Sunday, July 28, 2013

'Gallant Creoles' an impressive tome on little-known Civil War unit

            UL Press has just released a massive tome on the Donaldsonville Canonniers, a militia company comprised of Creoles and Cajuns citizens-soldiers that organized in Ascension Parish before the Civil War.
            “Gallant Creoles: A History of the Donaldsonville Canonniers” by Michael Marshall relates the early history of the group but focuses primarily on their role in the Civil War when they were known as the Donaldsonville Artillery, one of the conflict’s most active units. They served as part of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and participating in many important battles, including Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredricksburg and Gettysburg.
            Following the Civil War, the Canonniers reorganized in 1875 for federal service and served in the Spanish-American War before disbanding in 1898.
            In addition to detailed information about the unit — much of what has never been published before — the book includes detailed biographies on members, which will thrill Louisiana genealogists.
            Marshall is retired from the New Orleans Police Department and is a former history high school teacher and Marine. His ancestors served in the Canonniers. When he realized little was written on the unit, Marshall spent 27 years compiling information for this book. The result is impressive.
            “My ambition with this book is that the veterans of the Canonniers de Donaldson will no longer be forgotten,” he writes in the preface.           

More on the Civil War
            If you’re a Civil War buff or just want to catch up on Sesquicentennial
fever, National Geographic has a wonderful book that’s as much fascinating facts about American history as it is about the war. “Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War” includes 132 untold personal stories and Civil War tales by James Robertson, the great-grandson of a survivor of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. He’s an award-winning Civil War historian and executive director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.
            Robertson’s book offers insights into many unique aspects of the war, such as the dogs who accompanied soldiers, how the mail got through, what soldiers ate and drank and the unusual truce among Masons in St. Francisville, where today Union and Confederates are buried next to one another. Fascinating people include almost 7-foot soldier from Indiana, Confederate spy Belle Boyd, the “Siren of the Shenandoah” and Albert D.J. Cashier, who fought with the 95th Illinois but turned out to be a woman. There’s even a chamber pot used by New Orleans citizens with Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler’s photo at the bottom. 
            Also, the Smithsonian will publish a 384-page hardback “Smithsonian Civil War” that takes readers inside the museum storerooms and vaults to learn the untold stories behind the Smithsonian’s most significant pieces, including many previously unseen relics and artifacts. The book, which will be released in late September, contains more than 500 photographs and text from 49 curators. For those who preorder the book directly from Smithsonian, there is a bonus Q&A section with eight Smithsonian curators and historians. The experts cover all topics of the war including the personal stories and accounts from many perspectives. Visit

            The long list for the 2013 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize has been announced and two of the authors will be participating in this year’s Louisiana Book Festival Nov. 2 in Baton Rouge. They are Kent Wascom, author of “The Blood of Heaven" (Grove Press) and Rita Leganski, author of “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” (Harper Paperbacks). The short list will be announced in late August. 
            Anne Rice is one of the winners of the 2013 International Thrillers Awards, sponsored by International Thriller Writers. Rice won the Thrillermaster Award and  joined winners Brian Freeman for hardback novel “Spilled Blood;”
Sean Doolittle for paperback original “Lake Country;” Matthew Quirk for first novel “The 500;” C.J. Lyons for ebook original novel “Blind Faith;” Dan Krokos for YA novel “False Memory;” John Rector for his short story “Lost Things” and Steve Berry, who won the Silver Bullet Award.

            The Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival’s 4th Annual Poetry Contest is open for submissions from now until Aug 15. The judge is Robert Pinsky, the only poet to have been named three times the United States Poet Laureate. This contest is for writers who have yet to publish a book of poetry. The top ten finalists will receive a panel pass ($75 value) to attend next year’s festival in March, and their names will be published on The winner will be announced by Jan. 15, 2014. For more information, visit

Movie adaptations
            The story that inspired the movie, “The Butler,” will hit bookshelves Tuesday. “The Butler” by Will Haygood looks at the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who served presidents and witnessed milestones of history. Kirkus Reviews calls the book “poignant and powerful.” The film version was shot in Louisiana. Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s novels will be thrilled to learn that “Outlander” is being adapted for Starz network and Jamie Fraser has been cast for the lead.

Mark your calendar
            The Fall Book Sale by the Friends of the Lafayette Public Library will be Sept. 11 through 14 at the Heymann Performing Arts Center, 1373 S. College Road. The sale opens with a members-only preview sale on Sept. 11, followed by a three-day public sale. Book donations are being accepted at the warehouse at 211 Pinhook Road. To become a Friends member, find out drop-off hours and learn more about the fall sale, visit

Book events
            The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. The speaker will be Dr. Philip Levin, president of the Gulf Coast Writers Association in Gulfport, Miss. Levin is the author of “Inheritance,” “Stories from Our Past” and “Doctor’s Dreams.” He is also a physician with 30 years experience in the emergency room and a photographer. He has also coauthored a children’s book, “Ndovu the Elephant – An African Tale.” The meeting is open to the public.             
            Erica Spindler signs her latest thriller, “Justice for Sara,” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble Mandeville. For information, visit
            Summer Voices Seasonal Reading Series continues with former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque reading from his new collection of poetry, “Megan's Guitar andOther Poems from Acadie,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Carpe Diem! Gelato & Espresso Bar, 812 Jefferson St. in Lafayette. The event is free and the public is invited.
            Sue Schleifer, author of “The Key to the Castle: Zen and Travel Stories of Trust,” will read from and sign her books from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Joie de Vivre Café in Breaux Bridge. She will be joining her husband, Mark DeWitt, author of “Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California.”
            Chuck Hustmyre will be signing copies of “The Axman of New Orleans” from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the French Market shop A Tisket A Tasket, 910 Decatur St. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Garden District Book Shop in the Rink at 2727 Prytania St., both in New Orleans. On Sunday, Aug. 4, he will read from the book at the literary reading series in the patio of the Maple Leaf Bar, 8316 Oak St. in New Orleans.
            The Gulf Coast Writers Association present writing coach Kelly L. Stone leading the workshop “Free Your Creative Mind: Tips and Techniques for Using the power of Your Subconscious Mind” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pass Christian Library, 111 Hiern Ave., Pass Christian, Miss. Stone is an author whose work has appeared in Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, Cat Fancy, The Toastmaster, and Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort anthologies. She has published four books, including a literary women’s fiction novel and the “Time to Write” series for aspiring authors. No reservations are required for this workshop and it’s free. 

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and the upcoming “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

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