Fear:A Novel of World War I, The one novel you must read about the Great War
Gabriel Chevalier in service during World War I
Much more to come. Not to...moreFear:A Novel of World War I, The one novel you must read about the Great War
Gabriel Chevalier in service during World War I
Much more to come. Not to heighten suspense, this novel is superb. Chevallier holds nothing back in his depiction of war. It is a scathing portrait of indifferent leaders mindful of their reputation but not the fate of their men. Discipline is brutal. Armed Gendarmes on horseback are stationed behind the lines to send men moving to the rear back to the front. Gendarmes who do not fight have the authority to execute soldiers who do not obey. Medals are distributed, but to the commanders safely ensconced in fortified dugouts far in the rear of combat. Those at the front whose actions lead to success are not recognized. Newspapers cover up failures at the front. Civilians accustomed to seeing soldiers home on leave are unaware of the massive deaths at the front unless they have received personal notification of their own loss. This is a bold tale of bitterness and black humor. It is not to be missed. This may be THE WWI novel you've not heard of. It's tone is completely different from All Quiet on the Western Front and Grave's Goodbye to all That. Chevallier spares the reader nothing. Because of that this novel carries with it more power than anything else this reader has encountered written as a result of the Great War.
The Mitcham War of Clarke County, Alabama: A Native Son's Perspective
Harvey H. Jackson III
Mention the Mitcham War of Clarke County to another Alabam...moreThe Mitcham War of Clarke County, Alabama: A Native Son's Perspective
Harvey H. Jackson III
Mention the Mitcham War of Clarke County to another Alabaman, most likely you'll get a blank stare. Mention the Mitcham War in Clarke County and the residents of that County know exactly what you're talking about. You might also be asked "Why do you want to know," or "Which side were your people on?"
Readers of Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin know about the Mitcham War, but that is fiction, although it's classified as Historical Fiction. But readers overwhelmed by the violence in Franklin's novel would be surprised to learn that the war occurred and the violence depicted by Franklin so graphically did occur.
Interestingly enough, Franklin used a number of actual names of persons involved in the events which occurred during 1892-1893. That's something that has stepped on some Clarke County toes, the descendants of poor cotton farmers who lived in Mitcham Beat, and persons purportedly on the side of law and order who stepped over the line, taking lives and laws in their own hands.
Jackson has a unique connection to this history. The sheriff, William Waters Waites of Clarke County was his great grandfather.
This is a unique historical document. It was published by the Grove Hill Democrat in 1988 for the people of Clarke County. For, as Jackson has written, the Mitcham War has divided the County for generations. Jackson wrote the history in collaboration with Joyce White Burrage, a descendant of a Mitcham Beat resident and James A. Cox, the publisher and editor of the Clarke County Democrat. Cox, in particular wanted the story written because the very fact of the war had become a taboo story around which myths and legends had grown up, obscuring the true incidents of an integral part of the County's history.
In 1892 times were especially hard for cotton farmers, although they worked some of the richest land in the state known as the black belt. However, farmers barely managed to provide for their families from year to year. Most farmers went to merchants and got their seed and supplies from merchants who took mortgages out on the farmers' land against the upcoming season's harvest. Typically supplies might be bought on the current futures price of eight cents a pound. By harvest time, the cotton price controlled by the NY market dropped the price to five cents a pound. Some merchants stringently enforced their mortgages, foreclosing on families, driving them from their land.
During this period of time the Farmers' Alliance was formed. It was a populist movement, opposed by the "Bourbon" Democrats. Bourbon? I'm sure they consumed a great deal of it. However, the reference is to the Bourbon French who wanted to undo the results of the French Revolution. The Bourbon Democrats' agenda was to undo the effects of reconstruction following the civil war. Their goal was to invent a "New South" seeking Northern industry and increasing profits. The Democratic Party was rigid, conservative, and sought to disenfranchise black republicans and the white poor.
The Mitcham War ostensibly began when Rafe Bedsole sought a seat in the State House of Representatives. Following a stump speech against his opponent, a Dr. Love, a town physician, Love insisted on giving Rafe something to help his head. Rafe was later found dead on the road. Love disappeared from the county. Although there was no proof, Rafe's supporters suspected he had been poisoned.
Following Rafe's death, The Hell at the Breech Gang was formed, either by Rafe's father Edward, or Edward's nephew Tooch Bedsole. The gang would set things right by striking out at the merchant class. Members provided one another alibis for any crime for which they might be suspected.
Hell at the Breech demanded loyalty oaths to be signed by Mitcham Beat residents. Joseph Anderson refused any involvement. He was ambushed and murdered.
Kirk James, a cotton farmer, received his seed and supplies on credit from merchant Ernest McCorquodale. James claimed he paid McCorquodale on the due date, but that McCorquodale told him he'd already locked the store for the night and he would give him the receipt for his payment the following day. Instead, McCorquodale foreclosed. In court James told McCorquodale he might have his verdict, but he would never enjoy it.
On Christmas night, 1892, McCorquodale and his wife answered a knock at the door. A shotgun blast killed McCorquodale and wounded his wife Elrica.
Kirk James was immediately suspected. However, when James was taken by more than a hundred men from towns surrounding Clarke County, James confessed he had paid his brother Lev James $50.00 to do the job. By this time the town riders were known as the mob by Beat residents. James was shot to pieces by over a hundred men armed with rifles and shotguns.
Lev James was ambushed by four townsmen, including McCorquodale's son, Carlos. Four were enough for Lev James.
The townsmen suspected Tooch Bedsole of being involved in Hell at the Breech. A search was conducted of his house. A young boy found a list of names signed in blood. The mob found Tooch, tied him between two trees and executed him. Bedsole's body was riddled with over 120 shots, with six through the tobacco in his shirt pocket. There were even bullet holes in the bottom of his feet.
Tooch Bedsole, guilty or innocent?
For the merchants, it was justice. No one was ever charged in any of the murders. Two brothers, William and Mack Burke fled to Louisiana and never returned. Jim Jordan, another member of Hell at the Breech returned to Clarke County several years later, asking the Sheriff and Probate Judge if he could return as he had done no wrong doing. He was told yes. Shortly after returning, he was shot from ambush and killed.
In 1894, Pink Pinkerton, a detective hired by the McCorquodale family to find the murderer of the merchant, was shot and killed from ambush after he settled in Clarke County. He should have moved on. But the war was over.
Jackson's book is an enthralling read. It is filled with photographs of participants, locations, genealogies, and maps pinpointing major events during the war. Most convincing is the transcription of an interview with D.C. Matthews recorded in 1976. Matthews was ninety years old when his son persuaded him to tell the story of the Mitcham War.
"And the children of Mitcham Beat were warned if they ever heard the whinny of horses and the squeak of good leather, they had better run and hide."--As told to Harvey Jackson, III by his father, Harvey Jackson, II.
My sincere thanks to Dr. Jackson for allowing a copy be provided to me. I sincerely hope that this book will be reprinted.
For further material on The Mitcham War see: Jackson, Hardy. "The Middle-Class Democracy Victorious: The Mitcham War of Clarke County, Alabama, 1893." Journal of Southern History 57 (August 1991): 453-78.(less)