Civil War Artist: John Paul Strain

I think I’ve a new favorite Civil War artist. My new reenactor friends in Forth Worth told me about him. A site I found says this about him: “John Paul Strain was born in Nashville, Tennessee, has studied American history and the War Between the States all his life. He captures the color, drama and heroism of the Civil War with a vivid realism that is unique among the nation’s top-ranking historical artists.” I would encourage you to go to his site and view his wonderful art. I’ve included one below that is entitled, Vengeance at Okolona.

Vengeance at Okolona

World News: The hypocrisy and inconsistency of political leaders astounds me. For example, Kosovo’s secession from Serbia is applauded and supported by President Bush and others. One political theorist asks that if Bush and his government government “can sanction the secession of Kosovo—a tiny and poor Muslim enclave in the heart of the Christian Balkans—why can’t it sanction the existence of an independent South Carolina?” I wonder what our government would do if South Carolina seceded today? Probably invade or try to blockade the state again like Lincoln did. You can read the whole article that the quotes comes from here.

President’s Day Thoughts

When I look at the Presidential candidates, I am quite discouraged. None of them appear to be the kind of leader America needs. I do know of some who would be up to the task, but they wouldn’t have a chance of gathering enough support in our present fixed, two-party, oligarchical system.  Perhaps in the big picture, it doesn’t matter which one is elected, for the mess we have will likely only get messier. As far as past presidents, I think we could learn a great deal by studying their lives, writings, and philosophies.  For Lincoln, I would particularly recommend reading The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas J. Dilorenzo. This book will deconstruct the many myths of the sanitized and Saint Lincoln that the revisionist historians and biographers have created.

If you would like to consider politics from a Southern and conservative point of view, I would encourage you to listen to Dixie Broadcasting for this online program. I promise you, it will make you think:

The best-selling book, The South Was Right! by the Kennedy Brothers will be presented all this week on DixieBroadcasting!

Over 100,000 copies of this book have been sold in hardback over the last 10 years… now it’s also available on cassette tape from Pelican Publishing.

Listen to the different chapters of this book all this week during the “Dixie Dynamite” show at 7am & 7pm Eastern, Monday – Saturday

Here is the link: 


One area a writer should always strive to develop is that of vocabulary. I’ve learned some new words I wanted to share with you.

At the Kimball Art Museum, I learned these:

Ewer – a pitcher. In a religious context, of course these would hold holy water, wine (for communion) or perhaps oil.

Reliquary: A small container that would hold relics of saints.

A Thought for Black History Month. Here is a marker about a famous man of color in Texas during the Civil War:

Marker Title: Primus Kelly
City: Navasota
County: Grimes
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: From Navasota take SH 6 S approx. 12 mi. to roadside park.
Marker Text: A faithful Negro slave. Came to nearby Courtney, Grimes County in 1851 with his master, John W. S. West from North Carolina. West was a prominent and wealthy pioneer planter and landowner. At the outbreak of the Civil War, West sent Kelly “to take care” of his three sons– Robert M., Richard and John Haywood– who joined the famous Terry’s Texas Rangers, where they served with distinction. Kelly was not content “to wait on” his charges but joined them in battle, firing his own musket and cap and ball pistol. Twice Kelly brought to Texas the wounded Richard, twice took him to the front again. After war, bought a small farm near “Marse Robert”, raised a large family and prospered. Died in 1890s. The courage and loyalty of Kelly was typical of most Texas Negro slaves. Hundreds “went to war” with their masters. Many operated the farms and ranches of soldiers away at war, producing food, livestock, cotton and clothing for the Confederacy. Others, did outside work to support their master’s families. They protected homes from Indians, bandits and deserters and did community guard and patrol duty. At war’s end, most slaves, like Primus Kelly, became useful and productive citizens of Texas.

