Saturday, January 04, 2014


The best intentioned plans of mice and men often get waylaid.. .badly... that is the case here with this blog about the novel, None But Heroes.

I realize I promised to resume blogging back in May of last year, but I never did... the summer, Civil War events, etc took up my time.

Now, it is early January, 2014, and I need to decide to keep this blog up and running or perhaps switch it to a different format perhaps usnig

If any of you read this, please let me know your thoughts. The soonest I have some thoughts and suggestions from you (that are meaningful and not spam), the sooner I will be able to decide to either shut this down or keep it going.

Thank YOU for your help!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

First off, I want to apologize to everyone for being away from this blog since my last posting on 2 February 2013. It has been a few crazy months here so I will try to resume my posting where I left off. Part of the reason for my absence from here has been giving some talks (two to Civil War Round Tables and one to my local public library) about the novel. I am open to giving talks about the  novel to other CWRTs as well as public libraries and bookstores that are able to sell electronic formatted books.


In my last posting I talked about how Jake and Hank began the campaign and quoted from the relevant portion of the novel. However, what I did not cite was where I obtained the background information for the Fourth NC's move northward into Maryland and its assignment, as part of George Anderson's North Carolina brigade, to make a "side trip" to opposite the Maryland shore of the Potomac near Berlin, Maryland.

First Sergeant James W Shinn, of the 4th NC, who is mentioned at various points in the novel, kept a diary of his adventures during the "Green Corn Campaign". While the original may reside at Chapel Hill in North Carolina (UNC Chapel Hill), there is a copy of a handwritten copy of Shinn's diary (done as a handwwriting assignment to his son by the last Colonel of the 4th NC at the time of the Army of No. Virginia surrender on 9 April 1865 and who was the actual commander of Company H in September, 1862) in the library files of the Antietam National Battlefield Park. Dr Thomas Clemens, now a retired Professor of History from Hagerstown (Md.) Community College, had one of his students transcribe and annotate the Shinn diary from September 1862 in the late 1990s). While the Shinn diary has its mistakes, it is often quoted by researchers and authors who have written about the Confederate campaign into Maryland. This makes it -- despite its seeming flaws -- invaluable as a primary source since he was there and his experiences, as set down on paper, bring the day to day aspects of the campaign to life in ways otherwise not possible.

As I quoted in the last post, Jake and Hank and the rest of the regiment were ordered to take part in the operation against the Yankee rail and canal system in Maryland. When I was doing the research into the very early phases of this campaign, some sources suggested that Geo. B Anderson's brigade became a "lost" brigade because it did not cross into Maryland on 4 September with the rest of Daniel Harvey Hill's Confederate division. The Shin Diary explained the reason why the brigade was detached from the division and the history of that detachment is reflected in "A Beginning", the first chapter of Part I of the novel.

I will make serious efforts to continue my blog posts about the novel in the weeks and months ahead. Now that it is what reenactors call "campaign season," my posts will be approximately twice a month between now and October, but I might post more or less frequently depending on circumstances and situations and time available to me.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Interaction between Jenkins and Chisholm (Part I, 1st Chapter)

In the story I have Jenkins and Chisholm discussing the latter's first encounters with combat and how terrifying the experience was to the younger officer. But first, I provide a background for how Jenkins tries to awaken the officer after delivering the message from GHQ, Army of Northern Virginia, to the Confederate White House:

"Walking into the room, he found the lieutenant asleep where he’d sat down. As the colonel stood looking down at the  young officer before him, his thoughts went to his own son serving in the ranks of the Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg.  I wonder where Bragg and his army are now, Jenkins thought. With a sigh, the colonel reached out and gently shook the young courier. Awakening with a start, the lieutenant jumped to his feet."

Following the disastrous defeat at Shiloh after the death of Albert Sidney Johnston, the main Confederarte Army in the West underwent re-organization and emerged as the Amy of Tennessee under the command of General Braxton Bragg. During the early days of September, 1862, the Army of Tennessee (along with othre CS forces) was engaged in the campaign  that would result in the inconclusive but bloody Battle of Perryville, sometimes referred to as "the Antietam of the West."

Jake and Hank Begin the Campaign

Elsewhere in the same chapter I have incidents where the entire Fourth North Carolina prepares to embark on the move north into Maryland. The orders have been given; the time is now for the weary men in the ranks to decide if their proclivities, health or otherwise permit then to cross over the Potomac into "Yankee" territory. For historical background on this, there is evidence of an order issues by General James Longstreet to his command excusing any soldiers who were barefoot and unable to keep up due to the expected rocky roads in Maryland.

