Tag Archives: Wheat’s Battalion

Dispatches From The Front #3

Book 2 1Dateline: 21 July 1861

From: Manassas Junction, Virginia

The fight both sides have been spoiling for just occurred around a creek called Bull Run near Manassas Junction, Virginia. Confederate commander, General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, the hero of Fort Sumter, had previously withdrawn his forces to take positions behind Bull Run. Such must have seemed to Union commander, General Irvin McDowell, as weakness, because he advanced in Beauregard’s wake.

Beauregard planned to draw McDowell into crossing Bull Run and attacking him near his center, allowing The Confederates to flank the Yankees around their left flank, thus cutting off McDowell’s escape route to Washington and his means of supply. McDowell did not take Beauregard’s bait, but instead, attempted a flanking maneuver of his own around Beauregard’s weakly defended left flank, where Beauregard had positioned Colonel Nathan G. Evans’ 4th South Carolina Regiment supported only by two cannons and Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s Tigers, the 1st Special Infantry Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers, which consisted mainly of rogues and ruffians of ill repute, many culled directly from New Orleans’ jails. All total, only about 1,100 men held the Confederate left and would ultimately face at least three divisions.

The battle opened with Federal cannon fire from near the center of the line. This was but a distraction, as McDowell was actually busy moving the bulk of his army around the Confederate left flank. Dust raised by their movement and observations from Confederates in a high tower exposed the maneuver, and General Evans positioned his regiment to the left to meet the threat. A brief skirmish between some troops from South Carolina and Wheat’s Tigers ensued as a result of mistaken identity. Officers from both units quickly sorted out the mess but not before the Tigers suffered 3 killed and several wounded.

Soon Yankees were pouring over Bull Run to be met by the men from South Carolina and Louisiana. Standing firm, the Confederates beat back the Yankee advance and even charged into their midst. Some of Wheat’s Tigers threw down their slow-firing muskets and, with screaming Rebel yells and drawn knives, gallantly fell upon the hapless Federals, throwing them into confusion and driving them back. But they soon recovered and added more units to their number. Badly outnumbered and with their units mixed, Evans and Wheat were forced to withdraw back to Henry House Hill, where they were eventually joined by fresh Confederate brigades rushed into the battle. Included was the Virginia Brigade, commanded by General Thomas J. Jackson, who stood firm against the charging Yankees like a stonewall. As a result, his brigade is now being called the “Stonewall Brigade” and its commander “Stonewall” Jackson.

With more Confederate brigades thrown into the action, the Federals began to falter and withdrew in a panic, skedaddling all the way back to Washington, leaving the battlefield to the victorious southern warriors.

Sadly, during the fight at Henry House, Major Wheat was badly wounded and carried from the field by some of his men. This evening, he was told by the surgeon there was no record of any who had ever survived such a wound as his. To which he defiantly replied, “I don’t feel like dying yet. I shall put my case on record!” No doubt he will.

Though a great southern victory, special recognition must be given to Wheat’s Tigers, who held the line, withstanding many times their number, allowing time for a defense to be organized, ultimately guaranteeing victory. There are clearly no better fighters than the Tigers from Louisiana.

Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years, Chapter 5 – First Blood

*****

Jackson StatueThe brigades of Barnard Bee, Francis Bartow and Thomas Jackson arrived at the front and joined the fight. Jackson and his Virginians moved to the left near Henry House Hill and took up positions. The fire from the Federals was terrific as we fell back unable to hold. Colonel William Pendleton had four batteries of artillery on the hill and was pouring canister shot into the Federals. An Episcopal Minister, Pendleton shouted the order, “Fire, boys! And may God have mercy on their guilty souls!”

The 4th Alabama under Bee was being pushed back. Bee rode up to Jackson and announced, “General, they are beating us back!”

Jackson’s reply was to the point, “Sir, we will give them the bayonet.”

Reassured, Bee rejoined his shattered force and asked his Alabamans to make another effort.

There is some question to this day as to exactly what Bee said to his men and just what he meant by it. It was generally agreed that he pointed to the Virginians and said, “Look at Jackson and his Virginians standing there like a stone wall.” With that statement, General Bee gave Jackson his famous nickname. After that Old Tom became known as “Stonewall Jackson,” and the Virginians of Jackson’s Brigade became known as the “Stonewall Brigade.”

*****

Report:

The “adventure” continues. The day began with Heath and Blake sleeping late. They were tired. Then it got really interesting. Blake discovers he has the luggage of some girl. Evidently, she grabbed his bag and left hers with him. Naturally, it contained all kind of girlie stuff. A long hilarious thread or text messages with wives at home ensued. I suggested he make do and wear what was in the bag, but the bra didn’t fit. That means we made a trip to Wally World to re-outfit Blake. Janis actually predicted we would have to do that for some reason or another. (She knows us well.)

Moving on…

Henry House

We visited the battlefield for First Manassas and took the walking tour. Very interesting to see the ground I wrote about in An Eternity of Four Years. Things were actually closer together than I had imagined. The first image is of Henry House and the Federal gun line mentioned in the book. Evans and Wheat were driven back here from in the distance in the left. The Confederates, by then, had realized the battle was on their left flank and began rushing brigades to that area. This hill became the focus of the fight. Confederate positions are about 800-900 yards in the direction the guns are facing.

We also visited some Second Manassas sites, a battle not really mentioned in the book, because Ethan was in Richmond tending to Aimee when it occurred. The Louisiana Tigers played a very remembered role in this fight. The Confederates were deployed in very strong positions along an unfinished railroad cut. In some places the railroad was a trench, while in others it was elevated. The image below is of an elevated section held by the 1st Louisiana Brigade. They ran out of ammunition and were reduced to throwing rocks at the Yankees 20 feet away just on the other side of the cut and eventually driving them off.

Unfinished Railroad

Went to dinner tonight at BJ’s Brew Pub and managed to get there and back without getting lost. Our navigation skills are getting better….

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Dispatches From The Front #1

Book 2 1From October 6 through October 12, I will be traveling with my two sons, Heath and Ryan, and my grandson, Blake. We will be touring famous Civil War battlefields in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania with additional visits to the Civil War prison, Fort Delaware, and Washington DC. To my surprise, it was Ryan that suggested this. I never knew he was that interested in the places I wrote about in An Eternity of Four Years. Normally, a writer visits the sites in his book before he writes about them, so this is a bit backwards. I did, however, “visit” them via Google Street View while writing the story.

I will post trip reports on http://www.catahoulachronicles.com daily, assuming I am not passed out from exhaustion. As the title of this post suggests, I will treat each post as if it were an on-scene report from the battlefield in the 1860s usually with a brief excerpt from the book. Each will be followed with some (modern) commentary with pics if I can make that work while on the road. These will be done from the various locations while we are traveling. (I may be biting off an awful lot doing this, but I will do my best, and I think it will be fun.)

I will be covering First Manassas (VA), Sharpsburg (MD), and Gettysburg (PA). In the six days we have to do this, we can’t cover every battle in the book, but these three were major engagements in the war and the book. We will drive through the Shenandoah Valley on the way to Sharpsburg but won’t have any time to spend there.

(By the way, did you know the North and the South often had different names for Civil War battles? First Manassas was called  “First Bull Run” in the North (Second Manassas was Second Bull Run), and the Battle of Sharpsburg was called “Antietam” in the North. This is because the South tended to name battles after nearby towns, and the North tended to draw names from major terrain features on the battleground. Bull Run and Antietam were both creeks running through the battlefields. Since my books are written from a southern viewpoint, I use the southern names.)

When we visit Fort Delaware, where Ethan was held prisoner for nine months, at Ryan’s request and since it is close to Fort Delaware, we will also visit Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and maybe have a brew or two. Report to follow, hopefully. From there we will return to Washington DC and visit as much as we can in the one day remaining. We intend to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and a few other “must see” sites in DC. Again reports if I can make them work.

I hope you will “come along” on this trip with us and let us show you what we see—and learn a little American history in the process.  I love history, which is one reason I write historical fiction. This is your chance to connect the history and the places with the story in An Eternity of Four Years.

I will not be inundating you with daily emails during this period. I will send out only one more reminder, and that will be a reminder announcement the day before. After that, you will be on your own to come back the next day for more Dispatches From The Front on the Catahoula Chronicles Blog. Clicking follow on the catahoulachronicles.com web site will get you automatic email updates. I also intend to post daily on FaceBook.

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The Paperback Version of An Eternity of Four Years is now available!

Book 2 1Finally! It is done! I have been teasing you long enough.

The exciting conclusion to the two-part epic of the Legend of Rachel and Ethan, An Eternity of Four Years, is finally finished and published. Both the Kindle digital version and the paperback version are available at Amazon.

