Route 66, Buried Truths, Copyboy; the saga of two failures continues, newsletter, July 27, 2018

July 30, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, Civil War, journalism, newsletter.

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,251) on July 27, 2018


The summer is fully upon us here in East Tennessee — heat, humidity, and tomatoes. We always plant far more tomato plants than we need, and we are always surprised, with a bit of mock-horror thrown in, at how many of them we get. So it is again this year. Picking the tomatoes is hard and hot work, but nothing tastes like a home-grown tomato.

This week’s newsletter, as promised, picks up the story of Cump Sherman (William Tecumseh) and Sam Grant (Ulysses S.). Also as promised, a bit about the Mother Road, Route 66 and how little it had to do with the early 1960s television show.

I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to a great weekend.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


Route 66: the road and the television show

Our recent trek to the West took us along the old Route 66, nicknamed the Mother Road for its role in getting people to a new life during the Depression and giving people the pleasure of a road trip in the two decades after that. All along Interstate 40 — some of which was built literally on top of the old Route 66 in the 1960s — are signs declaring that this was the location of the famous highway.

In Elk City, Oklahoma, we stopped at the self-declared National Route 66 Museum and spent a pleasant hour viewing the exhibits and pictures of old gas pumps, trailers and campers of the bygone days, and even some Cadillacs and Hawks.

In Tucumcari, New Mexico, we left the Interstate for a few miles and actually drove along the old Route 66. There we could see the declining hulks of motels and gas stations that once served the thousands of motorists who traveled the road west toward California and east toward the highway’s origin in Chicago.

All of that got me to thinking about how I know anything about “Route 66,” a road I had never been on but a phrase I had heard for most of my life. One way was the song, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, by Bobby Troup, written in 1946 and destined to become a standard of the Rhythm and Blues genre and recorded by many artists such as Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby along with the Andrews Sisters.

My other source of impressions about Route 66 was the television series Route 66, which ran for four seasons from 1960 to 1964. It originally starred Martin Milner and George Maharis (Meharis was later replaced by Glenn Corbett when Meharis fell ill). The show was created by Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant, and ran for 116 episodes. You can find some of those episodes on YouTube, and they are still very watchable.

But doing the research on the television series, I found some interesting and odd items:

  • Route 66, the television series, didn’t have much to do with Route 66, the highway. The episodes of Route 66 were shot in 25 different states and Canada, and the highway itself was only referred to in three of the early shows. The producers did not think that the scenery around Route 66 provided a good backdrop for the television series.
  • The song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 was not the theme song of the show. The producer did not want to pay Bobby Troup royalties for the use of his song. The series had an original theme written by Nelson Riddle. It was one of the first television theme songs to make Billboard top 30, and it was nominated for two Grammy awards in 1962.
  • Route 66 was a spinoff of the hit show Naked City and the concept of two young men traveling around finding themselves was piloted as a Naked City episode. The original title that the producers had in mind was The Searchers.
  • The episode scheduled to air November 29, 1963, was titled “I’m Here to Kill a King” and was about a potential assassin and filmed at Niagara Falls. It was pulled because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a week before (November 22, 1963) and was never seen until the show went into syndication.

A lot of insider stuff about the show can be found in this interview with George Meharis by Ron Warnick of the website

Note: This is the first of an occasional series I am doing on The Great American Road.

Photo above: The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.


Buried Truths podcast: a very American story, unfortunately

If you were an African-American in the 1940s and you wanted to participate in state and local politics, rural Georgia was not a kind or forgiving place. In fact, it could be very dangerous.

That’s the story told by Hank Klibanoff, a journalist and now faculty member at Emory University in Atlanta, in the Buried Truths podcast series, which you can find on the National Public Radio website. At that time, Georgia was solidly Democratic, and the Democratic Party primary election was what you needed to win if you wanted to be governor or any other statewide elected officer.

Black people were specifically barred from voting in the primary until the Supreme Court held that such a system was unconstitutional. When the next election was held, a few blacks in some of the rural counties of south Georgia decided to exercise their rights. Isiah Nixon was murdered because of his decision. Dover Carter, head of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was beaten nearly senseless as the local sheriff drove by.

That, fortunately, was not the end of the story.

These podcasts are extremely well-produced and compelling. There are six episodes, plus two bonus features. Once you start, you’re likely to get hooked.


Glenn S., a friend of long standing and a newsletter reader, suggested these podcasts to me, and I am grateful he did.


Giveaways and offers

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Independence Day Celebration — Books about Freedom. This Instafreebie group giveaway has some fantastic books by an excellent group of independent authors (including . . . ahem . . . me). You will find something to add to your summer reading stack.

Copyboy, Vince Vawter’s new novel, set to launch August 1, 2018

My good friend Vince Vawter is about to launch a new novel, Copyboy. Launch date is August 1, 2018.

Vince is the author of the much-acclaimed Paperboy, a 2014 Newbery Honor winner. Paperboy is about a kid, Victor, growing up in Memphis in the 1950s. Victor must deal with a disability and confront the world at the same time.

This second novel picks up the story with Victor as a teenager who is heading to New Orleans on a mission. 

But the journey will not be a simple one. Victor will confront a strange and threatening world, and when his abilities and confidence get put to the test, he’ll lean on a fascinating girl named Philomene for help. Together they’ll venture toward the place where river meets sea, and they’ll race to evade Hurricane Betsy as it bears down.

Vince is heading out across Tennessee for a three-city launch beginning in late July. More information about that is here. Good luck, Vince.


