So Others May Live


Dear Readers,

As most of you know, I completed my World War Two novel tentatively titled So Others May Live in November. In the nick of time, as it turned out, as I ended up in the hospital for six days over Thanksgiving Break. If you are new to this blog, I wrote a whole series of posts called Reaping the Whirlwind which details the writing process and you may read an excerpt from said novel here, but be warned, it is graphic. Anyway, I thought I’d give you a list of some of the sources I utilized during the writing of said novel. This is not an exhaustive list by any means and I’m leaving some stuff out, but here is your World War Two reading list, particularly relating to the air war and the German Civil Defense system.

General Histories

These are general World War Two histories.

Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History

Allen, The Nazi Seizure of Power

Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Hastings, Inferno

Hastings, Armageddon: The End of the War in Europe

Weitz, Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy

The Air War and It’s Impact

Knell, To Destroy a City

Friedrich, The Fire

Friedrich, Brandstatten

Hastings, Bomber Command

Crayling, Among the Dead Cities

Wilson, Bomber Boys

Wilson, Men of Air

Lowe, Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg

Middlebrook, The Berlin Raids

Everitt & Middlebrook, The Bomber Command War Diaries

Wartime Berlin/German Home Front

Read & Fischer, The Fall of Berlin

Beck, Under the Bombs: The German Home Front 1942-1945

Grunberger, The Twelve Year Reich

Johnson, What We Knew

Moorhouse, Berlin At War

Mayer & Evans, They Thought They Were Free

Selby, A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin

German Military

Since the firefighter character spent time in the Germany Army before being returned to his pre-war occupation due to wounds, it was important to bone up on German military attitudes, etc.

Knappe, Soldat

Neitzel & Welzer, Soldaten 

Koscherrek, Blood Red Snow

Bellamy, Absolute War

Reese, A Stranger to Myself

Cooper, The German Army 1933-1945

Fritz, Frontsoldaten

Beevor, Stalingrad

Sajer, The Forgotten Soldier

Wartime London

Gaskin, The Blitz

Gardiner, The Blitz: The British Under Attack

Longmate. How We Lived Then

Todman, Britain’s War

Ingham, Fire and Water: The London Firefighter’s Blitz, 1940-42


Why novels for research? There are a couple of reasons. First, from a professional standpoint, they teach be about plotting, creating characters, etc. Second, they often include historical nuggets that I can follow up on in non-fiction books.

Ledig, Payback

Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

Remarque, A Time to Love and a Time to Die

Deighton, Bomber

Bird, London’s Burning

Frei, Berlin

Gillham, City of Women


Thankfully I was able to view several pieces of film footage shot of German firefighters during the war, including a “how to put out an incendiary fire” video. In addition, there are tons of documentaries on YouTube about the London Blitz, life in Nazi Germany, the Bomber War, etc. Far too many to list here, but I probably watched 50-60 hours worth of them and took notes.

In graduate school, I had the opportunity to interview some individuals who had worked in the German Civil Defense system during the war, either with the Luftschutz or as auxiliary firefighters/rescue workers. My notes from those conversations helped me craft a logical response from the Berlin fire brigade to air raids. Or at least I hope it did.

I also made use of some maps of wartime London and Berlin to help give me a handy reference when dealing with directions, etc.

Again, this list is not comprehensive. My World War Two library alone includes 500 volumes (it totals a little over 2,000 when you add all the other books). If any of you are interested in this subject, the list above provides a good place to start.









Happy New Year From Harvey Land



The Redhead and I.


Dear Readers,

I wish all of you a Happy New Year. In Berlin in December of 1944, Berliners parted company by saying “Survive” instead of goodbye. A popular toast was “1944 had twelve months. Maybe 1945 won’t bring us quite so many”. Given the year that I’ve had, I can kind of see where they were coming from.

When I was still on the job, I loved working New Year’s Eve. It usually brought a working fire and a myriad of other interesting calls, such as an unconscious Batman, but I digress. Since I’m retired, I now spend New Year’s Eve/Day watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the ScyFy Channel. It is a time for reflection as well, though I don’t do the New Year New Me bullsh!t. A time to think back on the friendships made and the people met over the previous year. And also of the friends lost. 2017 saw cancer claim two friends, one like a brother to me and another like a father. The Angel of Death stalked me as well, as I nearly ended up dead after a bowel obstruction nearly caused my stomach to rupture. Yea tho I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil. For I am the baddest motherf—-r in the Valley.



RIP Mr. Pat. Gone but not forgotten.





RIP Chris. We had some good times and caused some trouble! 


