Tag Archives: Catahoula

Catahoula Book 4

We are getting close. Book 4, Buffalo Woman, is out with the beta readers to look for problems. I am hoping for a release in May at the latest, but keep in mind I usually have to eat my estimated publication dates. Meanwhile, here is a short excerpt. This scene is out on the Great Plains of Nebraska in winter. Ethan and Angel are buffalo hunting with Grand Duke Alexei of Russia.

*****

We had not gone more than a couple of miles, and I spied about a hundred buffalo of to our right down on the plain of a wide shallow valley. Alexei had rejoined his group but also saw it and pointed to it. “Angelique, now is your chance,” he yelled.

Angel had, of course, taken notice and was looking at me with a pleading expression on her face. “Now, it’s your turn,” I said to her.

The rest of the party was having a good time laughing and drinking champagne when Angel and I broke off from the group and headed for the herd. We still had ample daylight to make a kill and get it skinned and the meat packed if we wasted no time. When he saw us galloping off after the buffalo, Alexei cheered us on and called a halt to the march to watch. He then called for binoculars to have a better view of the action out on the plain.

Angel was ahead of me some two lengths and driving her mount as hard as she could. We thundered down the gentle slope of the hill to the sound of pounding hooves and the rhythmic panting of our ponies. The herd stirred into motion at the sight of the two riders coming hard down on them. They broke into a loping gallop at first and then a hard run as we came up alongside of them. The thunderous sound of over 400 hooves pounding the earth into submission is truly awesome and sent shivers up my spine.

Angel was still ahead of me some two lengths and had already drawn the Sharps from its scabbard, having picked out an old bull along the right side and near the front of the herd as her trophy. I would rather she had selected one near the rear of the herd, but she was committed, and there was no turning back at that point. Like Alexei had experienced, her mount was not terribly interested in getting up close to the galloping buffalo, but she urged him on. She would get him within about four or five feet and bring the rifle to her shoulder while holding the reins in her teeth and managing the horse with her knees. As she was about to shoot, her pony pulled away and spoiled her shot.

I was close behind and slightly off to her side away from the buffalo. I kept looking back to be sure the tail end of the herd did not close in around us from behind. If they did and one of us should fall, he would be turned into a prairie pancake by the hooves of many massive buffalo running over him—or her.

She spurred her reluctant pony in closer once more and, with wide-eyed trepidation, he did move closer. And as before, just as she was about to shoot, his fear overcame her urging, and he reared and pulled away nearly throwing Angel. My heart went into my throat as Angel struggled to regain control and spur him to catch up with her buffalo.

This could not go on much longer. We were losing daylight. I saw only one solution. “Hang on! I’m coming!” I yelled as I urged my pony faster and caught up with Angel. As she forced her mount in closer, I pulled up against the other side of her and, using my horse, forced hers to move closer to the animals he was so fearful of. Protesting, he moved in tighter to the buffalo, but Angel and I were jammed against each other and riding full tilt beside a herd of panicked buffalo.

She was then within two or three feet of her selected bull, and we could both feel and smell their hot breath turned into steam as they huffed to expel and fill their lungs with another breath of life. “Take the shot!” I yelled.

Where she found the strength to do so with that heavy rifle I will never know, but managing the horse with the reins in her left hand, she threw the Sharps to her shoulder, cradled its fore end in her crook of her left elbow, and pointed the rifle at the big bull’s massive chest and pulled the trigger.

BAM!

 

 

Advertisements

Comments Off on Catahoula Book 4

Filed under Buffalo Woman, Catahoula Books

Joe-bert – Excerpt From Book 4

I have finished the first draft of Book 4 of the Catahoula series. Now for the rewrites… And then the editing… Meanwhile, I have here included a short excerpt from the book. This scene takes place in St. Louis when Ethan and Angel are checking into the hotel there. We see Ethan quick to be irritated by the clerk’s mispronunciation of his name and it draws out his sense of humor.

*****

I cleared my throat, and the clerk looked up. “Oh! May I help you, sir?”

“Yes. Name’s Joubert. I telegraphed for reservations three days ago.”

He pushed his glasses up his nose and went to shuffling another stack of papers. “Oh, here it is. Mr. Ethan Joe-bert,” he said reading my name off the reservation telegram.

“It is Joubert,” I replied, using the correct French pronunciation.

“Joe-bert,” he repeated, not even coming close.

“No, Joubert. Draw out the ‘J’ sound, and the second syllable sounds almost like ‘bear’, not ‘bert,’ except more tongue out front and an almost silent ‘t’ on the end. Try it.”

The clerk bravely tried to follow my instructions and failed with a hard sounding “Joe”. “No,” and I reached out and pinched his cheeks to pucker his mouth. “J-j-jou…”

Another hard “Joe” came out, but this one sounded more like it was uttered by a duck being strangled. Angel snickered behind my back. I looked around and glared at her. She pinched her mouth closed in an attempt to hide her amusement, but her laughing eyes gave her away. Turning back to my new friend, I repeated, “Joubert. Try it again.”

He failed once more. Angel couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst out laughing. “Give it up, Poppa.”

Resigned to my fate, I said to the clerk. “Very well, just call me Joe-bert.”

He was much relieved. “Oh, thank you very much, sir!”

I shrugged in resignation.

*****

The working title remains If Ever I Cease to Love for now. More on the book here.

