Kindle version of the novel now at 99 cents

Gettysburg 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

In this sesquicentennial of the war’s 1864, 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, 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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Sharpshooter glasses

You can buy these orange-colored, nickle-plated wire-frame glasses on eBay with the assurance of several books that they were worn by sharpshooters in the Civil War. Ahem.

One sharpshooter (today he would be called a sniper) played a prominent role in the 1863 siege of Knoxville and therefore figures in the novel. The sharpshooter in question, firing from the tower at the Bleak House mansion where Gen. Longstreet kept his headquarters, mortally wounded Union Gen. William P. Sanders.

In the novel, his historical Knoxville ladyfriend Sue Boyd fictionally relates the event and his subsequent death and burial. Gen. Burnside promptly named Fort Sanders for him.

So was the Confederate sharpshooter, who used a special rifle (a Whitworth) with a telescopic sight from more than a mile away, also wearing special orange-colored glasses when he did the deed? We’ll probably never know for sure, but Brett Schulte at the TOCWOC blog offers a clue.

“Were these spectacles really used for shooting? Maybe. I’ve looked though civilian texts on rifle shooting and have not found any reference to them before 1880 or so, and most references (which do not specify what the spectacles looked like) are from the turn of the century…Overall conclusion is that the ‘sharpshooter glasses’ seen today are really mass-marketed turn of the century sunglasses, made fully forty years later, and had nothing to do with the Civil War or sharpshooting.”

Via TOCWOC — A Civil War Blog

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Cooking with one pot on an open fire

The novel’s fictional widow Parthenia Leila Ellis presumably had more than one pot to cook with, but soldiers on both sides at Knoxville probably didn’t unless their unit’s cooks were rustling up grub for all.

For those, particularly among the besieging Rebels, who had to fend for themselves, you might have a hard time imagining how creative you could be cooking with one pot or skillet over an open fire—no matter how creative they might be in scrounging up the makin’s from pitifully small rations.

Comes Clarissa Clifton to help you out. Her good recipe book “One Hearth, One Pot” is short but valuable, and her explanations will help you conjure a full picture of a Civil War soldier or his mess’s servant/slave cooking in camp or at makeshift stops on the march from one battle to the next. Chicken, hoe cakes and sweet potato biscuits. Yum.

“Remember,” she writes in her introduction, “most of the basic home recipes we cook today come from the open hearth…This cookbook focuses on the techniques of cooking used by slaves and the yeoman class of farmers.”

Ms Clifton, who does living history, open-hearth cooking demonstrations for visitors at foundation-owned historic plantations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Roswell, Georgia, has a second cookbook in the works.

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Reprise: General Lee’s Unionist sister

Many families were torn apart by the war, a fact that supports 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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Catch your hat full of grapeshot

6543.3.1-12

The yellowish tinge to the iron balls of this canister round fired by 12-pounder Napoleon cannon is from the sawdust they were packed in. The Mississippi Brigade that attacked Fort Sanders had previously encountered canister at Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, and Gettysburg. At Knoxville they got two quick, surprise bursts of it from the First Rhode Island Light Artillery as they were nearing the fort’s Northwest Bastion.

Years after the war Private Judge E. Woodruff. a former lieutenant of the 13th Mississippi’s Winston Guards, told Confederate Veteran magazine that the canister at Gettysburg, particularly from the federal guns at the Peach Orchard, was so thick “It seemed as if you could hold up your hat and catch it full of grapeshot.”

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Reprise: Civil War Flapdoodle

The Sesquicentennial ought to be producing new works of fact on the war, instead of merely recycling and regurgitating the same old malarky. But greedy publishers and lazy editors will have their way.

Abbeville Press’s 2011 Great Civil War Heroes & Their Battles, a coffee-table book that originally retailed at Amazon for a whopping $49 (reduced now to $23 though still $29.95 at Abbeville’s site), not only repeats the flapdoodle, it goes it one better.

The book reproduces Nineteenth Century artwork of the Battle of Fort Sanders that bears scant resemblance to the actual terrain or to the fight itself. And the editors of the new volume add a new inaccuracy in the picture’s caption: setting the Rebel attack on the Northwest Bastion at around midnight on Nov. 28, 1863.

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Christmas wishes from Leila’s old school

Parthenia Leila Ellis, the novel’s Union-sympathizing Confederate widow, hailed from Alabama where her family’s plantation, The Cedars, was near the former-state capital of Cahawba.

In 1864, Cahawba still had a Female Academy from which Leila had graduated along with other young daughters of plantation owners in the vicinity. One student, a real person not a fictional one, was Kittie E. Watson, 13, who wrote this Christmas essay on Nov. 15, 1864.

“Christmas is the birthday of our Savior, it comes on the 25th of December. Christmas is a happy time for school girls, for then they have holiday. There is a great deal of pleasure in giving and receiving presents. When we get up in the morning, the first thing we do is peep into our stockings to see what Santa Claus has brought us, how disappointed we are if they are filled with switches.

“Then comes breakfast, & the nice Eggnog & then at dinner we have roast Turkey; this is what we all used to have before the war; but I expect a great many of us will miss our roast Turkey & Eggnog this year, & have our stockings filled with switches, as they are more plentiful than most any thing else.

“Some persons have Christmas trees for their children, & they look very pretty with their branches loaded with toys of all kinds, & lighted up with candles. On Christmas Eve Santa Claus pays us a visit. He rides in a sleigh drawn by six Reindeer, & he comes down the chimney with a bundle on his back, looking like a peddler, & fills our stockings with toys, candy, & a great many other nice things. I hope he has not forgotten the way to Cahaba, but will remember us all this year. I wish you all a Merry Christmas.”

The essay is part of the collection of the Cahawba Genealogical & Historical Society, which has long had my interest. My great-great uncle Christopher Claudius Pegues was a lawyer in the town when the war began.

Kit, as he was called in the family, raised a company, the Cahawba Rifles, which joined the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment of which he was later elected colonel. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gaines Mill in 1862, which apparently led to a Cahawba ghost story.

Kit was reared on the actual Cedars, the plantation of my three greats Pegues grandparents. The Cahawba Genealogical & Historical Society could use your donation. For more information about that, go here please.

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