Please give a warm welcome to Jessica James! Today she is writing about the man behind the inspiration for her character Colonel Alexander Hunter. An excerpt from her novel follows the post as well as information about a contest she is holding. Happy Reading .
John Esten Cooke Award for Fiction
Next Generation Indie Contest for Regional Fiction
USA “Best Books of 2011” Finalist in Historical Fiction
HOLIDAY HISTORY TOUR
I love getting the opportunity to talk to readers about my romantic historical fiction novel Noble Cause during Virtual Tours, but there is always the problem of coming up with an interesting topic.
When I set up this Tour Stop, Jenny sent me some questions to consider for possible subject matter, which included, “How did you get interested in Civil War?” and “Is there a particular historical person or place that you think is overlooked?”
Though I had been toying around with the idea of using some of the love letters I ran across while doing research as my theme, the idea of writing about the real-life soldier who inspired my main character soon took center stage. The fact that I knew a review of Noble Cause was running here on December 6—which just happens to be his birthday—sealed that commitment.
Though few people outside of Virginia know of him, no other soldier in the annals of the Civil War can conjure a more gallant, romantic and awe-inspiring image than that of Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby. The epitome of the Southern cavalier, Colonel Mosby was a charismatic officer whose small band of partisans outwitted and outfought the Union army on the fields and farmlands of Virginia.
I learned about Mosby when I lived in Virginia in the 1980s, and it was this chivalrous, courtly cavalry officer that drew me into the clutches of the Civil War and never let go. I spent the next decade or so researching the war and history of Virginia, and could not help but use the characteristics and traits of Colonel Mosby as the perfect hero for my novel. Here is a paragraph from Noble Cause describing my character Colonel Alexander Hunter:
In battle Hunter had no equal. The admiration he inspired in his comrades and the fear he aroused in his foes caused him to be adored or despised in legendary proportions. The gallant Hunter or the devil Hunter—it was all a matter of geography. But in Virginia, where he was considered the epitome of Southern honor and chivalry, it was just plain “Hunter,” a name itself equated to divine royalty.
The veneration bestowed upon him was well deserved. No heart burned more brightly with the fire of patriotism or with more intrepid resolve than Hunter’s. It was obvious in the way he fought, aggressively, fearlessly, exposing himself to the enemy’s fire, never regarding his own personal peril. He led by example, his invincible form forever seen where the carnage was greatest, ever ready to risk his own life on behalf of the sacred soil he cherished.
Such was the reputation of the real-life Mosby, who was born on Dec. 6, 1833. A lawyer in Bristol, Va. when the war broke out, he joined the military as soon as the Old Dominion left the Union. Transferring from the infantry to the cavalry, he was just 29 years old when first detached by General J.E.B. Stuart to operate behind enemy lines in 1862. Given the opportunity, he soon proved that a small number of men could launch surprise attacks by day or night with devastating impact—not only weakening the morale of the enemy invader, but using the weapon of fear to maximize their impact.
In fact, Mosby returned from one of his first expeditions with the following prisoners: one Union general, two captains, 30 privates and 58 horses. He accomplished this feat with only 29 men, riding into a well-fortified, Federally-occupied town and taking the prisoners without losing a man—or firing a shot. Needless to say, capturing a Union general within a few miles of Washington, D.C., was a feat unparalleled in the war and one that required exceptional daring and risk. He became known as “the Gray Ghost” by fearful federal forces, and his raids became the stuff of legend.
Mosby continued his operations and retained his “independent” command status throughout the war. This meant he was not attached to the regular army, had no formal headquarters, and his men could keep any “loot” captured from the enemy. I used the same type of independent command concept for Colonel Alexander Hunter in Noble Cause because of the mystique and romance that surrounded such a unit.
This type of rogue battalion actually dates back to the Revolutionary War, and was used by General Francis Marion—also known as the Swamp Fox—as depicted in the movie “The Patriot.” During the Civil War, it meant that when Mosby’s men were not in active combat, they often slept in the luxury of feather beds instead of in tents. After going on a raid, they would disperse into the countryside, making it impossible for the Union army to find them. Here is another excerpt from Noble Cause describing Hunter’s men:
“Truth be told, these men would not know how to pitch a tent if they were handed one or how to execute a lateral oblique if they were ordered to. Their camp was the saddle, and their homeland was the battlefield. When on a raid or a scout, they packed provisions for a day or three—sometimes solely in their stomachs—and when allowed to rest, reposed under the great canopy of moon and stars, or sun and wind, or rain and snow, whatever the case might be.
When not in the saddle on active duty, this gallant band of men protected themselves by disappearing into the homes of Virginian families equally devoted to the cause of Southern independence. It was on the generosity of these families the cavaliers relied for meals, and as a result, kings were neither better fed nor more reverentially treated.”
Colonel Mosby's numbers rose from a few dozen to almost a thousand by the end of the war. General Robert E. Lee cited this Virginia cavalryman for meritorious service more often than any other Confederate officer during the course of the war.
If you’re wondering what happened to Mosby, he not only survived the war, but served as U.S. Consul to Hong Kong for seven years, from 1878-85. He later accepted a job with the Southern Pacific Railway, during which time he met a boy of about 10 years named George S. Patton Jr. The story is often repeated that the old veteran shared some of the secrets of “guerrilla warfare” with the boy who would one day lead the 3rd U.S. Army into combat in Europe during World War II.
As you can see, I have quite a fascination with Colonel Mosby. If you have a favorite character from history, I hope you’ll share it here!
Excerpt from Noble Cause:
Background: Andrea Monroe is a staunch supporter of the Union, but through a twist of fate, ends up in the home of Confederate officer Alexander Hunter to recuperate from an injury. Though they spar continually about their opposing beliefs, in this chapter, Andrea is beginning to see Hunter in a different light.
Andrea lifted her gaze from a book to stare at the rays of soft sunlight drenching the lawn of Hawthorne in a rich golden blanket. She heard the front door close, then the familiar sound of Hunter’s spurs clanking across the porch. Seemingly unaware of her presence, he leaned one shoulder against the ionic column in front of her, and gazed meditatively over the gorgeous panorama of the valley he owned.
Andrea could not draw her eyes away from the indomitable figure. With one hand wrapped around a cup of coffee, the other stuffed indifferently in his pocket, his image suggested little of the intrepid character she knew so well. Dressed casually, without his officer’s coat, he seemed tranquil and relaxed. Yet his large muscular frame, with his strong, tan forearms and powerfully built legs, showed evidence of his ability to put up a fight.
She lowered her eyes to her book, but unable to concentrate, lifted them once again. He was striking, she mused, irresistibly masculine and, she admitted, very appealing. Tall, broad-shouldered and vigorous, he was the incarnation of force and strength. Yet he possessed the admirable traits of courtesy and refinement. A valiant soldier, he was likewise respected by others as a gracious and gallant gentleman, creating a puzzling veil of mystery that made him all the more intriguing.
Andrea cocked her head and scrutinized him. Most officers dressed flamboyantly. Hunter, on the other hand, always wore a uniform that betrayed nothing but hard usage. She could not help yielding him the tribute of admiration, for he was almost impossible to dislike.
Andrea looked away as her thoughts began to disturb her, and a sigh involuntarily escaped her lips.
“Oh, there you are,” Hunter said, turning around.
He moved toward her with a brilliant smile that lit his stern face, revealing a hidden handsomeness all the more captivating. Placing his cup down on the table opposite her, he took a seat. Andrea detected an uncharacteristic twinkle in his eye and tried to decipher its cause.
Friday, Dec. 9, 8-10 p.m.: Chat on Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_135857949796897&ap=1
As part of my Holiday History Tour that continues the week of Dec. 12, I will be writing about different “Mosby landmarks” I have visited, over at my Life in the Past Lane blog (www.jessicajamesblog.com
). They include a house in which Colonel Mosby had to climb out of the window into a tree in the middle of the night to escape capture. (Yes, the tree is still there too).
On Dec. 16, I’ll be giving away goodies that will include a copy of Noble Cause, a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card, and the e-book “From the Heart: Love Letters and Stories from the Civil War.”
There are numerous ways to enter—and no limit to the number of times you can enter.
- Leave a comment on any of the blogs on my Virtual Tour (including this one!)
- Follow my blog at www.jessicajamesblog.com and/or my main web page www.jessicajamesbooks.com.
- Leave a comment on my blog during the week of Dec. 12.
- LIKE my Facebook Fan Page at www.facebook.com/romantichistoricalfiction.
- Spread the word on Twitter by posting:
Join the Holiday #History Tour! Enter 2 win signed award-winning #CivilWar #fiction RT! http://tinyurl.com/cxy3um #books #contest #Romance
Thanks Jessica for stopping by and hope you read and enjoy Noble Cause as much as I did.