The Battle of Mansfield

The Red River campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks grinds to a halt when Confederate General Richard Taylor routs Banks’ army at Mansfield, Louisiana.

Gray and Taylor

The Red River campaign, which had begun a month earlier, was an attempt by the Union to invade Confederate Texas from Shreveport, Louisiana. Banks, accompanied by a flotilla on the Red River, would move northwest across the state and rendezvous at Shreveport with a force under General Frederick Steele moving from Little Rock, Arkansas.

The slow-moving Banks approached Mansfield and opted to take a shorter road to Shreveport than one that ran along the Red River. Not only was the road narrow, it was far away from the gun support offered by the Union flotilla on the river. Banks’ troops ran into Taylor’s force and a skirmish erupted. At 4 p.m., Taylor ordered an all-out assault on the Yankees. The Rebels eventually broke the Union lines, sending the Federals in a disorganized retreat. The Yankees fell back three miles before reinforcements stopped the Confederate advance.

Banks suffered 113 men killed, 581 wounded, and 1,541 missing, while Taylor had about 1,500 total casualties. But Banks was now in retreat, and the Red River campaign was failing. Taylor attacked again the next day, but this time Banks’ men held the Confederates at bay. Banks was unnerved, though, and he began to retreat back down the Red River without penetrating into Texas.

Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary)

Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP), also known as Parchman Farm, is a prison farm, the oldest prison, and the only maximum security prison for men in the state of Mississippi.

Begun with four stockades in 1901, the Mississippi Department of Corrections facility was constructed largely by state prisoners. It is located on about 28 square miles (73 km2) in unincorporated Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta region.

It has beds for 4,840 inmates. Inmates work on the prison farm and in manufacturing workshops. It holds male offenders classified at all custody levels—A and B custody (minimum and medium security) and C and D custody (maximum security). It also houses the male death row—all male offenders sentenced to death in Mississippi are held in MSP’s Unit 29—and the state execution chamber.

Female prisoners are not usually assigned to MSP; Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMFC), also the location of the female death row, is the only state prison in Mississippi designated as a place for female prisoners.

CMCF opened in January 1986 with a capacity of 667 prisoners. CMCF was the first prison facility of the Mississippi Department of Corrections outside of the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) in Sunflower County. Upon the opening of CMCF, female prisoners were transferred from MSP to CMCF; previously women were held in MSP Camp 25.

The Louisiana Hayride

Louisiana Hayride was a radio and later television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, that during its heyday from 1948 to 1960 helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American country and western music. Elvis Presley performed on the radio version of the program in 1954 and made his first television appearance on the television version of Louisiana Hayride on March 3, 1955.

While the Opry, the Jubilee and the Hayride all showcased established stars, the Hayride was where talented, but virtual unknowns, were also given exposure to a large audience. Over the years, country music greats such as Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Jimmie Davis, Will Strahan, Slim Whitman, Floyd Cramer, Sonny James, Hank Snow, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Claude King, Jimmy Martin, George Jones, John and The Three Wise Men, Johnny Cash, Frankie Miller, Tex Ritter, Cowboy Jack Hunt & Little Joe Hunt of the Rhythm Ranch Hands, Nat Stuckey, and Lefty Frizzell, among many others, performed on Louisiana Hayride.

By mid-1954, a special 30-minute portion of Louisiana Hayride was being broadcast every Saturday on the AFN Pacific channel of the United Kingdom Scottish Forces Radio Network. On October 16 of that year, Elvis Presley appeared on the radio program. Presley’s performance of his newly released song from Sun Records called “That’s All Right Mama” brought a tepid response, according to former Hayride emcee Frank Page (1925-2013), but soon after Presley was nonetheless signed to a one-year contract for future appearances. The immediate and enormous demand for more of Presley’s new kind of rockabilly music actually resulted in a sharp decline in the popularity of the Louisiana Hayride that until that point had been strictly a country music venue. On March 3, 1955, Presley made his first television appearance on the television version of The Louisiana Hayride, carried by KSLA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Shreveport.

Within a few years, rock and roll had come to dominate the music scene, and on August 27, 1960, Louisiana Hayride ended its primary run

Introduction

Highway 80 is a stretch of road that ran at one time from California all through Georgia and was once part of the early auto trail known as the Dixie Overland Highway.

However, the entire segment west of Dallas, Texas, has been decommissioned in favor of various interstate and state highways. Currently, the highway’s western terminus is on the Dallas–Mesquite, Texas city line. Highway 80’s last stop is Tybee Island, Georgia, just past Savannah.

cropped-us-80-map.gif

My focus will be the stretch from Dallas to the other side of Macon, Georgia.  I will weave a fictional narrative revolving around nine families and many secondary characters going back to when they first came to America. More specifically, when and how they got to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia. In the process the vicissitudes of American history will be the context for the lives, the successes and losses, of the characters in these stories and songs.

Although the stories and songs are based on real events and typical experiences of the people who settled the southern United States, all the characters and stories are fictional.