and instruct us to march through his whole army to camp on the north side. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the Tigers were being positioned in camp so we would march in the vanguard of Jackson’s army when we broke camp the next day and moved north.

We marched into the fields designated for us, and our officers shouted commands in French to the amazement of Jackson’s troops gathered around to watch the show. Our bands continued to play, and some of our boys joined in pairs and danced in gay abandon as if their partners were the most beautiful Creole belles of New Orleans. Once more the battle hardened veterans of Jackson’s Valley Army cheered.

Taylor laughed at the amazed Virginians then turned to me. “Where is he, Captain?”

I looked about for Jackson. I had seen him earlier when we marched down the pike but had lost him in the crowd. I soon spotted his lanky figure sitting on a rail fence overlooking the camp and road. “That’s him, sir, there on that fence,” I replied, pointing.

“Come along, Captain. I expect you will want to tell him hello.”

“Yes, sir.” I followed Taylor as he made his way through camp to Jackson.

Stonewall was sitting on the top rail, sucking on a lemon to ease his stomach problem as was his habit. He wore high cavalry boots that seemed oversized even for him, and his uniform was faded and weathered looking. I soon realized it was the same one he had worn back at VMI. He had a dark heavy beard, and brooding eyes peeked out from under the bill of his kepi, which he wore rakishly low over his brows so as to almost hide his eyes. He looked weary and much older than when I had last seen him.

I held back, and Taylor stepped up and introduced himself. Jackson nodded and glanced over at me for a moment. Then turning back to Taylor, he asked in a low even tone, “By what route did you march today and how many miles?”

“Keazletown Road. Six and twenty miles.”

Jackson gestured with his lemon to our brigade. “You seem to have no stragglers.”

“Never allow straggling, sir.”

Jackson nodded knowingly. “Then you must teach my people. They straggle badly.”

One of our bands struck up a tune, and the men began dancing again. Stonewall watched for a few moments then said softly, “Thoughtless fellows for serious work.”

Taylor turned and looked over his shoulder at his brigade then turned back to face Jackson. “I expect the work will not be less well done because of the gayety, sir.”

Stonewall nodded but made no reply. Turning once more to me he said, “I believe I know you?”

“Yes, sir. I was a student at VMI, class of ‘60.”

Jackson smiled. “Of course,” he replied evenly. “You’re Ethan Davis, aren’t you? The moustache deceived me. How are you, Captain Davis?”


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An Eternity of Four Years – Excerpt 1

I am moving right along on An Eternity of Four Years, Book 2 of the series. Took three days vacation from work. Since we are real close on The Last Day of Forever, I thought I might start teasing you with Book 2. This is from the first chapter titled The Duel. I also made some changes to the cover.


Book 2 1The sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon. Its feeble rays stabbed fitfully through the dense morning fog to give the gray monotones of dawn an ethereal glow. The chilling mist that hid the features of the so-called “Dueling Oaks” along Bayou St John restricted my visibility to but one hundred paces or so. The oak’s massive branches, touching the ground in places, had the appearance of being overly burdened and unable to lift up to reach the sun. Spanish moss dripped from those branches like ghostly fingers probing towards the earth.

As I stood upon the Field of Honor and awaited the arrival of my opponent, my clothing was damp from the fog, and my head throbbed from the copious amounts of absinthe I had consumed the previous night and well into the morning.

My Second, Jean DuBassey, having arrived only a few moments before, seemed irritated that I had sent for him to act in that capacity. He arrived in a bit of a huff.

“Forgive me, Ethan, for I’m a bit confused. The last time I saw you was five years ago at your father’s plantation in Catahoula Parish . . .”

I interrupted him, “More or less, and the plantation is also called Catahoula.”

He shook his head, frustrated at my response. “No matter! And now, five years later, you want me to act as your second in a duel? And you do realize dueling is illegal in New Orleans?”

“As I recall, Jean, five years ago you said if I needed anything just ask, or words to that effect. Besides, you are the only person I could think of.”

“You’re drunk!”

I dismissed that accusation with a wave of my hand. “Maybe a little.”

“Maybe a lot! How do you expect to fight a duel while drunk?”

“Actually, I was hoping you might help with that. You did claim you were an accomplished duelist, did you not? And don’t you teach the use of the sword and pistol?”

“You want me to teach you how to kill someone in ten minutes?”

I nodded. “Personally, I have not found killing someone anymore complicated than that?”

“Who have you killed?”

“Just a few renegade Indians out west when I was in the Army.”

He leaned in and smelled my breath. “What have you been drinking?”

