Long Ride To Paradise

From The Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon: Long Ride to Paradise. Coming in early December, it is the second of the Drunken Irishman Trilogy.

Chapter One

September 1874

The Canal Street Custom House, New Orleans

Allen Kell Edwards had gotten himself into another fine mess.  The politics of the issue smelled like rotten fish.  Neither the Republicans nor the fusion Democrats were on the side of the angels.  There was no truth in politics in 1874.

A warm bed with a warmer body waited for him at home but home was several days’ travel at a saloon named The Drunken Irishman in Trinity, Louisiana.  “Oh, Lucretia, why didn’t you try and stop me?  Instead of stroking your sweet bottom, I’m holed up in the Canal Street Custom House with James Longstreet.” 

Theirs was a diverse group.  Longstreet, the former Confederate general, was the commander of the black militia.  Under his command was James Edwards, Allen Kell’s former slave, now, a member of the New Orleans Metropolitan Police.  They had been charged with defending the lawful Republican governor, William Pitt Kellogg, and his cabinet.  Yes, a fine mess…one he had not asked for.  He had come for a visit, but they had convinced him they needed him. 

What a fine mess!” They, along with Longstreet, the Republican governor and his cabinet, the metropolitan police superintendent and a mixed bag of police and militia were under siege in the Customs House.  

“A siege but at least nobody’s shooting right now.  Everyone seems to be waiting.”  Allen Kell stroked his chin thinking, “At least my quare feeling is quiet.”  Allen Kell seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to trouble, something he called his ‘quare’ feeling.

There had been plenty of shooting earlier in the day.  The battle had raged around Canal Street as Longstreet failed to stop the White League from receiving weapons being unloaded onto the New Orleans docks where they sat.  At his old commander’s request, Allen Kell had stood with the militia as they were attacked…and were routed.  

“I couldn’t lead a starving man to a St. Louis steak”, thought Allen Kell.  

Longstreet had been hit with a spent bullet which had done no damage before being pulled off his horse by members of the White League, some of whom he had probably commanded.   Allen Kell had fought frantically to free his former commander and managed to whisk him away to the custom house.  

The Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, Sidney Badger was not as lucky.  He had been severely injured and there was talk he might lose his leg.

Allen Kell felt rather than saw the shadow falling across him.  Longstreet had cast a large shadow during the days of the Civil War, especially at Gettysburg and the defense of Petersburg.   “Old Pete” had changed little.  His beard was a bit grayer than at Petersburg, and with better vittles, his form had filled out.  

The fact he was working for the Republicans and was a friend of Sam Grant had made him a controversial figure in the nine years following the war.  Allen Kell had heard former Confederates calling Longstreet a scalawag…Allen guessed his present predicament made him one too.

“Sergeant Edwards, it appears you have failed to save my bacon once again,” Longstreet’s eyes twinkled as he said it.

Allen Kell thought he should stand and struggled through his tiredness to find his feet.

“Stay down boy, you don’t need to stand.”

Allen Kell settled and forced a smile, “General, I agree beings we’re holed up here with the entire Republican government,” surrounded, as they were, by the Louisiana State White Militia, waiting on the Federals to show up.  

“Sir, I’m a bit tired of fightin’ on the wrong side of history.”

“Son, you got me here and I’d say we’ll have to die to be on the right side of history.  Old Sam’ll send troops soon enough and these hoodlums ain’t nothing more than a white militia wanting to overthrow the rule of law.  Kellogg has wired Grant, appraising him of the situation.”

Life had not calmed after Allen Kell had returned home.  Political and racial strife erupted immediately as the state and parish governments moved to limit the rights of the newly freed slaves and return to pre-Civil War normalcy. 

Democrats, white and mostly Confederate veterans, clashed with Republicans, mostly black or if white, Northern carpetbaggers or Southern scalawags.  Violence seemed to crescendo before each election.  It had begun back in 1866 with a riot in New Orleans and spilled northward to include the Colfax riot last year.  Colfax was spitting distance from Allen Kell’s home, Edwards Crossroads and Trinity City.

“Riot?  James called it a massacre”, thought Allen Kell.  Fifty colored men, who surrendered to the White League, had been executed and thrown into the Red River according to James. Another hundred had been killed in the riot itself.  His friends, Alexandré and Shailene Dupreé֒ had been smart to leave for Barbados.  He wondered how they were faring under British control.

“General, how’s Badger?”  The Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, Algernon Sidney Badger had been nearly crushed when his dead horse fell on him.

“Touch and go but I believe Superintendent Badger will recover from his physical wounds if he can recover from the shock of losing his leg…I’m not sure either of us will recover our good names.  Well, I will leave you to your ruminations.  I thank you for your efforts.”

“Wait, General.” Allen Kell stood, “General, I’d like to shake your hand if I might.  Our war was a bloody waste but if I had to serve, I’m glad I had a chance to serve under you.”  Longstreet nodded his thanks, shook Allen Kell’s hand, and saluted him.  Smartly Allen Kell returned it.   Watching Longstreet march off, it would be the last time he would speak with “Old Pete.”

When published, Long Ride to Paradise, along with Don Miller’s other books will be available at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR09QzUebNCSmqTEoOnCRjpbQ4FuMoyAcB3cBnUPsmVqQIdAV3GlPMeqhw4

SOUTH FROM SUTHERLAND’S STATION

Excerpt from Don Miller’s soon to be released historical novel, South From Sutherland’s Station.