Comments Off on Joe-bert – Excerpt From Book 4

Filed under Catahoula Books

Catahoula Book 4

Maybe this long overdue post will motivate me to get this finished. Target date to publish Book 4 is winter 2018. This is from the first chapter. Our story has moved ahead five years from where we last left Rachel, Ethan, Thomas, and Angel beside the Red River with the charred remains of Catahoula Plantation smoldering behind them. The story is being written around the visit and tour of America by Grand Duke Alexei Romanoff of Russia. He traveled the US from November of 1871 through March of 1872. Among his stops were a buffalo hunt in Nebraska in January and Mardi Gras in New Orleans in March. That was the first year Rex paraded, and the Rex theme song, If Ever I Cease to Love, is associated with the Grand Duke. And that is also the working title of Book 4. Here follows a snip from Chapter One.

*****

4 January 1872

Boston, Massachusetts

Angelique LeBeuf Joubert was in trouble—serious trouble—trouble so serious that her father, that would be me, Ethan Joubert, had been summoned all the way from my home in Louisiana to her finishing school in Boston to deal with it. And I did not appreciate getting a telegram on Christmas Eve telling me my daughter was being expelled from her expensive finishing school, thus it was not a very pleasant Christmas at Catahoula Plantation that year. I departed for Boston three days after Christmas.

Anticipating my arrival that very morning, Angel had been ordered to pack her bags, and she knew what that meant. Her bags stacked on the floor beside her, she sat on the very uncomfortable wooden bench outside the headmistress’ office and contemplated her fate for nearly two hours before I arrived.

The morning was cold with a light snow falling when my hired carriage pulled up at the gate of her school. “Wait for me,” I told the driver, and he nodded his agreement. A doorman let me in after my knock and bade me follow him to the headmistress’s office down a long hallway. At the far end, I saw my daughter sitting on a bench and a pile of her luggage nearby. She rose to greet me, but I only gave her an angry nod for a greeting and marched directly into the headmistress’ office. I’m sure that hurt her, but my intention was to tell her she was in real trouble this time.

Mrs, Warton rose to greet me when I entered. “Mr. Joubert, I’m so sorry I had to disturb your Christmas, but…”

Not the least interested in her apologies, I held up my hand to stop her. “Just tell me what she did.” And she did just that—in great detail, reading from a list of offenses four pages long. I suppose she wanted to be sure she didn’t miss anything, thus she saw the need to write them all down for my benefit.

She never offered me a seat, but as she began reading page two of her litany of offenses, realizing this was going to take a while, I took one anyway, seating myself in a large chair across from her desk. Only briefly glancing up to be sure I was paying close attention and stopping periodically only to catch her breath, Mrs. Warton prattled on. And I listened—and got angrier.

About the middle of page three, one particular offense got my attention. “She what?” I yelled.

Mrs. Warton looked up and what I considered a bit of a sneer crossed her lips. She replied evenly, “Sir, I believe you heard me correctly.”

Angel heard me and jumped at the sound of my booming voice coming from the other side of the large oak door. “She must have gotten to the part about the toad,” she muttered to herself.

Mrs. Warton resumed reading from her list, and Angel sat outside listening to the muffled voices occasionally punctuated by an outburst from me. She eventually became somewhat distracted by the little dancing flecks of dust illuminated by the sun’s rays coming in through the window. That may seem odd, considering what was transpiring on the other side of the door, but she often took notice of things others took for granted and failed to notice. Such had become part of her very nature, survival tricks she had learned during those very dark times at the end of the War of Northern Aggression, that terrible time between losing her mother, father, and younger brother and finding a new home with her adopted parents, Rachel and me. Her interest in the dancing dust particles lasted only until the next outburst from on the other side of that door.

Then everything got quiet for her—ominously quiet.

The big oak door suddenly creaked open, and there I stood staring at her. Actually, “glaring” might be a better description. The perfect picture of chastised humility she lowered her head and slowly stood but never took her eyes off mine, which seemed to be cutting all the way down to her very core.

“Poppa…”

“Say nothing,” I replied sharply with a wave of my hand, as my glare became even sterner.

I’m dead! She thought.

I scooped up armloads of her bags and headed for the door. She didn’t move. I stopped and looked back at her. “You coming?”

“I’ve been expelled?”

“Something like that. Were you expecting otherwise?”

I turned abruptly and resumed my march for the front door of the school. She picked up her remaining bags and followed me outside. It was cold and she was thankful for that, hoping it might take some of the heat off my anger.

I stopped when we reached the gate. The waiting carriage was just outside with its driver huddled in his greatcoat and dozing up in the driver’s seat in spite of the light falling snow that collected on him outlining his form. She caught up with me and stopped, making sure she remained out of my easy striking distance. I had never struck her before, but she thought I just might be angry enough to do so this time.

I stood there with my back to her for a long while before I slowly turned to face her. I set her bags down, and with my lips pursed and my eyes tightly closed, as if looking at her was painful, I shook my head in an exaggerated fashion.

A slight chill ran through her body. Here it comes!

And I began, “You were constantly in trouble here. Your marks were awful. You never paid attention in any of your classes, except art. And you were constantly in trouble—oh wait, I already said that.”

“I liked art…”

I paused my rant and briefly looked skyward and took a deep breath, slowly letting it out. “Angel, did you really put a dead toad in Mrs. Warton’s soup?”

With a frown on her face, she shrugged innocently and looked to the side as if considering her answer. “Well, I figured she might enjoy frog. We do eat them back home.”

I fought back a smile and just barely succeeded. “The legs—we eat the legs, not the whole frog—entrails and all, much less one that has been dead since November.”

“Poppa, she’s mean as a snake…” she started to explain, but nothing she would have said beyond that could possibly have made any sense or helped her cause.

With my extended palm, I stopped her to resume my interrogation. “And when questioned about the toad, did you reply that if she didn’t want to eat it, you could suggest another place she could put it?”

She stuttered, “I-I know how that must sound, but I meant the garbage.”

“Bull shit!”