In July, I had the distinctly pleasant experience of giving a public lecture as part of a summer lecture series to the largest crowd they’d ever had, or so they told me. (They might say that to all the lecturers.) My topic was “The Fall of the Romanovs: Murder, Mystery, and the Twilight of Imperial Russia”. It was a lot of fun and quite a few of my former students turned up which was a huge surprise. I also finished writing a novel (my second completed novel), which was a lot of hard work and it took a long, long time, but as Jesus said “It is finished.”



Never thought a Port Arthur boy would make it this far. 


And then came Harvey. I escaped with minor damage, but I have friends and family who lost everything. I don’t really have the words, so here is something I wrote on Facebook right afterwards:

I wanted to write about Harvey, but I can’t. To properly do it justice requires the skill of Remarque to talk about the battle against wind and water, of Homer to illustrate the long journey faced by those displaced by the storm, of Brinkley to place it within the proper historical context, and of Tolstoy to capture the massive scale of the events which unfolded.
My home in La Porte escaped damage other than a small roof leak, but so many friends and family did not. My hometown of Port Arthur and the surrounding communities have been devastated by yet another storm. It breaks my heart and robs me of the ability to say anything of value. We will get back to normal, but it will be a new normal.
God help us.



The rain just wouldn’t quit!


But joy is often mixed with sorrow. During the storm, I found an abandoned black kitten. I brought him in and added him to my brood (which now stands at six). Naturally, since I found him during the storm, I thought Harvey was an appropriate name. And his personality definitely suits being named after a hurricane as he tears through the house in the wee hours of the morning. I think he likes it here and the other cats are very tolerant of him, especially Anastasia who thinks that he is her kitten.



Harvey the Hurricane Kitten.




He does a fair impression of me. 


I taught a class the second half of the summer and had a pretty good time with it as it was an “adult” class rather than a dual credit class like I’ve been teaching the past few years. The fall started with Harvey, but once the semester got started, it seemed as the storm and ensuing delay through my timing off a little bit. Plus, I was teaching 8 classes between three school as opposed to my usual five classes between two schools. I had some very long days which were physically quite taxing on me, given my limitations, but I made it through just fine.

Thanksgiving saw me in the hospital for six days starting on Thanksgiving night. I was treated really well, and half my nurses were hot, so there is that. However, for three of those days I had a tube stuck down my throat via my nose to keep my stomach empty. That sucked big time. The doctors don’t know what caused the bowel obstruction which means there is no word on how to prevent it, which means I’m left to panic ever time I get the slightest twinge of stomach pain in fear that it is returning. Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t.



If anyone comes near me with an NG tube again, I’ll kick them in the testicles. If they have any.


I saved the biggest news for last, which is okay because it happened in November too. After many years of trying, I was finally offered a full time position as a professor at a community college, something I’ve been trying for now for quite a while. I was 0/20 on job applications. Sure, it’s a temporary appointment, but it may turn into something permanent and at least it is a start. So the year ended on a good note, or at least an upswing. I’m hoping that will carry over into 2018.



You may be cool, but you’ll never be a history professor in a unicorn mask cool.


My injuries still cause me pain, a little more with each passing year. My other health issues continue to cause complications and I am still unable to eat solid food, and haven’t been able to for two and a half years now. I’m forty pounds less than I weighed two years ago which means my epic wardrobe of three piece suits no longer fit, so I’m having to rebuild it piece by piece. This is important because in two more years it will be the Roaring 20s again and I want to make sure I look the part!



Anastasia is my New Year’s date!


Here’s to wishing you all have fair winds and calm seas in 2018. And if things get rough, just remember the order General Taylor gave to Captain Bragg at the Battle of Buena Vista: “Double canister and give em hell!”







Graveyard of Empires: Britain’s First Afghan War



Remnants of on Army by Elizabeth Butler


If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white

Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight

Just keep open order, lie down, and sit tight

And wait for supports like a soldier


In the mid 19th Century, both the British Empire and the Russian Empire vied for control in Central Asia. With their base in India, the British pushed their imperialist banner northward towards Afghanistan in an attempt to keep the Russians out. The Russians, in the meantime, had a handy alliance with Persia and backed an anti-British ruler in Afghanistan. The British decide to oust him. Their cover story was that they were not invading, but merely aiding the legitimate ruler. Typical British Imperialist nonsense.

