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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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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Colonel Solon Z. Ruff


SOLON Z. RUFF, colonel of the 18th Georgia which followed the Phillips Georgia Legion in the attack on Fort Sanders, was a graduate of the Georgia Military Institute and a professor there until the war began, according to the web site Men of Wofford’s Georgia Brigade. Ruff enlisted and was appointed lieutenant colonel. He would lead the 18th from the beginning with the Texas Brigade until its reorganization under General Wofford.

The Eighteenth Mississippi’s Captain Gart Johnson told Confederate Veteran Magazine years after the war that Ruff was shot down at the edge of the ditch along with Col. Kennon McElroy of the Thirteenth Mississippi. Johnson said they were standing there remonstrating over how to get their entangled commands separated into recognizable units for the fight. And so they die in the novel.

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Tail coats

“Men in claw-hammer coats and tall, beaver hats and ladies in silk dresses and sunbonnets were standing looking down at us from above the red-clay walls we had tried so hard to climb…”

So says Private Lafayette Bolton of the Dalton Guards, of the Phillips Georgia Legion, one of the attacking Confederate units in the battle. He was on burial detail in Chapter 8. All of these items of clothing are self-explanatory except the claw-hammer coats, also called swallow-tail coats for the division of their cloth at the rear of the coat.

The coats were quite common in the 1860s, had been for decades, but nowadays are generally only seen in tuxedos, the white-tie-and-tails configuration of the men’s evening dress apparel. As Wikipedia relates at the link:  “The historical reason coats were cut this way was to make it easier for the wearer to ride a horse…”

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Reprise:Susan Brownlow

Parson William Gannaway Brownlow was as popular in the North as he was despised in the South.

So when the Confederates finally kicked him out of Knoxville, he and his wife Elisa and their daughter, Susan, enjoyed great acclaim in Philadelphia. He gave speeches and wrote pamphlets.

There, this pamphlet was circulated, though who produced it and why Susan was dubbed Martha isn’t clear.

That she was a heroine to the Yankees is readily understandable. She was the daughter of a man who, though a slave-owner who was decidedly not an abolitionist, was nevertheless intensely loyal to the Union.

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Find Fort Sanders


Curious caption, since I can’t figure out where Fort Sanders is, and this only a year or so after the battle. Given that the river would be more or less on the east side of Knoxville, I think the fort would be off to the left, out of the frame of the picture altogether. What do you think?

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Those sharpshooters

Sharpshooters, like the unknown Rebel one who felled Fort Sanders’ namesake, General William P. Sanders, from more than a mile away, were special troops with their own drill and esprit.

It helped that they often had special arms such as this 13-pound English Whitworth rifle which the Knoxville shooter employed. But there was more to them than their tools.

A newly revised 2006 nonfiction history has the details of these “shock troops” of the Confederacy. There’s also a new collection of papers and letters from Eugene Blackford, a contentious major who helped organize the first battalion of sharpshooters of the Army of Northern Virginia in January, 1863. Worth a look.


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Reprise: General McLaws’ courts martial

Although convened in February, 1864, McLaws’ courts martial for dereliction of duty in the assault on Fort Sanders at Knoxville, was on-again, off-again, for the next several weeks.

Finally, on March 11, the trial commenced at a private home in Greenville, Tennessee, where Longstreet’s artillery battalion was camped for the winter.

Indeed, the artillery battalion’s commander Colonel Edward Porter Alexander was one of the trial’s principal witnesses. It was heard by a seven-officer court, which included the Mississippi Brigade’s commander Gen. Humphreys, the only member who had previously reported to McLaws.

McLaws had demanded the trial after Longstreet relieved him for failure “to make arrangements essential to success” in the attack on Fort Sanders, specifically in not providing ladders for the assaulting Mississippi and Georgia troops to climb the icy walls of the fort’s northwest bastion.

“My trial commenced yesterday,” McLaws wrote his wife, Emily, on March 12, “and two witnesses were examined for the prosecution, both of whom testified as strongly as possible in my favor.”

Alexander was one. He “declared,” McLaws wrote, “that he made a reconnaissance of the enemys works, and the result was his conviction that there was no ditch at the north west angle of the enemys works that offered any obstacle to entering the works[,] that he repeatedly declared this to Genl. Longstreet and myself and repeatedly advised that the assault be made at that point and that it was his opinion which he expressed openly, there was no [need] for ladders or fascines to get over the ditch.”

The problem, of course, was that the fort sat on a higher elevation than the immediately surrounding terrain. So no Confederate, including Longstreet, could see the ditch well enough to properly estimate its width and depth.

“The other witness, the next,” McLaws continued, “was surgeon [Dr. J.S.] Cullen, who visited the fort under [the] flag of truce [and testified] that the ditch at the angle where the assault was made was not more than four feet deep but that along the sides of the work it was ten feet deep and ten feet wide at least.”

Other observers not involved in the trial put the depth where the assault was made at much more than four feet. Less easy to refute in the trial was Longstreet’s charge that throughout the siege of Knoxville, McLaws had showed a want of  confidence in the commanding general. And, in the end, the court found McLaws guilty and sentenced him to a sixty-day suspension of rank and pay.

A reviewing officer later threw out the verdict. He decided the court had not substantiated its decision and “irregularities…fatal to the record” had occurred when Longstreet tried to manipulate the court’s officers. McLaws was ordered reinstated in command of his division. But he never returned.

Longstreet succeeded in having Gen. Lee order McLaws replaced. McLaws went on to supervise troops in the defense of Savannah, Georgia, until the war was over.

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