Writing and Researching the battle of Corinth

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What I love about writing historical fiction is that I get to dramatize the little things that I dredge up in my research. Reading the after action reports on Corinth and heavy note taking I often find little things that tie people and events together. One of them is from the 63rd Ohio’s report and that of Major General Price and Captain Hoxton regarding a mishap that occurs early on the morning of October 4, 1862 in front of Corinth.

General Price was desirous that any and all advantage be gained from the position the Confederates occupied almost surrounding Corinth, close up to the town and under the cover of woods and ridges that shielded them from the incomplete defensive works Rosecrans had ordered built to command the Mobile and Ohio rail line, the Memphis road, the Chewalla road, and the cross point of the Memphis and Charleston rail line; a series of fortified positions that were spread out 800 yards apart containing heavy caliber cannon. Rosecrans never suspected that these would be the positions he’d have to use to defend the town with from a numerically superior force but that the outer former Confederate works would be.

The ground around the town and the cover allowed Price and Van Dorn to marshall their divisions close to the Union positions without being subject to artillery fire. Hoxton and several other batteries were ordered to take positions upon the ridges to the northwest of the town and before first light begin to shell the town and anything that they could engage, as the battle was to be initiated at first light.

Hoxton’s section under the command of Lieutenant Tobin was busily moving his section into place when two companies of the 63rd Ohio blundered into them. Companies B and G were ordered to buttress the skirmishers of the 27th Ohio of Fuller’s Ohio brigade and to push up the Chewalla road up to the trees and ensure that they controlled the road. The two companies were just as surprised as Tobin was to run into the enemy, only that running into a battery in the blind was a prize seized too easily.

Tobin’s section lost a gun and himself and his bugler as prisoners of war and the two companies were soon beset by Price’s skirmishers and the troopers of the 7th Tennessee cavalry who nearly bagged the whole lot themselves.

It is the little anecdotes like this that I love envisioning and dramatizing through the use of historical characters doing what they would have done. This little episode will be features in the third novel of the Shiloh Series, Iuka to Corinth.

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A Certain Death cover reveal

battle of Corinth, At the Double Quick, Shiloh seriesBook 2 is about to be released, March 1st to be exact, so mark your calendars! A follow on to the story set during the battle of Shiloh, a battle that set the course for the rest of the war in the west. What follows is an excerpt from the Prologue and the teaser description.

The cover image is the bas relief prominent at the Corinth Interpretive Center, Corinth Mississippi and part of the Shiloh National Battlefield NPS park and cemetery.

The battle at Pittsburg Landing altered the course of the war in the west and changed the lives of thousands who fought there and survived.

Will Hunter’s pursuit of higher command has been interrupted by his capture, the fault of his jealous commanding officer. Stuck far behind enemy lines with little hope for exchange, escape seems improbable. Neither high prison walls nor hundreds of miles of Ohio backwoods trails will keep him from trying.

Philip Pearson survived Shiloh but wonders if his luck will hold much longer. Pursuing reinstatement in the Methodist Episcopal Church brings him full circle: his battlefield experience calling him back to the collar he left behind. Only convincing the bishop of Dayton and surviving the coming assaults on Corinth stand in his way of a chaplaincy.

Ohio, far from the theaters of war, will test both men’s ambitions and trust in their fellow man.

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A Certain Death (The Shiloh Series)

Book Excerpt

Prologue
Huntsville, Alabama, 1847

Will Hunter stole ever so close to his prey. He was dressed in pants and a shirt of old muslin, fading in color and too long in use. The boy’s sandy blond hair and wry smile finished the look of an Alabama backwater, son of a white-trash drunk with nothing better to do but get into shines. The day was bright and hot, his shirt hanging loosely upon his slim shoulders, his cuffs open and begrimed. He would strike a blow for his father or just for himself—what did it matter when the target was a black?