European countries, and the United States, held imperialist ambitions for a couple of reasons. First, they sought raw materials to feed their growing economies. Second, they needed new markets for finished products. Finally, there was a racial component that we cannot deny. Europeans felt that they had a right to any territory formerly held by people who were black, brown, yellow, or red. Consider, for example, Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden”. At the same time the British were fighting their First Afghan War, they were also fighting the Opium War with China in an attempt to force the Chinese to trade with them. Hell, if you’re gonna fight a war, opium is as good a cause as anything else! To the victor belongs the………pipe.

In 1839 a large force of around 16,000 British and Sepoy (Indian) troops marched through the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan. They brought a staggering 35,000 or so camp followers with them. They included merchants, journalists, cobblers, blacksmiths, and, of course, prostitutes. I believe it was General Sherman who said a soldier who won’t f–k won’t fight! They reached Kabul and deposed the pro-Russian ruler and replaced him with one more friendly to the British government, or at least one who was under their control. The British wisely decided not to attempt to pacify Afghanistan since that would be impossible. Instead, they just used their puppet ruler to keep Russian influence to a minimum. But they made a tragic mistake. Custom dictated that the local ruler in Kabul pay monthly tribute to the Pashtuns who controlled the mountain passes. The ruler cut the tribute in half with no warning. Angered by this insult, the Ghilazis closed the Khyber Pass and cut Afghanistan off from India. This dilemma was made worse by the fact that the British sent the majority of their troops home the previous year since they didn’t think they would need them anymore. I believe we call that an “Oops”.


Khyber Pass


At around 9am on January 6, 1842, the Kabul garrison consisting of 4,500 British and Sepoy troops and around 16,000 camp followers set out from the city, marching through deep snow. Along the way, Afghan snipers took shots at the column whenever the opportunity presented itself. Given the difficult terrain which favored irregular warfare, the British were unprepared for what they faced. 3,000 of them died in the Khurd-Kabul Pass. At one point, their commander ventured out to meet with the Afghan commander and was taken hostage. The Afghan’s offered to take all of the married officers and their wives into their camp for “protection” which they did, but they became hostages instead. The column marched on, or tried to, and was slaughtered. Near Gandamak, the 44th Regiment of Foot mounted a desperate last stand. With only a handful of men with a few rounds each, they responded to a demand to surrender with “Not bloody likely”.  Only one man, Dr. William Bryden, reached Jalalabad with the scene immortalized in the painting at the top of the post. Later, around 150 other survivors would be rescued or would straggle in to British outposts. All told, this was a disaster of epic proportions and not a very good day for the British Empire.


The Retreat From Afghanistan by A.D. McCromick


The British rarely respond well to getting their asses kicked by people they consider to be inferior, and this is certainly the case here. The raised a new army in India, calling it the Army of Retribution. They set out for Kabul to bring vengeance upon the heathen who had so thoroughly trounced them before. When they arrived in Kabul, they destroyed the city’s Great Bazaar and the soldiers went on a rampage of looting, murder, and rapine, all done with the sanction of the British commanders. Things settled down for a while as the British were again content to simply control enough to keep the Russians out. This allowed them to meet their objective and also to grant the Afghans a nominal amount of independence. A little over one hundred years later, the Russians would enter Afghanistan on their own and find the Afghans to be just as fierce fighters as the British had during the 19th Century.

When your wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains

And the women come out to cut up what remains

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

And go to your God like a soldier

–“The Young British Soldier” by Rudyard Kipling


City of Fire Excerpt

CIty of Fire

Dear Readers,

Here is an excerpt from my latest: City of Fire. There are four main characters: Patrick, Michael, Molly, and Thomas. This is your introduction to Patrick, a fire laddie in the Five Points during the summer of 1864.

The fire bells rang in the distance as Patrick McMahon hurried down Bayard Street. He smelled faint traces of smoke in the air, but New York City in the summertime presented far more odors for the discriminating nose than mere smoke. Raw sewage, rotting food, decomposing animal corpses, and unwashed bodies all combined to assault the unaccustomed visitor with a gag inducing smell. Patrick turned north up Mott Street past Brigid McCarthy’s brothel. He tipped his hat to three of her employees as they lounged near the front door before ducking down an alley. As he emerged on Elizabeth Street, the doors to the station which housed Hibernia Steam Engine 14 were open.

“Bout time you joined us, lad,” Captain Tommy Flaherty said, “We’d sure hate to start without ya.”

“I doubt that,” Patrick said as he pulled off his coat and grabbed his leather helmet from a rack near the door. Engine 14 was housed in a simple two story wood frame building. The steam engine and house cart occupied the ground floor. Spartan living quarters upstairs provided the firemen with a place to stay. Volunteers still provided the fire protection for the citizens of New York, but many of them found themselves in want of a job as often as not, and the station gave them a warmer place to sleep than the streets. Several other men entered the station and took up their places.

Captain Flaherty hooked his thumbs in his suspenders and sighed.

“Well, boyos, looks like a small crew today. Let’s get to it then.”

Patrick took up his spot in front of the engine and took up the running line. Unlike other large cities who converted to horse drawn engines, the firemen in New York City still pulled their engines, hose carts, and ladder trucks through the streets by hand. It was both a source of amusement and consternation to the citizens.

“Look lively, now!” Flaherty called out as they slowly pulled the engine through the wooden doors and out onto the street. The hose cart followed behind them. They made their way down Elizabeth Street, past the Bowery Theater. Patrick saw a thin cloud of smoke in the distance. A large crowd clogged the intersection at Bayard Street and the men slowed.

“Move outta da way!” Captain Flaherty shouted through his brass speaking trumpet. “We’ve a fire to get to. Can’t ya see it? Ya think we’re just after a bit of exercise? Move or we’ll run ya down!”

The crowd parted, but with no real sense of urgency. Fires were a frequent occurrence in Lower Manhattan. The locals gave scant notice to the fire laddies as they rushed their engines back and forth.

“If the Red Sea parted this slow, those poor Hebrews would still be prisoners of the Pharaoh,” Patrick said to the fireman ahead of him on the running line. As soon as the crowd gave way, they turned onto Bayard Street and hurried towards Bowery Boulevard.

“Whose district is this?” Patrick asked to no one in particular.

“Don’t know,” one of his companions said, “They rang the bells for the 14th, 6th, and 4th Wards. Could be on the boundary.”

Lookouts posted in bell towers throughout the city had the job of watching for fire, day or night. They rang the bells to alert each district of a fire. Four rings for the 4th Ward. Fourteen rings for the 14th Ward. If the lookouts could not determine the exact location, they rang each possible district. In the past, this led to bitter fights between members of rival fire companies over who had the “right” to put out a fire. Those fights had become a thing of the past. The war depleted the manpower of the volunteer fire companies who all struggled to turn out a full crew in this fourth summer of the conflict.

Sweat trickled down his face and stung his eyes as Patrick studied the men around him. So many new faces now, he thought. The old boys all gone. Fredericksburg. Antietam. Gettysburg. How many have we lost? And me own brother. Dead at Bull Run. And the damn riots last year. Lost more there. At the hands of our own people, by God! The whole damn world is falling apart and all we do is pick up the pieces.

Two blocks up Bowery Boulevard, Patrick caught sight of the building. A shop occupied the first floor, with fire showing from an upstairs window. The second floor no doubt contained living quarters for the shopkeeper. In the dry heat of summer, embers from the fire might catch the roofs of adjacent building on fire.


Patrick looked over and saw one of the young boys who served as a runner for the company waving frantically from the nearest fire hydrant.

“Close enough boyos,” Flaherty said as he appraised the fire scene with his hands on his hips. “We beat the 4th Ward to their own fire, by Jove!”

In less than a minute, the firemen connected the hose to the hydrant and ran it to the coupling of their steam engine, which sported a large green shamrock painted on the side. Patrick grabbed another hose off the cart and attached it to the other side of the engine.

“Pressure’s up!”

Patrick opened the brass nozzle and directed the stream of water at the upstairs window. The fire danced away from the water and retreated into the room, only to reemerge seconds later, a bit larger and angrier. With another man behind him on the house, Patrick shuffled a few steps forward, careful to keep the water aimed in the window. He felt a tug at his arm. He glanced down and saw a small, dark haired man with a soot stained face gesturing towards the building.

“I know it’s on fire,” Patrick said. “Now get away and let me work.”

“My vife!” the man yelled in a thick, German accent. “She’s inside.”

Patrick passed the nozzle to the man behind him and walked over to the engine. He grabbed an ax and yelled over to Captain Flaherty, “There’s someone inside. I’m goin’ in.”

“Wait! You can’t!” Flaherty answered, but Patrick was already making his way through the door. The thick, black smoke left a small gap of around two feet just above the floor. Patrick pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, dipped it in a puddle of water, and tied it around his mouth and nose. The heat drew ever bit of moisture out of his body and soaked his clothing with sweat, which then began to steam.

