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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Fort Sanders to be spared removal

The monument destructors, beginning with the destroying of a Rebel rifleman’s statue in Durham, North Carolina, are hard at work in Knoxville, splashing (appropriately) blue paint on one Confederate monument. Which they have petitioned the city to remove.

Fortunately Fort Sanders will be spared any mob action, as its red clay walls were removed by time and nature more than a hundred years ago. There are, however, several plaques commemorating its one-time existence which might be ripped away by the ahistorical.

But that is all. Why you might ask?

“The short answer is East Tennessee was a heavily pro-Union part of the South,” said Aaron Astor, a history professor at Maryville College.  “Obviously there were many Confederate sympathizers, but East Tennessee was decidedly pro-Union — and it maintained its pro-Union sentiment after the war.”

And thus it is in the novel, with Parthenia Leila Ellis, the pro-Union widow of a Confederate officer, a major character who witnesses the repulse of Longstreet’s army in its attack on Fort Sanders.

Via Dead Confederates blog

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Civil War Trust’s “battlefield”

The corner of W. Summit Hill Drive and South Gay Street is the Civil War Trust’s designated field for the Battle of Fort Sanders. All 69 acres of it. It doesn’t seem likely (it should be farther west in the Fort Sanders neighborhood), but there it is.

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Orlando Poe’s map

Topographical map of the approaches and defenses of Knoxville, surveyed under the direction of Union Capt. O.M. Poe, dated November 14, 1863, provided his commanding general Burnside with unequaled decision-making information.

“In his official report Poe stated, ‘And here I feel it is my duty to refer to the great value of the services of the contrabands. They were ever tractable and willing, and many of them came to me and volunteered to work. They did an amount of labor which was truly astonishing. Day and night they worked without murmur. For the first week they labored regularly eighteen hours out of the twenty four, and during the whole siege, out of nearly 200 that we had at work, only 1 asked to be relieved, and he for only one afternoon.’”

One of his willing slave workers was the fictional Brutus, servant to the novel’s Mrs. Parthenia Leila Ellis.

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Christmas wishes from Old Cahawba

The novel’s Union-sympathizing Parthenia Leila Ellis 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 for the young daughters of plantation owners in the vicinity, from which Leila had graduated. 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 who lived 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, whose Big House was torn down by a descendant after  the war and the materials used to build cabins for the emancipated slaves. The Cahawba Genealogical & Historical Society could use your donation. For more information, go here.

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Secession Again?

“Secession is in the air again, ironically for the same reason the South seceded in 1860—dissatisfaction with the results of the presidential election. In 1860 it was Abe Lincoln; in 2016 it’s Donald Trump. And it’s not the South this time (which seems quite happy with the result), it’s California, which is not. Just as the Unionism of many in the South was overridden by a small group of rich planters, the would-be secessionists are a small group of rich Californians, mostly in Silicon Valley.”

It’s also worth remembering that Lincoln lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote.


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Signal flags at Knoxville

Gen. Edward Porter Alexander was a colonel at Knoxville, in charge of Longstreet’s artillery, where he put to good use the signal flags he’d learned to use as a U.S. Army officer under Albert J. Myer, an army surgeon, before the war.

“I was one of the very few, if not the only Southern officer who knew Myer’s system of signals,” he wrote in his memoir Fighting For The Confederacy.

“Both the Union and the Confederacy,” writes Trevor at Fold3, an online archive of military records, “developed an army Signal Corps during the Civil War. The job of the Signal Corps in both the North and South was to quickly and accurately relay information and orders between the commanders of different units within the two forces (which was especially crucial during battles). The main way they did this was through the use of a flag system called wig-wag…”

At Knoxville Alexander used them for signaling his widely-spread artillery when to cease and recommence firing.

“Then,” recalled the novel’s fictional artillery Sergeant Pitchigru Pease of Parker’s Boy Battery, which was perched on Cherokee Heights above the battlefield, “we saw a flurry of signal flags down at the Bleak House, the red and white flags that Colonel Alexander had first used for instant communication at First Manassas. They seemed to be speaking to us, as well as the rest of the battalion, for then, to the dismay of all, Captain Parker ordered us to cease fire.”

But before long, the guns roared out again in support of the attacking Confederate infantry.

“Then the big red and white wig-wag flags of the battalion atop the Bleak House mansion fluttered into motion,” Pease continued. “The waving flags were sending signals to the batteries in the north, since the fog had lifted some more. I wished I had ever learned to read the flags, but they were awful complicated. Their meaning was hidden from me.”

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Nashville’s Confederate Cleansing

In the novel, Knoxville’s Union-sympathizing Confederate widow Parthenia Leila Ellis’s slain husband Clayton bought his fancy Confederate uniform—with the gold braid “chicken guts” of a major on its coat sleeves—from a tailor in Nasvhville.

In the latest attempt to appease the 21st century’s ahistorical sensitive, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University recently decided to play “let’s pretend” and remove the word Confederate from one of its campus buildings.

“In 1935 the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) constructed Confederate Memorial Hall as a residence for girls at Nashville’s Peabody College. Originally residents who were descendants of Confederate veterans and agreed to become teachers were granted free room and board. The school and dormitory were acquired by Vanderbilt University in 1979. Earlier this month university chancellor, Nicholas Zeppos, announced that the name ‘Confederate’ will be sandblasted off of the building.”

It’s only the latest chapter in Tennessee’s contentious civil war history, in which the Eastern half of the state tended to be Union and the Western half Confederate.

“Tennessee had finally seceded, in June, 1861,” Leila relates in the novel, “though it took two elections and several months in between for the Secesh to put it over. In between, [Knoxville’s] Gay Street often hosted recruiting efforts for both armies.”

Via Poore Boys In Gray.

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Rough Rider Joe Wheeler


Confederate cavalry attacking the city was the first thought of the novel’s fictional Parthenia Leila Ellis when the sounds of battle awakened her the night the Rebels drove in the pickets at Fort Sanders.

That cavalry was commanded by Gen. Joseph Wheeler of Georgia who was later captured in 1865 attempting to shield the fleeing President Jefferson Davis from pursuing Union soldiers. Wheeler became the highest-ranking Confederate prisoner at the Union’s Fort Delaware.

Wheeler also has the distinction (despite his Rebel service) of being buried in Arlington National Cemetery. It was due, in part, to his post-war election to the U.S. House of Representatives. But mainly to his volunteer service in the Spanish-American War, as a staff officer in the Rough Riders under President Theodore Roosevelt.

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