Review of Diary of an Unkempt Woman

Diary of an Unkept Woman
By Sandra Miller Linhart
Lionheart Group Publishing

Reviewed by Keith Jones

The only complaint I have about “Diary of an Unkempt Woman” is that the title tends to shy most men away from reading it. That’s a shame. There is a lot of funny social commentary in this book that would be enjoyed by all.

This book is a mix of everything Sandra Miller Linhart, from daily ramblings on miscellaneous life events to some of her short stories. The social commentary contained within is reminiscent of the newspaper columns of Erma Bombeck and Lewis Grizzard. Thoughtful points wrapped up in great humor. Perhaps if today’s newspapers published more of this and less bloviating by political activists shaking their fists against all things American, they would not be in the grave danger in which they now find themselves.

This book is a great collection of short pieces that will make you smile whether you want to or not. Don’t let the title fool you, while it is by a woman, it’s not just for women.

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Review – Texans at Antietam

Texans At Antietam: A Terrible Clash of Arms, September 16-17, 1862
By Joe Owen, Philip McBride, and Joe Allport
Fonthill Media

Reviewed by Keith Jones

This book presents a great collection of accounts that brings the battle into focus from the perspective of the Texas soldiers. With an introduction to orient the reader to the facts of the overall operations of the Texas Brigade, the story then shifts to the actual words and experiences of the veterans themselves.

Lovingly illustrated with photographs of the people involved and items such as battle flags, this book is a must have for any Texas history bookshelf.

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Review – We Ride a Whirlwind

We Ride a Whirlwind: Sherman and Johnston at Bennett Place
By Eric J. Wittenberg
Fox Run Publishing
Reviewed by J. Keith Jones

For so many, their knowledge (if they bother to have any) of the so-called American Civil War ends with Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. What most don’t know is that there was still a much larger contingent of Confederate troops in the field that those surrendered by Lee. Most belonged to the Army of Tennessee (not to be confused with the Union’s Army of THE Tennessee – Southerners prefer land and the Union army seemed to prefer bodies of water for naming purposes for some reason) which was under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston for the second time in its life.

“We Ride a Whirlwind: Sherman and Johnston at Bennett Place” is the first comprehensive work dedicated to the War’s largest surrender. Eric Wittenberg provides great detail of the three meetings between Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in which they negotiated the surrender of the remaining Confederate forces east of the Mississippi River. He wraps the events leading up to the meetings, the events of the meetings, the dynamics within the Confederate army and government and the fallout into his usual smooth narrative. Included are appendices covering the forces involved, Lincoln’s meeting with Sherman, correspondence within the Davis administration and the sub-plot of Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton and his dilemmas surrounding the surrender.

The surrender of Johnston’s forces was not a fait accompli, in fact, there was a very real possibility that he could flee to the mountains with his army or head south to Texas or west to continue the war on a guerrilla basis. Johnston did not want this any more than Sherman did, but the terms had to be acceptable before surrender was an option. Sherman took this knowledge and fear into the first meeting. He also carried another piece of information that neither Johnston nor the members of either army knew, the assassination of Lincoln. Sherman knew that once this became common knowledge, the behavior of his army would become worse and his odds of reaching an accord would lessen. He had a strong incentive to act quickly and the directives that Lincoln himself had given to guide him. Wittenberg does yeoman’s work in communicating the complex interactions that resulted in the final meeting and aftermath.

Beautifully illustrated with photographs and maps, this book takes you into the events of April, 1865 at the Bennett farm then brings you forward to the present. This book is a must have for any serious student of the Civil War.

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Jigsaw 2 Rocks Eastern NC – Book Review

Jigsaw Part II
By Ted Miller Brogden
M E Publishing

Reviewed by Keith Jones

Part 1 spoiler alert – if you have not read Jigsaw (Part I), proceed to your favorite book source and order it now. Then come back and read this. You will thank me later.

The shock ending of Jigsaw (Part I) segues into a surprise beginning to Jigsaw Part II. Cape Thomas’s seemingly mortal bullet to the brain, as it turns out, was not so mortal after all. In Part I, Captain Cape Thomas had struggled to solve a mystery. In so doing, he discovered that he had a whole family he was unaware of, complete with a grown daughter. Then as quickly as this new life is found, it is snatched away in what the reader is led to believe is Cape’s final act of altruism. A bullet intended for Cape’s daughter Jana, is intercepted by Cape as he jumps in front of her.

As this book begins, we discover that Cape is alive and has been in a coma for three years. Cape leaves the hospital with one goal in mind: regaining his job as a 747 captain at Aeromax Airlines. Cape slowly regains his health only to find himself in the middle of a new mystery. This one deadlier than the last, in fact it may threaten his entire family. Cape has a deadly stalker, but despite numerous opportunities, this pursuer passes on the chance to kill Cape. Instead, those close to him appear to be at greater risk. No knowing who to trust, Cape navigates a landscape between faith and doubt in Detective Darius Martin and Sheriff Scarlett Dubois. These challenges force Cape to reevaluate his priorities. Can Cape solve the mystery in time to save those dearest to him? Will he regain his flight status and job? Which kind of life will Cape want to end up living? Will all of this be snatched away from him once more.

This book is liable to cause you to have more than one late night as you chase down these answers. Like in his previous books, Jigsaw (Part I) and The Last Kincaid, Ted Miller Brogden totally rocks the landscape of Eastern North Carolina in Jigsaw Part II.

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Military Writers Society of America Review of Echoes From Gettysburg, SC

Recently the Military Writers Society of America reviewed Echoes From Gettysburg: South Carolina’s Memories and Images.  You may read this review by clicking this link.  It is always an honor to have my work reviewed by this fine organization.

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Jones Wins 2017 Henry Timrod Award

It is my distinct pleasure to announce that Friday, July 7, 2017, I was honored with the Henry Timrod Southern Culture Award by the Military Order of Stars and Bars.

The award is given for “understanding, appreciation, and explanation” of Southern history and culture through the arts.  Past honorees include painters Mort Künstler and John Paul Strain as well as other writers such as fellow North Carolina writer Nancy Brewer.

The award’s namesake, Henry Timrod, was a Southern poet, often called the “Poet Laureate of the Confederacy.”  He was a well known and highly regarded poet and editorialist before, during and after the war.  He served in the Confederate military briefly, but tuberculosis cut his service short.  His influence reaches into the modern day.  In 2006, Bob Dylan was accused of plagiarizing Timrod’s poems in some of his song lyrics.

It is a great honor to receive an award named for such a luminary.

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Remembering Gettysburg’s Veterans

As I take a moment to reflect on the carnage and the high human costs surrounding the anniversary of the most famous battle fought on American soil — the Battle of Gettysburg — I wanted to acknowledge the service of my ancestors who were present.  There were several relatives, but the most closely related were my mother’s grandfathers.  John Chapel Booth stormed Blocher’s Knoll (modern day Barlow’s Knoll) with the 38th Georgia Infantry, Co. H.  John U. Colvard of the 38th had been detached to service in the 2nd Medical Corps due to wounds received at Gaines Mill earlier.  He, undoubtedly, saw the worst any man could see, hauling the wounded from the field, tending their wounds and assisting the surgeons as they went about their grim tasks.  He almost certainly had to help hold men down for amputations and other painful procedures, trying to block out the screams.

Thomas C. Jones

Also there was Thomas Curtwright Jones of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, my great great great uncle. Also there was a man who I sometimes forget was not blood related, Daniel Boyd, whom I became so well acquainted with through the pages of “The Boys of Diamond Hill.” Daniel was wounded on the Rose Farm as part of the 7th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry and had to be left behind when General Lee ordered the withdrawal of his army from Pennsylvania.

Both of these men were members of Kershaw’s Brigade and were among those to whom “Echoes From Gettysburg: South Carolina’s Memories and Images” was dedicated.

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Review of audio book Three Years With Quantrill

Three Years With Quantrill: A True Story Told by His Scout (Audio version)
John McCorkle & O. S. Barton
Narrated by Dan John Miller
Reviewed by J. Keith Jones

I recently picked up the audio version of this informative book to listen to while I work out at the gym. This was a great use of the dead time on the treadmill and elliptical machine. Things you will learn from this book can be summed up nicely with this statement: most of what you know about William Quantrill is wrong.

For one thing, Quantrill’s service in the Missouri militia was intended to help the Union forces to police the actions of the “Red Legs” in its self-serving victimization of the Missouri people. The problem arose when the Federals not only were turning a blind eye to former Sen. Jim Lane’s renegades as they were robbing and committing numerous outrages across the landscape, but in fact began firing on Quantrill’s men when they attempted to stop Lane’s Red Legs. Despite this, Quantrill actually gave them multiple warnings before throwing in with the Confederacy, at which time he rode to Richmond and obtained a commission from the government. Also, something that doesn’t fit with the narrative about Quantrill is his swift punishment of any of his raiders who engaged in theft or harsh treatment of civilians. This seems surprising because of all that you hear about Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence, Kansas. The events in Lawrence are not to be admired, but this book gives you quite an understanding of the happenings that led up to the raid, including the much undermentioned jail house collapse that triggered the attack. When this is mentioned in official accounts, it is played off as a simple tragedy and due to the poor condition of the building. This book offers a deep look from an insider’s perspective. First, the women – several were fourteen or under – were all locked up there simply for being immediate family members of Bushwhacker leaders. Second, the building was selected for its poor condition and the second floor and first floor – which rested above a basement – were overloaded with the deliberate hope that it would collapse. Third, when the building did not collapse, digging was performed around the foundation to weaken it until the “accident” did indeed occur.

Whether the digging to compromise the foundation actually happened, is something that neither side can prove or vindicate now, but the facts arise that in Quantrill’s camp, this was the belief of the soldiers. This was not speculation, this is what was reported to them and they believed it.

John McCorkle was a favorite scout of Quantrill’s. McCorkle started out the war serving under Gen. Sterling Price. He and his brother were captured and after some time, his brother had become so ill that McCorkle feared that he would soon perish. The McCorkle brothers then gave in and signed the oath of allegiance so they could go home and survive. That lasted for a while, but the Federals would not leave him along for long. The harassment started with charges being leveled against McCorkle for being overheard singing a pro-Confederate song as he went about his business. He paid a fine and soon found himself being faced with conscription into an army that he had fought against, but had agreed to sign the oath on the condition of neutrality. He was willing to agree to not take up arms, but was not willing to take up arms against his fellow Southerners.

So, John McCorkle and his brother became soldiers once again. Much like the many states that were willing to stay neutral, but were ordered to raise troops by Lincoln, these states did raise troops, but not for Lincoln. So was the case of the McCorkles, they took up arms and joined with the Confederate Bushwhackers. Much of this time was serving under Col. Quantrill or under Capt. George Todd. This book is a who’s who of the Missouri border war and includes a number of people who are more famous for their actions after the war. McCorkle had extensive interactions with Cole Younger and Frank James. Jesse James also makes an appearance in the narrative, but to a lesser extent.
An interesting thing about this book, is the heavy influence that it had on the book “Woe to Live On” by Daniel Woodrell and the subsequent movie, “Ride With the Devil” starring Toby McGuire. If you have watched this movie, you will recognize many of the archetypes of the characters and events from this book.

The narration by Dan John Miller is very well done and keeps you listening and alert to the story. Highly recommended for anyone interested in this part of the war. In fact, if you listen to this book, you will become interested in this part of the war if you were not already.

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Review: When the Yankees Come – Paul Graham

When the Yankees Come: Former South Carolina Slaves Remember Sherman’s Invasion (Voices from the Dust Book 1)
Shotwell Publishing
Paul C. Graham
Reviewed by J. Keith Jones

There really is no better foundation for understanding history than reading source material. It is important to hear all the voices before condensing it down to the big picture. The Slave Narratives recorded by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration are a much overlooked source.

Paul Graham has sorted through this database and compiled all the entries containing any reference to the slave experience in relation to Sherman’s army. He was not selective and allows the subjects to speak to you directly. As with most things, their opinions differed. Some had good experiences and saw the Yankees as liberators, while many others had negative experiences and feared and disdained the Yankees as much as the white people did. Of course, there were numerous neutral experiences too.

This volume is a great addition to any historian’s bookshelf or Kindle, especially South Carolina or the Southern experience in the war.

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Review of Audio Book Three Months in the Southern States by Fremantle

Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863 – Audio
By Arthur James Lyon Fremantle
Narrated by Michael Page
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Reviewed by J. Keith Jones

I have long been familiar with the memoirs of Arthur Fremantle of his time observing the Confederate army in 1863. I have used various parts for research, but had not read the whole thing, so when I ran across this audio version, I jumped on it and wasn’t disappointed.

The narration by Michael Page is smooth and clean; British accent, but quite easily understood by American listeners.
The Fremantle diary is most commonly referenced for the Gettysburg portion, but that is only a scant part of the narrative. I many ways the most interesting and vivid parts come earlier in the book. Fremantle’s entry into the Confederate States of America through Texas and his observations of matters with its border with Mexico are fascinating. The author’s talent for understatement provides a great amount of amusement along with the detailed description of the state of affairs in that remote corner of the newly founded country.

To have just shown up unannounced with little more to speak for him than his pedigree in the British army, Fremantle manages to witness several events of great historical significance and meet many notables in both the South and the north. Like most British, Fremantle was avidly anti-slavery, but like many Europeans who found themselves in the South, he quickly decided that the situation was not nearly as two-dimensional as he was led to believe. His observations are startling.

“Three Months in the Southern States” is a valuable resource and an eye-opening read. Page’s wonderful narration makes the visualization all the more powerful.

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