A Prayer of Robert E. Lee & Other Thoughts

Sometimes we learn much about  a man and about history from little anecdotes and quotations. A friend sent me this: Here is a little something from our Great Commander…Robert E. Lee. Notice how in his mind the South was not fighting for slavery (five of the Northern states fighting the South were also slave states) but a particular cause:

“Soldiers! We have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten his signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause should be pure in His eyes; that “our times are in His Hands,” and we have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined will; that He will convert the hearts of our enemies; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and a place among the nations of the earth.”– R.E. Lee.

Some Good Links for Students of the Civil War

If you don’t know about CivilWar.Com., you should check out their site:

Tons of good information.  Google Earth also has great battlefield maps.

Thoughts on Being a Writer & Some Favorite Quotations


Sometimes, I don’t know why I chose the brutal career of writing. Perhaps, I need some “Moksha,” a Hindu word that means freedom from the world of ordinary experience.  If you are a writer, you are certainly not ordinary, and if you desire the “ordinary,” why on earth would you want to be a writer? I believe I was meant to be a writer, and I hope that this year God and fate will be good to me and help me produce more. By this time next year, I hope to have six books in print.  I have so much to learn though. This year, there are two books I especially need to read and ponder and memorize from to help me be a better writer and editor: The Fiction Dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style.  I also need to reread John Dufresne’s book on fiction writing, The Lie that Tells a Truth.

Today, I’m off to East Texas. I just finished reading a prepublication copy of The Amethyst Stone by Marti Crisp, a young reader’s novel. I enjoyed it greatly and I’m sure it will do well. I’ll post publication information on this novel later.


Those who know me for any length of time, and certainly those who hear me teach or make speeches, will hear the following quotations. I have long lost the original sources:

“Experience is not the best teacher–it’s just the hardest teacher.”

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still likes you.”

“Do the hardest task first.”

The Year of Jefferson Davis:

Though it is now almost over, and I don’t receive MPB channels, I was excited to learn that a Jefferson Davis film is to debut on MPB. “Jefferson Davis: An American President” will debut on MPB television at 8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, June 9-11. The documentary covers the man who led the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. That story includes footage from Rosemont Plantation in Woodville, where Davis grew up, and Beauvoir, his home in Biloxi, as well as sites in Alabama, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Percival Beacroft of Woodville produced the documentary, which will be rebroadcast at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. According to this site, this information appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 6/8/2008, section D , page 2. I hope to own copies of this documentary someday. Ruth Murdock, whom I met at the Children of the Confederacy Convention in Greenville last weekend, said that Mrs. Crist, in charge of the Jefferson Davis papers at Rice University, mentioned Jim Limber during one of the Broadcasts.

Thinking Like a Yankee

I think I’m adapting my Civil War program so that I can vary it according to the state I go to. Even if I have to take on a Federal/Yankee persona for states north and west, I can teach the students about the true causes and issues of the War Between the States. For example, I’ve got plenty of Yankee quotes about the War not being caused over slavery, and certainly plenty of songs. More on this later.

Recent Read:

I just finished reading a prepublication manuscript of The Bright Mason: An American Mystery by Robert Berry. Absolutely fascinating story of murder and intrigue in the early 19th century that involved the Masons. When it comes out, you’ll want to catch this one. Berry is a journalist, and the quality of his writing indicates that he is a good one. When I have publication information, I’ll post it on this blog.

Tuesday Tidings and Thoughts


Here are some photos of my weekend as the featured speaker and performer for “Down Home in the Delta”, 57th Annual Mississippi Division, Children of the Confederacy Convention, June 6-7, 2008.

First of all, here is the Confederate Memorial constructed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and and the group of Confederate graves surrounding it. The men buried here came from all over the South. It was a ceremony entirely led by the Children and was very touching.

greenville cemetery

Next we have one of me, making my speech at the Greenville Yacht Club. Next to me is the President, Richard Fairchild (he also had a twin brother there) and Hannah Bariola, Convention Chairman.


Here are two photos of me and some of the group gathered in the Greenville Inn Courtyard, swapping ghost tales! Kathy is the pretty lady in the second photo. Her daughter, Kaley Anderson, is the Division Chaplain.


kathy anderson

Here I am with Alicia Bariola, the Chapter Director for the Mississippi Swamp Rangers Chapter of the Children of the Confederacy. She is the one in charge of planning and organizing the whole wonderful weekend.


And finally, here I stand with Andy Hoszowski, a very interesting, knowledgeable, and talented fellow, devoted to the Confederate Cause. He also works with theatre and we are talking about creating a production of the Jim Limber story in Greenville in the future. I’ve got to get to writing.

andy hoszowski

I’M A GRANDFATHER AGAIN! – My daughter Rachel gave birth to Davis Stewart Shelby. Here are the details:

Birthday     6/6/2008
Time of Birth     5:32 PM
Weight     6 lbs, 12 ozs
Length     19 in

And here’s a little photo.

davis stewart shelby

Looks like he’s attempting to make his first Confederate salute!

Thoughts on Leaving Greenville

By the time you read this, unless you’re a real night owl, I’ll be leaving Greenville and on my way back to Monroe after a packed, fun-filled weekend with the Mississippi Division of the Children of the Confederacy.  I have made so many new friends, and as usual when I’m around people who love history, learned so much.  Today, I mostly performed with my guitar for the CofC, though I did manage to drive a little bit around Greenville. Here is a photo of the Greenville Inn and Suites where I stayed, followed by a photo of the Greenville Yacht Club, built over the beautiful Mississippi River,  where I spent most of yesterday and today.

greenville innn

yacht club

I went to see Greenville’s famous carousel on Main Street and met with the director of the Greenville Arts Council. Here is a photo of Alvin Simmons and the carousel.  Alvin has worked with the  Arts Council and the carousel for a year.  The second photo is of Alvin next to the steam engine that used to power the carousel.


steam engine

You can read an article about the carousel and its fascinating history here:

From the Children’s Museum and the Carousel, I drove to McCormick’s Book Inn again for Elisabeth Payne Rosen’s book signing of her novel, Hallam’s War. (Civil War Novel) She was very friendly, and I enjoyed meeting her and talking to her about writing and especially writing about the great War.  You can see her tour and a very brief bio of her here:

People photos of my trip will follow in other posts. At the moment, I’m in the little dining room/lobby, watching Fox News. I was in my room, but was growing sleepy. I decided I needed to use my time and not turn in too early, so I grabbed a Diet Coke and my laptop and came here. I’m slightly manic from the excitement and adrenalin of the weekend now, so I doubt I’ll go to sleep. Perhaps I’ll get some writing done. Perhaps I’ll go walking and looking for ghosts. After all, when it grows dark, not everyone you see in Greenville is alive.

Thoughts from Greenville Mississippi

I love traveling to new places, especially places in the South and in the West. From my house in Monroe, Greenville MS is 112 miles, just a little over a two hour drive. I found the town quaint, though stores sparse in number, especially boutiques and the kinds of stores that would interest tourists who do lots of shopping. In spite of a rich heritage, live music is also sparse. However the two or three bars/taverns in town seem to do a very lively business at night. Where do all these people come from? Daytime traffic is light. Supposedly, Greenville is a town with lots of ghost. After dark, not everyone you meet in Greenville is alive. We told ghost stories till nearly midnight last night. I heard some very interesting tales.

Both of my books are now in the public library here, and will also be carried McCORMICK BOOK INN, a great independent bookstore. They also have a great site: The store’s motto posted on the site is Literature & Greenville: it’s like drinking the brown water. It’s just what we do. (And the drinking and bathing water here does have a certain tint to it.)

My lodging is in the beautiful, Greenville Inn & Suites. A hot day yesterday–96 degrees. Will likely be just as warm today. I set up in the Greenville Yacht Club, where we will be the rest of the day and to which I hope to return for a musical booking. I’ll have plenty of photos in the near future. I’ve made many new friends, met some extremely knowledgeable people, and booked some future appointments. The children of the Confederacy are beautiful and smart and it is encouraging to see them take such interest in history and heritage.

Whenever I think of Mississippi, I think of Robert Johnson and the deal he made with the devil-man at the crossroads. I especially loved Eric Clapton and Cream’s interpretation of that song. I wonder if writers, like musicians have to make deals with the devil. You can read an interesting and somewhat creepy version about Johnson’s deal here:

I’ll try to do another posting tonight or at least by tomorrow morning, so come back and visit.

Book Tours

I’m in one of my manic, so excited I’m crazy, planning moods. I confess to being a dreamer, stumbling through my life hoping my brothers don’t throw me in the well like they did Joseph. Here are some tours I’m planning that I’ve resolved to make happen in my future.  I realize that these tours require resources that I currently don’t have, but I’m starting to put together promotion plans on all of them. One thing is certain: If I don’t do something different, nothing changes. I know too that I’ll have more books out in the future, so hopefully this will help me accomplish these dreams.

An Author’s March to the Sea: This book campaign will follow Sherman’s March to the Sea, focusing on book signings and musical programs and author presentations in every town that Sherman’s Bummers went through. It is a symbolic tour, but one I feel I need to make. I will contact all media, bookstores, libraries, SCV and UDC and other organizations, universities and schools along the way.

