Shiloh Series cover reveal

20131219-180752.jpgBook #3 is nearing that exciting stage where the final edits are happening and the cover has been produced!

The Shiloh series of books had their start back in the day, 1987 to be exact when I first began to research and plan my characters. Of the first two books, #2 and #3 are the most closely tied together as far as character continuity and timeline. As I was writing A Certain Death I removed and then re-added several characters and started a story line that I just found didn’t fit with the conclusion of the novel and the ending hit the cutting room floor. That ending offered instead a perfect beginning to the next novel and Iuka to Corinth can really be treated as a sequel to A Certain Death in the story lines of Philip Pearson and Will Hunter.

Iuka to Corinth also comes back to a battle narrative in a similar style of They Met at Shiloh where A Certain Death was more an adventure story, Iuka to Corinth develops the campaign and the action that takes place around Corinth, Mississippi in the last weeks of September and the first week of October, 1862 as William Stark Rosecrans’ divisions find themselves isolated and unsupported as General U.S. Grant’s armies are spread out over Mississippi and western Tennessee leaving the crucial cross roads town of Corinth only lightly defended.

Shiloh Series News
Iuka to Corinth, (Shiloh Series #3) ARC versionIuka to Corinth, (Shiloh Series #3) ARC version

Finally, They Met at Shiloh is currently $0.99 for the Christmas holidays. Read the first in the series or send it as a gift to that civil war buff you know. Kindle or iBooks.

ETA:3/24/14 – Iuka to Corinth has now been released! Find your copy here:
Amazon.com

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”

A Certain Death, book 2 of the Shiloh Series

scene of camp life - of the 18th Illinois Infantry, in the camp before Corinth, Miss.
Caption on illustration reads: scene of camp life – of the 18th Illinois Infantry, in the camp before Corinth, Miss.

It was about this time last year that I began work on book 3 of the Shiloh Series, Iuka to Corinth and that work is now nearly completed. What of book 2? Book 2, A Certain Death is nearing completion from the remainder of the production process with the cover designer. I do not have a cover to reveal at this point, but will hopefully in a few days.

When I began writing They Met at Shiloh, I’d envisioned a three book series. Starting with the battle of Shiloh I would follow a few characters to Chickamauga and then with a closing book centering on the USCT to end the series. At the time my concept was to market these to the homeschool community as fully fledged curricula covering the beginning, the middle, and then the end of the war. That has been modified somewhat now to a six book series (don’t tell my wife, but it may be a seven book series and another trip to Tennessee to tromp around more battlefields 😉 )

A Certain Death was begun in 2011 and while I was starting Iuka to Corinth I was beginning to edit and rewrite ACD. I learned a lot from the experience of this novel and the rewriting. I learned to listen to the story all over again as I started and stopped and changed directions numerous times with this work.

The biggest change was the introduction of Will Hunter, an Alabamian who grows up a reckless and ambitious son of a white trash blacksmith who is not content to stay white trash himself. What made this character interesting to write was his vocation as a runaway slave hunter. He’s good at what he does and he does it without any particular malice, as a lucrative means to rise above his birth. Yet one gets away from him and but for the nagging failure, he neither curses the slave that eluded him or those in Ohio who might be harboring him. He curses the slavers that lord it over men of his standing.

Born of an ambition that is not matched by money or birth, Will Hunter finds he cannot escape the slaver class in both pre-war politics and in wartime volunteer militia. His rough and selfish nature has lead him to do things as a boy that he’d rather forget, secrets that he’d like kept secret but for the one man whom he can’t seem to escape, Joshua Kearns. Born of planter blood and privilege and someone who knows Will’s secrets, Will has to deal with this man’s petty and vindictive nature.

Philip Pearson and Stephen Murdoch are back in this novel as well as action shifts from the theater of the war in Tennessee through the attempt by Major General Halleck to invest Corinth, Mississippi throughout the month of May, 1862 to the peaceful fields and forests of Ohio, the POW compound of Camp Chase outside of Columbus and the village of Germantown, Ohio.