“Absinthe. Say, did you know there is a saloon on Bourbon Street—oh wait, you call them ‘coffeehouses’—and it sells mostly absinthe, and you drip water from these marvelous little marble fountains over lumps of sugar­­…?” I paused and considered what I had said. “Well, I guess you do know; you live here, don’t you?”

Jean shook his head again. He was becoming quite exasperated with me. “You dragged me from my bed, which I was sharing with a beautiful lady, by the way, to help you fight a duel? Who did you insult?”

“An arrogant fellow by the name of Toutant.”

“Emile Justin Toutant?”

“The same. Friend of yours?”

“Not hardly. There are two people in this city you do not want to get into a duel with. I am one, and he is the other. What did you say that caused him to take offense?”

“He called me a coward, so I punched him.”

“And why did he call you a coward?”

“Because I said the South is likely to lose this war.”

“And he took offense at that?”

“That—and maybe I called him a name.”

“This is like pulling teeth! What did you call him?”

“An ignorant buffoon.”

Jean sighed in resignation. “What is the choice of weapons?”


“Not ten pound mauls in five feet of water on a sandbar in the Red River?” he said sarcastically to remind me of our “almost” duel five years before.

“That worked for you because you are only just over five feet tall, but the buffoon is as tall as I am.”

Jean looked past me and said, “The buffoon here.”

I turned and saw nothing at first but heard the trod of the horses, the rattle of the harness, and rumble of the carriage wheels. It appeared like a specter drifting out of the swirling fog and came to a stop under a gnarled and sagging oak thirty paces or so from where my second and I stood.

A gaudily dressed black man of immense size drove the rig. He was well over six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds or more. He was dressed in sky-blue, silken, knee-length pantaloons and matching swallow-tailed coat, vest and cravat, with a ruffled shirt, white silk stockings and black pumps. He wore a matching blue ostrich-plumed turban on his head. Costumed so, he looked like some eunuch from the Arabian Nights. He jumped down from the driver’s seat with a grace that seemed in stark contrast to his huge size and opened the door for his master.

A man I assumed correctly to be my opponent’s second stepped out of the carriage. The surgeon followed, identified by his black bag.

Then Monsieur Toutant stepped arrogantly up to the carriage door and stood there for a moment smiling sardonically before dropping to the ground, alighting like some bird of prey. He drew a dainty, lace-trimmed handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed his lips, and with a flourish, returned it to its place. He was handsomely dressed in a very fine, white linen suit and a ruffled shirt, a white silk brocade vest, and maroon, silk cravat. He carried a silver handle cane, using it more as an extension of his arm and part of his costume rather than for any assistance while walking.

He stabbed the ground with his cane, and with his other hand upon his hip, struck an arrogant pose. His head thrown back, he looked down his long slender nose at me and said, “Good morning, Monsieur Davis.” He took a deep breath and pursed his lips before saying, “A good day to die, is it not?”

I suppose that statement was meant to unnerve me. It did not, because I was in an absinthe-induced daze. Quite frankly I was so distressed as the result of other matters, matters of the heart that is, that I really didn’t much give a damn if I lived or died. As a result, I stood upon this so-called Field of Honor to answer my insult to this finely dressed, pompous ass, and I was totally unafraid of the outcome. In retrospect that attitude likely saved my life that morning. Events that had brought me to this state of depression were out of my control. I was, therefore, forced to place the whole miserable affair into the hands of the Lord—along with my life. As it were, He had plans for me but had not seen a need to take me into His confidence concerning them.

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The Last Day of Forever – Another Update and Excerpt

This is way more difficult that I ever thought. Proof #1 had issues that needed fixing, thus we had proof #2, and it had different issues, all my fault. Now we are on proof #3. I am making no predictions, but I think we are close—but then I have said that before.

Meanwhile, for those patiently waiting for me to get my act together, here is another excerpt from early in the book.


Cover B1I looked at Rachel, her face not more than three inches from mine as she held my hands to the floor beside my head. Her chest was heaving from the exertion, and there was a look of confusion on her face. “Very well, you have me pinned. What do you intend to do now?”

…I did not rightly know what I was going to do then. I looked at him, and he was smiling at me, so I did the first thing that came to mind. I kissed him right on the lips…

I was more than a little surprised when she kissed me. It was only a peck on the lips, but I was not expecting it. With speed and strength I am sure surprised her, I flipped her off my chest and rolled her onto her back. Before she knew what was happening, I sat astride her with her hands pinned to the floor.

Surprise showed plainly on her face. “So,” I said, “It’s a kiss you want from me. Perhaps you should have a real one.” She looked shocked then.

As I said that, I heard my mother’s footsteps on the stairs. Our roughhousing had brought her to investigate. “Ethan! Brandy!”