An Eternity of Four Years picks up the story four days after The Last Day of Forever ends and carries the reader through the turbulent years of the Civil War with Ethan searching for Rachel to mend what was broken between them.

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, The Last Day of Forever, you need to read it first. Either book can stand alone, but reading both in order fills in a lot of back story and detail you will find both interesting and helpful to your reading experience.

Get ’em while they are hot! And don’t forget to go back and post a review. It will help the books get visibility and credibility.

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“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.

 

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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!

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The Last Day of Forever Update and Excerpt

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

 *****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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A Short History of the Sazerac Cocktail

Both The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years mention a drink called the “Sazerac” but give only minimal information about how it is made. I am going to boast that I make the finest Sazerac in the world, maybe even the Universe.

But first, in the interest of full disclosure: The Sazerac Company of New Orleans is one of my clients at Spar, Inc. In fact, the man who owns the Sazerac Company and the five distilleries that Sazerac owns, starting with the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY, plus two others in Kentucky, another in Virginia, and one in Canada, also owns SPAR, Inc. I have worked for SPAR since I got out of the Air Force in 1973. Started as a graphic designer, and now I am the general manager and creative director. SPAR designed most of the packages for the Sazerac Company, such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sazerac Rye Whisky, Herbsaint, W.L. Weller, Old Charter, Elmer T. Lee, Nikolai Vodka, and a ton more. You get the picture?

So, I have a financial interest in the Sazerac Company, so to speak. They generate my paycheck. But that isn’t why I mentioned the drink in my story. I mention it because the Sazerac Cocktail is such an integral and beautiful part of New Orleans history. It was created here, and its ancestry goes all the way back to the eighteenth century when Antoine Amedee Peychaud, a refugee from the slave uprising in Haiti, landed in New Orleans in about 1795 with his family recipe for bitters and eventually set up shop as an apothecary.

CoquetierAs the story goes, Peychaud served shots of brandy laced with his bitters in a little double-ended eggcup called in the French a cocquetier. Legend has it the term “cocktail” comes from the Americans arriving in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase, tripping over the unfamiliar French word, and anglicizing it. To be fair, that is under dispute. Some claim the term “cocktail,” describing a mixture of whiskey, bitters, and sugar, came into usage around 1800 before Peychaud started serving his coquetiers, but I am sticking to the New Orleans version.

The Sazerac name came from the brandy that was originally used to make the drink. That would be Sazerac Cognac Brandy imported from Sazerac des Forges et Fils in France. That Sazerac Company did exist until fairly recently. Evidently, they have folded, because I cannot find them on the internet anymore.

People in New Orleans always seem to do things just a little differently. For example, we had lots of coffee houses back in the nineteenth century, only they weren’t really coffee houses. Oh, they served some coffee, usually laced with brandy or rum and later American bourbon, but they were, in reality, saloons. By 1859 there were 204 saloons coffee houses in New Orleans. In the early nineteenth century, New Orleans entered its coffee house gem period, with owners naming their saloons coffee houses after various precious stones. Each new saloon coffee house tried to top the other by selecting a more valuable gemstone for its name. One named the “Gem” opened in 1851. The Gem featured the Sazerac, as did most other saloons coffee houses in New Orleans, but this one became famous. It was located in the first block of Royal Street with another entrance on Exchange Alley. Its name was eventually changed to the Sazerac Coffee House. This is where Ethan with Morgan and later his friends, when he enlisted in Wheat’s Battalion, shared many Sazeracs. Don’t bother to look for it, because it isn’t there anymore. The Sazerac Bar eventually moved into the Roosevelt Hotel and remains there to this day. The Sazerac Bar is not owned by the Sazerac Company.

Originally, the Sazerac was made with Sazerac brandy and Peychaud’s Bitters, but American rye whiskey began replacing the brandy around 1870 because of the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated the vineyards of France, making brandy scarce (brandy is made from grapes). Kentucky had been settled by many of Scottish origin and they were converting their corn crops into whiskey, because it was easier to move whiskey to market than corn. Packed in barrels, Kentucky whiskey made its long trip in flatboats down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Storing the whiskey in barrels and the long trip actually aided its flavor, and the product that arrived in New Orleans was less like the raw fiery spirit that left Kentucky. About the same time, a bit of absinthe was added to the recipe of the Sazerac, and the recipe was sealed until the 1930s when Herbsaint, a New Orleans product, came into common usage in the Sazerac.