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72nd Ohio nearly uncovers pre-Shiloh Confederate plans

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Battle flag of the 72nd Ohio OVI

Prior to the Confederate attack on the Union camps along the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing, there was an accidental meeting between a picket relief from the 70th Ohio Infantry and a troop of the 1st Alabama Cavalry under Lt. Colonel Clanton marching up the West Corinth Road to the intersection of the Bark Road. Two companies of the 72nd Ohio were drilling nearby and an alert Major Pickerel from the 25th Missouri directed them to push up the Corinth Road to investigate.

In most books I’ve read about Shiloh, this little incident gets a sentence or two or this little skirmish is barely a footnote. Yet, for those who were captured, killed, and wounded this was not just another day in the war.

What is ironic about this skirmish is how close the companies from the 72nd Ohio, 70th Ohio, and 5th Ohio Cavalry came to discovering what it was behind the 1st Alabama Cavalry screen at Michie’s. The fight was brief but no less full of drama. I discovered this incident while researching for the next novel in my Shiloh series, A Certain Death. Like most historians, I gave this incident barely a mention in the first in the series They Met at Shiloh myself, a happenstance in the story. But, to give it its due, it is drawn out in detail in A Certain Death.

April 5, 1862 in a communication to his superior, Henry W. Halleck in St. Louis Grant had this to say after reporting on the incident.

General: Just as my letter of yesterday to Captain McLean, assistant adjutant-general, was finished, notes from Generals McClernand’s and Sherman’s assistant adjutants-general were received stating that our outposts had been attacked by the enemy, apparently in considerable force. I immediately went up, but found all quiet. The enemy took 2 officers and 4 or 5 of our men prisoners and wounded 4. We took 8 prisoners and killed several; number of the enemy wounded not known. They had with them three pieces of artillery and cavalry and infantry. How much cannot of course be estimated.
I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack (general one) being made upon us, but will be prepared should such a thing take place…
U.S. Grant, Major-General

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Battle flag of the 5th Ohio OVC

General Sherman’s report of the incident adds further detail:

Sir: I have the honor to report that yesterday about 3 p.m. it was reported to me that the lieutenant commanding and 7 men of the advance pickets had imprudently advanced from their posts and were captured. I ordered Major Riker, of the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, to proceed rapidly to the picket station, ascertain the truth, and act according to circumstances. He reached the station, found the pickets had been captured as reported, and that a company of infantry sent by the brigade commander had gone forward in pursuit of some cavalry. He rapidly advanced some 2 miles and found them engaged; charged the enemy and drove them along the ridge road until he met and received three discharges of artillery, when he very properly wheeled under cover and returned till he met me. As soon as I heard artillery I advanced with two regiments of infantry and took position and remained until the scattered companies of infantry and cavalry returned. This was after night.
I infer that the enemy is in some considerable force at Pea Ridge; that yesterday morning they crossed a brigade of two regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and one battery of field artillery to the ridge on which the Corinth Road lays. They halted the infantry and artillery at a point about 5 miles in my front, and sent a detachment to the lane of General Meeks, on the north of Owl Creek, and the cavalry down towards our camp. This cavalry captured a part of our advance pickets and afterwards engaged the two companies of Colonel Buckland’s regiment…
We lost of the picket: 1 first lieutenant and 7 men of the 70th Ohio Infantry, taken prisonersl 1 major, 1 lieutenant, and 1 private of the 72nd Ohio Infantry taken prisoners, and 8 privates wounded. I have the honor to be, your obedient servant, W. T. Sherman

Of the official reports, the real action comes from the reports of Colonel Buckland of the 72nd and Major Riker of the 5th Ohio.

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Battle flag of the 1st Alabama Cavalry

On the 4th of April, a Major Pickerel of Peabody’s 25th Missouri was out inspecting the picket posts of his brigade as officer of the day when he bumped into Lieutenant Herbert of the 70th Ohio with his picket relief marching up the Corinth Road. As Pickerel was making his way he happened to notice the presence of horseman through a line of trees in an adjacent field. Curious, he picked his way closer when he noticed that they were rebel horseman and they were relieving the picket relief of their weapons. Having heard the commands of a unit at drill close by he raced through the trees until he ran into Major Crocket drilling several companies of the 72nd Ohio Infantry. Informing Crocket that there were rebel horseman just down the road he suggested that he move his companies to disperse them. As they were equal in rank and in different commands, he could not order Crocket to comply.

