The historical fiction novel is offered in in two volumes, Volume I: Rebellion and Volume II: Turning Point. Known persons and events appear throughout this work and are included to tell Winfield Scott Hancock’s story. They are not intended to change the fictional nature of this book. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

“The Distinguished Career of Winfield Scott Hancock”

“The DIstinuished Career of Winfield Scott Hancock” begins the “I am a Soldier, First and Always” series by James Harold Kelly.


The book chronicles Hancock’s life from childhood through West Point and the first half of his military career. Initially assigned to the “frontier,” Hancock’s time spent in the Mexican War allows him to experience combat. He distinguishes himself, and when the War of Rebellion (Civil War) breaks out, McClellan promotes him from Captain to Brigadier General in the Army of the Potomac.

REBELLION captures the actions from Williamsburg through Antietam, Fredericksburg, and finally Chancellorsville. The Army is now at the doorstep of Gettysburg, a “turning point” for the Union.


The second book begins at Gettysburg, where Hancock is at the center of the fighting all three days. Severely wounded, he refuses to leave the field until the battle is decided. The Union’s success at Gettysburg is a “turning point” for Lincoln and the Army of the Potomac. Grant takes command, and his Overland Campaign relies heavily on Hancock and his II Corps, eventually forcing Lee’s surrender and the collapse of the Confederacy.

Hancock is assigned to the Great Plains facing the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Kiowa under Sherman. He finds fighting Native Americans is vastly different than fighting Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

THESE SACRED LANDS: A Novel (“I am a Soldier, First and Always”)

the Historical Fiction Company award winner

"Book of the Day"

In the 1870s, the bond of friendship between a Lakota warrior, Shadow Hawk, and a U.S. cavalryman, Joshua Mackenzie, is tested as the Great Sioux War reaches its climax. Hawk decides on his family’s future which surprises even Mackenzie. Based on historical records and informed conjecture, “These Sacred Lands” is a compelling story of clashing cultures.The Civil War was over, and “Manifest Destiny” crashed upon the frontier like a massive wave with the promise of a new life and a fresh start for thousands of settlers. Gold discoveries in Montana and the Black Hills of Dakota Territories added to the numbers as miners flocked to Indian lands.The Black Hills, “Paha Sapa” to the Lakota, and the river region extending from the Bighorn Mountains to the Yellowstone River are sacred lands from which the native culture emerged. It is the land where the guiding spirits dwell. The Lakota watched the American migration with increasing concern, then anger.


Sacred to the Lakota, the hills are the center of the Lakota world. The Region north of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and Montana is at the center of the story and the conflict between settlers, miners, railroad workers on one side, and the various tribes across the plains.

"I am a Soldier, First and Always” is envisioned as a six book series. Get on the mailing list for future updates on the series or check the blog on this site.


The first volume of the “I am a Soldier, First and Always” series, Rebellion, was selected by the Online Book Club as the Book of the Day on May 24. It was well-received, with nearly 500 people downloading the free e-book throughout the day. There were upwards of 600 comments made across all social media outlets. If you’ve read Winfield Scott Hancock’s story, please take a minute to leave a review on Amazon and let others know how much you enjoyed reading it.

Turning Point, the companion book, completed the saga and did quite well in its Book of the Day selection in March. The two books were rated 4 out of 4 stars, and the tremendous reviews humbled James. The books are both available on Amazon.


“I Am A Soldier, First and Always: The Distinguished Career of Winfield Scott Hancock” by James Harold Kelly is the first of two books about this distinguished Civil War general. Kelly masterfully fleshes out the early life and Civil War experience of General Winfield Hancock while bringing a slice of 19th-century American history to life.
“I Am A Soldier, First and Always”: The Distinguished Career of Winfield Scott Hancock by James Harold Kelly is an impassioned portrait of the logistics and emotions of war. Centered on a respected general and his pathway through the Civil War, the book highlights opposing armies’ perspectives as they navigate these historical events. Both the wonders and horrors of war are captured among the despair, death, and hope rendered by Kelly.
“These Sacred Lands”: I did not dislike anything about this book. The demonstration of the depth of the characters engages the reader in each event. It cannot be emphasized enough how thorough the consideration of historical elements is throughout the writing. Kelly’s voice is brilliant and articulate as he manages to capture an impressively wide scope of the time and its occupants. For these reasons, I give a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
“These Sacred Lands” by James Harold Kelly is a novel set in the American West. Although it is the second volume in the I am a Soldier, First and Always series, this novel easily stands alone. Perfect for fans of historical fiction, this book takes a reader back in time. Complete with maps and illustrations, this book shows readers how history came about and outlines the battles and events of the Great Sioux War fought in the late 1800s.

Joshua Tremaine Mackenzie arrived in Fort Laramie by stagecoach with his parents, his brother, and his sister. He could barely contain his excitement at beginning the adventure of this new western life. When Joshua befriends a young Lakota boy his age, he decides to learn the Lakota language. Will friendship between the two young men be possible in the tumultuous times of Indian wars and battles for territory in a burgeoning new nation? To find out, you must read this book!

The historical accuracy in this novel is exceptional. The maps of the Northern Plains featured throughout the book help readers picture names and places. It was fascinating to see the maps of areas where battles had been held that included well-known historical characters. Keeping history alive is one of the best aspects of why readers love historical novels. This book tells history fans precisely what one would expect in a historical novel set in this time. The story is woven together with historical facts.

It is evident that this author comes from a military background and enjoys military history. This author can capture the angst, feelings of anger, and helplessness of the Lakota people as well as the white settlers. He also captures the spirit of unity felt by the tribes in this story. These feelings transfer to the reader and help them connect with the characters and situations.

The character development in the story is excellent, and I enjoyed how the characters of Shadow Hawk and Joshua developed as they grew to adulthood. Shadow Hawk became a respected Lakota Warrior, and Joshua became a cavalry officer. In such a time of change for the country, it was interesting to see each character’s strengths. I was often reminded of family members who had lived through that period of history, and I knew the reality of the emotions they expressed in the story.

I love how the Lakota Sioux still hold the Black Hills sacred and how, for that reason, this book is dedicated to them. What I loved best about this book was how the author gives the reader a sense of time and place, not only in history but in the spiritual sense of the people involved in this work.

I live in a state where native culture is considered a valued asset. Efforts to save almost-lost languages are underway, and reviving the old ways is a constant process when instructing the youth about local history. Novels like this keep the past events of our nation a part of remembered history. I appreciated how Joshua undertook to learn the Lakota language to help further his friendship with Shadow Hawk and establish his ability to communicate with all sides. That aspect of this novel sets an excellent example for people of the time in which we live today.

I found nothing negative to list for this novel. It is exceptionally well edited, and the plot is driven by the truth evident in recorded history. For these reasons, it has achieved a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. This book contains the elements of adventure, action, and romance. It also contains the violence and gruesome scenes one would expect of a novel that includes historical battles fought during this period. It is best suited to a mature audience. It will appeal most to fans of historical fiction. I recommend it to readers who have a particular affinity with stories of a western theme.

"At Rest" Norristown, PA.


Hours of Operation:

Monday - Friday, 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.