The 11th hour of the 11th Day …

Today is Armistice Day.  It’s still celebrated in one manner or the other around the world, mostly, unsurprisiww123ngly, by the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, last vestiges of the British Empire that they are.

Dwight Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day in 1954, though it took decades to sort it out (On the 11th? On the Monday closest? What about the 27 states that already had Armistice Day in their holiday playbook?).


Eisenhower noted that The War to End All Wars hadn’t and Armistice Day had taken on a different meaning,

“… Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations …”

I used to think that we should still observe Armistice Day while reserving another day solely for veterans. I don’t anymore. I think World War I should be remembered and studied and taught, especially in the United States, certainly more than the whole “the U.S. mobilized, people sang Over There, and we ended the war. ”

Armistice Day should still get a curt nod, a few words, just to acknowledgement that it was one of history’s great ‘everything can change if we rise to the task’ moments and the collective we of the world blew it.

That said, Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day, Remembrance Day, Anzac Day, National Day of Independence, Volkstrauertag, whatever countries call their observation of the end of The Great War, everyone would do well to read one of the poems written in the trenches of the Western Front and at the very least, make the promise that Siegfried Sassoon demanded and never forget:

HAVE you forgotten yet? …
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow

Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same — and War’s a bloody game. …
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.fb5b-f722-4945-9b00-6b5830735396
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets.
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, “Is it all going to happen again?”
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads – those ashen-grey
Mask of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.


No, Virginia, There’s No Such Thing as President’s Day

washYup, there’s no such holiday as President’s Day – at least officially. It’s just Congress’ way of making Washington’s birthday fit a three day weekend.(Really – see Section 6103(a) of Title 5 of the United States Code).

Washington’s birthday was a major holiday in the U.S. long before the Civil War, it was formalized as a Federal holiday in the 1880’s, it took an act of Congress in the late 1960’s to muddle the waters.

There was a push to move holidays to the Monday schedule we now enjoy. Given the proximity of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, Illinois tried to roll Lincoln’s Birthday into the already celebrated Washington’s Birthday Federal Holiday.

Since this new holiday, giving us all a three day weekend in the middle of February, would celebrate two prominent former presidents, it was naturally enough labeled ‘President’s Day’.

Who would argue with a day devoted to Washington and Lincoln? Well, Virginia in the mid-1960s for one. The late unpleasantness between the States was only a hundred years passe and Virginia didn’t like the idea of a usurper from Illinois sharing the spotlight with its most visible son. Virginia blocked the proposed bill in the House of Representatives in the discussion stage. It never passed.

The third Monday of February was designated Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday remains as it was – a state by state optional holiday. It has never been a Federal holiday.

Interestingly, Presidents since the 1968 Act don’t seem in a hurry to correct those who refer to President’s Day, opting instead to embrace the all inclusive, let’s celebrate all the Presidents Day. As in, it’s a day celebrating all 44 of us (or does Grover Cleveland get to celebrate twice?), because, hey, all President’s are created equal.

It has become the equivalent of ‘every kid gets a trophy’ – except most kids deserve it. Take, for instance:


Warren G. Harding, he gets a trophy even though he wandered around behind the bench picking daisies while the others played;


William H. Harrison, he only showed up for two practices and one game, but he wanted to be there;


John Tyler …. even though after election he was the other team’s most valuable player . . .

Could do this all day…. but that would be a waste of a nice, sunny, Washington’s Birthday . . .

Too Long A Sacrifice …

proclamation-irish-republic-1916One hundred years ago today one of the most ill-considered, worse-executed rebellions in history began. Dublin, Easter 1916, while over 35,000 Irishmen were dying fighting for Britain on the Western Front and Gallipoli, a group of Irishmen, some veterans of that fighting, took over the Post Office and other key buildings in Dublin, ostensibly waiting for the populace to rise up and join them.They issued a Proclamation establishing an Irish Republic.

It never happened. There were over 5,000 British troops – many of them Irish – around Dublin at the time, the rebellion lasted six days, over four hundred – mostly civilians – were killed, a swathe of downtown Dublin was blown to pieces by British artillery. The self-styled Irish Volunteers surrendered, were vilified by the people of Dublin who had had no warning of the rebellion.

Image Ref. No. 0500/029

Lower Sackville Street, Dublin (1916)

That was that and it probably would have been another short circuited Irish uprising doomed to historic obscurity along with Vinegar Hill and the skirmishes of the ‘Year of the French’ except for what followed. Despite British Prime Minister Asquith’s assertion to the House of Commons that the Irish Volunteers “fought bravely and did not resort to outrage” harsh reprisals followed.

The British arrested 3,430 men and 79 women all across Ireland. One hundred and eighty-seven men and one woman were tried in secret by military tribunals and were not allowed a defense. The British government later found that the trials were illegal. That would come as little comfort to the the leaders of the rebellion, ninety were sentenced to death.

