Everly Ryan

Historical Romance Author

The Tale of Two Cousins that Inspired Scarlet Widow by Debra Glass

Debra GlassComment
Many good men who passed the spot
Would think of Jobe and the deal he got,
Or cross themselves like nuns.
And say, on nights when the dark clouds toss,
Can you hear the clatter of a runnin' hoss?
Oh, Lawdy!  What's the matter?  But nobody talks.
The clatter stops and the ghost hoss walks.
It's the Yankees teachin' Dee Jobe who's boss.
... At the point of 15 guns.

The story of DeWitt Smith Jobe and his cousin who bore a similar name, DeWitt Smith, inspired the character brothers Witt and Hardin Barksdale in my historical romance, Scarlet Widow.

Jobe, a member of the Coleman Scouts, a band of Confederates who ran messages through enemy lines, was captured by 115th Ohio Calvary near Triune, Tennessee, August 29, 1864. Shortly before being apprehended, Jobe attempted to destroy the message he carried. In order to get him to reveal the information, the Union soldiers bound his hands and neck with a leather strap and choked him, gouged out his eyes and eventually, cut off his tongue. The stalwart Jobe suffered severe beatings and torture before the Federals dragged him behind a horse until he strangled to death. The Yankees left his body  on the side of the road as a grisly example of the fate of captured spies. Dewitt Jobe’s mutilated body was discovered and buried in his family cemetery.
When his cousin, DeWitt Smith, heard of the atrocities Jobe suffered, he went on a killing spree, the details of which are steeped in legend and truth. Smith deserted John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee, vowing to kill every Yankee involved in his cousin’s death.  Legend implicates Smith in the murder of as many as fifty Yankees, but factual accounts attribute him with far fewer.
In a story appearing in the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, Tragic story of Jobe, Smith Seldom Told, by Dan Whittle Staff writer, a descendant of Jobe’s sister, John Moore, states - "Although not documented, because the Coleman Scouts left little if any paper trails, one report we've heard of the angry Dee Smith, lifelong friend and companion to Dewitt Smith Jobe dating back to when they fished in Overall Creek, is that he allegedly took a butcher knife and slit the throats of up to 14 Yankee soldiers sleeping in tents near Tullahoma. My Aunt Mary Floyd confirmed another story, that Dee (Smith) brought two Yankee prisoners to his home here near Smyrna. But his pistols were empty, with no bullets, which the Yankees didn't know. Dee (Smith) reportedly melted some lead and made new bullets. He then took the Yankees out to the road and shot them in the head. And then, he deposited the corpses in a sinkhole. My aunt said that as children, they often played and danced above that old sink hole, hollering down to the dead Yankees. She also confirmed Dee Smith some times left notes pinned to dead Yankee chests, telling why they were killed."
In Scarlet Widow, Hardin Barksdale seeks revenge on the soldiers who murdered his brother Witt.
Hardin flexed his fingers, examining the deep red imprint the wire had left on his palm. It occurred to him that his hand hurt. But that pain was the only thing reminding him that he was alive. Next time, he’d wear gloves. Not to avoid pain but rather to prevent the evidence the wire left behind. No. The pain, he welcomed.
He squatted and rolled the dead Union soldier over onto his back. The watery blue eyes stared, unseeing. Had those eyes gawked at Molly? Hardin looked away from the death stare.
He snorted, trying to dislodge the stench of the man mingled with piss and shit. The first time Hardin had seen a man die and shit himself, he’d been horrified. Had he grown so calloused that he looked upon another human being’s utter loss of life and dignity and feel nothing?
A deep indentation from the wire marred the man’s sunburned throat. His open mouth revealed a swollen, grayish tongue and a head full of rotted teeth. Hardin stared, expecting to feel something.
Remorse? Never.
Satisfaction? Not nearly enough.
When nothing more rose to the surface, Hardin rifled his pockets. Papers. A watch. Money.
This was the second man he’d killed in retaliation for what those bastards had done to Witt. Hardin had expected to feel excitement, at least some thrill of satisfaction at taking another one of them out but he didn’t. Witt was still gone.
And so many of the murdering sons of bitches were still out there. Still laughing about what they’d done. Still crowing about what they’d seen.
The story of Witt’s death had become the stuff of local legend. A spy caught and brutally tortured. He’d been hailed as a Confederate hero for not divulging information and saving his countrymen’s lives. He’d known he would die.
Hardin stood, trying to blot out the memory of finding Witt on the side of Nolensville Road, bloody and beaten beyond recognition—with his eyes gouged from their sockets and his tongue cut out.
Witt had known what would happen to him if he were caught. But Molly’s suffering was something altogether different—and equally painful. Word had gotten around that she’d kept silent no matter what the Yankees had done to her.
Hardin swallowed the bile in his throat. He should have known he couldn’t save Witt, that he should have stayed with Molly to protect her from the disgrace and prying hands meted out by Meshach January and his company of miscreants in blue who called themselves soldiers.
Witt would have wanted it that way. But in some ways, Hardin had known that Molly was far stronger than Witt.
That night, Hardin had made a promise to his dying brother. If it took him the rest of his life, he would see every last one of them dead.

scarletwidow_msr Tough…or tender? If she follows her heart, she won’t have to choose.

Molly has forever lusted for all three Barksdale brothers, but could never choose. Instead, scandal chose for her, and she married the youngest of the three. Then the brothers go to war, and Molly finds herself a grieving widow when her husband is murdered by a merciless band of Union soldiers.

Hardin Barksdale is hell-bent on avenging his brother. Greer Barksdale is honor-bound to protect his home. They both want Molly—and this time, they’re willing to share. The temptation is seductive, the passion sizzling. In harsh, post-war Tennessee, their nightly forbidden trysts wield the power to heal them all—if they can escape the twisted desires of a man bent on seeing all three of them dead.

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The Courageous Woman Who Inspired Margaret Mitchell

Debra GlassComment

9798_122221909265Many of the most compelling Civil War accounts were written by Confederate women. One such author of the trials of Southerners was a woman named Mary Ann Harris Gay (1829 – 1918). Not only was Miss Gay a gifted writer of war stories, but she was also an energetic and effective participant. Her first hand reports detail startling events set against the backdrop of the most turbulent years in American history.

In her book, Life in Dixie During the War, Miss Gay stated, "If I could have, I would have joined the army and fought. But I did all that I could."

Mary Ann Harris Gay was born in Milledgeville, Georgia. in 1829. Her family invested heavily in Confederate bonds, which left them in strained circumstances after the war. Her brother, Tommy Stokes, was killed at the Battle of Franklin, and her mother succumbed to death soon afterward. Left to care for her brother’s widow and his child, Miss Gay did anything she could to survive and make ends meet for her small family.

After the siege of Atlanta, Sherman vowed to “make Georgia howl.” He forced the evacuation of all civilians in Atlanta and then proceeded on his march to the sea. He ordered his troops to burn crops, kill livestock and consume supplies so there’d be nothing left for the war-ravaged Georgians.

When Mary learned about a young mother named Maggie with three little children, who were starving, Mary prepared a pot of mush and some corn bread, then went in search of the family.

Finding them proved more difficult than Mary anticipated. She secured a wagon and wrangled a horse out of the cane brake – a dense thicket – where the Federals had stashed worn-out war horses. After Mary found Maggie and her children at the home of Doctor Holmes, she led the nag, with the mother and children nestled away in the wagon on a long and arduous trip. On the third day of their journey, they reached the depot at Social Circle – a point on the Georgia Railroad behind Federal lines. Here the mother and children boarded a train for Madison where they could stay with relatives.

On her return home, Mary came upon a group of starving women and children. Mary had purchased a few provisions in Social Circle for her own family, but she generously shared enough with them to keep them from starving.

Mary continued to make trips with the homemade wagon and Yankee horse, she’d renamed Johnny Reb, to secure supplies and food for the people in Decatur. On one return trip, Mary and Johnny Reb came very near being captured by Yankees. Upon being stopped by a party of Federals, she waved her bonnet as a flag of truce. When the Yankees inquired as to where she got the horse branded 'U.S.' on each side of his hindquarters, she informed them how she found the horse in the cane brake and they let her pass.

Mary walked miles to exchange the lead bullets she gathered from battlefields for food so she could feed the women and children left destitute by Sherman's troops. She concealed winter clothing in her dining room ceiling and later smuggled it to Granbury’s Confederate troops.

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She published a book, The Pastor’s Story, and pedaled it door to door. According to her biographer, the book was “a hodge-podge of melancholy, girlish poetry and morally uplifting essays” she had collected over the years. The book didn’t escape the satirical pen of Portions of Mark Twain who parodied it in his book, Tom Sawyer.

In spite of Twain’s lampoon, Miss Gay’s book saw eleven printings and provided for her family through the grueling years of Reconstruction.

Miss Gay’s efforts extended far beyond helping her own family, and those in her hometown, however. She worked to raise funds for several projects. A devout Christian, Miss Gay secured funds to build a Baptist church by soliciting friends in parts of the South less devastated by the war. She also spearheaded efforts to raise money for the Alexander H. Stephens Memorial and Library at Crawfordsville.

After the Civil War, the United States government began a massive effort to remove the Federal dead to National Cemeteries. The Union dead at Franklin were moved to the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro. No such efforts were made for the Confederate soldiers and often Southern dead were moved to mass graves like the ones in Perryville and Murfreesboro which bore one marker with several names, but offered the dead no individual graves.

The Confederate dead seemed destined to have no single marked burial plots.

Many corpses washed up during spring storms and flooding. After learning that the graves were in danger of being plowed over, and that many of the wooden head markers were being stolen and used as firewood, John McGavock began work on relocating the bodies to his farm known as Carnton.

Though McGavock did not fight during the Civil War, he’d outfitted a Confederate Unit. A farmer, former slave owner and merchant, John McGavock came from a prominent family. His father, Randal McGavock, who’d served one term as mayor of Nashville in 1824, had ties to Andrew Jackson. Jackson presented a rocking chair to the McGavock family that is one of the several original pieces of furniture one can see when touring the home today.

Many of the wounded who had died in John McGavock’s home when it was used as a Civil War hospital, were already buried on the property. But when McGavock began mass relocation of the fallen, newspapers of the time covered the historic event.

“Graves of the Confederate dead, who fell at Franklin are about to be disturbed by the preparation for the cultivation of the farm on which those graves are situated. The brave men who fought their last fight on that bloody field were from Tennessee and other Southern states. They freely gave their lives in defense of a cause which they regarded as sacred. The remains of the soldiers of the US Army, who fell during the war, are properly being gathered up and placed in National cemeteries. It devolves upon the friends of the Confederate dead by private contributions to remove their bodies to suitable localities and that they may be properly protected from the neglect and exposure which awaits them if permitted to remain on private property. To accomplish so commendable purpose, a central board has been organized, the object of which is to receive all contributions that may be sent them and see that they are properly appropriated to the removal of the remains of the fallen Confederates to the place donated by Colonel John McGavock for a Confederate cemetery.” The article went on to state, “Resolved that the friends of the soldiers who fell at the Battle of Franklin, be requested to organize Local Boards to solicit contributions to aid in the removal of the remains, and report and transmit the same to this Board of Managers.” March 22, 1866, the Daily Union and American in Nashville

“The Franklin Review of the 16th (June, 1866) says: The Confederate dead from the battlefield, and for five miles about Franklin, have been removed and reinterred in the McGavock Cemetery. Number interred is 1486. Head and foot boards are placed to each grave, and very few are unknown. This is very good. If the friends of the Cause will but bestir themselves a durable fence can be secured to enclose the cemetery, and head and foot stones obtained to mark their last resting places.” June 22, 1866, Clarksville Weekly Chronicle

July 7, 1866, the Bolliver Bulletin listed all the dead Tennesseans.

Upon learning about the relocation, which included the body of Mary Gay’s fallen brother, Tommy, Mary traveled to Franklin to find his grave. Though the bodies had been moved, she was appalled to see free range cows trampling the graves in the field near McGavock’s farm.

She resolved to raise money for a fence to protect the graves.

“The Houston Texas Telegraph states that Miss Mary A.H. Gay has obtained $1000 in that city (Houston) to aid in building the iron rail fence around the McGavock Cemetery at Franklin, Tennessee.” February 9, 1867, the Bolliver Bulletin

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She also raised funds for numerous Confederate memorials and helped to organize a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

But it was the book she wrote for Tommy’s son so he might appreciate the father he never knew that garnered her the most success. Life in Dixie During the War recounts her refusal to leave her home when the Yankees camped outside for three months and commandeered her home for Union headquarters. One of the federal officers told her, "I glory in your spunk and am proud of you as my countrywoman."

Forty years after the publication of life in Dixie During the War, author, Margaret Mitchell drew from Miss Gay’s detailed and vivid firsthand accounts as inspiration for the character of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. And though Carrie McGavock has recently gained fame as the Widow of the South, it was through the tireless efforts of John McGavock and Mary Ann Gay that the largest Confederate cemetery was saved.

the road to Tara 70

Mary Ann Harris Gay died, November 6, 1918, shortly before her ninetieth birthday, and was laid to rest in the old section of the Decatur Cemetery next to her mother and her sister.

A tribute to Mary Ann Gay in The DeKalb New Era, December 5, 1918, written by her sister, Missouri Stokes, closes with the sentence, “A suitable epitaph for each would be, ‘She hath done what she could.’”

About the author ~

DEBRA GLASS is the author of over thirty-five books of historical and paranormal romance, non-fiction, and folklore. The recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters Alabama Screenwriter Award, she went on to win the NSAL Empire State Award for excellence in screenwriting. Debra is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Professional Authors’ Network. She is also a member of RWA's Heart of Dixie Chapter and RWA's Southern Magic Chapter. She lives in Alabama with her real life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and a diabolical black cat.

She has penned paranormal and historical romance, including several romances set during the Civil War. Bought and Paid For, Scarlet Widow, Eternal, Rebel Rose, and Gatekeeper feature Civil War settings and characters.