Monday, February 18, 2013

Battle of St.Charles Arkansas

If you're traveling in Arkansas checking out the Civil War sites, you must go by St. Charles on the White River. The single most deadly shot of the war was fired there when the Gunboat Mound City was struck by a round from one of the Confederates' big guns.  The round hit the steam drum scalding most on board. Of the 175 sailors, 105 men died and about 44 were injured. The boat lost all power and drifted with the current.

The horrible battle scene is depicted
in John Gschwend's new novel.
I depict this battle in my new novel, Spirit In The Red Amber. Men were floundering on deck like fish. Many were scalded so bad that their skin hang from them like wax from a candle. Many of the survivors that jumped into the river were picked off by the Confederate soldiers like fish in a barrel. It was all hell. After it was all said and done, the Yankees won the battle, but at a very high price.

They have a plaque at the site and a little museum there in town. There is also a monument on the main street. You can also see one of the big guns as it still looks out over the river.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Fort Curtis in Helena, Arkansas

Fort Curtis was a small Civil War earth and wood fort at Helena built by the Union. It played a major part in the Battle of  Helena in July 4, 1863.

If you read my novel, Chase The Wild Pigeons, you will recognize the name. It was also very important in my story, as I tried to keep the history of the battle as true as possible.

A new replica of the fort is being built in Helena only few block from where the original once stood. It is my understanding there will be replica cannon and the whole nine yards. It will be dedicated Friday, May 11, 2012.

There are big things going on in Helena now, and I am glad to see the Civil War history getting recognized in a big way. If you are near Helena, check out the fort. It takes up a whole block at the corner of York and Biscoe.

The Fort is finished. It is well worth checking out. It has a cannon, too!

Monday, January 30, 2012

What the soldiers said

I like to read diaries, letters and the like written by soldiers during the Civil War. It's fun to see the words and slang they used then. You may see a few we still use today.

Here are few words pertaining to food:

bully soup, panada: A cooked mixture of crushed hardtack, cornmeal, ginger and wine.

creeper: A term used by New England soldiers for a small skillet.

mud lark: Pig

skillygalee: Hardtack softened in water then fried in bacon grease.

slow bear: Stolen pig.

teeth dullers: Hardtack crackers.

treacle: Southern term for molasses.

Here are a few slang words:

bodega: Liquor store

calaboose: Jail

cooter: Turtle

cuffy: Black male

German corn: Rye

hoosegow: Jail

Irish hoist: A kick in the pants.

katzenjammers: The effects of a hangover.

shoddy: Cheap or low quality.

tumbled over: To be killed.

Here are a couple of books that might interest you: Everyday Life During The Civil War and The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s. There is pretty cool stuff in there. I used some of it in my stories.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Roughing it on the homefront

As the Union blockade put a strangle hold on the South. The home folk had to make due or substitute to get by. They came up with some pretty ingenious ideas.

Salt was dug from the smokehouse floor, boiled and the sediment was used for a brownish salt.

Sweet potatoes dried in the sun were used in the place of sugar.

Wheat and rye was used for a coffee substitute, so were okra and chicory.

Dried blackberry leaves, sassafras, and other herbs were used for tea.

Paper was scarce, so they wrote on just about anything. They made envelopes from wall paper.
Ink was made from oak balls and walnut juice. Dye was made from butternut.
Candles were made from tallow, or pine knots were used to light the parlor.
Spinning wheels were brought out of storage to make clothes. Needles were made from thorns, buttons made from persimmon seeds.

The woman saved their urine to make niter for gunpowder.

You have to give them credit; they knew how to make do.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I have a couple of freebees for you.

If you are a member of Good Reads, you can put your name in the hat for a free paperback copy of my novel, Chase The Wild Pigeons.

Saturday, 1-14-2012, I will be giving away for free my short story, The Red Pond At Shiloh for Amazon kindle.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Brice's Crossroads

General Nathan Bedford Forrest
The Battle of Brice's Crossroads was one of the most one-sided fights of the war. June 10, 1864 Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest brought his 4787 force to attack Brigadier General Samuel D.Sturgis and his 5000 infantry and 3000 cavalry near Baldwyn Mississippi. Forrest's men routed the Union forces, proving him to be one of the best generals of the war.

General William T. Sherman sent Sturgis with a force over 8000 into Mississippi and Alabama to destroy Forrest and his command. Forrest was a threat to Sherman’s supply line as Sherman moved toward Atlanta, and he wanted that threat eliminated.

Forrest figured the Union force was moving toward Tupelo Mississippi, so he moved to cut them off. He picked Brice's Crossroads for its rough roads and dense woods to offset the Union's numerical advantage. He would have his men attack the leading Yankee cavalry, which would force the trailing infantry to double-quick to the battle before recovering from the march. He figured the infantry would be too tired to fight.

The plan worked exactly as he had hoped. Around 10:30 a.m. on June 10, the cavalry forces engaged, and the Union infantry made a five-mile run in the southern heat and humidity to support the cavalry. In the afternoon, Forrest attacked all along the lines. His men even rolled cannon up close by hand.

At 3:30, the Confederate 2nd Tennessee Cavalry attacked the bridge across the Tishomingo. The attack failed, but it caused severe confusion among the Federal troops and Sturgis ordered a general retreat. With the Rebels still pressing, the retreat bottlenecked at the bridge and a panicked rout developed instead. The pursuit back to Memphis crossed six counties before the exhausted Confederates gave it up. Forrest captured huge supplies of arms, artillery, and ammunition as well as plenty of stores.

Forrest is a very controversial person. He was a slave trader before the war and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan after. However you may feel about the man, he was a great military leader. The late Shelby Foote, said the war greated to authentic geniuses, Lincoln and Forrest.

If you are in the area, it is worth the trip to Brices Crossroads Battlefield Site.

I've barely touched on this story. Please read more about it to get a better appreciation of Forrest the general.

Samuel Andrew Agnew was a local there, and he kept a splended diary. You must read this--it is simply great. I used it in my novel. He tells about the battle better than any historian. Read it, close your eyes, and you are there.

The battle is a big part in my novel, Chase The Wild Pigeons. My characters stayed there the night before with a local farmer. When they wake up the battle is already brewing. In this read you will see the battle from the civilian's point of view. You are more involved and dodging the bullets. My story is fiction, but I kept the battle as real as my research allowed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My new short story for kindle

The Red Pond At Shiloh is my new short story. The story follows wounded private Frank Barlow as he comes to terms being wounded and alone in the dark after the first days fighting at the Battle of Shiloh.

It is available for Amazon kindle download. Right now it's free.

The battle was the biggest and bloodiest fight up to that point. It was fought April 6-7, 1862. Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston brought his Confederate mostly untested army up from Corinth Mississippi to attack Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee before the Army of the Ohio, under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, could join it. The Rebels surprised the Yankees near Shiloh church. What followed was a 2 day nightmare, and both sides found out what the war was really going to be.

If you get a chance to visit the battlefield, go for it. I enjoyed it as well as any. You can really get the battle in your mind's eye while traveling over the huge area.