3785171459_c48090d777Sixteen were executed over the course of five days in the first week of May – despite warnings and pleas by the Irishmen in Parliament. With every execution public opinion in Ireland changed. Radically. The execution of the rebellions de facto leader, James Connolly appalled the world – severely wounded, probably with a day or two to live, he was brought to the place of execution on a stretcher and had to be tied to a chair to keep him upright enough to be shot.

World outrage was so great all the other death sentences were commuted to penal servitude. Almost two thousand Irishmen were held in prisons in Scotland and Wales for a year or more without ever being charged with a crime.

In an instant, Great Britain snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Public opinion swung, unrest grew, the British fed into it, Ireland achieved independence a half a dozen years later.

The inept, local, uncoordinated rebellion succeeded in the long run. There’s scores of lessons, from every viewpoint to be learned.

William Butler Yeats was caught as off guard by the Easter Uprising as most of his fellow countrymen. He wrote one of the great poems of the English language a few moths after the executions. It’s beautiful and ambiguous. But, he saw the future, the last line of the poem is A Terrible Beauty is Born. 

About that Civil War Novel in Seven Parts

cropped-wilderness2.jpgWilliam Hanlin needs help . . . okay, William’s obviously pretty self-reliant and the mysterious J.A.W. is long dead but, well, his story needs a little help getting out there.

As some of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time since July putting together a narrative non-fiction book proposal with several sample chapters.

That’s out there – all 86 pages of it – with a literary agent out of New York I was referred to and . . . we’ll see.

In the meantime, there’s William, the project I vastly prefer to be working on. Two books done, William left out in the woods near Mechanicsville VA in the early morning hours of the beginning of the Seven Days battle.

The third book, The Widening Gyre is two-thirds typed, completely written, and about four weeks from being ‘finished.’ Less with help. Or I wake up tomorrow with the sudden ability to type fast and well.

The Hanlin novels are not in play with the agent. My choice, I was asked about them.

Here’s the deal – the fourth novel, The Blood Dimmed Tide is half Death-sedgwickwritten and edited as well. The novel in seven parts is outlined in depth, chapters, scenes, and long strings of dialogue have been written all the way through, including the ending.

As someone who’s read a few thousand novels, I can say with confidence that you haven’t seen anything yet.

If I went the traditional route with this the best case scenario for the release of The Rough Beast (Volume 7) would be around 2021 – it takes them 12-18 months to go from manuscript to print.

I love the Hanlin books, I want everyone else to love the story as well. I also want it over (I do, after all, know how it ends) so I can move on to other, partially written, fully outlined novels. That includes, as my friend Fred deduced months ago, J.A.W.’s story after he parts from William’s company.

1384800895013-AP-Finding-Lincolns-AddressWe’ve had a lot of great reviews, I get emails all the time, calls to get this to Netflix or HBO, etc. What we haven’t had is great sales, largely attributed to my hedging on the distribution channel and not spending to promote.

I have ample evidence, however, that the first two novels have been widely loaned out. A while back I was told by a video store (remember them) owner that the most stolen title in the industry was Office Space. Love the movie – I don’t know why but it somehow makes sense. It’s a neat little tidbit when you’re a bestseller, but …

Anyway, here’s what I want to do: I would like to sell 500 signed copies of the first two books from my ecwid site – signed because I want/need to add to my email base. I get no information from Amazon on who bought the books, have no way to communicate with those readers, though a few have sought me out (thank you).

So, everyone on the list will start getting some perks in the next monthSAM_1322– a monthly newsletter with insights and historical notes; deleted scenes (there’s quite a few, actually); the option to be galley readers if you wish, earn rewards for spotting misprints, and errata; vote on covers; get Forlorn Hope T-shirts (in the works); a lot more.

For my part, I need to put money into promotions, do a few ads, go on the road to book clubs and bookstores. I also need to go to Gettysburg for a day or two to walk the areas where I expect William and the 21st to walk. (Yes, I already know, exactly where and when and what happens July 1-4 1863, I just need to be sure it’s feasible on foot within real time constraints).

I did this at Antietam last summer was thrilled to death that what I envisioned William doing on September 17, 1862 was, indeed, possible. As you will see in The Widening Gyre. I will also be headed back to the Shenandoah Valley where the bulk of Pitiless as the Sun occurs.

The-Peninsula-Va.-The-staff-of-Gen.-Fitz-John-Porter-Lts.-William-G.-Jones-and-George-A.-Custer-So, I’m hoping you all can take a few moments out of your day to help promote the Hanlin series – send emails, I’ll be posting on my blog and Facebook, (if you haven’t already, please follow and all that stuff). LinkedIn, etc, could use a quick recommendation/ share. If you know of book clubs, Civil War groups, etc., please ask them to try it … if they’re not in the middle of nowhere, I might just be available to talk to them. Any and all ideas and referrals are welcome.