The Road to Richmond: This tour will target major southeastern cities and will end in a major campaign in Richmond, VA. Media, libraries, organizations, schools, universities etc., will be targeted. This too is a symbolic tour.

Into the West: This title is borrowed from a CD by my friend, Jed Marum. I will start in Texas and go as far west as I can. I hope to at least reach Arizona, perhaps even California again. I hope to reach some border areas as well.

The Gulf Coast Tour: This tour will begin in Houston and take me east along the Gulf Coast, hopefully all the way to Key West.

From the Mountains to the Great Plains Tour: With this tour I will focus on, Arkansas, the major cities of Oklahoma (When I told a friend of this, he asked me, “Both major cities?”), Kansas, and hopefully reach Colorado.

A Tour of the British Isles: This campaign will emphasize Ireland and Scotland. I want to do at least a two-week tour here promoting my books and a Civil War Music Show. I think both will go over well here.

* I must not forget to include Scottish and Irish festivals as target events during all of these tours.

On this day . . . The Civil War

Today, in Biloxi, Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis is being rededicated. Hurricane Katrina had caused it extensive damage, but now the restoration is complete. I know that hundreds of devoted Southerners are there today. Alas, I was unable to go due to the college class I’m teaching at Delta, but all my friends attending there today know my thoughts are with them. Hopefully I can post some photos of the event. Today, June 3, is also Jefferson Davis’s birthday.

You can read all about the beautiful and beloved Beauvoir here:

Yes, I’m teaching an Academic Seminar at Delta for the first summer session. The class is from 9:45-11:50 a.m. Mon. – Thurs. I haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to teach in July or not. Likely, I’ll be on the road promoting my books, but we’ll see. I have a great group of students for this class. This is the first time I’ve taught ACSE, so I’m learning right along with the students. I taught them today how to use EBSCO and other data bases, we formatted a practice essay in MLA style, introduced them to Blackboard, to easybib.com (an automatic bibliography composer), to Diana Hacker’s wonderful writing site,  and to two of my favorite online sites for English and cultural remediation and enrichment– Grammar Bytes and Dave’s ESL Cafe. It was a full day.

I’m deep into a freelance editing project, so this entry must be short. Until tomorrow.

On this day, June 3, 1864, The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought.

What’s left out of the history textbooks . . . And why . . .

I was reading an issue of the Camp Chase Gazette: Where the Civil War Comes Alive, June 2007, Volume XXXIV-No. 7, and found an article entitled “Historical Preservation versus school textbooks?” that reminded me of a problem many teachers have complained about, especially history teachers, that history textbooks are written by revisionists, the textbooks are full of oversimplifications and are a distortion of America’s true history.

The article pointed out that teachers today are not given the resources needed to adequately and accurately teach students about America’s War Between the States. The editor argues that students need field trips to museums, battlefields, and hands-on programs in order to fully understand history. The article argues, based on testimony of Gilbert T. Sewall of the American Textbook Council before the U.S. Sentate Health, Education Committee that textbook quality has steadily declined over the last 25 years. I had thought that in light of scholarship and the increase of information available, textbooks should be better than ever, but that is not the case.

And why this declining quality of student textbooks? Sewall says, “Many history textbooks reflect lowered sights for general question . . . Publishers are adjusting to short attention spans and non-readers. Too many children cannot or do not want to read history, which contains concrete facts and complicated concepts, reading that requires some facility with language. . . ”

Sewall said that compliance with detailed state guidelines and multicultural social/political sensitivity (which give “pressure groups a chance to vent and bully”) are why textbooks are of such poor style and textual quality. Sewall says, “publishers cater to pressure groupsfor whom history textbook content is an extension of a broader political or cultural cause . . . books whose content is meant to suit the sentivities of groups and causes more interested in self-promotion than in historical fact, scholarly appraisal, or balance. . . Determining what history children will learn, who will be heroes and villains, what themes will dominate, and what message will be sent are crucial subtexts in civic education.”

After reading and thinking about this article I concluded:

1) These current trends in education explain why my and others’ Civil War programs have been so well-received by schools.

2) It confirmed my belief that libraries and librarians (with their books and data bases) will be the saviors of history and our culture.

3) Current history textbooks are basically useless and should be abandoned. Their efforts to avoid anything that might be interpreted as “racist, sexist, ethnocentric, and jingo (excessive patriotism) are destructive to student scholarship. Too much is left out and too much misinformation is in them. We can’t avoid teaching facts of history just because the facts are complex or inconvenient.