69th Infantry Regiment

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Many Irish and Scottish immigrants served in the Union Army during America’s Civil War. These soldiers proved themselves during every major campaign from the onset of the conflict in 1861 to the final surrender at Appomattox in 1865, but now faced a new enemy on the country’s western frontier. Their adversaries wore neither Yankee blue nor Confederate grey; they were the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho and the Apache.

Of the many immigrant units formed during the war,the most prominent was the 69th Infantry Regiment, one of five regiments comprising the Irish Brigade that fought for the Union. Renown for its courage and tenacity, it was always at the forefront of campaigns against the Confederacy suffering huge losses over the course of the war.

The number of dead and wounded led many to believe that Irish immigrants were being used as “cannon fodder.” Spearheading the Army of the Potomac’s advances resulted in casualties disproportionate to the rest of the service. By 1863 riots broke out in New York over new conscription laws that required the working-class to replenish the ranks. Irish immigrants felt that they were being forced to fight the “rich man’s war.” Federal troops would eventually be called in to quell the riots. However, while individual Irishmen would continue to serve, organized Irish participation on behalf of the Union effectively ended.

Those not killed, maimed, or ushered out of the Union Army at war’s end found themselves garrisoned in places like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They formed the backbone of the troops tasked with subduing the Southern Plains Indians.

Sergeant Major [Timothy] O’Shannon was a big man and a stereotypical Irishman if ever there was one. He could be gruff if the situation required, invoking “Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” as the circumstances dictated, but he was also fair and genuinely caring when it came to the men. He was the counterpoint to [Colonel Ranald] Mackenzie’s demanding and uncompromising leadership style. The Sergeant Major had served with the Sixty-Ninth Regiment, the Irish Brigade, during the war and had seen action  at the Battle of First Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. As a result he and Mackenzie shared a mutual respect for one another that only survivors of the carnage they had witnessed over the course of the war could possibly forge or understand. This respect even ignored what should have been a natural impediment to working well together… O’Shannon’s Irish and Mackenzie’s Scottish heritage. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Texas Reads

My novel has been featured in the Texas Reads section of this week’s edition of Lone Star Literary Life, (Sunday, March 11th.)

Historical fiction: San Antonio author Max L. Knight covers a lot of colorful historical western characters and events in his novel, Palo Duro (Page Publishing, $16.50 paperback).

 Among them: Quanah Parker, Charles Goodnight, Billy Dixon, Ranald Mackenzie,  Geronimo, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and John Wesley Hardin.

“The characters that populate my book,” Knight writes, “are a composite of both real people and the products of my imagination… The dialogue, with very few exceptions, is strictly fictional but captures the essence of the events portrayed and the people involved.”

 “I’ve tried to portray the savage nature of the conflict between the Southern Plains Indians and white settlers, buffalo hunters, merchants and soldiers as evenly as possible without bias to either side, and I’ve tried to portray the difference between the lawman and the lawless as a fine line that was often crossed.”

 Readers of historical fiction will find much to savor in Knight’s novel.

For anyone unfamiliar with the online publication, Lone Star Literary Life is the best source of information for all things literary in the State of Texas. Its stated mission is “to connect Texas books and writers with those who want to discover them,” and they’ve certainly done this for me!

Each edition includes write-ups on authors and new book releases, bestseller lists, literary destinations and events including festivals, author appearances, readings and book signings, upcoming blog tours, biographies, author insights, news briefs, classified listings and so much more.

To read their full issue each week, be sure to check out their website.


Some Thoughts on Writing

To be an author is to be a public person. Anyone that communicates their thoughts, emotions, and ideas in story form invites others to share in the experience. The writing process, however, is not participatory. It is accomplished alone.

Eventually every author deals with agents, editors, publishing coordinators, interior formatting and cover design specialists. But from its inception to its completion, the writer works independently to develop a concept.

Every such undertaking requires passion, commitment and perseverance. The initial effort is almost always flawed. Revision after revision is necessary. Drafts are modified and discarded. Sometimes  projects are put aside completely to allow further reflection before their resumption, or everything written to that point may be scrapped in favor of a fresh start. At some point, however, the writer must decide that is finished, that it is acceptable. Completion doesn’t necessarily equate to total satisfaction. Ideally the writer is never completely satisfied. Rather, completion simply means that he or she has reached an emotional point at which they’re willing to put the book and themselves out there subject to criticism and possible rejection. Every author understands and accepts that not everyone is going to appreciate or relate to what they’ve written.

There is certainly a sense of personal accomplishment when a work is published, but to be successful commercially the book must also speak to a broad audience. If an author has an established following it is a beginning. However, it is just that… a beginning. It isn’t enough to add another title to the hundreds of others being released to the public at any given moment. It needs to be marketed through book tours, readings, signings, festivals and social media to expand access and readership.

I have written two books to date; Silver Taps, a memoir, and Palo Duroa novel of the Plains Indian Wars. The former was written and published for my children and grandchildren. There was no thought to further distribution. It was they who convinced me to share it and I’m glad they did. The positive reaction to the book encouraged me to continue writing. My novel dealt with western expansion. The genre, historical fiction, is my personal favorite. All future endeavors on my part will continue to focus on this literary category.

Speaking of future publications, I’ve been asked when my next book is due for release. Tarnished Brass, which I started writing in March 2015, is finished (for subject matter see my blog post “The Roots of Evil,” February 8, 2018.)  However, there is much yet to do to obtain a book deal or even self-publish. My goal is to have it available online and at retail stores sometime later this year.

Until then I’ll be involved with sending out copies and proposals to agents and publishers while also continuing to promote my first two books, working on my next novel, and drafting new weekly blog entries. I encourage readers to submit comments or feedback to my site at WordPress.com so that my entries each week reflect your interests.