I’m thinking of doing a moderate Kickstarter campaign so I can really ramp this and the next two books up and take the time to put together a teleplay – I do have a few places to send one. Gifts would be everything from ebooks, to paperbacks, T-shirts, framed pages of the original manuscript, and, springing for a B&B for two nights for a couple of people to tour either Antietam or Gettysburg with me. If anyone has an opinion on this, please (please) let me know.

That’s it… Thanks so much for your encouragement . . .

Speaking of Royals . . .

In honor of the birth of yet another royal baby – a discussion between William Hanlin and General McClellan concerning the French princes on McClellan’s staff – and royalty in America:

. . . the door swung open and three men, two in magnificently tailored uniforms, the other dressed like a private, strode into the room.

Philippe_d'Orleans_Comte_de_Paris_1862McClellan was on his feet in an instant, moved to them with hand extended. He shook hands with them in turn while uttering a string of French greetings.

The result of all that was a taxing of my rusty French and my introduction to three surprising additions to McClellan’s staff – the Prince de Joinville and his nephews, the Duc de Chartes, and the Comte de Paris. Three princes of the House of Orleans.

They left us in heightened moods, a standing invitation to a HD_PrinceRobertD'Orleansnight at The Willard, sore shoulders from their back slaps, and a sudden desire for foie gras.

“You know, of course, that the Comte de Paris is pretender to the throne?” McClellan said as their powerful boot steps receded down the hallway.

le-prince-de-joinville“Sure,” I lied, “and unless you loan him your army when we’re done here, he’ll be the pretender for life.”

“We’ll have to see about that,” he laughed.

“They’d make you a peer,” I observed.

“Well, then, perhaps . . . imagine, Willie, a Prince, a Duke, and a Count on my staff, who would have ever thought it?”

“I don’t know Mac, I think our forefathers fought a war to rid us of titles.”

“You believe that, Willie?” He answered, no longer laughing, “Before you answer, I remind you that you, a Boston Brahmin are addressing a Philadelphia Main-liner.”

“We don’t have titles designating that, do we?”

“Think we need them, Colonel?”

~ from The Falcon, Volume Two of William Hanlin’s Civil War.

The Falcon, and History, and Reviews, and Stuff

Thank you so much for allowing me to read “The Falcon.” I have been reading Civil War fiction for over 50 years, and I can scarcely if ever remember reading a book that did the subject more justice than did Mr. Hicks’ work. “The Falcon” is remarkably good history; indeed, the book is accurate down to the smallest details regarding American life in 1861. It is also an intriguing “whodunit,” weaving an intricate pattern of deception and revelation. Finally, it brings to life characters that are engaging and totally believable. “The Falcon” reminds us that with the nation in peril at the start of the Civil War, thousands of men from across the North came together in common cause to try to save the nation . . . I am confident that anyone who reads his work will come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Civil War generation. Please give my compliments to Mr. Hicks, and tell him to keep up the good work! ~ Dr. Donald Elder III

We received that review last night from an American history professor from Eastern New Mexico University. His background is the kind that gave me nightmares – when it comes to reviews – i.e. Civil War expert, edited/published/annotated several collections of Civil War letters through the University of Iowa Press, it goes on.

This, of course, is no reflection on him, it’s a reflection on me. Most assuredly. See, the Hanlin novels (although, come to think of it, especially in light of recent developments, it really is one novel serialized in seven installments), are really about people, and relationships (or lack thereof), stress, horror, sex (or lack thereof), bigotry, religion (or lack thereof), crime and punishment, they just happen to be wrapped around the Civil War. Continue reading

Odds and Ends from a Long Week of Bad History, Bad Law, Trolls, and …

“There are in this country, as in all others, a certain proportion of restless and turbulent spirits – poor, unoccupied, ambitious – who must always have something to quarrel about with their neighbors. These people are the authors of religious revivals.” ~ John Quincy Adams

 Some thoughts and impressions from quite the week:

battlefield-earth-02Tell me again why we need Religious Freedom Acts when the First Amendment is unchallenged and Scientology is not only accorded the same rights, privileges, and protections as all other religions, it was not summarily dismantled after the release of Battlefield Earth.

Obviously – to everyone not employed by Fox News, the law was drafted and enacted to allow people to do what Federal, State, and Local governments are estopped by the Constitution and 200 plus years of Supreme Court decisions from doing – use religion to discriminate against others.

This was explained perfectly by someone, somewhere in Indiana who proclaimed – “this law doesn’t discriminate against anyone … it just protects those of us who do.”  That, by the way, is genius. Continue reading