“Perhaps some other time,” I said as I stood and pulled Rachel to her feet. I turned to take my medicine just as my mother stepped up to the parlor door. Not knowing what to expect from an angry Analee, Rachel tried to hide behind my back.

“What is going on down here? It sounded like you and Brandy were tussling.”

“You called?” Brandy showed up then, her hair looking a mess. My mother noticed that right off. She gave Brandy a once over, then me, and drew her own conclusions.

“Rachel, you can come from behind Ethan. I know you’re there.” She peeked around me at Analee. Her expression was one of near terror as she stared big-eyed and gape-mouthed at my mother. She looked a mess; her hair was down and hanging in her face, and her blouse was pulled from her skirt. “You too?” said Analee with disgust in her voice.

“Yes, ma’am,” she stuttered. “But we didn’t break anything.”

“Ethan!” exclaimed my mother, and Brandy mimicked her behind her back. Analee spun. “I saw that, Brandy!” That did it! I was absolutely convinced right then she had eyes in the back of her head. Brandy looked contrite and more than a little surprised.

Analee turned her attention back to me. “Ethan, these are two young ladies…”

She paused and looked at them, first Brandy and then Rachel. “Rachel!” Poor Rachel jumped. “Pull your blouse down! Your bosoms are showing!”

That caused me to turn and look. Her blouse was pulled up, but I didn’t see any bosoms, just camisole. Rachel tugged her blouse down as she looked sheepishly at my mother.

Once more my mother turned her attention back to me. Her eyebrow went up and her hands were on her hips. That was a guaranteed, sure sign I was in trouble. “As I started to say, these are two young ladies, and you are a gentleman—or I thought you were. It is not proper for you to be tussling on the floor with them as if they were children. The three of you are a little old for that. And you know I never allow that in the house.”

By then Mammy had shown up with a stern expression on her face. She stood behind Analee and nodded her agreement to every word the mistress of the house said and punctuated the important points with a slap on Brandy’s backside. Brandy squealed, but I’m sure she didn’t feel a thing through all those petticoats.

Analee turned to Brandy. “Now, you get out to the kitchen and help your mother with supper.

“Ethan, you find yourself something to do—outside.”

“Rachel, if you want that gown fitted in time for the party, you best get yourself upstairs and let me help you with it now.”

The queen bee had spoken, and with a flourish, she spun and left the room.


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The Last Day of Forever – Update and Excerpt

We are getting closer. Just uploaded the files for the print version. That will need to be proofed and any corrections made. I would like to publish the digital version and the print version up at the same time. Digital is ready to go. Print is holding up the works.

Since you are so patient, here is another taste from The Last Day of Forever, Chapter 18 – Femme Fatale.

Cover B1CRed BlogThe second week we were in Baltimore, The Herndons put on a party to welcome their prodigal son home from school for the summer. In the Landon/Herndon fashion, it was indeed a grand soiree, which included the financial and political elite of Baltimore and Washington. The food was fabulous and in plentiful supply, and there was a fountain spouting streams of rum-spiked punch. As guests of honor, Miles and I were expected to turn out in our VMI uniforms. I had not seen so many handsome men and beautiful women so elegantly dressed in one place before. A full orchestra, not like the little five piece band at my birthday, was on hand for dancing.

The first time I saw her, I was standing beside that fountain of spirituous punch, engrossed in the mechanics which enabled it to spout the élixir de la vie, as it were. I had just about reconciled myself to the fact that I would have to peek under the tablecloth in order to discern its secrets when I heard my name called.

I looked up and saw a most lovely sight, Mademoiselle Aimee de Beauchamp, on Miles’ right arm as he made his way across the ballroom of Herndon Manor with her equally lovely and charming twin sister, Annette, on his left arm.

“Ethan, there you are! I’ve been looking all over for you. I have two most charming ladies I want you to meet.”

I must confess their beauty immediately enraptured me.

He introduced me in his broken French, “Mademoiselle Annette, Mademoiselle Aimee, this is Cadet Private Ethan Davis.”

I took the hint and responded in kind. “Enchanté, Mademoiselles,” I replied with a sweeping bow.

Both of the sisters immediately looked at each other as if they had finally found a home in the New World, someone who spoke their language. They curtsied and in unison said, “Parlé vous Francais, Monsieur?”

“Oui. Je suis la Louisiane.”

Their eyes lit up. “Un Creole?”


“They are the daughters of Monsieur de Beauchamp, a diplomat with the French embassy in Washington.” And according to Miles, they spoke not a word of English. “Are they not absolutely stunning? Aimee is mine, no, I think I prefer Annette,” said Miles in English.

