Tag Archives: Civil War

“An Eternity of Four Years” is Published!

Book 2 1The exciting conclusion to the Legend of Rachel and Ethan, part 2 of the Catahoula Series, is up for sale at Amazon. However, this is the digital Kindle version. The paperback will be available soon, probably late next week.

The Kindle version is available for only $.99 for a limited time only. This is to allow my friends to get it at a reduced price.

You can scoop both up for only $1.98 total. Such a deal! 😉

If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can download the app for your computer, your iPad, or your phone for free. Use the device you want it on to get the app.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Last Day of Forever

About THAT flag — and other thoughts.

Battle_flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America.svgIn The Last Day of Forever, Ethan is a slaveholder, albeit by proxy; his father was the actual owner. He inherited them at Morgan’s death and promptly freed them. His underlying and unacknowledged (at the time) motive was his dislike for the “peculiar institution,” but his excuse was to save Catahoula Plantation through the coming war.

In An Eternity of Four Years, he began the war owning another slave he won in a duel, Blue, and he promptly freed him as well. But he discovered he could not distance himself from the institution of slavery with the simple stroke of a pen. He was sucked into the war on the side of the South (it was that or hang), but Blue stayed with Ethan for reasons of his own, remaining a constant reminder of the institution throughout the war.

While Ethan began the war somewhat reluctantly, he did believe he was defending hearth and home from the Yankee “host” about to invade his country and state. This was a common view of many southern soldiers, most of whom were not even slave owners. As the war dragged on, it became obvious to Ethan the war was about far more than defending his home, and he was on the wrong side of history. But the oath he took and “honor” compelled him to fight on even though his heart was not in it.

What was the war all about? If you answer the North fought to free the slaves, you would be only partially right. If you answer the South fought to keep the institution of slavery, you would be only partially right.

Initially, the North fought to save the Union, and though Lincoln wanted to free the slaves, he knew northerners would abandon the cause if he made the war about slavery. And they did once he announced his Emancipation Proclamation. Many northerners refused to join the fight after that.

The war was really about money. Isn’t it always? For the South to leave the Union, it would mean a terrific loss of tax revenues for the United States. For the South, the slaves represented a huge financial investment. It was their belief that only the black man was capable of laboring under the hot conditions found in the South. Remove that source of labor, and the southern economy would collapse.

But sooner or later, slavery had to end, or the Constitution of the United States and everything standing behind it was a farce. Someone once said of slavery, the South had a tiger by the tail; it could neither hold on forever nor let it go, lest the tiger consume it. The Civil War forced that issue, and the tiger is still feasting on the South.

Now, some 150 years after the war, we are embarking on the rewriting of history, using the excuse of political correctness as our guiding light. That, my friends, is a very slippery slope. Already, we have seen calls to ban all merchandise depicting the Confederate battle flag (AKA the Southern Cross, not the Stars and Bars), while at the same time, Nazi symbol merchandise is still available and happily sold by some of those hypocrites banning the Confederate flag merchandise. There have been calls to cease distribution of movies like Gone With The Wind—archive it forever, take down statues of Confederate officers and politicians, rename streets named for Confederates, and even rename military posts. As if these actions will change anything! They will not. The divisiveness will only get worse. Will we see book burnings next? A crystal night where southern businesses will be trashed? Anyone whose ancestors were slave owners will face persecution?

We are NOT a racist country, but we are rapidly becoming one. I was born and raised in the South, and I am here to tell you, in my lifetime, I have seen the racial attitudes of southerners dramatically change for the better. But in the last six or seven years, all that progress has been reversed. Ironically, it is being driven by those who claim, falsely, they are not racists.

God help us!

Where does it end? Short answer: It does not. The New American Taliban, focused on symbols rather than substance, will not stop until everything they view as offensive is destroyed—exactly like what we see the Taliban and Isis doing in the Middle East today—no difference!

I leave you with these comments by General U.S. Grant from his memoirs of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Consider that they were spoken by the victor after four years of a brutal war.

“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

America’s slide down this slippery slope will not end well, and what is at the bottom is a monster none of us want to even think about.

Wake up, America!

2 Comments

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Current Events, Last Day of Forever

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.