The Rainbow After the Storm

Book Signing News:

As I feared, Saturday was a stormy day in Fort Worth.  Thunder had awakened me before dawn, and it continued with heavy rain through the day. Thankfully, the ice didn’t reach us. In spite of the gloomy day, I had a great signing at the Texas Civil War Museum. I met some people that I’m sure will be my friends from now on.  I stayed at the museum all day–from 9:00 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. I was using the day as a fund raiser for the museum, which I believe to be the finest Civil War museum I’ve ever seen. The museum is also now carrying my books.  While driving back to my room, I saw the biggest and most beautiful rainbow I’d ever seen stretched across that wide Texas sky. I felt as if God were smiling on me. It was truly an existential moment.  Here are some of the highlights of the day: I met and talked with several Civil War reenactors. The 37th Texas was prominently there.  They came in Federal uniforms while others from other areas came as Confederates. If you are interested in reenacting, you should check them out. Here is their website: I also met people who loved Scottish and Irish music (I did perform with my guitar too), men and women who give Living History programs (related to the War Between the States), several women from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, tourists visiting Fort Worth from up north, and docents and library staff. I talked all day, and must have gotten ideas for a dozen stories. As usual, the people who love to study the War Between the States are walking encyclopedias of knowledge and they never fail to teach or tell me something that rattles me or surprises me.

At the Kimball Art museum this weekend, I obtained a book: Saints: A Visual Guide. The book contains visual art depicting each of the saints, as well as a condensed saint-biography and legends associated with it. Of the 4,500 saints listed in religion, this book covers 130. It is absolutely fascinating. There must be thousands of writing ideas in its pages. From this book, I can learn each saint’s history, symbols, and importance. Many of them, I’ve never heard of, and many of them I think will make good models for modern characters. This will be a rich study, and I’m sure I’ll post details from time to time on them.

Storms in Texas & Conrad Wise Chapman, a Confederate Artist

Today, I had a wonderful day doing webcasts (more accurately, distance learning & teleconference) with Region XI Library and Media Services. The staff there is so sharp and helpful. The more I work with this group, the more impressed I am with them. The weather here has changed. Yesterday was so nice. Today it turned cold, and according to the news/weather, severe weather is in the works for tomorrow, when I am scheduled to be at the Texas Civil War Museum. This afternoon, I did manage to squeeze in a visit to the Kimball Art Museum (Biblical Art) and Amon-Carter Museum (Russell-Remington). Of course, these fine museums also had many other works displayed. My head is still spinning from sensory overload. I wish North Louisiana had culture like this.

One of the most interesting finds I made was of some work by a Confederate soldier who was an artist, Conrad Wise Chapman. A portrait of the artist and one of his paintings is below. I found a great site, that says this about him: “Conrad Wise Chapman was born in Washington, D.C., in 1842, second son of the artist John Gadsby Chapman. The elder Chapman was already well respected, especially for his oil on canvas The Baptism of Pocahontas, placed in 1840 in the United States Capitol rotunda. In 1848 the family moved to Europe taking up residence in Rome. While in Europe, John Chapman taught both his sons, Conrad and John Linton, to paint. When news of the Civil War reached Rome, Conrad rushed to join the Confederacy.

Unable to get to Virginia, Chapman enlisted in the Orphan Brigade, 3rd Kentucky Company D; Paducah Company. During the battle of Shiloh, Chapman suffered a serious head injury. After the battle, Confederate forces retreated to Corinth, Mississippi, the site of his painting, ~ Confederate Camp, 3rd Kentucky Infantry at Corinth Mississippi. Chapman painted the scene on May 10, 1862 only days after the Battle of Shiloh. The Lonesome Sentry is in the bottom left hand corner and an enlargement of the canvas is featured below. This is a self-portrait of the artist. The older soldier in bare feet seated at the cooking fire and plucking a chicken is said to be a portrait of the artist’s father. This painting became the basis for the well-known color lithograph of 1871 by M&N Hanhart of London. While on furlough in 1863, a photograph was taken of Chapman in his uniform assuming the pose of The Lonesome Sentry. Chapman’s painting is the masterpiece of the war. No other image depicts life in a Confederate Camp as well as this. Note the barefooted private soldiers in contrast to their Negro slaves or the Confederate officers in full uniform in the far background. A large collection of Chapman’s painting is on display at the Museum of the Confederacy and the Valentine in Richmond, Virginia. Other famous paintings by Conrad Wise Chapman include the paintings of The Hunley, The David, Evening Gun (Ft. Sumter), The Bombardment of Ft. Moultrie, White Point Battery, and the Confederate ironclads scene in Charleston Bay and City.”