Thanks for your continued support.


Another Mass Shooting


The deaths of seventeen people at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day has again ignited debate in this country over what, if anything, can be done to end or at least impact the number of mass shootings in the United States. The debate focuses on the Constitutional right to bear arms guaranteed in the 2nd Amendment, the power of the National Rifle Association, what constitutes reasonable gun control measures, the need to address mental health issues and access to guns by the mentally challenged, and how to improve communications between law enforcement and social service organizations that may have prior knowledge of attack planning or indications that someone might carry out such an attack.

In the aftermath of this latest mass shooting social media is once again abuzz with prayers from the faithful for healing, comfort, and peace for the victims and their families. These are followed by dismissal of those prayers as ineffective or a waste of time by secularists. There are similar camps and arguments over access to military assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks and their ownership by ordinary citizens, with both sides of the divide ensconced in their positions. There are calls for Congress to arbitrate the discord and act, not along Party lines, but in response to the public outrage that demands that something be done. Sadly we have seen this all before and are very likely to go down this road again, again, and again.

Perhaps we’ll witness a different outcome this time. The teenage survivors of this shooting are determined to make this tragedy a turning point in the debate. A March for Our Lives demonstration is scheduled for March 24th in Washington, D.C.

There is, however, another factor that underlies the cyclical nature of these mass shootings and our response to them. I wrote about it previously in this blog (April 18, 2017) in the context of my reaction to the death of my father, but I believe it to be applicable to this discourse.

Though any loss is tragic, my feelings and reactions are directly proportional to how well I knew the deceased. I do not feel the same in the presence of strangers nor, I believe does anyone; we distance ourselves. We may be horrified by the brutality or enormity of it in case of wars or natural disasters [or mass shootings], we may empathize and find it sad that he or she is no longer with us, but we immunize ourselves and continue on without much further thought or reaction. – Excerpt from Silver Taps.

We must force ourselves to get past this human tendency. We need to identify with the parent who lost a child, to the sibling who lost a brother or sister, to the relative who lost a family member, to the teacher who lost a student or colleague, to the individual who lost a close friend. Their pain and anguish over these sudden deaths must become our pain and anguish. We must put ourselves in the mindset that this might have happened to me or someone I love. Otherwise our defense mechanisms will keep us from being invested over any length of time and once again  we’ll move on… until the next mass shooting.


The Roots of Evil

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To date I have used this forum to promote discussion of my books Silver Taps and Palo Duro. However, a blog should also serve to engage readers’ interest in upcoming publications. Later this year I hope to release my next book, Tarnished Brass, which looks at America’s involvement in the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992, and the aftermath of that conflict to include the origins of the violent street gang MS-13.

The timeliness of this upcoming release coincides with recent news coverage and comments by the President and the U.S. Attorney General highlighting the growing threat posed by this organization.

Mostly made up of Salvadoran nationals who illegally entered the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California, MS-13 engages in a broad range of criminal activity characterized by extreme violence toward rival street gangs and those caught in the crossfire. The savagery of their attacks is the principal reason the organization has become the focus of Justice Department efforts to incarcerate or deport its members.

The gang’s mobility within the United States has resulted in increased violence not only in Los Angeles, but in the southeastern, central, and northeastern sectors of our country. Additionally, El Salvador remains one of the most dangerous places in all of Central America with the violence that characterized a war ravaged nation supplanted and exceeded by the violence perpetrated by MS-13 gang members.

Cowboys and Cattle Drives

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Today’s San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo parade featured 125 longhorn cattle. It celebrated a tradition of moving large herds of this special breed from Texas to markets in Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana where the post-Civil War demand for meat to feed a hungry nation brought higher prices.

The trek was both arduous and dangerous, and required special skills to both protect and control the cattle along the way. This new methodology gave birth to the cowboy; men who were willing to forgo sleep to keep the cattle moving, faced threats from Mother Nature, Indians, and cattle rustlers, and endured long stretches of isolation with few comforts and infrequent interaction with anyone other than their fellow trail riders.

The cowboys worked sun-up to sun-down throughout a cattle drive, doing so in shifts to allow both rest and time to eat. The herds were especially vulnerable at night and had to be guarded lest any occurrence like lightning and thunder, animal predators, sudden movement or strange sounds caused them to stampede. To keep them calm during the hours of  darkness cowboys took to singing. Not every man had to have a “soothing voice,” but all had to know how to sit a horse, handle a rope, set a brand to the hide without burning the animals flesh, saw off horns when they got too long and posed a danger to other livestock, administer medicine when infection or disease threatened the herd, and shoot with a rifle or revolver to fight off Indians and rustlers. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

The cowboy legacy lives on in rodeos, movies, television, books, and at active cattle ranches across the West. While there are only a few longhorn cattle remaining (a symbol of a bygone era,) for its part Texas remains the largest cattle raising state in the nation, still providing beef for both domestic and international consumption.

Lone Star Literary Life


Palo Duro by Max L. Knight

I wanted to give one final shout out to Lone Star Literary Life (LSLL) for their recent sponsorship of my blog tour. They are truly an asset to Texas authors and I’m most appreciative of their efforts on my behalf.

I also wanted to thank all of you who participated in the Giveaway. There was an overwhelming response (almost 800 entries)! Congratulations to the winners – Stella M. of Paltaka, Florida, Amanda S. of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and Amy D. of Franklin, Pennsylvania. Though LSLL focuses on writers and stories from the great state of Texas, it’s obvious that their literary reach each extends well beyond its borders!

Prizes will be mailed later this week. Enjoy the book.