*****

Leave a comment

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

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?”

*****

1 Comment

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

“Nostalgia” AKA PTSD

Cover B1“Nostalgia” plays a significant role in the lives of both Ethan and Rachel in my books The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years. It was officially defined and named Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1980 to describe the mental issues suffered by Vietnam veterans. But it existed long before that, at least as long as war and trauma have been visited upon mankind. It was known by other names during different periods of history. It was called “shell shock” in WWI and during WWII, it was called “battle fatigue.” In the mid 19th century, during the American Civil War, it was called “nostalgia.”

That term was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. It was described as a form of melancholy.

The Greek origin of the English word is nóstos álgos. Nóstos is usually translated “homecoming” but carries the idea of returning home after a long journey to find that everything is the same, yet just a shadow of what it had been before. Álgos refers to pain. Literally, we have “homecoming pain.”

I think that 17th century medical student had in mind the pain of a soldier returning home after a war to find that while everything may look as it did before he left, he sees things differently because stressful wartime experiences have changed his life perspective, usually not for the better. Depression, nightmares, and anger are often symptoms.

Book 2 1I believe nostalgia is related to the saying, “seeing the elephant,” often used by soldiers during the American Civil War and since. The idea behind “seeing the elephant” is that of the profound disappointment and disillusionment associated with having one’s “grand” notions about war dashed by the brutal reality of the killing fields. It suggests the soldier has seen enough, and he is sick of all the misery, pain, and death. He has “seen the elephant,” and it was an exceedingly ugly beast.

Nostalgia, or known by its current title PTSD, is not limited to veterans of war. It can be caused by any manner of stressful conditions such as rape, witnessing something terrible like an accident or death, a near death experience, or really anything that can leave a profound and lasting impression of fear or anxiety. Ethan suffered his first bout of nostalgia as a result of his witnessing the death of Cornelius as a child of three, and later as the result of losing Rachel, followed by what he saw and did during the war in places like the Shenandoah Valley, Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and especially Gettysburg and its aftermath. Rachel also “saw the elephant” and it affected her as well.

Both Rachel and Ethan had come from a comfortable lifestyle of plenty in a time of peace to one of horror and death in a time of war, a war described by author Paul Fussell as “long, brutal, total, and stupid.” Should we not expect such might affect a sane person?

1 Comment

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Last Day of Forever

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.

*****

Leave a comment

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

Ethan the Christian

Ethan6B REDUCEDIt should be obvious from reading The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years that Ethan’s faith plays an important role in his character. Sometimes he succeeds as a Christian and sometimes not. Christians are not perfect, although some critics of the faith suggest we ought to be so 100% of the time. For them, seeing a Christian fail can be a moment of triumph when they can point a finger and loudly exclaim, “Hypocrite!”

If you have ever read the Bible, one fact should strike you: It is full of “hypocrites.” Of the many characters in the Bible, only one is without flaws. All the rest in some way fail, often spectacularly. They are, after all, fallen individuals, not plaster saints, and God lays out their failures for the rest of mankind to see and learn from.

One of the most interesting examples of this is King David and the Bathsheba affair. I believe, having assumed the throne after so many years of being hunted by Saul, he became arrogant. Success can do that. I think 2 Samuel 11:1 suggests this when it says, “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah.” David’s place was with the army in the field and not back in Jerusalem strolling on the roof of the palace to become involved with Bathsheba.

You would think someone like David, “a man after God’s own heart,” would have admitted his lapse in judgment immediately following his night with Bathsheba. But no, when she became pregnant, he doubled down and arranged the death of her husband in a misguided attempt to hide what he had done. Arrogance begat lust, and lust begat adultery, and adultery begat murder. Sin is like that.

It was roughly a year after the event before David finally had a “wow” moment concerning what he had done. A year later! Along came Nathan the Prophet to tell a story that backed David into a corner, and he ended up convicting himself. Only then did David finally recover from his denial and accept his own failure—and face his discipline. I have no doubt that during that year, David frequently had moments where he considered what he had done was wrong, and I have no doubt but that each time he rationalized it away somehow. To get well, you must first admit you are sick.