As he traveled down the Ohio to the Mississippi, the side-wheeler made stops along the way: Cincinnati, Memphis, Greenville, Vicksburg, Natchez, and finally New Orleans.  Over and over, it loaded and unloaded cargo, livestock, and people.  Vicksburg, Tennessee, and the flanking Delta, Louisiana, were the worst.  Despite having been out of the fight for nearly two years, the people who met them on the wharves still bore scars from the war.  Few young men met them, just older men, colored and white, stooped from both age and abuse.  Underweight and hollow-eyed children begged and faded Southern Belles twirled their parasols, all dreaming of a time now past.  Any joy of being near his home soil was offset by the gloom covering the landscape like the thick fogs off the river.

The easiest way home would be to disembark at Vicksburg, cross the river to Delta and then catch a stage overland the seventy miles to Edwards’ Crossroads.  Going on to New Orleans meant having to catch a riverboat traveling back up to the Red River and onto the Ouachita but his promise to Wyatt ate at him worse than a case of the quickstep.  Allen Kell knew if he did not make the trip to Wyatt’s mother and sister, his promise would continue to gnaw at him.  Maybe he could find some work to get enough money to get home.  Anytime offered work to load or unload the side-wheeler, he had volunteered.  Despite his efforts, he had less than five dollars of army script in his pocket.

Allen Kell sat on the barge and brooded.  He wanted to be happy the war was over.  Memories of the killing and disease seemed to sap his resolve.  He was empty inside, a shell.  Allen Kell knew but refused to admit, he missed the killing.  He had been most alive making the charges against Federal lines, looking down barrels of death pointed in his direction.  The vicious hand to hand fighting sent adrenaline pulsing through his body, leaving him spent and at peace when it was over.  Allen Kell’s ruminations were interrupted as the side-wheeler’s steam whistle went off.  Moments later, just around the next bend, the New Orleans’s wharves came into view.

Allen Kell agreed to trade more labor for meals, a piece of deck to sleep on and passage back to Vicksburg later in the week.  He would end up with more army script to go with what he had.  After spending part of his script on some new clothes-a union suit, one pair of tough canvas pants, two shirts, one flannel for work and a muslin to visit Wyatt’s family in-Allen Kell went to the community baths to bathe and shave.  He kept the officer’s slouch hat he had picked up off the battlefield at Gettysburg, the red Garibaldi shirt he had been issued in Baton Rouge, his braces and his boots, and trashed the rest.  When he looked at his reflection while shaving, Allen Kell was shocked at the gauntness of his face and realized he had the same hollow-eyed stare he had noticed on the faces of the people of Vicksburg.  It had been the first time he had seen his face in over a year.

South From Sutherland’s Station is a novel of the chaotic days following the Civil War and ex-Confederate soldier, Allen Kell Edwards.  It will be available for purchase in early December.  Until then you may go to Don Miller’s author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501

 

DONALD TRUMP RACIST? STILL NOT THE PROBLEM

I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said, “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.

I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.

Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”

Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. He is just the enabler.  The Alt-Right was there all along, they have simply embraced President Trump.  The League of the South or people like them have been there all along and they too have embraced him. Fear bred hatred of people not like us, has been there all along, President Trump’s campaign message just allowed it to uncover the litter box.

Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own litter boxes (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

Blog Picture from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/unite-rally-virginia-sparks-counterprotests-state-emergency/story?id=49176243

More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings may be accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

A QUIET, LITTLE PARK

I have childhood memories of gazing across the main street at the granite soldier standing guard inside the Confederate Park in the small town of Fort Mill. I was probably standing in line for a Saturday matinee at the Center Theater. That would be my guess. Some shaggy dog movie or maybe an oater starring Rory Calhoun or the like. I stood in line pondering the Confederate Soldier perched upon his stand gazing off to…where? Another time? “Good times they are not forgotten….”

The park seemed to be a quiet and serious, an almost religious place despite the Parrott Rifle and mortar guarding the four memorials located within; the Confederate Soldier erected in 1891, two tributes erected in 1895 memorializing sacrifices by loyal slaves and women, and finally, in 1900, a memorial to the Catawba Indians who served with the Confederacy. There is a bandstand, a place to sit and have lunch, contemplating whatever adults must contemplate. The little boy me knew nothing of this, he simply wondered why the granite figure seemed to be so lonely.

Confederate memorials don’t seem to be very quiet or religious these days. Arguments have erupted, again, over the removal of Confederate memorials and the Confederacy’s sacred cloth, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia. Virginia, Louisiana and locally, my adopted home, Greenville, South Carolina have been focal points. I vacillate on my position. I don’t believe the removal of such monuments erases the history but I wonder how much both sides are trying to change history to fit their cognitive dissonance.

My problem is with the view of my heritage. My issue is with the heritage we Southerners are so proud of. The heritage we are determined to protect…or even invent. Tributes to brave men, our forefathers, dressed in gray and butternut, charging through the smoke, braving musket fire and grapeshot. Brave men on the wrong side of history. Outnumbered but valiant, dying, their blood staining the sacred ground of “Dixieland” …despite their Lost Cause. Defending the land of their birth, their way of life, their rights. Bravely giving their lives in a struggle reminiscent of Ivanhoe at his best.

It is the other side of our heritage I ponder. The heritage we attempt to, if not ignore, deflect from. We protest that the war was about Northern aggression and invasion, state’s rights, defending our homeland from an overreaching federal government and its unfair taxation through tariffs. This is my problem. Politicians, Southern Heritage groups and revisionist are quick to deflect, it’s Heritage Not Hate. My problem is the question I ask, “Where do African-Americans, their forefathers shackled in chains, where does their heritage fit?”

Maybe we should just add a fifth memorial to those already found in the quiet little park near the home of my distant youth. A marble testament to those who suffered under our heritage. We are quick to point out “it is time to move on,” that no one alive has picked cotton as a slave or owned slaves or a half dozen other excuses. In a way, I agree…but not until we take our own advice.

Don Miller writes “about things that bother him so” and things that don’t bother him at all. Should you desire, you may connect with him at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP