My Cloud Is Not Like Your Cloud

My friend, Tom Fiske, has a dilemma, and following are a few of his thoughts about it:

In Hebrews 12:1, we find something like this: “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great Tom Fiske cloud of witnesses …” My cloud is different from most people’s. My cloud is a bunch of relatives who want me to write one more book. But I won’t give into them. I hope. They have good reason, which is all due to the genealogy information I turned up over the years.

When I finished General Morgan’s Legacy, I had a feeling there were a few more items I could have put in he book. General John Hunt Morgan was a Confederate officer who was captured by the Yankees in 1863. In the fall of that year, he and his aide, Captain Thomas H. Hines, dug their way out of their Ohio prison and escaped into Kentucky. Hines took Morgan to the home of my great-grandfather Will Pryor via the inn of a man named Pollard. Pollard is the great-grandfather of one of America’s finest writers, Wendell Berry. Using what family lore Wendell had and what lore my family told, plus many historical documents, including a letter from President Lincoln, I was able to put together the story of the Morgan escape.

General John B. Castleman Statue Later, Morgan was killed or murdered on a Tennessee battlefield and Hines escaped. Pryor fled to Canada. Hines joined forces with a fellow Confederate officer, John Breckinridge Castleman. Castleman’s brother was married to Pryor’s daughter. Hines and Castleman, with the help of others (possibly Pryor) set about destroying the supply lines of General U. S. Grant. They burned supply boats in St. Louis and then went to Indiana to sabotage more goods where they met with a man named Vallandigham. Vallandigham was “The Copperhead” and “The Man Without a Country.” He was not a Southerner, but was opposed to Lincoln and the war. What they conspired about is not known. But Vallandigham was a cousin of mine, so he was probably in some kind of trouble.

Hines and Castleman were captured. Castleman promised to leave the country and indeed, went to Europe. Hines was allowed to go to Canada, where he was some kind of a super spy not unlike James Bond. (Both sides spied on each other in Canada.) Finally, the war was over and then President Lincoln was assassinated. Only then did Hines, Pryor, Castleman and Vallandigham feel safe enough to return to their homes and resume their lives.

Clement Laird Vallandigham became a famous lawyer and eight years later accidentally shot Captain Thomas H. Hines at twenty-three (afterwards Chief Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals)himself while demonstrating a gun incident before a jury. Will Pryor was appointed circuit judge and then chief justice of Kentucky’s supreme court. There his friend Thomas Hines joined him. They took turns at being chief justice. John B. Castleman became a community leader and successfully avoided most political jobs. He was a local hero, and to this day there is a statue of him on a horse at the entrance to a great park in Louisville, Kentucky. In my mind it is a thinly disguised memorial to the Confederacy. (I was honored to know his nephew, Judge David R. Castleman, who was another cousin.)

So this group of men, all lawyers and mostly relatives, keep popping up in my mind. I know what they want. But I just do not want to write another book. I am going to hold out as long as I can… but I have this deep admiration for bravery and self-sacrifice that interferes. With any luck at all I will break an arm and by the time my arm becomes usable again, I will have forgotten this cloud of pestering relatives and their story.

2 thoughts on “My Cloud Is Not Like Your Cloud

  1. Wow, All these connections to the past and I can’t find my own Mother!! Due to the fact that I was born as a ” Bastard Child” go figure.

  2. I am a young writer and if you’re not willing to write a book about the TRUTH, I am. I am a close dissident of Thomas Hines and I know more to this story than I’d like to discuss in an open forum. E-mail me back. Maybe we can help each other.

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