Christians are not perfect, and Ethan is not Jesus Christ. He loves God much like King David did, and like David, Ethan sometimes fails to measure up to God’s expectations. And like David, sometimes Ethan gets a little smug and full of himself, and it catches up with him. He refused to accept responsibility for his failures and more importantly, he refused to seek the remedy, preferring instead to seek relief in a bottle. When a Christian is out of sorts with God, he can sink so far down that there is nowhere to look but up.

I intentionally wrote Ethan’s character as “flawed” and “human.” After reading an early manuscript for The Last Day of Forever, my wife commented, “Ethan is too perfect.” My reply was, “Wait until you see him in An Eternity of Four Years.” After experiencing success out west and returning home to find Rachel waiting for him, he seemed in command of his world and his life. His smug “victory dance” before the mirror in the closing chapter of Last Day is a hint of “pride goes before the fall”—and of things to come.

One point I wanted to make in these two books is God orchestrates our circumstances. How we react to them is our choice. As Blue tells Ethan in Eternity, “Adversity makes you bitter or better, but you choose which.” And also in Eternity, Rachel summed up the underlying theme of the books when she challenged Doctor Johnson with Romans 8:28. (I’ll let you look the passage up.)

So, surprise! I am a Christian, and like Ethan and David, I admit I am not perfect. I admit I sometimes don’t seek the solution I should seek. I admit my faith is sometimes weak, and even on occasion, I choose “bitter” over “better.” In other words, I’m a work in progress that will see perfection only in eternity. If you wish to call Ethan or me a hypocrite, that is your choice, but at least do so with the understanding that none of us are claiming the status of deity.

To get well, you must first admit you are sick.

Leave a comment

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Last Day of Forever

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?”

*****

1 Comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Civil War, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever

AT LAST! It is published!

Cover B1Well, almost. The digital version of The Last Day of Forever will be released for sale on Friday May 8! It is available as a preorder NOW. To order it now for delivery May 8 (digital versions) go here.

BUT, the paperbacks are available for purchase NOW. To get your copy go here.

This is what will be available:

Digital versions of The Last Day of Forever – Right now, it is only available on Amazon for Kindle devices. You can download free Kindle reader apps for other devices like iPads. There is a link for that at the Amazon page for The Last Day of Forever.

Print version of The Last Day of Forever – The link will take you to CreateSpace, a division of Amazon. (Eventually, it will be listed on the Amazon page also.) These books will be PoD (Print on Demand), meaning they will be digitally printed as they are ordered. They will be 6×9 paperbacks, but the quality is very high. Sorry, but I will not have any to sell direct, because I will not be applying for a retail sales tax license from the parish and state. If you simply must have it signed, I will be glad to do so. Contact me, and we will work something out.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Buy a copy now.
  2. Read it and enjoy it.
  3. Go back to where you bought it and post an honest review.
  4. Tell all your friends.

What is next?

Assuming you like The Last Day of Forever, you will probably want to read An Eternity of Four Years, which continues the story. While The Last Day of Forever is mostly a coming of age love story, An Eternity of Four Years is much darker since it takes place during the Civil War, and both Ethan and Rachel are, of course, involved in it. The Last Day of Forever will probably appeal more to women; An Eternity of Four Years will probably appeal more to men. Not sure that was a good idea or not, but it is where the story went. I expect to release An Eternity of Four Years very soon.

Will there be a Book 3? Working on it. Working title is The Avenging Angel, but it has a long way to go. There may also be other stories in the Catahoula Series based on spin-off characters, like Silas Riddle, whom you will meet in An Eternity of Four Years.

Lastly, I want to thank you, my friends and relations, who have been supportive of me and patient during this process, especially my bride. I truly enjoyed telling this story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it. By all means, email me with your comments and suggestions. The nice thing about digital publishing is if something is broken, it can be fixed. I can simply correct the digital file and upload the new one. I did my best to rid the files of issues and had several beta readers review the story and edit it, but I am sure something slipped past all the eyes that were on it.

As my teachers in school used to say, “Put down your pencils and turn in your papers.” Pencils are down and the papers are turned in—warts and all.

Thank you! Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Last Day of Forever

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?”

“Pistols.”

“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.

1 Comment

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever