Monday, February 17, 2014

James Lusk Alcorn’s Role in Secession

     This post is the second in a series correcting historical errors that I have discovered in my work. Divulging the embarrassing finds are, I humbly propose, to my credit because they show that I continue to research and grow as an amateur historian. As my time on this planet wanes, I intend to focus my study on the history of the Southern states from their earliest exploration by Europeans through colonization, the Revolution, the Confederacy, and beyond. Okay, studying the present is pretty convoluted. Yoda was wrong. It’s not the future that’s hard to see because it’s “always in motion.” It’s the present, which is a darn cyclone, but I digress.

Following up on my February 10, 2014 post, the next misspeak I’d like to set right is that regarding James Lusk Alcorn in the introductory “Historical Note” to my novel Wolf Dawson. This historical suspense, replete with romance, mystery, and its touch of the paranormal, is set near the close of Congressional Reconstruction in Mississippi. To give the reader a perspective of the setting, I provided a brief outline of the conditions in post-war Mississippi. I wrote the paragraph below in respect to the 1873 gubernatorial election pitting two Republican candidates against each other, Adelbert Ames, ex-brevet General U.S. Army and Maine native who’d never stepped foot in Mississippi before the war, and Mississippian J. L. Alcorn. In the second full paragraph on “page ix,” I stated:

“J.L. Alcorn, the man Ames defeated, was a Mississippian. He was intimately familiar with Southern politics in general and Mississippi politics in particular. Since the arrival of Federal troops during the war, this man who had passionately supported and voted for secession had accepted reconstruction and urged white Mississippians to embrace the Negro. He warned that otherwise the Negro electorate would fall under the influence of corrupt Republicans.” 

Most of what I say is correct—at least as the record shows—but there is a misrepresentation—that being the implication Alcorn was a zealot on the subject of  secession. James Lusk Alcorn was a Whig, as ardent, according to Hodding Carter (The Angry Scar) as Henry Clay himself. Kentucky-born of hard-working common folk, Alcorn attended one year at Cumberland College, taught school in Jackson, Arkansas, and in 1838, became a member of the Kentucky bar. Between 1839 and 1843 he served as a Livingston County, Kentucky deputy sheriff from where he resigned and served one term as a member of the Kentucky legislature. In 1844, he migrated to Mississippi’s Coahoma County where he practiced law and established a small plantation, dubbed Mound Place, on the Yazoo Pass. In time he became a very wealthy cotton planter with land holdings of 12,000 acres.  

Two years after coming to Mississippi he was elected to the state legislature on the Whig ticket. He was always a Union man and ardent anti-secessionist. On 7 January 1861, a hundred delegates gathered at the capitol building in Jackson to vote on secession. William Barry, a secessionist from Lowndes County, defeated Alcorn to become president of the convention. Barry then appointed a committee of fifteen to draft an ordinance of secession. L. Q. C. Lamar chaired the committee—and he just happened to have brought the draft of a proposed ordinance of secession with him. Judge J. S. Yerger (like Alcorn, a Unionist Whig) proposed approaching the North for concessions [in return for shelving secession] and thereby wait before taking a vote. When the committee voted down Yerger’s proposal, Alcorn proposed waiting until Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana voted to secede, then follow them out. Alcorn’s proposal was also voted down at which point Walter Brooke requested the vote be taken to the people in a referendum to be scheduled for 2 February. This proposal was also voted down, but a proposal to have the people vote on the ordinance as part of the state elections in the fall was floated by some on the committee—a proposal not formally voted down. War intervened and that vote never took place. 

In The Angry Scar, Carter states there were four committee votes against and eleven votes in favor of secession (Lamar’s Ordinance of Secession). The convention approved the committee’s vote and as Coahoma’s representative to the convention, Alcorn, as well as Yerger (Washington County) and Brooke (one of two representatives from Warren County) signed the Ordinance of Secession on 9 January 1861 along with ninety-five other county representatives. Regarding that decision, I quote Alcorn from Hodding Carter’s The Angry Scar:
“I have thought that a different course...should have been adopted and to that end I have labored and spoken,” Alcorn told the convention. “But the die is cast—the Rubicon is crossed—and I enlist in the army that marches to Rome.”  

And he did (join the army, I mean). Actually, his avowed proclamation above is a double entendre. Ultimately, he “served” both armies, to the detriment of the reputed “initial” commitment he made above and to the benefit of both the “Union” and himself once Grant and Sherman started stomping around, first plundering, then burning the state. But I would argue that his “first” loyalty was fomented as a Whig and that his subsequent two-faced double-cross when the going got tough (or the advantages became clear) was such a Whig thing to do. 

But I will grudgingly submit that there was more to Alcorn than greed and self-aggrandizement—even though that “more to” in reference to the State was to his own good—and believe me, he saw it. Vis-à-vis the likes of Adelbert Ames I can bring myself to side with the man. On that, there’s more to come. 

Thanks for reading. 





Monday, February 10, 2014

Historical Mistakes

Sure, there’s been many, but without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. Yes, I speak tongue in cheek. Indeed, one person’s mistake is another’s success (or boon or just good fortune depending where the individual stood on the “mistake” at the time). But that’s not what I’m referring to. I make reference here to my content—specifically historical errors in my books. Some I caught in time, some I didn’t. They can be fixed, of course, with a small effort and a little money since all my books are now at Lightning Source, Smashwords, and Amazon (Kindle). For the former I need only $40.00 to re-upload and the last two platforms require only an expenditure of time.

Research in conjunction with the upcoming sequel to my latest novel Camellia Creek has uncovered several errors in previous works I now feel compelled to correct. Students of history will be quicker to pick up on them than the general reader (no one has pointed anything out to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean folks haven’t noted them). The mistakes are painful to me because I know I was wrong in my assumptions and that resulted in my documenting an incorrect “fact.” The errors appear primarily in the Historical Notes to my novels, but one in Camellia Creek proper has caused me to make an alteration to its sequel, Honor’s Banner. That error is something I can work around, but things would have been a little simpler had I checked rather than assume the obvious was correct. Remember the old adage? “To assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and an “ass” out of “me.” [My marine-corps husband told me that one a lifetime ago. Personally, I don’t believe the navy—that would be an oblique reference to myself—has to take much of an individual effort to make an ass out of a marine since he is so capable on his own.] But, alas, I am talking about me here, am I not? And I messed up.

Except for my misspelling of the name of the freshwater fish bream, a Southern-staple, as brim in The Devil’s Bastard, all my (known) errors deal with the era of the War of Northern Aggression and the tyrannical period that followed, euphemistically called Reconstruction. And, hey, in my defense, that misspelling is not really a “historical” error, and I wrote the name of the darn fish just like it sounds—“brim.” Of course, one might think that in fifty plus years of eating the thing I’d have seen the word in print, which I did after printing up 2,000 copies with an offset printer. That was long ago. The upload to LSI is correct and as disgusted as I was with myself at the time—I’m a Southerner, I really should have known how to spell the name of the fish—I’ve learned to take such embarrassments in stride.

I recently discovered another particularly egregious error in Camellia Creek. In Chapter Twenty-nine my hero, teasing his young wife regarding her belief in ghosts, makes reference to Irwin Russell, who linked the old darkies’ ability to commune with the dead as a gift given the ignorant and childlike.

Born in Mississippi in 1853, Irwin Russell became a renowned author in postbellum days, but though he was alive and kicking at the time of Eli Calhoon’s 1865 reference to him, he would have been only twelve and the work containing Russell’s observation, Christmas in the Quarter, yet to be written. Like the misspelled brim (and believe me, I searched for an alternate spelling) there was no getting around the screw-up short of a revision. Fixed it is, but that doesn’t change the fact there’s probably a hundred copies of Camellia Creek in circulation with that anachronism.

Ah, now space grows short, and I’ve other “mess-ups” to confess. Those I plan to address in upcoming posts. Not only does that afford me the opportunity to acknowledge my mistakes, it will allow me to introduce readers to my work without shoving the books down their throats—part of my non-obtrusive marketing strategy—see my two preceding posts below. It is hoped that, if nothing else, readers will enjoy my take on the history.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be discussing John Lusk Alcorn and his role in secession (“Historical Note,” Wolf Dawson); President Andrew Johnson (“Historical Note,” Camellia Creek); and Kentucky’s economy prior to and during the War (Camellia Creek proper). I’ll also throw in one or two near misses that I did have the good sense to check before I went to print.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Social Media Marketing Part 2

This is my second consecutive post on my most recent social media marketing initiative, and it picks up where my 30 January (2014) post left off.

I started this blog...goodness, it’s been over two years ago now. Rarely do I receive a comment, but I do get visitors—this I know from the stats Blogger provides me.

Shortly after starting my blog, and in keeping with popular social media marketing strategy, I signed up for a Twitter account. For a long time, the account just sat there, primarily because I didn’t know what to do with it. I kept writing my blogs, writing my books—publishing my books and going more and more in debt and occasionally visiting Twitter to look at the tweets. Rarely did I respond to anything because I wasn’t sure I should. But people did follow me—based on my profile, perhaps? Certainly not because I was an engaging individual, but I followed those folks back. I attracted and was attracted to conservative, state rights, tea party folks. Every once in a while a well-meaning Republican/conservative "type" would state how Black folk should abhor the Democratic Party since that was the party of disfranchisement and racism and the KKK, and the Republican Party was the party of freedom. I think to myself, "The bane of our founder’s Republic was the party of freedom?”

Okay, I’ve digressed a little here, but I do have a point. Regardless of how you feel about the Democratic and Republican parties of today, there’s a lot of history between then and what those posts imply, and I do have a basic knowledge of that history and an unfailing prejudice when it comes to the South (I’m pro—and I wonder if those people realize there was a Northern wing to the Democratic Party, which was....) Oh, never mind; that’s not my point. My point is that I comment when I see such. And guess what I have discovered? Anytime I interact: favorite, re-tweet or comment, whether folks agree with me or not, my Blogger stats go up. So, take note you budding internet marketers, there is a definite correlation between participation on one social media platform and its impact on those it’s linked to.

Based on that long, drawn-out “analytical” discovery, I decided even more social media interaction was in order, hence the internet marketing course thru Education 2 Go (Ed2Go) discussed in my last post.

The course covered the five big social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Google+; I have fledgling accounts at all. I have finished the course, but I’ve just started honing my “social media” plan. My intention is to go back through the course notes and flesh out each platform vis-à-vis Loblolly Writer’s House. I’ve started with Google+ (see the sidebar?), and I’ve added reciprocal buttons to several pages on my website. I’m supplementing the bare-bones Ed2Go course with a copy of Jesse Stay’s Google+ Marketing for Dummies. I’m in the process of going through his book page by page building my platform, using what’s relevant and cogitating what I don’t understand. I’ll figure it out; I’m only halfway through the book. Besides, I think I should have read Google+ for Dummies first and learned the mechanics before attempting to master exploitation.

I will follow up with my Google+ progress and eventually the other platforms. So far, I've created some Google+ circles and been placed in circles and joined a handful of communities—I even found one on secession! I’m interacting and seeing activity in my blog stats. Maybe one day I’ll even get a comment. In the meantime, I’m going to continue my base strategy of weaving writing and publishing content as well as history notes into this blog. Hope you’ll be back and thanks for reading.