Kindle version of the novel now 99 cents

KVCoverKindleGettysburg held. Vicksburg has fallen. Now Rebel flags ring Knoxville in East Tennessee. General James Longstreet, Lee’s Warhorse, means to wrench this railroad hub away from the occupying Union army.

“I’ve long considered Michael and Jeff Shaara’s Civil War trilogy to be one of the benchmarks for Civil War historical fiction. Knoxville 1863 came very close to that mark.” -Jim Chambers for Red Adept Reviews

The eBook version is available for the Amazon Kindle at 99 cents a copy. It’s professionally edited, proofread to eliminate misspellings, typos and other annoying errors, and has a map of the battlefield and a linked table of contents. A paperback version is available for $7.98 here.

Also now available is my 366-page, indexed non-fiction history of the 13th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the principal Rebel units in the attack on Fort Sanders, here.

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A soldier poet

Mayst purest pleasures ever be thine,
A [something] holy, pure, chaste, divine,
Richest of all treasures I’d wish thee given,
Youth, beauty, happiness – a home in Heaven.

So then-Captain, later Colonel, Kennon McElroy wrote in December, 1861, in an elaborate, decorative hand to “Miss Mary,” just more than two years before he was killed leading his 13th Mississippi Regiment in the attack on Fort Sanders. “Old Chivalry,” the fictional men of the novel call him.

Miss Mary was the pretty, 20-year-old Mary Elizabeth Johnston of Leesburg, Virginia where the 13th Regiment was posted in the fall and winter of 1861. They were camped on the Fairgrounds near her home on Loudon Street.

McElroy, a University of Mississippi graduate and a farmer of Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi, must have cut a romantic figure in his Lauderdale Zouaves uniform of billowing, red pantaloons, embroidered blue jacket and low, white turban hat tilted on the back of his head.

Johnston may have mourned his death at age 23. She outlived him by 47 years. But he was only one of her Mississippi suitors. She also inspired at least two other men of the regiment to write her poems. She kept all three poems in a “remembrance” album passed down to her descendants. The album may have been a gift to her from then-Captain McElroy, who may even have known her before the war.

Via Find-A-Grave

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Zouaves at Knoxville


It’s doubtful whether the Lauderdale Zouaves company of the 13th Mississippi Regiment still had uniforms as presentable as this when the regiment attacked Fort Sanders on Nov. 29, 1863. But such apparently was their appearance when the war began.

Their romantic uniforms were not uncommon on both sides of the war. They commemorated the French colonial soldier who distinguished himself in the Crimean War of 1855. Of which it was written in 1862: “…he knows he is looked upon by his officers, by France, and by the world, as a soldier to whom nothing should be impossible; and he would rather die than disappoint the expectation formed of him; his is a corps d’elite, and every Zouave considers himself a ‘death or glory man.’”

The Zouaves of Lauderdale Station, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, originally were led by then-Captain Kennon McElroy, 21, a University of Mississippi graduate and farmer, who was elected colonel and promoted after Gettysburg to command the regiment. As such he is recreated in the novel. McElroy was killed in the attack on the fort.

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Was The South Ever Confederate, Anyway?

The old arguments over the Confederate battle flag (pride or racist symbol, or both), intensified after a photograph surfaced of a mass murderer in Charleston, South Carolina, holding one.

This war retrospective, by contemporary Knoxville journalist Jack Neely, whose title forms the headline of this post, speaks to some of the complexities of the war which are explored in Knoxville 1863:

“The Civil War is a big bagful of ironies and paradoxes, and not a recommended study for folks who like to keep things simple. It would be a particular challenge for anyone to survive the 1860s in Knoxville and either idealize one side or demonize the other. It took a later generation, one that didn’t remember the war, to glorify it…”

No better time, perhaps, than Independence Day to consider all this anew. Give it a whirl.

Via Instapundit.

UPDATE:  And if you care to get really bogged down in the war’s minutia, there’s this one.

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Fort Sanders Photographs

The few extant photographs of Fort Sanders, including the cropping atop this page, apparently were taken after the Nov. 29, 1863, battle by George Barnard, the official photographer for Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Military Division of the Mississippi.