This is how I presented that situation in the novel:

"As they listened to the orders excusing soldiers in the ranks who had no shoes from the upcoming campaign was read, both Jake and Hank thought they heard a slight intake of breath from those around them. While excusin’ soldiers who’ve no shoes might be a good thing, Jake thought, thar’s going to be h__ to pay if Billy really wants to have a dance. Why, the army needs all the help it can git, not less!

"All this -- and more -- went flashing through Jake’s mind as he stood at respectful attention. He was glad to hear  those who remained behind could perform guard duty for the supply trains.... Presently Colonel Bryan Grimes, the regimental commander, stepped forward to explain the operations orders they’d alljust heard announced. As Grimes spoke, Jake listened carefully so he could understand what was asked of them. The colonel explained the regiment, as part of Anderson’s brigade, was to march up the Potomac River and make a demonstration on the Virginia side just opposite a portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. The regiment had to make sure  all Yankees left the Virginia side of the river near Berlin, Maryland. After that, they would return to Lovettsville and prepare to cross the Potomac at Cheat’s Ford. All eyes were on Colonel Grimes as he finished his talk. What Grimes did next seemed melodramatic, but Jake and Hank hadto admit it was a good way to inspire the men.

“Men of the Fourth State Troops Regiment!” thundered Grimes, as he drew his sword from its scabbard. “You have heard the orders from General Lee and from Generals Hill and Anderson! We prepare todayto march into Maryland to defend her honour and to win glory for our cause! Let me never heard it be said of any man of the regiment here that he failed to do his duty!”

While saying these words, he swiftly drew a line inthe dirt of the road before him. Continuing his little speech, Grimes exclaimed:  “Who amongst you will join me? Let each man decide according to his conscience and his honour. Know also that no censure will befall any man should he decide to remain behind. By your companies, if you will march with me,” Grimes  continued after a pause for emphasis, “step forward --- now!"

Jake held his breath to see who would move forward  and who would remain. His colonel’s words echoed in his ears. All along the regimental line, he could see those who chose to stay with the unit and cross the Potomac and those who, for reasons of conscience or sickness or lack of shoes, chose to remain behind with the army trains in Virginia. When the time came for his company to decide, he was relieved to see his outfit move forward as one man. After the last company was called, those who would not make the crossing formed up under the regiment’s assistant surgeon. (This included all those in the regiment on the sick listas noted for that day in addition to all those without shoes and those whose sincere sentiments would not allow them to agree to “invading” Maryland.) Under the watchful eyes of Major ___ of the regiment, the stay-behinds formed a marching column. With a rousing cheer for “the old Fourth” and “for Jeff Davis”, they began their march to-wards Winchester and the supply trains of the Army  of Northern
Virginia. "

More on the start of the campaign for the "Bloody Fourth" and on Chisholm's start to his amazing journey in the next blogs. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Journey Begins....

The first main portion of the novel is titled "Maryland, My Maryland" for two principal reasons:

1. Most Confederate soldiers who did make the journey northward into Maryland at the start of the campaign in early September of 1862 truly did believe Maryland was waiting only for the victorious Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to show its colors on its own soil and it would rise up and join with its sister states to the south as part of the Confederate States of America.

In The Antietam Campaign (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999) which Gary Gallagher edited, there is an excellent eassy about how the experiences of pro-Southern Marylanders in 1861 and the coverage given to the Baltimore Riot as well as the arrest of many members of the Maryland lelegislature when it met in Frederick to debate whethre or not Maryland should secede from the Union colored Confederate expectations. I urge readers of the novel to check out the essay and the thoughts offered therein.

2. "Maryland, My Maryland!" was truly a Top 10 Billboard (if there would have been such a thing 150 years ago!) Song of the time.Originally composed by James R Randall as a poem of nne stanzas and today the official state song of the State of Maryland, the words were set to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" or "Lauriger Horatius" by the sister of Mrs Hetty Cary. (See the full Wikipedia article here.)

As Confederate troops forded the Potomac River north into Maryland from Virginia, they literally roared out the song. As I mention in the Chapter II, hopes were high indeed for success among the serried ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia. But, I fear I digress from what the first chapter of Part I of the novel accomplishes.

Anderson's Brigade Starts Its Movements

 As September 5, 1862 dawns in the novel, Jake and Hank awaken along with the rest of their comrades of Company H of the Fourth North Carolina State Troops Regiment. An example of the good-natured kidding and joking that went on in the camps is given in the episode of the "b'ar" in the first pages of Chapter I. This chapter also serves to introduce us to Lieutenant Jordan Chisholm, who is my fictional character used to give some of the larger story about the campaign, of which neither Jake nor Hank would have been aware.

At the start of its participation in the Maryland campaign, George B Andereson's North Carolina brigade of Daniel Harvey Hill's division (see my earlier mention of D H Hill in mySunday, December 02, 2012 blog post) receied special orders from General Hill to pay its compliments to the Yankees across the Potomac River and the Baltimore & Ohio Railway. As Jake and Hank along with their other pards made their decisions to remain with the regiment or not participate in the coming campaign due to illness or lack of shoes or out of conscience, we see how Confederate President Jefferson Davis receives word from Army or Northern Virginia headquarters that the move north into Maryland is about to commence.

The letter which Lieutenant Chisholm delivers to Davis can be found in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XIX, pp.590-591. I quoted the original letter almost completely, but putting it within the context of the story as if Davis had received it and was reading it.

Burton Harrison, mentioned in the part of the chapter where Chisholm is at the Executive Mansion in Richmond and waiting the Confederate President's response to General Lee, was the official Private Secretary to Davis. Colonel James Jenkins was my fictional character to introduce and carry along Chisholm's mission to Richmond and the start of his own remarkable journey.

More about the historical setting in which Jenkins and Chisholm discuss the latter's relative inexperience with the War, the sights and sounds of Chisholm's first battle, etc will be discussed in the next blog post.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

What's the History Behind Chapter II of Prologue?


As Chapter II of the Prologue opens, we meet our "storyteller," Jacob Thompson and his best pard Hank Johnson, both serving in Company H of the Fourth Regiment, North Carolina State Troops Infantry.. Both pards, as we learn, hail from Iredell County in North Carolina and joined up together after the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and the secession of North Carolina from the United States to throw its lot with the nascent Confederate States of America.

The two friends just have learned their regiment (commanded by Bryan Grimes) and brigade (commanded by George B Anderson)have been ordered by divisional commander Daniel Harvy Hill to cross into Maryland, thereby beginning the first movement north of the Potomac by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. Much debate and soul searching follows as the two companions, along with others of their company, wrestle with their hard-fought principles of defending their homes and rights against following their orders. Jake describes some of this debate in a letter which he writes home to his father and also describes some of the over 180 mile journey on foot from Gordonsville, Virginia to the area near Leesburg in Loudon County (not too far from Harper's Ferry area)..

Is There any Historical Fact behind Jake's Letter Home?


Actually, yes there is. Much of the background factual information about Jake's journey from Gordonsville, Virginia is factual and accurate. Captain William T Marsh, who winds up commanding the regiment at Sharpsburg, wrote a letter from Lessburg to an un-named cousin. 

This letter is important for a few reasons. First, it is the last known letter penned by Marsh; second, it vividly describes the grueling march of D H Hill's "relief column" to join the Army of Northern Virginia hopefully in time for what became the Second Battle of Manassas Plains as well as well as the horrible sights the division saw as it marched through the battlefield just immediately after the Army of Northern Virginia's victory over John Pope's Army of Virginia.

The full copy of Marsh's letter is given below; see if you can match up the details of what he writes to what Jake writes in his letter home to his father in Olin, North Carolina in the novel!

