Chapter I

A field of gold whispers gently in the breeze. High stalks of cotton plants sway slightly in the wind, their white bolls of fluff dancing on their thrones. The Cotton Kingdom ruled the Old South, a land of which can only be entered through books or imaginations. Upon the fields of every plantation, King Cotton reigned. It was magical, the Old South, and this story that you are about to read tells the story of the Old South and its fall; a story that is none too pleasant, and yet, sparks emotion in anyone who lives or once lived in what once was the Old South; what once was the Cotton Kingdom; what once was a strong and newly formed country known as the Confederacy...

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The year was 1836. A man by the name of James Andrew Hamilton had just come to America from the country of Ireland due to the blithe, which is known today as the Potato Famine. Caused by an airborne fungus, the potatoes of Ireland were diseased and rotten, no longer edible. James had suffered through enough of the Famine and worked his way to a ticket onto a steamship to America. A hardworking man, James only dreamed of owning his own plantation and to be a prosperous plantation owner.

In 1839, James met a woman from Georgia by the name of Victoria Calvert. Victoria was a rather fine woman and the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, and she instantly attracted James's attention. She had very beautiful brown hair and a sweet, innocent face that James had no choice but to court her. He courted her for a few years, and in 1842, James and Victoria were finally married. By 1842, James had a plantation with around twenty slaves working it, and when Victoria arrived, she made sure that those twenty slaves turned into hundreds of slaves.

Gael was the name of the plantation, named after the woman whom Ireland was named for. James wanted every bit of his plantation to be somewhat Irish, and so, everything was. His horse was named Eachna, which was the Gaelic word for 'horse'. He often referred to the barn as 'Sciobol', which was the Gaelic word for 'barn'. Even his sons and daughters were christened with Irish names. Katie Ellen was the name of the first, though she was known throughout the small town of Chattanooga in Tennessee as Katie Hamilton.

Katie Hamilton was very much like her mother in personality and in looks. She was a very calm, mild-mannered young woman and was respected as a lady in Chattanooga. She had a few beaux, of course, but none of them have proposed yet. Though around Chattanooga, they believed that Katie would soon be betrothed to a man from a nearby plantation named William Fontaine.

The next child in the Hamilton family was Boyd Rodger. Boyd was a rather strong young man and helped out with whatever he could on the plantation, though often, his mother persuaded him that he was doing the job of a field hand. Like his father, Boyd had the flaming red curly hair and striking blue eyes. And like his father, Boyd was a rather tall man. He was courting a young girl nearby named Cathleen Smith, and it was believed that they would also be soon betrothed.

After Boyd came the next Hamilton son named Colum Hugh. Colum, like Boyd, was a tall young man, but would much rather sit in Gael's library and read. This upset James, but pleased Victoria, for she wanted her children to act like the ladies and the gentlemen that they were. James would much rather have a strong working boy; a true Irishman, he'd always say. Colum was studying religion and one day, wished to become a Catholic priest. But for now, he stuck with his studying and courted no belles. This upset the belles of Chattanooga, for Colum was a rather handsome young man with his innocent blue eyes and head full of dark brown hair.

The last of the Hamilton family was Norah Mae. Norah was a very beautiful young girl with a head of brownish-reddish hair and eyes of which matched both her father's and her mother's. Her left eye was a deep color of ocean blue, while her right eye was the sweet-natured color of chocolate brown. This fascinated the boys of the county, and so, Norah had many beaux. But there was only one man that Norah Hamilton had her eye on, and it was a man that she had known her whole life named Wade Johnston.

The year was 1860, possibly around July or August. At this point, Katie was eighteen, Boyd was seventeen, Colum was sixteen, and young Norah was fifteen. Things were changing in America, and differences were finally being noticed for the first time between the Industrial North and the Agricultural South. The North had long since rid itself of slavery, though the South still needed their slaves to work their flourishing plantations. The North had its factories that men, women and children worked in to make their small fortunes, while the South had hundreds of laborers working for free on plantations and the plantation owners making a rather large fortune in a shorter amount of time.

Hostilities existed, and the plans for secession were beginning to form. South Carolina was rather direct about it, and when news came to Chattanooga on December twentieth of that year, South Carolina was no longer part of the Union. Boyd came home riding as fast as he could on his horse and leaped over the fence, his horse kicking up clouds of dust behind him. In his hand, he carried a newspaper, and when James and Victoria heard the horse's hooves come to a halt outside, they knew that something good couldn't have happened.

"Pa! Mother!" cried Boyd's excited voice from outside. James rushed out onto the porch as Boyd finally managed to descend his horse. "Pa! Pa! They've seceded! They've left the Union!"

"Who has, boy?" demanded James, irritated at the thought of Tennessee seceding. Tennessee wanted no hostilities with the Yankees, and secession will only cause these hostilities to grow.

"South Carolina, Pa! They've seceded!" Boyd exclaimed, and he ran inside. "Colum! Colum, you wouldn't believe it!" Victoria stood with a worried expression and her hand over her mouth. With South Carolina seceding, many states would follow, and soon, a war would break out and her husband and sons would have to enlist.

"Do you think there will be a war, Mr. Hamilton? I wouldn't be able to stand it if you and the boys went off to war…"

"Don't you worry your darling little head one bit, Mrs. Hamilton. Tennessee has a smart head on her shoulders and she won't be doing such a foolish thing as seceding from the Union!"

Six months later, Tennessee had seceded from the Union…

Two or three weeks passed the day that South Carolina had seceded, and on January ninth of 1861, Mississippi followed in her footsteps. The following day on January tenth, Florida left the Union, and on January eleventh, Alabama followed in her footsteps. Several days later on January nineteenth, Georgia had seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, and a week later, on January twenty-sixth, Louisiana became the sixth state of the Confederacy. On the rather warm day on the first of February, Texas, which had only been a state in the Union for sixteen years, joined the states in the formation of the Confederacy. A couple of months passed, and on April seventeenth, Virginia joined the Confederacy, and Richmond was made the Confederacy's capitol. A little under a month later, on May sixth, Arkansas joined the south, and two weeks later on the twentieth of May, five months after South Carolina began the chain, North Carolina finally joined her sister states. The final state to secede was Tennessee on a summer day of the eighth of June.

Eleven southern states, twenty-five northern states, and yet, the Confederacy's flag held thirteen stars. Kentucky, though a border state, was considered part of the Confederacy, as well as Missouri, for they both held Confederate governments and the majority if support was towards the Confederacy.

On the twelfth of April in the year of 1861, the Confederate army, led by General P.G.T. Beauregard – a native of Louisiana – bombarded the Union fortress called Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor. At that point, seven of the eleven Confederate states had already left the Union. President Lincoln of the Union had wanted to supply the fort, yet the Confederates had asked Lincoln to instead abandon the fort. And so, when Lincoln sent in supplies anyway, the Confederate army began their attack on the fort. For three days, shells rained upon the fort, destroying the walls and tearing the fort to pieces, and at last, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort.

On the fifteenth of April, Lincoln had called for volunteer troops, and thus, the American Civil War had begun.

Though they did not quite realize it through their arrogance, the Old South was beginning to decline. No more would King Cotton rule his throne on his elegant stalk swaying in the breeze… no longer would the golden fields whisper in the winds… The Cotton Kingdom was beginning to fall.