Barnard, a Connecticut native who grew up in New York, apparently took the photographs after Dec. 6 when he arrived with Sherman and his troops to relieve the Confederate siege of Knoxville. By then the Confederates under Gen. Longstreet had buried their dead and marched away.

Sherman was disgusted to find defending Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside and his staff officers dining heartily while the soldiers of his army were starving. “They were on short rations of hardtack, water and bread, while their commanders licked meat fat off their fingers at Burnside’s groaning table in the Crozier House mansion.

Two of Barnard’s photographs of the fort are archived at Notre Dame University. The aforementioned view is there as well as one I had not seen before. Possibly because it is hard to interpret. The caption says it is the view southeast of the fort’s parapet, but which part of the parapet is not specified. It seems, in fact, to be a northeast view, almost behind the fort.

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19th Century Weapon: The steam train

“In today’s world of tanks, bombers and submarines, it’s perhaps hard to believe that the train was once an amazingly mobile weapons platform. They might be locked to their rails, but for over a century trains were the fastest means of hauling troops and artillery to front lines across the world. The invention of the railway shaped warfare for a century. Rails allowed force projection across immense distances — and at speeds which were impossible on foot or by horse.”

Indeed, the Battle of Fort Sanders might never have happened without the steam train. The trains had brought Longstreet’s troops from Richmond, Virginia to Ringgold, Georgia where they marched northwest into Tennessee.

After battles at Chickamauga and Chattanooga, they boarded more trains at Tyner’s Station northeast of Chattanooga and  rode (when they weren’t frequently stopping to cut wood and fetch water for the laboring steam engines) to Sweetwater. They had to leave the trains behind there—because the Yankees had burned a railroad bridge spanning the Tennessee River—and lay pontoon across the river and then march the rest of the way to Knoxville.

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Reprise: Robert E. Lee’s Unionist Sister

[This is one of the most popular posts of this site and so worth repeating in full:]

Many families were torn apart by the war, a fact that buttresses my fictional creation Parthenia Leila Ellis, the Unionist widow of Confederate Major Clayton Ellis of Knoxville.

Many such divisions were unsung at the time, the principals being little known to anyone outside their family circles. But some were quite famous, though the divisions are seldom recalled today.

Not only was Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s sister, Laura Jackson Arnold, devoted to the Union, for instance, so was the sister of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“Lee’s sister Anne Lee Marshall also disagreed with her brother. Her son fought with General John Pope against his uncle. No one in that family ever spoke to Lee again.”

Marshall, who died before the war was over, nevertheless was said to have often bragged that none of the Federals “can whip Robert,” according to Lee biographer Elizabeth Brown Pryor.

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Where Union Gen. Sanders died


There aren’t many places in Knoxville today reminiscent of the Battle of Fort Sanders. The fort itself disappeared long ago, unless you count the neighborhood and hospital that later assumed its name. There’s Bleak House, of course, Gen. Longstreet’s headquarters. Where a Rebel sharpshooter (sniper) mortally wounded Union cavalryman Gen. William P. Sanders. His death was how the fort got its name.

And the place where he died also is still standing and said to be haunted. Then known as the Lamar Hotel, now better known as the Bijou Theater, an old vaudeville venue. Sanders’ commander Gen. Burnside was there when he died and later sent word to his Rebel sweetheart Sue Boyd. Events which figure in the novel.

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“Our own good Colonel Cameron”


Long before they defended Fort Sanders’s Northwest Bastion, the Seventy-Ninth New York Cameron Highlanders was decimated on the slope of Henry Hill at First Manassas, where their first regimental colonel, James Cameron, was killed by a bullet in his chest. Cameron’s brother, Simon, was then President Lincoln’s secretary of war.

“We came together again and moved forward, but we were driven back again, with many fallen, dead and wounded, and a good many others were captured,” my fictional Private Burton Laing recalls First Manassas in the novel. “We retired down the hill again, and this time we saw as we passed by him that our own good Colonel Cameron was mortally wounded.”

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