“Poppa, your language. I’m a lady and not accustomed to such talk.”

“Bull shit, again!” I said it loud enough that time that the hackney driver looked up from his slumber. “You needn’t pretend those words—or worse—have never crossed your lips!”

I had her there and she knew it. She took one step back and tried to change the subject. “Poppa, you know I really didn’t want to come here. Even Momma was against it, but you insisted. And you’re right. I’m not much of a lady, am I?”

No longer able to hold it back, I lost it then and burst out laughing as I took the two strides to her that separated us and grabbed her by the shoulders. For a long moment, I just looked at her and shook my head. I then pulled her to myself and swallowed her in a loving embrace. “Angel, what am I going to do with you?”

Relieved that I wasn’t going to kill her, she put her arms around me and hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me in years. “How about take me home where I belong?”

“That was your intention all along, wasn’t it?”

“Ummm, maybe… I miss you and Momma and Thomas. And I miss Catahoula. It’s my home. Perhaps you can never understand how important you have become to me?”

“You’re right, and I should have understood that especially considering what you went through as a child, losing your own parents and home. I’m sorry. You and your mother were right. This finishing school was not a good idea for you. Let’s go home.”

*****

Needless to say, they didn’t make it back to Catahoula as soon as they thought…

Comments Off on Catahoula Book 4

Filed under Catahoula Books

The Awakening

Book 2 1Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years

In that September of 1862, the giddy victories of the year before had given way to the soul-numbing realities of a brutal and bloody war. Beginning with the Valley Campaign in the early spring and continuing all summer through to Sharpsburg, what had seemed glorious the year before became for all a dreaded experience that promised only more pain, suffering, and death. Those who believed this war would be over quickly came face-to-face with the sobering realization that it would likely go on for a long while and cost many more lives.

Thomas Paine once said of another war, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” When a man’s soul is tested by the worst of what life can throw at him, especially when he looks death in the face, he becomes contemplative of his mortality. Unnoticed by all but a very few, a change was taking place; an “awakening” was slowly spreading over the army. It would begin in the Army of Northern Virginia and eventually spread to all of the armies of the Confederacy. It would profoundly impact the lives of the many soldiers touched by it, and it would eventually be felt elsewhere in the nation long after the war ended.

*****

In An Eternity of Four Years an entire chapter is dedicated to an event that took place in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war. Chapter 16 is titled “The Awakening” and focuses on two points. The first is the spiritual awakening that took place during the war and the beginning of Ethan’s spiritual recovery from his lapses in judgment and bouts of self-pity over losing Rachel.

As the above excerpt from Chapter 16 of An Eternity of Four Years suggests, the “sobering realization” of what the war was about (seeing the elephant), and when men “look death in the face,” they do indeed become “contemplative” of their mortality. Such a man then becomes much more open to the calling of God.

Both sides of the conflict experienced this awakening but in different ways. The North had many Catholics in its ranks and the intensity of the awakening was not as strong as in the southern armies, which had far more evangelical Protestant members. It is estimated that over 100,000 men came to Christ during this period in the South, while some 100,000 to 200,000 did so in the much larger northern army. That represents about 10% of all who served. Most of those new Christians who survived the war went home taking their new faith with them to become active members of local churches and evangelists for Christ. Thus what they experienced during the war was felt long after it by those they touched with the Gospel message.

I have already discussed how Major General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson was a great man of faith. So were many other southern leaders, including General Robert E. Lee. While Lincoln’s government did encourage spiritual matters in the military, even providing for chaplains in each regiment, the southern government was not as supportive until later in the war. People like Lee, Jackson, and Leonidus Polk, the “fighting bishop,” strongly encouraged the regiments to see to the spiritual needs of the soldiers.

Local churches back home were encouraged to send “spiritual men” to act as chaplains in the various regiments. Because of the awakening, there was a serious need for Bibles and New Testaments for the soldiers to read. The South didn’t have the resources to meet these printing needs, and the blockaded ports seriously limited their ability to import religious material from Europe. Local churches and Bible societies attempted to fill the gap and print religious tracts, especially those giving the Gospel. Even some northern Bible societies sent tracts south.

Chaplains and men referred to as “colporters”* would pass out what Bibles and tracts they could get, but they never had enough to meet the need. When the colporter showed up in camp, they would be swamped by the men clamoring for tracts. A simple tract on the Gospel would be cherished by the man who had it as if it were the most expensive Bible with gilded pages, reading it over and over until he memorized it.

B3 AA Cover Master1In The Avenging Angel, I introduced a new character who helps Ethan in his efforts against the Klan. He is known only as “Brother Samuel.” He was in the army with Ethan and seriously wounded at First Manassas. After that Brother Samuel became a colporter with the various regiments from Louisiana. He not only supplies Ethan with information he needs in his role as The Avenging Angel, but he also acts as Ethan’s spiritual conscience, sometimes gently chastising him for what he is doing—taking revenge on the murderers of his friends.

God often uses terrible human events to further the Gospel message and call people to Christ. The American Civil War was one such time when He spoke to men through their suffering. If only we would listen more.

*Also rendered colporteur from the French for a peddler of books, usually religious material such as Bibles and religious tracts.

Comments Off on The Awakening

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Bible, Catahoula Books, Civil War, The Avenging Angel

The Hog Hunt

Here is another scene from The Avenging Angel, Book Three of the series. In Book One, The Last Day of Forever, there is another hog hunting scene. This one takes place ten years after that one. They have just arrived on the scene where the Catahoula dogs have a hog cornered. Little Zeke has not been seen since The Last Day of Forever. Theo is a new character in The Avenging Angel.

*****

Catahoula Map

We dismounted, and I retrieved two short ropes from my saddlebags. “You flip and I sit? Or I flip and you sit?” I asked Little Zeke.

He looked down at that hog, which was one about medium size, less than two hundred pounds.

Before he could answer, Theo did. “I’ll flip, you two old men take it easy and sit.”

We both looked at the grinning Theo like he might have had two heads.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“That puny little piglet ain’t no match for me. I’ll flip.”

Zeke frowned. “You ever done this before?”

“Plenty. We gonna jawbone about it or shall we get to it before he hurts one of the dogs?”

I looked at Little Zeke with my face wrinkled in a frown. He shrugged and said, “The boy says he can do it. Let him have at it, I say.”

“Very well, Theo. The pleasure is yours.”

Theo bowed deeply. “Thank you. You have the ropes ready?”

I held them up. “At your service, sir.”

“Then let’s get after it.”

“You coming?” I asked my father.

Pernell threw a leg over the pommel of his saddle and leaned forward. “This looks like it could get interesting, and I’m too old to outrun a hog, besides it could get a bit crowded down there with all of us. I’ll watch from up here.”

I tipped my hat. “Have it your way, but you’ll miss all the fun.”

“I doubt that,” he muttered under his breath.

We made our way down the side of the low ridge to the bottom. The hog was more interested in the dogs, and we tried to approach him from his rear to keep him from taking any interest in us. That didn’t last long. With Theo leading, Zeke and I following close behind, we were within about fifteen feet of the hog, when he suddenly turned on the two dogs on his left side and spotted us. He kind of lost all interest in the dogs then and came after us with the dogs in hot pursuit.

It was time to find a tree.

Zeke went one way. I went another, and the hog stayed on Theo. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone run so fast as that boy did that morning. Theo rounded a tree and reversed course on the hog. It took the pig but a second to figure out what had happened and reverse course, himself. Theo lit out, but the hog was gaining.

The boy headed for a tree with a branch hanging about six feet off the ground, and the hog was but three or four feet behind him—and catching up. I figured Theo would grab that branch and swing up into the safety of the tree, but he did something I have never seen before. He did grab the branch, but, hanging by his hands, he swung up and over the branch as the hog passed under and slid to a stop, confused and looking for Theo.

Completing his orbit of the branch, the boy landed right behind the hog, and pretty as you please, he reached down and grabbed him by his hocks, lifted his rear end off the ground, and flipped him on his side.

I looked at Zeke, and he looked at me. Neither of us could believe what we had just seen.

Theo still holding the squealing hog by his hocks and keeping him down on its side. “You two old men just going to stand there, or are you goin’ to come an’ help me?”

“Comin’, boss,” I replied as we rushed over and sat down on the pig’s side, pinning it. I handed Theo the ropes, and he hogtied it.

Zeke and I stood, and Theo stepped back, and with his hands on his hips he looked at the subdued hog with a smile of triumph on his face. “And that, gentlemen, is how you flip a pig.”

Zeke looked at me and shook his head. “In all the times we chased hogs together, I ain’t never seen you do a trick like that.”

I put my arm around Theo’s shoulders and grinned at Zeke. “I taught him everything he knows.”

His brow wrinkled, Theo looked up at me. “Even in your prime, you couldn’t have done that.”

I playfully slapped him behind his head. “Hush, boy, or you’ll be sleeping with the pig tonight.”

Comments Off on The Hog Hunt

Filed under Catahoula Books, The Avenging Angel

Meet Theo — Excerpt from The Avenging Angel

B3 AA Cover Master1Book 3 of the Catahoula Chronicles Series is moving right along. Still planning on a summer publish date. The Avenging Angel takes place in 1866, a year after the war and during one of the most troubling periods in American history, Reconstruction.

Some old characters you haven’t seen in a while will be returning, but there will also be some new characters introduced in The Avenging Angel. In this excerpt you will meet one, Theogene Henri Leboeuf. Theo will have a profound impact on the lives of Rachel and Ethan.

*****

 Scene setup: Ethan is having a confrontational discussion with his neighbor, Melvin Norgood, and one of his sons, Owen, when they are interrupted by a third son, Billy.

“I caught him, Paw! I caught the little thief!” Billy yelled as he stopped at the bottom of the front steps. The kid he had by the arm was filthy dirty, his long hair was matted and tangled, and his clothing was mostly rags. Issuing forth from his mouth was a constant stream of curses that would make a sailor blush, mostly directed at Billy, but the old man got his share.

Norgood and Owen descended the steps, and I followed.

“Got ya this time!” yelled Norgood, who by then had lost interest in me. “I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll long remember. Billy, beat him good and make sure he never comes back here.”

I looked at Norgood. “You serious?”

“Hell yes! That kid has been a pain in my rear all summer now.” He turned back to Billy. “Beat him, I said! Beat him good and proper!”

“Wait! What did the boy do?”

Norgood turned and glared at me. “He’s a thief and ruffian. He steals from my kitchen, steals my chickens, and breaks my windows. And I’m sick of him.” He turned back to Billy. “What are you waiting for? Whip him, I told ya!”

Still holding the squirming boy with one hand, Billy unbuckled his belt with the other. And the boy wailed all the louder.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I said as I marched over and grabbed the boy and pulled him away from Billy. “You will not strike this child!”

He looked at me. “You gonna stop me?” And with that, to make his point with me, he backhanded the kid and sent him sprawling on the ground. As Billy turned back to me, I was ready and planted my fist in his face and sent him sprawling on the ground beside the boy.

The boy jumped to his feet and wiped a spot of blood from his split lip. Then he hauled back and kicked Billy in the shin.

Melvin went to draw his pistol.

“Not a good idea, Norgood,” I said as I drew my own Colt and pointed it at his head. “You aren’t fast enough to live through this.”

“And neither are you, Ethan,” said Owen with his Colt pointed at me.

I looked around at the three Norgoods. Billy was still struggling to stand, but the two other Norgoods had cocked pistols pointing in my direction. “Looks like we have a standoff, boys,” I said with a smile

“Looks like it,” said Norgood, “and I’m going to end this—for now. Ethan, I think you had better leave. And take that boy with you, and make sure he never shows up on my property again. If he does, I’ll kill him.”

Still holding my Colt on Norgood, I said to the kid, “Over by my horse, boy, and move it!”

“Yes, sir,” he replied before he stuck his tongue out at Norgood.

I pointed the pistol skyward and let the hammer down to half cock as I backed away toward Pepper and the boy. Norwood lowered his own and gestured to Owen to do the same.

Pistol holstered, I swung up into the saddle and, once situated, leaned over and extended my hand to the boy. He got the message and grabbed my arm, and I pulled him up behind me.

“You settled?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied as he put his arms around my waist to hold on.

“Good day to you, Norgood,” I said with a tip of my hat. He did not smile and made no gesture towards me.

I touched Pepper’s flanks with my heels, and we headed down Norgood’s drive for the road.

“What’s your name, boy?”

He seemed to hesitate before answering. “Theogene Henri Leboeuf, but you can just call me Theo.”

“Any relation to Corporal Antoine Leboeuf with the 1st Louisiana Brigade? From up around Jena?”

“He was my paw, and our farm was near Jena. You knew him?”

“I did. Wounded at Sharpsburg. Lost a leg and an arm as I recall.”

“That, he did. He come home that winter only half a man to find  my mother dead of pneumonia by just a week. That was a bad winter—a very bad time.”

“What happened after that?”

“He died ‘bout a year later. Kinda hard to manage a mule with only one leg and one arm. I tried to help, but it weren’t enough. The farm work finished off what the war started.”

*****

Comments Off on Meet Theo — Excerpt from The Avenging Angel

Filed under Excerpts, The Avenging Angel

The Avenging Angel

I have been asked if I plan to write a third book in the Catahoula Series. I do and am working on it now.

It begins in July of 1866, a year after An Eternity of Four Years ends, and carries the reader into that period after the War Between the States called “Reconstruction.” In many respects, Reconstruction was as bad as the war was for the South. Racial tensions ran extremely high and often exploded into violence as the former “rulers” (the planters) attempted to regain some semblance of control over the shattered southern economy and their former servants (the freedmen). The antebellum system of authority was broken by the war and emancipation. In its place, a new system emerged that more resembled chaos. As one would expect, the planters didn’t take well to the change.

Some northern interests wanted the South severely punished for what they had done and saw Reconstruction as a chance to extract that punishment. Southern culture and traditions were turned upside down, and southerners struggled to deal with the changes while attempting to make a living (avoid starving), pay taxes on unproductive property, and rebuild the South.

Out of the chaos came organizations like the Klan and later The White League and the Knights of the White Camellia along with all the violence, mostly against African Americans, that was part of that.

The working title for Book 3 is The Avenging Angel (which is subject to change). It tells the story of Rachel and Ethan attempting to build their lives together in the middle of all this. Along with the familiar characters Ethan, Rachel, Analee, and Pernell, you will meet a few new ones, and see a couple of old ones come back into the story you have not seen since Book 1. Ever wonder what happened to Brandy and Zeke after they ran away?

It is a work in progress that I have only outlined and written a few chapters. A lot of research needs to be done, and story details remain to be worked out, written, and edited before it will be published. I hate date setting, because I am always wrong, but I hope to have it published by the summer of 2016. I will do the best I can, but don’t hold me to that.

Meanwhile, here is the opening scene from chapter 1 of The Avenging Angel to wet your whistle.

*****

From Rachel‘s Diary

28 July 1866

I knew, by the stern expression on my husband’s face, that he was nearing the limits of his patience. Listening to Mr. Waldo T. Pettigrew expound upon how he had been sent by Washington to repair the broken South and lead it from its wayward rebellious ways back into the Union fold. In his tone, you could hear the man’s utter contempt for people like us, southerners, whom he considered to be beneath his station, and that was not sitting well with Ethan.

Four years of war tends to change a man, and I knew it had affected my husband in ways I was yet to fully understand, but I was sure his tolerance level for carpetbaggers, like this one come to bring us the way, the truth, and the light of his enlightened existence, was much diminished.

“Can you swim?” Ethan asked him in a dry, matter-of-fact manner.

Upon hearing that, I frowned as I looked over the rail of the riverboat at the swirling, muddy waters of the Mississippi passing below. I knew exactly what he had in mind to do. “Ethan, please don’t.”

As this pompous ass pontificated on his considerable swimming ability, being as he was from the Atlantic Coast, Ethan noted my pleading expression punctuated by my arched eyebrow expressing my displeasure, a trick I learned from his mother. Thus admonished, he tipped his hat to Mr. Pettigrew and excused himself from his company.

I lingered for a moment when Pettigrew inquired of me, “Why did he suddenly leave? Did I say something that offended him?”

I smiled. “I believe he found your attitude toward the South offensive, as did I. And I would advise you to temper your speech during your stay in Louisiana—unless you fancy wearing tar and feathers.”

Mr. Pettigrew’s shocked expression indicated he clearly understood my meaning. “But—why did he ask if I could swim?”

“Because, you, sir, were about two seconds away from him grabbing you by the scruff of your skinny neck and the seat of your finely tailored trousers and tossing you overboard. You are not treading water right now, only because I asked him not to do it.”

His expression went blank as he took a deep breath and sighed before replying barely above a hoarse, stuttering whisper, “I–I lied. I can’t swim.”

