Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: Jack Hinson's One-Man War

Book Review by Robert A. Waters

Jack Hinson’s One-Man War: A Civil War Sniper
Tom C. McKenney
Pelican Publishing Company, 2009

Here are a few questions relating to the Civil War. Answers are at the bottom of this review. (1) Which state executed the most slaves--New Jersey, Mississippi, or New York? (2) Which states were exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation? (3) Did any freed blacks own slaves?

In 1861, Jack Hinson lived near Dover, Tennessee, in the Land Between the Rivers. He had a farm, slaves, a growing family, and was relatively prosperous. Like many Southerners (Robert E. Lee comes to mind), Hinson opposed secession. After the Civil War broke out, he attempted to remain neutral. One of his sons joined the Confederacy, but Hinson was able to keep the rest of his family on the farm.

Hinson had hunted and fished the land for most of his fifty-seven years. He knew the forests, the game-trails, the out-crops of rocks above the bluffs of the Tennessee River, and he was a crack marksman. However, he had never raised a gun in anger and was known as a peaceable man. In 1862, while the war was raging, Hinson freed his slaves and hired those who wanted to continue working for him (which was all of them).

In the fall of 1862, two of Hinson’s sons were hunting in the woods near their property. A passing Union patrol arrested them. Mistaking the two for bushwhackers, they summarily executed George, 22, and John, 17. Dragging the victims’ bodies behind their horses, the hated Union soldiers circled the Dover courthouse. Then they cut off the heads of both young men and galloped to Jack Hinson’s house. There, in front of Hinson, his wife, children, friends, and former slaves, a soldier stuck the heads on two gate-posts.

After Jack Hinson buried his sons, he paid a local gunsmith to make a super-gun: a .50-caliber rifle that was accurate up to 500 yards. Hinson then became a one-man disaster for the Union army in west Tennessee. His two first “kills” were the Lieutenant who ordered the execution of his sons and the soldier who hung their heads on his fence-posts. Lying in wait among the dense forests in the area or high on the bluffs overlooking the river, Hinson exacted his private revenge. All in all, he killed one hundred Union soldiers, mostly officers.

Jack Hinson’s One-Man War describes the events that led up to the old man becoming a guerilla warrior. Even though his one-man war cost him nearly everything he loved, it was in Hinson’s mind a necessary reckoning.

The book is at once a local history, and a universal story of primal vengeance. It should open the eyes of anyone who wants to know what the Civil War was really all about. McKenney’s research and crisp writing style has brought to life one of those strange yet ultimately sympathetic American characters who will now be long-remembered.

Buy this book and read it.

Answers: (1) According to the website “Before the Needles,” Mississippi executed 13 slaves; New Jersey executed 36 slaves; and New York executed 73 slaves. (2) The following states were exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation: Kentucky; Missouri; Maryland; and Delaware. Washington, D. C. slave-owners were also allowed to keep their slaves. In fact, it is said that the week after the Proclamation, blacks were still being auctioned off behind the White House. (3) In 1830 alone, 3,775 freed blacks owned black slaves. From the mid-1700s to 1860, tens of thousands of blacks owned slaves.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where is Tori?

I’ve completed the manuscript for my new book. It is entitled: Sun Struck: 16 Infamous Murders in the Sunshine State. It will be published in November of this year. Now that I have a break from writing Sun Struck I hope I can go back to posting some original stories on my blog. Many thanks to the readers who stuck with me over these last few hectic months.

On Wednesday afternoon, April 8, 2009, Tori Stafford walked out of existence. Despite a videotape that shows the 8-year-old leaving the campus of Oliver Stephens Middle School in Ontario, Canada with an unknown woman, police have not learned what happened to Tori.

At first, the Oxford Community Police Department seemed reluctant to even believe the schoolgirl had been abducted. It was three days before they issued an Amber-style alert. A week into the investigation, police were still labeling the disappearance a “missing persons” case. “Even the police and Victoria’s parents have said it’s strange because Victoria is not leaving against her will,” explained the Canadian Missing and Exploited Children’s website.

(I don’t think it’s strange at all. I’d suggest the police conduct an experiment. Take an inoffensive-looking woman to a school as it’s letting out--then have her approach children and tell them the child’s mother is ill and the child is needed right away. I venture to say that many, if not most, of the pre-teen children would willingly leave with the stranger.)

After a week of what Tori’s parents termed an ineffective investigation, the Ontario Provincial Police took over the case.

It’s been more than a month now and still no word of the girl. Rumors about biker gangs and family drug problems have been swirling about the parents. Rodney Stafford and Tara McDonald were divorced many years ago. McDonald lives with her boyfriend, James Gorris. No wrong-doing has been substantiated, although investigators still say that “everyone” is still a suspect.

Why was Tori kidnapped?

Did some lonely or disturbed woman take the child? In most such cases, the abductor snatches an infant, not a pre-teen. That scenario doesn’t fit this case.

Why of all the children in the universe did she pick out Tori? Is there something to the rumors? Did some unpaid drug dealer steal the child for revenge or ransom? So far nothing has been released that indicates this to be true.

Did a sexual predator steal the child? Several recent cases have shown that women sometimes sexually molest young girls. But why Tori? She wasn’t randomly abducted off the street or while playing in front of her home. In some way, she seems to have been chosen.

A fog shrouds this case.

And yet there may be hope.

One Canadian case that comes to mind is the Abby Drover abduction. In 1976, the twelve-year-old was held captive in an underground room for six months before escaping. In America, many kidnapping victims have been rescued. Katie Beers, Elizabeth Smart, and Shawn Hornbeck are just a few that come to mind.

Here’s hoping that this case will also come to a quick and satisfactory conclusion.