“Can anyone hear me?” he yelled as he crawled deeper into the shop. The crackling roar of burning wood was the only reply. His ears burned as he crawled along on his stomach, sweeping his ax back and forth in front of him. The dense smoke layer moved closer to the floor. The ax hit something solid. Patrick felt it with his hands. A counter. With his right shoulder tucked against the wood, Patrick moved until it ended and then turned to go down the other side. About midway down, he ran into something human.

By feel, Patrick determined the victim to be female and still alive. He pulled the handkerchief from around his face and tied it around the woman’s. With his right hand, Patrick felt around for his pocket where he kept a rescue rope. He threaded it across the woman’s chest and under her armpits so he could drag her out. Then he heaved with all his might. For fuck’s sake! Why is it only the heavy one’s who get stuck?

The smoke darkened. Patrick lay on his back and pulled with as much strength as he could muster. He felt the body slide a short distance. He moved a few feet and pulled again. Up ahead, a small sliver of light shone through the blackness. Patrick wasn’t sure if it was the door or not, but as it was the only landmark, he made for it. Overhead, the floor creaked with a sound that told him it would buckle soon. If it ain’t the door, we’re both dead, Patrick thought as he dragged the woman. Four feet. Three feet. Two feet.

“There he is!”

Patrick felt hands grab him and pull him out onto the street and away from the building. Men half dragged, half carried him across the street and deposited him on the porch of a small saloon. A loud crash resounded from the building as the second floor collapsed onto the first in a shower of smoke, sparks, and flames. Fresh air filled his lungs and he sucked it in with great gasps. A wave of nausea overcame him and he bent over and vomited most of what he’d eaten the past few days onto the sidewalk. Captain Flaherty wisely stood out of splatter range, and then approached with a flask in his hand.

“Here you go, boyo,” he said. “Drink this. It’ll take the sting outta da smoke.”

Patrick took a long swig and felt the burn all the way into his stomach. As soon as the whiskey hit his stomach, it came back up along with some bile.

“How is she?’ he asked, his voice a mere croak.

“The one you pulled out?” Flaherty asked. “She was dead when you got her outside.”

“But…” Patrick protested. “But…..she was alive inside. That’s why I brung her out.”

“Well,” Flaherty said, “she’s among the departed now, lad. It was a gallant effort, but a damn fool thing to do.”

“So you always say,” Patrick replied. Before the war, Patrick and his older brother Seamus both belonged to the company. They had plenty of scrapes and close calls over the years. There ain’t a fire that can touch us, lad. That’s what Seamus always said. And right he was. It wasn’t a fire that got him, but a load of Confederate canister at Bull Run what done him in.

“Take some water.”

A voice brought Patrick’s mind back from the battlefields of Virginia. His eyes focused on a young woman who stood in front of him. She held a tin cup in her hands and extended it towards him.

“Thank you,” Patrick gapsed. “Maybe I can keep this down.”

He drained it in one gulp and handed it back. He studied the young woman for a moment. Red hair. Green eyes. She had a familiar air about her, like maybe he’d seen her around before, but his mind failed to recall where.

“Is there something you’d like to ask me? Or do you always stare at people like that?”

Patrick blinked, “I’m sorry. It’s only that you look familiar. Have I seen you before?”

She laughed.

“Did I say something amusing, then?” Patrick asked as red crept up his neck.

“Oh sure,” she said, “You’ve probably seen me before. But you won’t admit where.”

“Surely it was at Mass,” Patrick offered.

She laughed again, turned, and began to walk away.

“Wait!” Patrick called out. “Could I ask your name at least?”

“Molly,” she said over her shoulder as she disappeared around the corner.

Flaherty sat down next to Patrick and wrapped a meaty arm around Patrick’s shoulders.

“I know where she lives, lad,” Flaherty said. “If ya care to pay her a visit.”

“And where might that be,” Patrick asked.

“At the corner of Bayard and Mott. She’s one o’ Miss McCarthy’s gals. If’n ya pay her a visit, mebbe she’ll give you a fireman’s discount.”

Flaherty erupted in laughter as he pounded Patrick on the back in time with his loud guffaws.

“I’m sure you’ve provided Miss McCarthy with plenty of financial support over the years, Captain,” Patrick said.

“That I have, lad,” Flaherty said. “That I have. Just don’t let the missus find out.”