After dispatching a lieutenant to report to General Sherman, Crocket marched companies H and B down the Corinth Road and was soon pushing a troop of the 1st Alabama Cavalry back down the Corinth Road. It was here that, convinced that this was just a small force of the enemy, Crocket split his battalion with company B on the right of the Corinth Road and H on the left. After marching and lightly skirmishing for two miles they came face to face with the whole of the 1st Alabama Cavalry and a battery of artillery. With horseman moving on their flanks, Captain Raymond of company B moved his men onto a hill that commanded the road and hunkered down while Major Crocket found himself captured as company H became surrounded.

With his regiment formed on the field, Lt. Colonel Clanton had easy pickings until Colonel Buckland arrived with an additional one hundred men of companies A, D, and I of the 72nd Ohio. Surrounded on the hill, Captain Raymond weathered an assault on foot by Troop I of the 1st Alabama and turned his company about and charged for the rear, breaking up an attempt by the 1st Alabama to block his egress. Captain Raymond would return his company mostly unscathed while company H would lose several more men in their attempt to escape.

With the arrival of reinforcements from the 72nd Ohio, the skirmishing became desultory until the arrival of the 5th Ohio Cavalry, who secured the Union hold of the field and pushed the 1st Alabama all the way to the artillery battery when they prudently turned around and marched back to camp.

It is intriguing to read the account by Colonel Buckland in The war of the rebellion; Series 1 – volume 10 (part 1) pg. 91 when you understand that just one more day later the great battle of Shiloh will occur. Other signs were clearly visible that a grand movement of Johnston’s Army of Mississippi was happening and this was not just a random skirmish but an accidental blundering of forces. The two companies of the 72nd, separated and surrounded at one time were close to revealing an attack that would dwarf any battle that had been fought to this time in the war. The numbers of troops involved were small but the obvious impact of this event, if it had been evaluated differently, are immense.

The first novel in the Shiloh Series, They Met at Shiloh, will be free for Kindle on 10/10 to 10/12.

They Met At Shiloh

Drama or History? Who wins?

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

Book #2 in my civil war series is finished as far as the first draft is concerned and now I’m knee deep in the rewrite. I had a character jump back into the WIP, a character I’d excised as the storyline just wasn’t feeling right. So, mid way through this year it made sense to reintroduce him and he plays a part in the climax of the novel after all. Actually, he has become one of the main characters again (I say again, he was a main character in TMAS). So, I’ve made one pass through my hard copy making notes and cutting sections out that didn’t fit or needed to be reworked and decided that this characters actions after Shiloh needed to be highlighted.

The campaign to take Corinth, Mississippi had been General Halleck’s goal since establishing a presence at Pittsburg Landing and ordering the Army of the Ohio to link up with Grant’s Army of the Tennessee. Pope’s Army of the Mississippi was also to cooperate, leading three armies to converge on Corinth, where Confederate General A.S. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard were concentrated. Shiloh disrupted all of that and nearly wrecked Halleck’s overall plans. Unfortunately for the Confederates Johnston is killed and they fail to destroy the Army of the Tennessee. Now, however, after a month of refitting Halleck is ready to try again at the beginning of May.

Book #2 (tentative title Certain Death) picks up after the battle of Shiloh where a new character has been captured and some old characters are preparing to march south from Pittsburg Landing to a fate unknown. In reading the report of Nelson’s division (where Ammen’s brigade is, a clue to anyone who remembers what characters were in Ammen’s brigade) I’d read that there was a delay in movement forward from Mount Olivet Church where the division camped for a few days before moving on due to two days of heavy rain fall that destroyed the bridges and corduroy roads they’d spent the first few days of May constructing (this area between Corinth and Pittsburg Landing is cut by numerous creeks and marshy lowlands that were impassable for heavy, wheeled artillery and supply trains as well as cavalry, barely so for infantry).

So, knowing all of this I decided to add this little happenstance as part of the story, the destruction of the bridges due to too much water flow, the problem of getting supplies to the forward divisions, the danger of trying to repair the pontoon bridges and keep them secure in the middle of the creeks overflowing, the possibility that someone will be swept downstream in an accident. So, I got to chugging along in a dramatic scene that was to chronicle the attempts to secure the pontoon bridge in heavy rain and a swift current and what that might look like. Soon my creek became a river of some unknown breadth from bank to bank and the pontoon bridge of perhaps thirty feet or more long and the water possibly above a man’s head.