Camp 4th N C S Troops
 Near Potomac River Leesburg
Sept 4th 1862

My Dear Cousin,
 Your welcome letter of the 21st reached me a few days since whilst we were on a forced march to join the erratic Stonewall Jackson, having been forwarded from Richmond. I was glad to hear from you as I always am.
Since I last wrote I have experienced some of the hardest marching of the war &c in Summer dust—hard roads—long toilsome days marches & scarcity of water and thirst. We have now been marching tend days—eight of which without rest except a few hours at night. Within the ten days we have march an estimated distance of 187 miles. Within the eight successive days of march without a day of rest we marched 168 miles—an average of 21 miles per day many days upon only one meal per day and some without any. This force march was made to unite our forces with those of Jackson who was driving the enemy before him from the Rapidan towards Warrenton and thence towards Fairfax & Washington. We were unable to overtake Jackson & Longstreet before the battles of last Saturday and Sunday on Bull Run. We were one day behind and as we passed over the fields of strife extending from Gainesville to Bull Run for mile we were compelled to witness the awful disgusting and revolting spectacle of a battle field the day after battle. The bodies of the dead and wounded lay strewn and in heaps around us on all sides. So far as I could judge from appearances the carnage was greater than in any of the battles around Richmond especially of the enemy. I should think there was at least twenty dead bodies of the enemy to one of ours. It is estimated that their dead and wounded amounted to not less than eight thousand. The Second day’s battle was upon the old battle ground of the 21st of July 1861. They there again met with a most signal rout—we followed them to the fortifications near Washington between Alexandria and Arlington Heights. Our Division and some others were then dispatched to this point we arrived here last night late in the night and are allowed a portion of us (Andersons Brigade) to rest and prepare rations to day—to morrow we expect to follow into Maryland. A portion of Hills Division left us this morning to cross over at Balls Bluff or Edwards Ferry. We expect to leave early in the morning—our present course for the opposite shore. Perhaps when we get into Maryland we may not have facilities of writing or sending letters to our friends at home. I therefore embrace this the earliest as well as latest opportunity to reply to your letter. From late letters received by members of my Company the Yankees have been committing more depredations upon the citizens of Beaufort County than heretofore. I hear they have taken possession of one of our farms and are cultivating the (unclear in copy of copy) with a number of runaway negroes and have a lot of troops there to protect them. I suppose they will destroy my stock fencing &c If we could only get into Pennsylvania I should take pleasure in retaliating.
You have been misinformed in reference to my reported prospect of marriage with Miss Palmer. I have no such intention nor have I ever had.  Miss Palmer’s whole family was very kind to me when I was sick there last fall and again this spring. I am under many obligations to them and shall ever entertain a grateful remembrance of their many acts of kindness—beyond this I have no aspirations. In this disclaimer I am candid and sincere and hope you will not doubt me. I am too old to joke upon such a subject and care too little for what the public may say to attempt concealment. Perhaps I may never marry. I shall certainly never marry any one I would be ashamed of even beforehand. So that whenever I become engaged if you have curiosity enough to enquire I will not deny you the information unless otherwise requested and of that—would be candid. Will you make a bargain with me to tell me your love secrets in return for my own or would I be an unfair one. You are so young and I so far advanced in years. You just in the bloom of loves springtime, I in the autumn.      
As I have said we are about to enter Maryland and what opposition we may meet I cannot say. If we go to Washington of course we shall have much fighting to do. So far a kind protecting providence has held me in his hand and shielded me from all danger. It may still be my good fortune to be preserved. May be the Angel of Death may mark me as a victim. Many of my best friends in the army—among them the noblest and most patriotic—have fallen. Every part of our land has to mourn the loss of some of these—every instance of which tending more and more to alienate the two sections of country and render the separation more sure and permanent.
I see by the papers that my friend Maj. Gedtis [spelling ??] of Hertford Co. has been appointed solicitor. I suppose he will resign his place in the army. The Maj is so [copy lost here] a gentleman the 31st Regt will be the looser thereby.
I shall expect to hear from you soon and often as you are my only female correspondent except A[rest unclear]. It is cheering and refreshing to get a letter from you.
Give my kind regards to your sisters. 
Yours sincerely
 W.T. Marsh

Note:  Copy of original letter transcribed by author of novel and transcribed copy is in the library of the Antietam National Battlefield Park, Sharpsburg, Maryland.


Friday, November 30, 2012

About the Dedication

The dedicatory page to the officers and men of the Fourth Regiment, North Carolina State Troops, is very similar to dedications made by surviving veterans in their own actual memoirs.

I made the conscious decision to use the Fourth NC because the regiment lost all its serving field officers in the Sunken Road during the Battle of Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862.

 Chapter 1 of the Prologue 

This chapter accomplishes three main goals. First, it helps set the actual historical situation prevelent in the Eastern Theater, and to some extent in the Western Theater, as viewed in the South by the time the Army of Northern Virginia is poised to enter Maryland. Second, it serves to educate the reader about the uniforming and equipment and other items carried by the soldiers in the ranks of both sides at this stage of the War. (Note: The illustration in the chapter of a typical CS soldier in the ranks is the author himself.) Third, the chapter serves to introduce Jacob "Jake" Thompson, the supposed author of the "memoir" about his adventures and experiences during the Maryland campaign of the Army of Northern Virginia 150 years ago.

Next blog: Discussing the actual letter which helped me construct Jake's own letter home to his father in North Carolina. Stay Tuned!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

About the cover of None But Heroes:

The link above will take you to the painting which is the cover art for the novel as well as forming the background for the title page. The painting is actually titled "Father to Son" but it was such a perfect illustration for the novel, since it could almost (also) be the "memoir's"  fictional author with his best friend Hank Johnson. The setting is the Fourth North Carolina in the sunken wagon road on the morning of September 17, 1862, before the fighting actually began and while there was still relative silence on the field of battle. The young soldier in the extreme right background of the painting is the artist's son Seth.

Charles H Marvil, of Sharpsburg, Maryland, is the artist behind the amazing image that is the cover for None But Heroes. Charlie and I served together as re-enactors in the Chesapeake Signals Detachment. He retired as a re-enactor at the beginning of this year (2012) and I returned as an active signalist a couple years ago. Together with his family, Charlie lives in a house on the southern outskirts of Sharpsburg that was standing at the time of the battle; the garret of the house was used by Confederate sharpshooters against advancing Federal troops of the Ninth US Army Corps during the mid afternoon of that bloody day in September 150 years ago.