Flaherty got up and walked away to give directions to the firemen. Patrick remained on the porch and watched as two men sprayed a house back and forth across the top of the debris pile which remained of the shop while another engine, Americus Number 6 wet down the exposures of the wooden building next door. The white tiger on the side of their steam engine was well known to everyone in Manhattan. They were Tweed’s boys, and a good company. A spasm seized his chest as his lungs revolted against his forced ingestion of smoke. Patrick coughed and spit up a great glob of black phlegm onto the wooden sidewalk. I’m useless for this fire now, he thought. May as well go back to the fire house. The men would have to remain on the scene for at least an hour to make sure the fire did not rekindle and that the embers caused no other fires. No one wanted the notoriety associated with companies who had to return to the same fire a second or third time.

Flaherty nodded when Patrick asked to be excused from the scene. The crowd gave way in front of him. A few of the civilians gave him a strong clap on the back as he threaded his way towards Bayard Street. He hoped to get back to the station and have a lie down to ease the smoke headache which pounded at his temples like a mallet. But when he reached Elizabeth Street, Patrick kept walking. He did not stop until he found himself outside the ornate wooden building on the corner of Mott and Bayard. He studied the sign above the door which read McCarthy’s.

City of Fire

CIty of Fire

Dear Readers,

For those who have been following me for the past year, you no doubt know of my novel which was recently completed. For those of you who are new to the site, you can read an excerpt from it here.  So what is next on the agenda for me? Writing wise, that is. Well, the completed novel will go on a shelf for four to six months, long enough for me to basically forget about it. After enough time passes, I’ll re-visit it and read through it with fresh eyes so that I can correct the myriad of mistakes it no doubt contains, some plot, some continuity, some character development, and far more grammatical ones. This does not mean I will do no writing in between now and then. Nay! Quite the contrary! I’m now at work on another novel, this one set in New York City during the Civil War.

Here is the teaser:

A story ripped from the headlines……….from 1864.

Eight men, including Captain Thomas Fitzgerald, slip across the US border with Canada and make their way to New York City. Their goal? To create a wave of destruction that will interrupt the upcoming presidential election.  Michael, a New York City detective desperately tries to ascertain their identities and their plan while Patrick, a firefighter, stands on the front lines of the city’s defense against an attack. Maggie, a fiery redheaded prostitute, is the link between the attackers and the defenders, but while one man holds the key  to her escape from her life and from the city, another holds the key to her heart. She must chose between them as chaos erupts throughout the city. From the squalor of the Five Points, to opulent mansions on Fifth Avenue, New York City is a City of Fire.

I have my character sketches done along with a 10,000 word outline. Plus, I have all of my scene cards mapped out on a storyboard. I’m not sure how long this one will take to write. It might be a while as it is plotted to be roughly 100,000 words, which is 4K longer than the one I just completed. It is nice to revisit the Civil War from a writing standpoint, but I wanted to focus more on the untold stories rather than a traditional military action novel. The Confederate Plot to Burn New York City is known by some, but not many. It does touch on many modern themes, though. The Confederates involved in this plot believed themselves to be soldiers conducting a military operation while the Northern authorities believed them to be terrorists.

This is a tale of heroes, villains, and the line between the two that often blurs in time of conflict. Every man can be a sinner. And every man can be a saint. This is, perhaps, my most ambitious project yet and it is a book I’ve wanted to write since I first got the idea in 2004.  So we’ll see how long it takes, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.



Me as a young firefighter with my son who is now 15. I was much younger and better looking back in those days…….


Some Other Beginning’s End



Dear Readers,

In 1999, my senior year of college, the band Semisonic recorded a song entitled “Closing Time”. There is a line in the song that says Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. This is, of course, quite true. I have one new beginning that is ending this week and another new one which will start in January.

In early August of 2013, two weeks removed from my final day on the job after my injury, I was offered the opportunity to teach dual credit college courses at an early college high school that was just about to open its doors to students for the first time. (To explain, I’m a college professor. The only difference between this class and one on the college campus is that I’d be teaching a class full of 16 year olds.) I agreed to do it, though not without some trepidation. I’d taught dual credit courses before in the past, as I’ve been teaching part time since 2004. But in the past, the kids always came to the college campus. Now I’d be going onto their turf. I know full well I’m not cut out to be a high school teacher, so facing a class full of high school kids in a high school campus on the first day of school made me as nervous as a fully involved multi alarm apartment fire.

My trepidation vanished as the first class began, and it’s never come back. I feel like I’ve found a home there. Each semester I teach two or three courses and the nice thing is, I generally get to have the same students all year which is different than it would be in an “adult” class on the college campus. I’ve had the time of my life at this school. Seeing students walk across the stage and accept their Associate’s Degree and then later, their high school diploma is a feeling I cannot describe.