They looked exactly alike, and their gowns were identical. Had I not kept track of which one was on which side of Miles, I would have easily mixed them up. I wondered how he could tell them apart or what difference it made. Both had dark hair and stunning blue eyes, reminding me of Rachel. They were on the petit side, not more than five feet four inches tall and slender of build.

“I think Mademoiselle Aimee would like to dance, Ethan, and I think you should ask her.” I took the hint, a proposal to which she readily agreed. Miles, of course, followed suit with her sister, and the four of us stepped onto the dance floor.

Mademoiselle Aimee proved to be even more enchanting than I had first thought. She was well educated, intelligent, and as poised as the most polished diplomat. Moreover, she had a sense of humor, which I found most refreshing, and a marvelous smile that made me want to make her laugh all the more. She wanted to know all there was to know about Louisiana and asked me endless questions about my home and my Creole heritage. We danced several dances until she appeared to be tiring, at which I suggested we retire from the floor for refreshments.

We met Miles and Annette at the mysterious fountain of spirituous elixir, and he suggested we take some fresh air. As we passed through the doorway to the patio, he said to me in English in hushed tones, “Keep Aimee occupied for me, so I can be alone with her sister. The two are almost inseparable.” With that he swept Annette away and out into the garden.

Aimee seemed not the least disturbed that her twin was gone off with Miles. We moved into the garden, and she took a seat on one of the garden benches there. She sipped her punch pensively for a moment, as I was somewhat at a loss for words, then she looked up and said in accented but grammatically perfect English, “It seems your friend Miles is quite fond of my sister.”

I looked at her askance. “You speak English?”

“Yes, I am the daughter of a diplomat. It is expected,” she replied with a wry smile.

“But Miles said you spoke no English.”

“It is a little game my sister and I sometimes play. We told Miles what he wanted to hear.” Once more she flashed that arresting smile as she patted the bench beside her. “Please, have a seat.” Somewhat stunned, I took the offered seat. She saw my confusion. “You are offended, Ethan?”

“No, just a bit taken aback.”

She smiled. “I imagine Miles will be, as well, when he learns Annette understood every word he said.”

I then remembered Miles’ remarks as he conspired to get Annette away from her sister for who knows what in the garden. Fortunately for me, it was dimly lit around our bench, or she might have seen my red cheeks. Then it hit me; the sisters de Beauchamp were also conspiring.

I looked at her and chuckled. “Old Miles thinks he’s such a ladies man. Wait until he discovers he has been had by someone more clever than he.”

She giggled at that remark. “I do not know when she will tell him or even if she will.”

“Well, I won’t tell on her. It’ll be fun to see just how long she can fool him.” I looked into those blue eyes. “Why did you confess to me?”

“I thought it best our relationship start off on an honest note.”

Our relationship? I thought about what she said. It was possible to read all manner of meanings into it, but I decided I should simply take it at face value.


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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 8

This excerpt is from about in the middle of the story, Chapter 16.

Cover B1CRed BlogAs we entered the photographer’s studio, a gentleman in his fifties greeted us. He was somewhat hunched over and wearing wire-rimmed glasses barely hanging on the end of his nose. His hair was disheveled and sticking out at odd angles from his head. “May I help you?”

“We would like our photographs taken. Can you do it today?”

“Yes, of course, a tintype? Step into my studio,” he said as he held the curtain back for us. “How would you like them, together or separate?”

“Together,” replied Rachel. “One must fit this locket, and the other this watch. Can you do that?”

“It will not be a problem,” he said as he ushered us over to the set. “Have a seat, sir,” he said to me as he adjusted the location of a chair that stood before his camera. Hold your cap in your hand beside you and up close to your body. Sit up straight.” He then clamped the back of my head in some device to help me hold perfectly still for the long exposure.

Behind the chair was a painted scene meant to convey the feeling of the outdoors and failed miserably to do so. A Doric column fern stand stood nearby with several books on top to serve as a prop.

“And you, Miss, stand beside him and place your hand on his shoulder thusly. A little closer. Very good! Now, you, sir, lift your cap a little higher. There, that’s fine.” He moved behind the camera and pulled a black cloth over his head. “Very good,” he muttered from under the hood.

“This isn’t what I had in mind,” said Rachel.

“Just what did you have in mind?” I asked being careful not to move my head, fearful that clamping device might somehow decapitate me.

“Something a bit more intimate.”

I immediately looked up at her, and the “guillotine” fell over onto the floor with a loud clatter. “Intimate?”

“Oh dear, you moved, sir,” said the photographer as he came out from under his hood.