Excitement animated his hands as he looked one way, then the other, then back. The house stood by the side of the road, an old wooden shack not much different from many other rural homesteads. The target of Will’s attentions was not deserving of mischief, nor were its occupants beholden to him in any way. Perhaps that was what irked the boy the most: their total lack of the customary deference expected between people of certain classes and races. The law being in his favor was not enough to satisfy his caprice for the man known as Baxter. He needed to do this to satisfy his superiority in deed as well as station.

Youthful pride and ignorance were no exception for Will. It was mischief he wanted on this day, and what better way to do it than in secret? He was not so protected by the law as to be brazen with his destructive errand, but anonymity would give him his revenge and protection at the same time. He had picked a spot to run and hide where he could watch the shenanigans, and now he needed only strike the match and watch the fun, storing up the details to share with his chums. He wouldn’t burn down the house—just the fence surrounding it. He reasoned that Alabama did not need free blacks and therefore did not need to extend the rights of property to them either.

Baxter’s slave wife, June, was a house slave of one of the larger plantations around Huntsville belonging to the Kearns family. Baxter could visit her and the children now and again. He lived alone and worked his own land, having been freed years before and allowed to build his little home on land his former owner willed to him and a few other former slaves. No longer the possession of another, Baxter was not entirely free to do as he pleased, but he tried to make due with what life and the law would allow.

The house looked still and empty, and the field in the back where the man raised cotton and foodstuffs was lonely. Baxter himself was not to be seen. This was the perfect time.

Engrossed in his preparations, Will did not hear the land owner close up behind him.

“Whut you do there, boy?”

Will gave a cry of surprise and dropped his match. Caught, he had nothing to say.

****

Continue reading “A Certain Death cover reveal”

We don’t count the Siege of Corinth as 1st Corinth

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At the Double Quick, a bronze relief at the Corinth Interpretive Center, Corinth Ms.

It was a long drive from Nashville today to get to Corinth Mississippi. For our battlefield excursion we have based ourselves out of Nashville as being a little more central to a few of the other places we intend to visit.

One of the rangers at Corinth said this line as we chatted in the bookstore over my purchases of two maps of the area, one of the siege operations and one of the confederate attack on Corinth. I mentioned that we were there to take photos for novel covers and that one was about 1st Corinth and the second about 2nd Corinth. I can see their point, there really wasn’t a battle per se the first time, just some fighting here and there as Halleck maneuvered around Beauregard’s forces to try to cut him off from his rail supply. Beauregard abandons the city and there is no bloody battle. Apparently they must get this a lot as she was quick on the draw. I still prefer to call it 2nd Corinth, but I won’t split hairs.

There is practically nothing left at Corinth but the remnants of the earthworks at Battery Robinette. Everything has been bulldozed for the city to grow over. It is fitting, though, that this one area was not churned to nothing due to the lone confederate unknown graves that are resting on a hill (the real earthwork (the interpretive center is built just a little beyond the real battery) and where the grave of Colonel Rogers used to be before being reinterred elsewhere.

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These grave markers were just a few of those killed from the 2nd Texas who stormed the parapets at Robinette and took the battery, if only briefly, before being forced to retreat after suffering galling losses.

There is also a walking tour through the site of a former contraband slave camp, established soon after the failed assault on Corinth and organized by several charitable organizations to socialize and educate former slaves into industry and self sufficiency. It was run for less than a year but was apparently used as a model for other camps to be set up elsewhere. The park is filled with bronze statues and this was one that caught my eye (though I do not believe the site was related to any USCT training or recruiting)

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It was a full day and we still had Shiloh to stomp around at. I met the person who runs the Shiloh Bookstore and gave her the Sell Sheet and bookmark we’d produced for They Met at Shiloh. We still do not know if the lead historian will approve the book or not, but Winston Groom’s novel on Shiloh was in prominent display (this person had informed me the historian only approves “classic” fiction to be sold in the store, Foote’s novel on Shiloh was also on display). It is their choice, but the person in charge of the bookstore is a pleasant person to chat with (several times on the phone and now in person). The bookstores are managed by a third party contractor but the content is up to the park historian. I’m not losing any sleep over it, but I did find it interesting seeing the other fiction works already on the shelves, and not all were “classic”.

They Met At Shiloh