I have stacks of cards, photographs, and even a signed poster board that I’ve been given by students over the years. Every professor or teacher struggles with self doubt, at least if they are a good one or want to be a good one. On those days, I need only look at what I’ve been given and know that at least for someone out there, I made a difference. Since I deal with chronic pain from my injuries along with an incurable autoimmune disease, my weeks are filled with some really rough days. But when I walk through those doors on Monday and Wednesday mornings, all the pain vanishes to the deep recesses of my brain as I look forward to spending the day with my kids. Sure, I enjoy my regular college classes too, but there is something special, perhaps even magical, about this place.

Over the past five school years, I’ve shared a ton of laughs with my students, sometimes at my own expense, and even shared a tear or two. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life on one hallway it seems, and the thought of leaving for a full time position, while obviously a no brainer financially, still tears me up inside to think about it. Wednesday will be an emotional day for me. I’m not going to lie and say it won’t be. My students mean the world to me and no words I can say or type can fully express that to them. I see my students as my own children. I care about them. I worry about them. And I try to look out for them, just as I do my own son who is around their age.

So when I walk out those doors for the last time on Wednesday, it will be with a heavy heart. I’m excited for my new beginning, but I mourn the beginning that is now coming to an end. I’ll take away a lot of good memories, like coaching the junior girls in the powder puff game this year. I can only hope and pray that I did enough for my students so that they know that no matter where they (or I) end up, they’ll always have me in their corner.


Last Harvest of the Death Angel: 5 Hours of Horror, Franklin, TN


Dear Readers,

November 30 marked the anniversary of one of the most horrific battles ever fought in North America. Some call the Battle of Franklin the Pickett’s Charge of the West. That is incorrect. Pickett’s Charge was the Franklin of the East. At Gettysburg, 14,000 men crossed a mile of open ground after a two hour artillery bombardment. The charge lasted around 50-55 minutes. At Franklin, 19,000 men crossed two miles of open ground straight into three levels of entrenchments. And it wasn’t just one charge, it was more like 15-17 and it lasted four five brutal hours.

Over night on November 29/30, 1991 when I was thirteen years old, I had a very graphic dream about the battle of Franklin from the point of view of one of the soldiers. In the dream, I knew it was Franklin because of what someone said. At that point in my life, I was a student of the Civil War, but my knowledge, though more than most 13 year olds (or adults for that matter) was still very general in nature. I started reading Bruce Catton when I was 8, for example. I’d never heard of the battle before this dream. Dear Readers, I’ve had the dream every year on the night before the battle since 1991. I’m 39 now and just a few days ago, I had the dream yet again. You can read my written description of it here

I have visited Franklin and when I close my eyes, I see the whole thing played out in front of me again. I do not know why I have this dream. I had several brave ancestors who fought in this battle. Do they have the ability to pass on their memories to us via DNA? Or is it something else? One thing it is not, Dear Reader, is a figment of an overactive imagination because I wrote down the dream at age 13 and it has never changed. And remember, I didn’t know a d–n thing about this battle when I had the dream. But I digress. On my Facebook page on November 30th, I posted firsthand quotes from participants in the battle and probably drove my non-history friends crazy. I set out to do that again here, for those who know me not on Facebook. I’ll also throw in some more that I did not put on Facebook as I didn’t have to time post non-stop all afternoon, though I really wanted to.

I do not propose to describe the tactical decisions, etc, that led up to this battle. I only want you to read the words of the participants and understand this battle for what it was…..obscene and vile. No words of mine could EVER do justice to those brave souls who bled and died here.


The Carter Cotton Gin. The Confederate attack in this sector was described as “Glorified suicide”. 

“The men seemed to realize that our charge on the enemy’s works would be attended with heavy slaughter, and several of them came to me bringing watches, jewelry, letters, and photographs, asking me to take charge of them and send them to their families if they were killed. I had to decline as I was going with them and would be exposed to the same danger.” Chaplain M’Neilly, Quarles’ Brigade

“It is ominous, and I fear our men are going to be annihilated. Our bands played ‘Dixie’, ‘The Bonnie Blue Flag’, and ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’. This was the first and only time I ever heard our bands playing on the battlefield and at the beginning of a charge.” — Dr. Phillips, Surgeon, 22nd MS Infantry

“Then the order rings out against the din ‘Fire left oblique boys! Fire left oblique! They are bearing down on our left!There is now a wall of blazing guns all along our front. Men are dropping all along the line. Every second someone is killed. We are loading and firing until the gun barrels burn our hands.” — W.A Keesy, 64th Ohio, Conrad’s Brigade

“My color bearer was shot and the flag dropped. Colonel V.P. Greene grasped the flag staff and said ‘Damn! I’ll carry the flag. Look to your own company.’ Colonel Greene carried the flag through the fight without a scratch. They were killing and wounding our men so fast the order ‘Charge!’ was given. We raised the Rebel Yell and moved in double quick time.” — Lt. Mintz, 5th Arkansas Infantry, Govan’s Brigade

“We ran about 50 yards back and were reforming when a cannon ball took off my right foot. The same ball passed through two other men and wounded Beaumont and myself. We were in a very exposed place and could not move, the dead and wounded were all around us.” Joseph Thompson, 35th Alabama Infantry, Scott’s Brigade

“The ditch was full of men…..dead, dying, and wounded. If I ever prayed earnestly in my life, it was then.” Capt. Rea, 29th Alabama Infantry, Sears’ Brigade

“Go back and tell them to fight! Fight like hell!” General Wagner, 2nd Division 4th Corps, US. (Reported to be “vaingloriously drunk at the battle)

“The force and wind of the grape and canister would lift us clear off the ground at every discharge. As the great clouds of smoke had to some extent vanished, I could look around me and saw to my surprise, I was left alone in the ditch within a few feet of the battery which was still pouring forth it’s messenger of death, and not a living man could be seen standing on my right, nor could one be seen for some distance on my left. They had all been swept away by that mighty tempest of grape, canister, and rolling waves of lead and fire.” John M. Copley, 49th TN Infantry, Quarles’ Brigade

“The ravings of the maimed and mangled were heart rending. Crazed with pain, many knew not what they said or did. Some pleadingly cried out ‘Cease fire! Cease fire!’ while others agonizingly were shouting ‘We surrender! We surrender!'” Sgt. Banks, 29th AL Infantry, Shelly’s Brigade

“We charged up to the works. We used bayonets, butts of guns, axes, picks, shovels, and even…. [Colonel] Opdycke picked up a gun and clubbed with it.’ J.K. Merrifield, 88th IL Infantry, Opdycke’s Brigade

“About 9pm, a large body of the enemy in our front who were lying low and did not dare to go back begged for quarter and were allowed to come in. The only instance when I heard Johnnies beg for mercy.” Lt. Mohrmann, 72nd IL Infantry, Strickland’s Brigade

“Kind reader, right here my pen and courage and ability fail me. I shrink from the butchery.” Sam Watkins, 1st TN Infantry (writing in his 1882 memoir Co. Aytch.

“Call it glorious to die a horrible death, surrounded by an awful butchery, a scanty burial by enemy hands, and then total oblivion, name blotted out and forever forgotten—where is the glory?” Capt. James A. Sexton, Illinois Infantry

So there you have it, Dear Readers, a few quotes from a few brave men from both sides who fought at Franklin, only to have their memory and sacrifices largely forgotten as the battle faded into memory, known only today by true Civil War enthusiasts. Part of that is because the veterans, especially the Confederate veterans, did not wish to speak of the horrors they witnessed here. My great-grandmother’s grandfather fought at Franklin. He lived well into his 80s and so she knew him quite well as a girl. She said he could talk about “stacking Yankees up like cordwood” at Kennesaw Mountain and the first day at Shiloh where they overran Federal positions and “smote them hip and thigh.” But when asked about Franklin, which lay only about twelve miles from his home, all he could do was weep.

I’ll stop there, Dear Reader. I do not know why I have such a strong, visceral connection to this battle. Or why I can see it unfold in my head. Or why each year on the eve of the anniversary, my mind dredges it up in the wee hours of the morning. Bruce Catton once said that “We are the people for whom the past is forever speaking.” Mr. Catton is right on that point. The quotes above come from a few places, Eyewitnesses to the Battle of FranklinThe Confederacy’s Last Hurrah, and Co. Aytch. Though I close here, below I will list my family’s Roll of Honor from this battle.


Roll of Honor

19th TN Cavalry

Buford Hanks Fitzgerald

48th TN Infantry

Daniel Fitzgerald

Francis Marion Fitzgerald

Uriah Galloway

Aaron Thomas Vestal

Charles W. Vestal

James Vestal

Josiah Franklin Dugger

William L. Dugger

1st TN Infantry

Haywood Taylor

John L. Jacobs

Thomas Henry Jacobs

33rd AL Infantry

Elisha Potts

George W. Potts

14th TX Cavalry (Dismounted)

Hewitt Rather

Nathaniel Houston Rather

2nd TN Infantry

Thomas Fleming