Rachel removed her hand from my shoulder. “Sir, I would like a different pose.”

“Intimate?” I whispered to myself as all manner of “intimate” visions entered my head, none appropriate for the situation.

“What do you have in mind, Miss?”

She looked around and spied what she wanted against a wall. “I want to use that settee.”

“This is highly irregular,” he said as if confused.

“She wants the settee, sir,” I replied as I stood and moved the chair aside.

With the settee placed before the camera, Rachel took over direction of the photograph. “Have a seat, Ethan, over to one side.” She turned to the photographer. “All I want is from the waist up. Can you get it all in?”

He muttered to himself as he went under the black cloth once more. “All of it.”

“Very well,” she replied as she took her seat beside me. “Put your arms around me, Ethan.” I obeyed, and she leaned against my chest, her face beside mine. She then pulled my arms around her waist and pinned them against her with her own as she snuggled in more comfortably. “Don’t be afraid to squeeze me a little.” I pulled her tighter. “How is that, sir?” she asked the photographer.

“Highly irregular,” he muttered from under his black cloth as he adjusted his camera’s position slightly.

“Can you get it all?” asked Rachel.

“All of it, but highly irregular.”

“Good. This is what we want.”

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The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 7

Cover B1CRed BlogSince I am running behind in getting this thing published, I figured I had better get another excerpt out and give you a taste of the other end of the book. This excerpt is from Chapter 25. Our hero, Ethan, has finished school and is a newly commissioned second lieutenant assigned to the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He has just met his commanding officer and been assigned to Fort Fillmore along the Rio Grande in New Mexico Territory. Here, he is about to meet his senior NCO.

A sergeant with flaming red hair and a square jaw that looked like it was cut from granite was standing outside the door. A handlebar mustache of gigantic proportions, neatly waxed on the ends, dominated his face. He was tall, almost as tall as I am and thin and hard. He was also bowlegged, like he had spent his entire life in the saddle and might even been born there. His blue uniform was faded, and he wore his kepi at a jaunty angle, low across his eyes.

“You must be Sergeant Sullivan,” I said.

In a thick Irish brogue, he answered, “Aye, lad, and you must be my new shave tail … er … I mean Lieutenant Davis.” Without waiting for me to respond, he added, “Grab your kit, Lieutenant. The day isn’t a getting any cooler. I see ya brung yer own mount, nice gray ya have, sir. We’re ready to leave if you are, and I ‘spect you are. Come along, lad.” He turned and headed out the door, and I dutifully followed.

A wagon loaded with supplies and three mounted troopers looking as scared as I was trying not to look were waiting outside on the parade ground. “These boys are replacements. Ya gonna ride yer gray or in the wagon with me—Sir?” He said looking me up and down. That “sir” was added almost as an afterthought.

“The wagon with you. We have much to talk about.”

He nodded. “Aye, ‘spect we have. Climb aboard, Sir.” Before I was fully seated, he slapped reins to the mule team, and we were off. We picked up the Rio Grande and bounced along a trail beside it headed north by northwest.

Fort Fillmore was on the eastern edge of the Gadsden Purchase, a piece of land along the Mexican border purchased from Mexico a few years prior. The Butterfield Stage Line ran through there, it being the best route to California. The Butterfield line had been in operation for only a few years and was the first such service to California. It snaked out of Kansas southwest through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), then Texas to New Mexico Territory and on into southern California and Los Angeles. In 1860 all the country between Texas and southern California was called New Mexico Territory.

The three troopers trailed behind the wagon far enough back to stay out of its dust. I took out a cigar for myself and offered another to Sergeant Sullivan.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said as he took the offered cigar and drew it under his nose. “And a fine one it tis.” He bit off the end, spit it out, and stuck the cigar in his mouth. From his pocket he retrieved a match and struck it on the wagon seat. “Light?” I lit my cigar from the offered match, then he lit his own. “I hear yer from Louisiana.”

“Catahoula Parish.”

“And yer not West Point?”

“Virginia Military Institute.”

He looked at me as if I had said something wrong. “Out here, ya may as well forget everything they taught ya.”

“I suspected as much. Tell me about New Mexico.”

“Its damn hot! And damn dusty! And if ya ain’t careful, damn dangerous! If the Injuns don’t worry ya none, ya can fret over the Mexican bandits, or the rattlers, or the Gilas, or the scorpions, or them rat-sized spiders they have out here.” He spit out a piece of tobacco. “Other than that it’s a grand place. And to think, I left Ireland for all this.” He looked at me with a wry grin. “Yes, I’m Irish. Dropped the O from me name so-as I would fit in better in my new country.”

As if I had not figured that out.


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