Herbsaint Absinthe was produced using a recipe ­­­­New Orleans native Marion Legendre brought back from his service in France during World War I. Legendre began producing his Herbsaint during the mid-thirties and ran afoul of government regs that had banned absinthe back in 1912. He was forced to change his recipe to suit the government bureaucrats. Only recently has absinthe reappeared in America again, and that is only because it was discovered the law banning absinthe was written in a way that actually allowed its production as long as the amount of wormwood, a botanical, was below a specified amount, and absinthe’s wormwood content is well below that point. With that, the Sazerac Company, owners of the Herbsaint brand, dug into their archives and came up with Legendre’s original formula. The Original Herbsaint is back (and SPAR did the retro package).

The Sazerac Cocktail, now enjoying something of a revival, is served in bars and restaurants all over New Orleans and many other cites, as well. But I must warn you. Not everyone makes a good Sazerac, and a poorly made Sazerac is truly awful, usually because they put in too much absinthe. But I am going to tell you how to make a good one, in fact, a perfect Sazerac Cocktail. You will have to wait for the next post to get my “secret” recipe.

Wikipedia absinthe page.

Absinthe deserves its own post. It is featured in the opening chapter of An Eternity of Four Years, and will get that post eventually.

Coquetier photo credit: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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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!

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The Last Day of Forever

Cover B1 In 2013 a mysterious old trunk is unlocked to reveal its long-kept secrets: diaries and a manuscript that tell the 160 year-old love story of Rachel and Ethan in antebellum Louisiana.

Orphaned, Rachel is thrust into Ethan’s family, one she doesn’t know, in the care of a man she never met, and taken to Louisiana, far from the Virginia she is familiar with. Bewildered and afraid, she finds comfort in an unexpected new relationship.

In a family caught in the throes of lies, infidelity, death, and eventually the Civil War, Ethan is struggling with changes in his own life, and with his faith. In 1856 he is just beginning his last summer of adolescence at Catahoula Plantation before going off to school at the Virginia Military Institute. Falling in love was not part of his plans—until Rachel came into his life.

Spirited and daring, she is unlike any woman he has ever known. He didn’t expect she would turn his world upside down like she does, nor did he anticipate how strongly his father would react to how they feel about each other, or the extremes to which he will go to keep them apart.

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Catahoula Genesis

December 2013

New Orleans, Louisiana

The old camelback trunk in my mother’s attic had always intrigued me. When I asked about its contents, she said it contained “just some old books and papers.” It originally belonged to my grandmother and had belonged to her mother before that. Past those generations its provenance was uncertain.

With my mother’s passing, the old trunk belonged to me. Unfortunately, it was locked, and there was no key to be found. Not wanting to destroy such a fine old trunk just to satisfy my curiosity, I tucked it into a corner of my attic with the expectation I would eventually find the key somewhere in my mother’s possessions. There it sat, forgotten for nine years.

That changed when I was cleaning out some files that included my parent’s old income tax filings. A strange lump at the bottom of one of the folders turned out to be a key, and my first thought was, this is the key to the trunk!

I went immediately up to the attic and pulled the old trunk out of its corner. I was more than a little apprehensive about what I might find when I opened it. Did it contain some dark family secrets that should remain locked away? After mustering up my courage, I inserted the old key. It fit, and the lock loosened its hold on the old trunk’s secrets.

My mother was right. It did contain some “old books and papers”. The “books” were the personal diaries of a woman named Rachel. The “papers”, nearly two thousand handwritten pages, were secured in four neat bundles with red ribbon. They turned out to be a manuscript written by a man named Ethan. I also found a portfolio of drawings by Rachel and bundles of letters they had written to each other. The documents dated from five years before the Civil War through its end in 1865 and a few years after.

With only a cursory examination of the trunk’s contents, I realized I was in possession of something very special. The diaries and the manuscript, though written by two different people, were companion pieces telling the same beautiful story from two different perspectives.

Catahoula Book 1 – The Last Day of Forever tells how they met, how they fell in love, and how their love was challenged. It carries their story up to the start of the Civil War.

The Legend of Rachel and Ethan continues in Catahoula Book 2 – An Eternity of Four Years, which takes their story through the turbulent years of the Civil War.

Their story is told in their own words taken from his manuscript and her journals.

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