Two failures who saved each other – and then saved the nation (continued)

Cump Sherman and Sam Grant, two men who experienced more than their fair share of failure, found themselves near the Shiloh Methodist Church in south central Tennessee in April 1862. They were leading the forces of the United States and were planning to pursue the rebels of the Army of the Confederate States of America into Mississippi. Sherman’s association with Grant had been a steadying influence in Sherman’s life. The battle that was about to ensue would solidify that steadiness. 

But the same battle would nearly obliterate the modest successes that Grant had achieved so far during the war. This time, it was Sherman’s chance to save Grant.

We began the story of these two men last week — Two failures who saved each other – and then saved the nation (part 1) — and continue it this week. The second part of the runs more than 1,000 words, so I have placed it below the signature of this email.


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor (actually, pen and wash): Vince Vawter (caricature)


Best quote of the week:

The only index by which to judge a government or a way of life is by the quality of the people it acts upon. No matter how noble the objectives of a government, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill will and suspicion — it is an evil government. Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter:  History, truth, and cedar trees; and the two failures who saved the nation; newsletter, July 20, 2018




Two failures who saved each other – and then saved the nation (continued)

The battle of  Shiloh during two April days in 1862 proved to William Tecumseh Sherman that he could be what he always wanted to be – a success.

See Two failures who save each other – and then saved the nation (part 1).

Sherman had not been successful at very much during his adult life. In fact, he had come to this point in life not only lacking the success and recognition he craved but also having many people think he was “crazy.” Sherman suffered from depression and anxiety, and his previous military postings during the first year of the Civil War had not done him much good.

But when he was given a command under Ulysses S. Grant in February, his life began to turn around. His natural leadership abilities began to emerge. Most of all, he finally was serving under a man who showed real military leadership — a man who did not fear a fight and understood Sherman in all his complexities.

When the Confederate Army attacked Union forces at Shiloh Church on April 6, Sherman’s command received the brunt of the blows. Initially surprised by the attack, Sherman quickly adjusted and throughout the day showed not only leadership but great courage. He was wounded in the hand and lost three horses, shot while he was riding them, and still he pressed on. His units gave ground to the enemy, but they did not break. The next day, Union forces took the initiative and drove the Confederates back toward Corinth, Mississippi, where they had encamped.

Sherman emerged from the two days of fighting as a hero.

His mentor Grant did not fare so well.

Grant, like Sherman, had failed in most of the things that he had tried as an adult. The outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South had given him yet another chance, and he seemed to be making the most of it. He had driven the Confederate Army from Tennessee by capturing Forts Donelson and Henry on the Tennessee River earlier that year. He had moved his army southward in pursuit of the Confederates.

But Grant was not well liked by others in the army, particularly his immediate superior Henry Halleck. Despite Grant’s victories, Halleck treated Grant with professional discourtesy and lack of respect. He seemed to be waiting for Grant to make a mistake.

At Shiloh, Grant obliged.

Grant had no idea that the Confederate Army was as close as it was when Union forces landed at Pittsburg Landing and moved toward Shiloh. He had no battle plan, and he had done nothing to prepare for a possible attack. He even discounted reports from his officers that a major Confederate force was close by.

On the morning of the first day of the battle, Grant was seven miles away from his army, staying at the Cherry Mansion in Pittsburg Landing. He moved swiftly toward the battle once he heard that it was on, but there was little he could do at that point to shore up the Federal lines. Grant showed a great deal of personal courage during the day as he braved bullet and shell to help his commanders bring order to their chaotic forces.

And, although the Confederates were retreating by the end of the second day of the battle and Shiloh was counted as a Union victory, Grant was blamed for a fight that many had come to believe never should have happened. Toward the end of the second day, Halleck appeared and took command of the army, effectively demoting Grant.

On that Monday evening when the battle was over, Grant believed that his military career, which seemed to hold great promised 48 hours before, was finished. He decided to quit the army.

This time, it was Sherman who saved Grant.

Sherman heard what had happened to Grant and what he was planning to do. He rushed to the army’s headquarters and found Grant in his tent packing his bags and his papers. Grant told Sherman he was leaving.

Sherman protested vigorously. The battle had given him new life, Sherman said. That opportunity would come for Grant, too, he told his commander. He was sure of it. Grant had to be there when it happened.

Whatever Cump Sherman said to Sam Grant in those few moments after that terrible battle had the desired effect. Grant reconsidered his resignation and decided to stay. Not only afterward, Halleck was recalled, and Grant was back in charge. More than a year later in July 1863, Grant would accept the surrender of the Confederate Army at Vicksburg.

After that, President Lincoln appointed him the commander of all Union forces, and he took charge of the Army of the Potomac, which set out in pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Meanwhile, Sherman — acting as Grant’s lieutenant — took over the Union army that dove into Georgia and eventually captured Atlanta.

These two men — Sherman and Grant — save the nation, but not before they saved each other.


The major sources for the information above are the excellent biography of Sherman (Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order) by John Marszalek and Winston Groom‘s Shiloh, 1862, an outstanding description of the battle that demonstrated to both sides what the next three years of the Civil War would be like.


Image: A quick sketch of Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee River, by Alfred Waud, artist-correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. The Battle of Shiloh, with its 23,000 casualties, far exceeded in death and destruction anything that had ever occurred on American soil. Almost as soon as the battle was joined on that April Sunday, controversies arose on both side about the actions and competence of the commanders of both armies. Albert Sidney Johnston led the Confederate Army and was killed during the battle. Despite his death, many Southern partisans saw him as no hero for having led his men over rough terrain and into a battle they were unlikely to win. Grant was accused of his incompetence and drunkenness; the alcoholism rumors followed Grant for as long as he was well known to his deathbed, and they continued well into the 20th century.



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