Yesterday as I sat to finish the scene the disaster was complete and my MC was swept downstream. I stopped to go back to my source as it occurred to me that I should know where this little creek was to lead to, was it leading towards the confederate lines? How wide was it really if my MC is to let go of what he is clinging to and swim for the nearest bank? It was then that I realized I’d not gotten down to my regimental reports of the 30 day period and learned that my MC’s regiment wasn’t at Mount Olivet Church but still on the north side of one of these creeks and further was prevented from crossing due to damage done by this rain storm. I’d had them on the south side and going back to do the repairs.

These are niggling little details. What side of a creek a unit was on in this little narrative of a minor event probably does not deserve all of the angst and reworking of the details but it would have bugged me all the same. If I make a mistake in error and ignorance that is my bad, but to make it when I know better is something that I cannot abide. In this sense, the drama becomes emptied of its truth if I knowingly record some errors that are easily discovered if someone means to do so.

In the end, I altered some of the details of the event to fit the truth and kept the dramatic scene of the disaster in place, fixing some historic details to suit my own conscience. There’s detail in the reports of General Nelson (Division commander) that initially set me to building the scene but I’d neglected to dig down into the regimental reports where finer details existed and called my initial assumptions into question. But, in the end, history won out where it was important to me to get right and the scene of the disaster was honed to be more realistic for a creek based on the other details gleaned from the brigade reports of each regiment.

They Met At Shiloh

Famous last words

Civil War battle of Shiloh chromo-lithograph by Thulstrup

War of the Rebellion, dispatch from Grant to Halleck April 3, 1862

(click image to go to other pages of the text)

I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack …

Not exactly the most famous of famous last words, but significant nonetheless regarding what was to happen a few days later.

Grant’s entry to Halleck and the preceding reports chronicle a scene in my upcoming novel, release for later this year, where the 1st Alabama Cavalry becomes inadvertently embroiled in a running fire fight with Federal infantry and cavalry as they reconnoiter forward from Michie’s cross roads tavern, up the Corinth Road, dangerously close to the federal camp at Pittsburg Landing. The action is limited and small, but one of those missed opportunities to take in all available data. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi has marched out of Corinth and though it has been fraught with tension, poor logistical planning, rain, and inexperienced soldering at all levels they succeed in creeping forward undetected up until this point.

That the 72nd Ohio Infantry and 5th Ohio Cavalry scrapped with a combined force of cavalry, artillery, and infantry so close to their camps was alarm enough, but the incident was chalked up to aggressive patrolling by Grant. A costly error.

In this skirmish, the Colonel of the 1st Alabama would lose his horse, saddle, and equipments and the 72nd Ohio a few prisoners.

In Defense of History: 25th Missouri Vols

This will be a series of articles written for my other blog, In Defense of History, a place where I post civil war research.

In my novel, They Met at Shiloh, Robert and his pards find themselves standing at the edge of the Hamburg – Purdy road staring downhill at the gathering mass of Confederates preparing to march upon them. A steep slope of about 75 yards leads up to the camps of Peabody’s brigade and the memorial to Colonel Everett Peabody surrounded now by trees and young forest. The 25th’s camp site was their last stand before the regiment disintegrated and scattered along with the rest of Peabody’s brigade.

via In Defense of History: 25th Missouri Vols.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 17

Friday, Jan. 17, 1862

INTENSIVE INFANTRY INVESTIGATION ICED

Two groups of Union forces were on the move in Kentucky this day…or at least trying to. Troops of Grant’s command, under McClernand, struggled along through increasingly unpleasant weather and ground conditions. Theoretically, they made up one arm of a two-prong assault down the Mississippi, the overall intent of which was to take Vicksburg, Miss., and reclaim the Father of Waters for the union. In practical terms, Grant could not really have expected this to succeed, especially in one of the bitterest winters in memory. Afloat, gunboats under the overall command of Brig. Gen. C.F. Smith were working up the Tennessee River, intending to threatened Ft. Henry. These ships represented the waterborne arm of the two-pronged assault. They were not making much progress: Ice was so bad on the Mississippi that shipping was blocked just below St. Louis.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 17.