Conrad Wise Chapman

Confederate Camp, 3rd Kentucky Infantry at Corinth Mississippi.

A Poem for Valentine’s Day: The Seventh Eve

Due to an overwhelming amount of work, I’ve neglected my blog for a couple of days. I’ll try to not be so remiss in the future. To my friends and blog readers: Happy Valentine’s Day! I had my ENG 101 class at Delta last night study the history of the day, we shared our favorite quotes on “luv” and talked about the logic and illogic of love. To help with that focus, we discussed examples logical fallacies, and discussed how frequently those fallacies are seen and heard in current political adds. We then ended class with a reading of “Love is a Fallacy” by Max Shulman, a short story that if you haven’t read, you should. It is a hoot! Students love to read it too. You can read that story here:

Book News:

Today I travel to Fort Worth to prepare for a very busy weekend. Tomorrow is my big day at the Region XI Library and Media Service Center. This will be the third Texas Regional Service Center I’ve worked with. Saturday I’ll be at the Texas Civil War Museum. This is one of the finest Civil War museum’s I’ve ever visited. Here is the museum’s homepage:

Saturday night, I’m to meet with some friends and Texas writers. I’ll likely post a blog entry both on Friday and Saturday nights as I’ll have Internet access. Here is a original poem for Valentine’s Day:

The Seventh Eve

The Chinese remember
Zhi Nu, the weaving maiden,
On their Valentine’s Day,
A day dedicated to Love,
Celebrated on the seventh
Day of the seventh lunar month,
Called “The Seventh Eve.”
She spent all her days
Spinning beautiful silk robes and
Lacey garments for the heavenly host,
Weaving gossamer clouds,
Shaping a tapestry of constellations.
When she fell in love, she fell behind
In her domestic duties to the Jade Emperor,
And she and her lover, Niu Lang, were
Separated by the Milky Way.
It’s said that if you stand under
A grapevine arbor you can
Hear the lovers talk.
Only a goddess can love this deeply.

On this day, Chinese lovers spend
Time together looking at stars,
Their stories are not as intense or passionate
As Romeo and Juliet’s, or Tristan and Iseult,
Complications and barriers don’t vanish,
Love doesn’t kill or scar them
As they wait patiently on
The banks of the Silver River,
For their one meeting a year,
Believing that their love can
Withstand their time apart.

How do such lovers find each other?
Much like we did, by chance, by fate,
Binding me to you with a single glance,
Like them, we’re weaving our lives together
Into a beautiful tapestry that will tell our story.
Till then, we look wistfully at the stars
And wait.

A Murderous Monday(metaphorically speaking, of course)

 “You say right, sir: o’ Monday morning;”–Hamlet II.ii (I found 7 references to Monday in Shakespeare!)

After a very enjoyable four days away, I am once again in Monroe, facing a to-do list that I cannot possibly accomplish. Today and Wednesday, I am going to try to focus on working on my musical programs for schools. Tomorrow, I’ll leave early for book business in Baton Rouge and in New Orleans. Some good things are in the works, but I don’t want to jinx them by prematurely talking about the details. Hopefully, I can accomplish my errands and meetings and return early enough to attend our Camp Thomas McGuire SCV meeting in West Monroe tomorrow night. We’ll see.

Book Signing News:

I’ll be leaving again Wednesday night after my college class for programs with schools and book signings in the Fort Worth area. I won’t return until Sunday, but I should have access to Internet every day except for Saturday night. For specific details on my schedule, check my calendar at

A Must-Read Article for Educators and Parents:

“Kids reading less, and so am I” – This article is written by a school librarian and has some great thoughts on learning and reading in the age of information overload.  You can find it here: 

Sunday Thoughts on Music

After breakfast and conversation this morning with my parents who live in Kemp, Oklahoma, I drove the 322 miles back to Monroe. It’s nearly always a five and a half hour drive, though in perfect circumstances, I have driven it in five. Beautiful weather for traveling today. I listened to several CD’s and I found several songs I could do in my Civil War and Scots-Irish school programs. I also came upon some songs that meant something to my past: “And I love you so” by Don McLean, “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks, and the one I want to focus on today in my post, “Turn Around” by Malvina Reynolds, Harry Belafonte, & Alan Greene. I heard this on a Nancy Griffith CD. I had not listened to this since my daughter was married some years ago. It was the song she and I danced to at her reception for the Father/Daughter dance, so the song brought on a flood of bathos. I realized I had not listened to this song since that night. I remember how I had tears on my face as we danced. She had a big smile and said, “Daddy, don’t cry.” Rachel’s picture (with my grandson, Mason) is below the lyrics. I found the lyrics here:

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you’re two,
turn around and you’re four,
Turn around, you’re a young girl going out of my door.
Turn around, turn around,
Turn around, you’re a young girl going out of my door.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Dirndls and petticoats, where have you gone?
Turn around and you’re tiny,
turn around and you’re grown,
Turn around, you’re a young wife
with babes of your own.
Turn around, turn around,
Turn around, you’re a young wife
with babes of your own.

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my darling, my own?
Turn around and you’re two,
turn around and you’re four,
Turn around, you’re a young girl going out of my door.
Turn around, turn around,
Turn around, you’re a young girl going out of my door.


Notes from Texas

Yesterday, I spent the whole day in the Brookhollow Elementary School library, presenting my Civil War Program to fifth grade students. These students were so excited about the music and asked more questions related to writing than any other group of students I’ve been with. They were witty, funny, and so full of life. The school librarian, Jana Harrison, runs a top notch library. She has some students in her morning library crew so well-trained that I think they could run the library themselves! You should have seen them–diligently filing, checking out books to students, and shelving books. One has the same facial features and expressions as Sandra Bullock. I started talking of how she looked like a natural librarian, so the other students gave her a nickname—“Librarian.” Another, who brought me ice, became “Ice Girl.” Every class

After Brookhollow Elementary, I went in my Confederate uniform to my Waldenbooks signing in the mall at Lufkin. Traffic was slow, but I still had a very respectable signing. From there I drove to Ft. Worth where I spent the night.
This morning, I arrived at the Hastings bookstore in Sherman around 10:00 a.m. Sales have been brisk. In addition to my two Pelican books, I’m also signing my novel published by Booklocker, Red River Fever. Local folks are SO excited to see the photograph of the Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge on the cover. (The bridge is only a few miles from the store). When I give them my condensed summary of the book, they all laugh and say, “You’re probably writing about my relatives.” Here’s my summary that prompts this response: “This is my novel about the good-ole-boys around here and how every few years one of them goes really crazy. I call that condition, Red River Fever.”

It’s been a hard few days with almost every minute packed with activity and I’ve gotten very little sleep. However, the great experiences and the people I’ve met have been worth missing a little shut-eye. From Hastings, I’ll drive to my parents house in Kemp, Oklahoma and spend the night. I’ll return to Monroe with some great memories.

Last night, the roads I traveled from Lufkin were two-lane and winding. I saw at least a dozen deer. I always have a fear on such nights that the deer who gets the “headlight madness” will commit suicide by running into my car.  Above me the stars were piercingly bright. The thick East Texas Piney Woods from Lufkin to I-45 were dark, darker than I remembered. Each house I passed, some of them on hills in the distance, some with security lights or lighted gates that gave access to their property, reminded me of how isolated I was at that moment, and how my choice to make writing my career would likely give me many more such solitary moments.

I’ll return to Monroe with a list of new friends, some new books to read, and a longer to-d0 list. I’ll make another post on the blog tomorrow night sometime.

Jacksonville, TX

Today, I presented my Civil War program at the West Side Elementary School in Jacksonville, TX. What wonderful young scholars and what great teachers! We divided the school up into 4 sessions, and I performed and presented to every student in the school. There’s a great deal of interest in the Civil War here. I left the school and visited Rice Elementary in Tyler and the public library. Both of those calls were fruitless as the decision makers were not in, but I did set up a signing at the Hastings Bookstore here in Tyler, Friday, March 7, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

Tonight, I’ll be with the Tyler, Texas Pulpwood Queens, who were gracious enough to ask me as a visiting author to attend their reading group. I look forward to this little soiree. I happened to time my trip at the same time as their monthly meeting, so instead of taking a hotel in Lufkin, I found one in Tyler, not far from where their meeting is. The Pulpwood Queens (of any chapter) are always a hoot, and these women are some of the brightest, most beautiful, and most interesting people I’ve ever met. The Tyler Roses (as this group style themselves) were the winners of the Pulpwood Queen club competition in Jefferson in January.

Jacksonville, which began as Gum Creek in 1847, is an interesting city. It is known as the “Tomato Capital of the World.” You can learn some interesting facts about the city and see some photos of historical Jacksonville and Cherokee County here:

Tomorrow, I’ll have a long day at Brookhollow Elementary in Lufkin, Texas, then a signing at the Hastings Bookstore there. I hope I can get some rest tonight because I slept little last night, and it looks like I won’t get any tomorrow.

Pardon the short entry, but I need to read some, write some, do some online work related to the online class I’ll be teaching soon, practice my guitar, and perhaps catch a nap before I leave for the Pulpwood Queens’ meeting. I may add some more to this post later tonight.

A Rant Against Speed Traps:  A Job I’d Hate to Have:

Wouldn’t you hate to be the officer who gives tickets at speed traps? Talk about a job that should hurt someone’s conscience! One that a person should be ashamed to admit they do.  Face it, the purpose of speed traps is to generate revenue. Think of a speeding ticket as another tax if you would. (How many ways does the government want to get our money?) Speeding tickets to most civilians don’t save lives as might be claimed (a cliche is still a cliche, especially when the government says it) but speeding (and other tickets) do complicate our lives, and create pain and discomfort.  I’m not talking about a true construction site where workers are in danger of being hurt if speed is not lessened. At such places, usually the presence of an officer or an officer’s vehicle is all it takes to control traffic speed. I’m thinking of those areas where a construction sign is just thrown up, or areas where a speed limit is suddenly or arbitrarily changed.  So much real crime in our country and instead of targeting it, we turn on our own working civilians for doing something that has nothing to do with morals or character.  Officers must know that many people they ticket do not speed on purpose, and they must know that the tickets they give are REAL hardships for many people. I think that they must not care either. Our policies effectively generate money, but speeding tickets and such to not make us better people or even make our faltering society better.  It’s rather sad I think. It must also feel degrading to an officer (who wanted to help and serve society) to be assigned such tasks. If a person can find nobility or pride in such tasks, there must be a certain amount of self-delusion working.  It is not noble. Such jobs are just plain meanness.

A Live Interview: Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House

Not long after my children’s book about Jim Limber came out, I was interviewed by Dixie You can hear my interview via streaming video or download it as an MP3. Just scroll down the page till you come to my name and the interview. I’ll have another interview coming up on my Stories of the Confederate South.

If you like news from a Southern point of view, Dixie Broadcasting is a great station to tune in to. Evidently there are many who like the station because the stations ratings are very high!  They do program some great music and speakers that are sure to challenge your thinking.


Tomorrow, I’ll be at a school in Jacksonville, Texas. Then Friday, at a school in Lufkin. Friday night I have a signing at a Hastings Books store in Lufkin. From there I’ll make my way to Sherman, Texas for a signing at the Hastings there. I’ll spend the night with my parents and drive home Sunday.  Next Tuesday, I’m scheduled to be in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I’ll have an extremely busy schedule in the Fort Worth area next week. Should be lots of fun, but there’s no shortage of work.