I shrugged. “Then I just saved your life.”

Comments Off on The Avenging Angel

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, The Avenging Angel

Maj. General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson – A Man of Faith

Perhaps one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S. military history, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in 1824 in Virginia. His father and an older sister died of typhoid fever when he was very young, leaving Jackson’s mother, Julia Neale Jackson, a widow with three young children and a lot of debt. Julia sold the family’s possessions to pay off debts and took in sewing and taught school to support her family. Julia remarried, but her husband Blake Woodson did not like his stepchildren. The following year, after giving birth to Thomas’ half-brother William Wirt Woodson, Julia died leaving the children orphaned.

Thomas and his siblings were shifted around among relatives until Thomas eventually settled with uncle Cummins Jackson in Jackson’s Mill in Virginia where he worked as a sheepherder.

Jackson as a young manIn 1842 Thomas was accepted to West Point. His education background weak, Thomas struggled with his studies, but through dogged determination, which was his style, he graduated 17th in a class of 59 students.

As a second lieutenant in the 1st Artillery Regiment, he fought in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. During the assault on Chapultepec Castle, Jackson refused an order to retreat, arguing instead such was riskier than continuing the fight. Events proved him right when his actions allowed the assault to succeed.

In the spring of 1851, he accepted a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), in Lexington, Virginia where he was a Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery. He was unpopular as a teacher; his droning teaching style often put cadets to sleep. He was sometimes mocked by the students as “Fool Tom” and “Old Jack.”

Thomas was eccentric in many ways and was somewhat of a hypochondriac with strange ideas about health. He often sat up ramrod straight, believing such properly aligned the internal organs for better digestive function. He famously sucked lemons during the Civil War to ease his peptic problems. It is somewhat of a mystery where he managed to obtain these lemons. So strange were his mannerisms to others, some actually thought he was crazy.

In 1853 Jackson married Elinor “Ellie” Junkin, who died in childbirth soon after. In 1857 Thomas married Mary Anna Morrison from North Carolina. They had a daughter who died less than a month after birth and a second daughter, Julia Laura, was born in 1862 not long before her father’s death.

Thomas Jackson was a devout Presbyterian and always eager to discuss matters of faith and Scripture. Some of his military strategies came from the Book of Joshua. During the Civil War, he often personally witnessed to soldiers and was not above chastising his men for profanity as he did to Dr. Hunter McGuire, his corps surgeon, when he was using profanity to hurry orderlies moving the wounded to safety. Stonewall admonished the doctor, “Sir, don’t you think you can manage these men without swearing?” McGuire nodded and promised to try.

Jackson was asked why he could remain so calm during battles, and he replied, “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.”

Jackson would often join his men around the campfire and sit silently, deep in thought. Many believe he was in prayer as it was his practice to pray often.

In his book Christ in the Camp by J. William Jones, a chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia, the good reverend relates the following story about Jackson.

Stonewall_JacksonReverend Dr. William Brown, former editor of the Central Presbyterian, arrived in Jackson’s camp near Centerville in 1861. A friend of Brown remarked to him how the strain of battle seemed to have taken its toll on Jackson. He related how he had encountered Stonewall in the woods walking about aimlessly, speaking incoherently, and gesturing wildly with his arms. He could only conclude that Old Jack was crazy.

Later that night, Brown spent time with Jackson, and the subject of prayer came up. Jackson related the following, “I find it greatly helps me in fixing my mind and quickening my devotions to give articulate utterance to my prayers, and hence I am in the habit of going off into the woods, where I can be alone and speak audibly to myself the prayers I would pour out to my God. I was at first annoyed that I was compelled to keep my eyes open to avoid running against trees and stumps, but upon investigating the matter I do not find that the Scriptures require us to close our eyes in prayer, and the exercise has proven to be very delightful and profitable.”

On another occasion the subject of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing” came up in a discussion and how hard that command was to keep. To which Jackson insisted we could accustom ourselves to it, and it could easily be obeyed. “When we take our meals, there is the grace. When we take a drought of water, I always pause, as my palate receives the refreshment, to lift up my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Whenever I drop a letter in the box at the post office, I send a petition along with it for God’s blessing on its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received, I stop and pray to God that He may prepare me for its contents and make it a messenger of good. When I go to the classroom and wait for the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so for every other familiar act of the day.”

His friend asked if he did not sometimes forget these occasions? He replied, “No. I have made the practice habitual to me and can no more forget than forget to drink when thirsty. The habit has become as delightful as regular.”

There is no question that Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was a man of faith and a powerful prayer warrior as well as a gifted military tactician. His successes on the battlefield are famous and studied even today at West Point.

Thomas Jackson was killed at the very height of his military career. Just as he was experiencing the success of his famous flanking move on the Union army at Chancellorsville, he was accidently shot by his own men and lost his left arm as a result. Of his wounding Robert E. Lee wrote, “You have lost your left arm; I have lost my right arm.” Seeming to recover at first, Jackson died of pneumonia a few days later with his wife at his bedside. Often delirious, in the end he uttered these words, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks…” Then he paused. A smile slowly spread over his face, and he said quietly with an expression of relief, “Let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees.” Then without pain or struggle, his spirit passed from Earth to God who gave it.

I am of the opinion that God took Stonewall Jackson home because of his military genius, which could have caused the war to end in a way that was not part of God’s plan for this nation. If Jackson had lived, some believe Lee might have prevailed at Gettysburg.

Note: The second image above was taken only a few days before he was wounded at Chancellorsville. 

Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years

This was Old Jack’s style. He wanted to see the battlefield for himself. Some of Jackson’s staff became concerned about the danger, and Sandie Pendleton finally asked, “General, don’t you think this is the wrong place for you?”

Old Jack replied, “The danger is over. The enemy is routed. Go back and tell Hill to press on.”

I did not think the danger was yet over, and though the enemy was routed, some were putting up an occasional spirited resistance when well led by their officers. And we did not know exactly where the enemy was. Had they stopped and prepared to make a stand, and we were about to blunder into them? Like Pendleton and others in our party, I had a most uncomfortable feeling about this scout.

We reached a clearing with an unfinished church about 150 yards out from Lane’s lines. I was riding behind Jackson when a single shot rang out to our right. It sounded to me as if it came from our rear where two of Lane’s North Carolina regiments were deployed. Others though it might have come from our right front. That shot was soon followed by several others, and that swelled into almost continuous firing like a string of firecrackers going off. I had no doubt then. The firing was coming from Lane’s North Carolina brigade to our right rear.

Blazing fire suddenly tore though our party and Hill’s! Several of Jackson’s staff were wounded or killed immediately! Two horses were shot from under their riders, and others wounded and frantic tore off in every direction. More shots rang out, screaming horses and screaming men, and those still in the saddle headed for the nearby woods.

Jackson took cover in the woods to our left away from the firing only to be met by more musketry on that side. Lane’s North Carolina Brigade had mistaken us for Federal cavalry! Lieutenant Morrison jumped from his wounded horse and ran towards the North Carolina lines screaming for them to stop firing. One of the Lane’s officers yelled it was a lie and to keep firing!

While blundering through the dark woods, Jackson was hit in the right hand and left upper arm, shattering the bone near the shoulder. Little Sorrel was also wounded, and the frightened animal ran back out on the road and away from the firing toward the Federal lines! Jackson managed to get control of his mount with his wounded hand and the help of Captain Wilbourn and signalman Wynn who brought him to relative safety on side of the road.

I somehow remained unwounded, but Pepper was decidedly unhappy about all the shooting and managing him was difficult. I joined Wilbourn and Wynn with Jackson, who they had laid down under a tree. “How bad are you hurt, sir?”

Grasping his left arm, he looked up at me. “I fear my arm is broken,” he replied almost calmly.

Wilbourn turned to Wynn. “Quickly now, go fetch Doctor McGuire and an ambulance!” He then bound the wound to stop the bleeding and said, “General, it is remarkable that any of us escaped.”

Jackson agreed, “Yes, it is providential.”

Comments Off on Maj. General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson – A Man of Faith

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Bible, Civil War, Excerpts, History Lessons, Stories of Faith

Dispatches From The Front #7

PrintWashington DC

During the Civil War, Washington DC spent many of those years under some level of threat from the Confederates. The main reason for that was many of the engagements in Northern Virginia often took place only a day’s march from the city. Until the final stages of the war, Lincoln’s war strategy always had to consider the Confederate threat to Washington, and it was very real, especially early in the war.

One problem for Lincoln was the Shenandoah Valley to the west. The mouth of the valley at Harper’s Ferry was actually above Washington (to the Northwest) and only about 50 miles away. That meant any army emerging from the Shenandoah would be above Washington and, thus, an immediate threat to the city. Lee used this exact tactic no less than four times.

The first was Jackson’s Valley Campaign in the spring of 1862, in which the Louisiana Tigers, then led by Richard Taylor, played a major role. When Jackson took Winchester (in the Valley) and threatened Harper’s Ferry, Lincoln was forced to abandon his attacks on Richmond to defend his own capitol.

The second was later that year in September, when Lee invaded Maryland that ended at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). Technically, he did not use the Valley except for resupply.

The third was the following July when Lee did it again and went all the way to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania (almost due north of Washington).

The fourth was in 1864 when Early’s Corps drove the Federals from the Valley, briefly ending their scorched-earth policy of burning out the “breadbasket of Virginia.” He got close enough to present a “threat” to Washington with artillery bombardment of some of its defenses. He was, of course, incapable of actually taking Washington, thus the quotation marks, but it threw the city into a brief panic. The Louisiana Tigers were part of Early’s Corps then, but a shadow of their former selves due to casualties over the previous three years.

Like most cities near the front in wartime, it was full of uniformed men going about the deadly business of managing a war. Washington was a city that seemed always under threat, and thus its citizens must have spent much of the war concerned about that. But life did go on, even during wartime.

Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years, Chapter 27 – Friends and Lies

*****

From Rachel’s Diary

25 December 1864

Last night was Christmas Eve, and while there was little joy in my heart, I decided I needed to at least go through the motions.

Taylor asked me to a party at a hotel near the Capitol. I was expecting it to be interesting enough to improve my frame of mind, and perhaps I could be shed of the melancholy mood I was in. He arrived early, splendidly dressed in a finely tailored uniform. I had a new gown made for the occasion in the hope it would help cheer me up.

As I was making my last minute preparations in the hall mirror with Taylor waiting impatiently nearby, grinning as if he knew some secret, he finally blurted out, “Is this going to take all night? You look even more beautiful than I have ever seen you look.”

I smiled at him. “Thank you for the lovely compliment.” I turned to face him. “Very well. I’m ready. Why are you in such a hurry?”

At first he looked down as if embarrassed then back at me. “Because I have a surprise for you.”

“Oh, Taylor, what have you done? There is a war going on.”

He stepped closer and dropped to one knee. I gasped. “Would the loveliest lady in Washington do me the honor of becoming my bride?” And he produced an opal and diamond ring.

*****

Note: You may have noticed this takes place while Ethan is “hanging” at Fort Delaware.

Report:

I have enjoyed as much of this as I can stand! I am ready to go home! I walked nearly four miles today—so far—almost 11,000 steps, and I will have a good walk to dinner tonight that will push that number higher. (All this assumes the iPhone app is even remotely accurate.) And we haven’t gotten lost, at least not yet, and I am not sure I am up to tolerating any aimless wondering tonight.

Capitol Nite

The Capitol building is under some kind of renovation.

We arrived in Washington just as the Million Man March Anniversary was ending. Maybe you heard of it? (Sarcasm off.) They trashed the place. All around the Capitol is a sea of portable toilets and overflowing trash cans. And, I think our hotel was the HQ? I left my Civil War Trust cap in the room, just in case. Actually, its only purpose is to preserve CW battlefields, but explaining that and American history to some might be more than they can handle, especially when they are shouting “Down with America!”

Today we toured two Smithsonian Museums, the Air and Space version and the American History version. Fun but exhausting. Interesting begins to lose its interest when your back feels like someone is stabbing you with an ice pick. But I gutted it out.

Tomorrow I am going home. Whoo hoo!

Is that a bad attitude?

We are planning to do this again next year, but fewer days and somewhere else. I think everyone is tired.

Comments Off on Dispatches From The Front #7

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Dispatches, Excerpts, History Lessons

Dispatches From The Front #6

Book 2 12 August 1864

Fort Delaware

Sitting in the middle of the Delaware River about 9 miles south of Wilmington, is Fort Delaware. Designed to protect Wilmington and Philadelphia from attack from the sea, this imposing and impregnable granite and brick fortress sits on little Pea Patch Island. Pea Patch was so named because a shipment of pea seeds were lost overboard and ended up growing on the island. Much of it is at sea level and underwater when the river runs high with spring runoffs.

The fort was finished just before the recent rebellion began and has, thus far, not served its purpose of defending upriver citizens. Its isolated location in the middle of the Delaware River, however, rendered it a perfect prison for captured rebels and those opposed to the measures taken by the government in defense of the nation. The North calls them “traitors,” but in the south they are called “political prisoners.”

Among those held illegally is one Reverend, Isaac W. K. Handy, a Presbyterian minister, arrested the previous summer (1863). He is a man of proud bearing and a ready smile. After a careless remark at a dinner party, the Reverend found himself a guest in the infamous Fort Delaware prison.

The prison facilities inside the massive walls of the fortress are reserved for high ranking Confederates and the political prisoners. Their accommodations are demonstrably superior to those housing the lower ranking officers and enlisted men living in shabbily built barracks, where they are forced to wash themselves and their eating utensils in the putrid water of the canals running through their fenced confines.

Because of its location, escape from Fort Delaware is a fool’s errand, risking life and limb in the frigid and dangerous currents of the Delaware River. One has little choice but to endure the squalid conditions of the prison and hope the war ends soon.

Guards are often sadistic and some take pot shots at prisoners if they act suspiciously or do not quickly obey orders. Commanding the guards are Captain George W. Ahl and Lieutenant Abraham G Wolf. Both gentlemen, if one can even call them that, have the lowest respect for mankind, especially Confederate prisoners and often abuse their charges at will. General A. Schoepf is Fort Delaware’s commanding officer and seems to allow Ahl and Wolf freedom to have their way with the prisoners.

While there are many rumors of prisons in the South with prisoners suffering under similar conditions, alleged by some to be even worse, one certainly does not want to find oneself incarcerated at Fort Delaware.

Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years, Chapter 26 – Wolf’s Revenge

*****

The shackles were placed on my wrists, and they were tight. One guard tied a rope to the center of the chain connecting the two shackles and tossed the other end over a beam. Then two of them began hauling me up until my arms were fully extended over my head, and my toes barely touched the ground. I could neither hang from the shackles on my wrists comfortably nor support myself on my toes.

Wolf got in my face again, and like every encounter I had with him before, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. His eyes were glassy and he slurred some of his words.

“How long?” I asked.

He shrugged. “As long as I feel like.” He left two guards with me. “No one comes near him, understand?”

Christmas Eve and I was hanging from a beam like some ornament on a Christmas tree. My hands were already beginning to hurt, but I dared not show my discomfort to give them any satisfaction. It was to be a cold winter night, and I was not properly dressed to spend it outside. I knew if I hung there very long, my hands would eventually swell and turn purple, and I could lose their use.

*****

Author’s Note: Lieutenant Abraham Wolf and his immediate superior Captain George Ahl were real guards at Fort Delaware, and their attitudes towards the prisoners depicted in my book were true to what my research said about them. The hanging torture that Ethan endured on Christmas Eve 1864 was indeed practiced on Confederate prisoners at Fort Delaware. An author could not ask for better antagonists than these two, or a better name for one than Wolf.

Sources:

Images of Fort Delaware by Laura M. Lee and Brendan Mackie, Arcadia Publishing (Lieutenant Wolf is pictured on the cover of this one, seated second from the left)

Unlikely Allies, Fort Delaware’s Prison Community in the Civil War by Dale Fetzer and Bruce Mowday, Stockpole Books

Report:

Not much to report on Fort Delaware. After getting up at 6 in Gettysburg followed by a three hour drive to FD, we found it closed for the winter. The last weekend it was open was last weekend!

So, we packed up and headed for Dogfish Head Brewery, one of the most successful of the rapidly growing number of craft brewers, number 13 of over 3,000, a number changing almost daily. That was another hour and a half. We tested samples and took the tour. The place was indeed impressive, especially considering they started from nothing only 20 years ago.

Dogfish Brew

We then packed up and drove 2.5 hours to Washington DC, managing to take wrong turns only three times, and that was using iPhones and Google Maps.

I am tired and ready to come home!

Comments Off on Dispatches From The Front #6

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Dispatches, Excerpts, History Lessons