James Linden Hogg isn’t your average 12-year-old. He doesn’t play video games, text a million words a minute, wear his pants hanging off his hips or a baseball cap turned backward. Instead, he’s a well-spoken history buff who’s also into music — playing a multitude of instruments as well as composing original tunes.
Over the summer, James Linden traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National History Day competition. That was after winning the state and regional competitions. He didn’t win on the big stage but that’s OK; it was a good excuse to dress up in one of the many period costumes that fill a special closet in the Hogg household. “He’s the authenticity police,” quipped dad Jim Hogg.
“The theme was ‘Revolution, Reaction & Reform,’” said James Linden. “I did my presentation on the Civil War.”
That presentation included a few monologues from the movie “My 1863 Adventure” he made with the help of parents Linda and Jim Hogg. It’s the story of an 11-year-old boy and his experience during the Civil War. It is dedicated to James Linden’s great-great grandfather, H. Thomas Brown, who enlisted in the 7th Louisiana Infantry at age 16. James Linden not only researched and wrote the script but he does the narration and, along with a little help from his dad, performs all of the music.
“I tell you how to make a Brunswick stew,” began James Linden, who is home-schooled by his mom in a classical education, “how to load and fire a musket, and how to make an encampment.”
Most of the scenes in the movie were filmed at LSU’s Rural Life Museum, where James Linden last year became a junior docent, others at various battle re-enactments. “My mom and dad bring me to Rural Life all the time,” he said. “Life was a lot simpler back then and I like that. I get to see how they dressed, how they acted, cooked, etc.”
It was a trip with his parents to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello that ignited James Linden’s love of history. He not only became a huge fan of Jefferson but also of John Adams.
“They really didn’t like each other,” said James Linden of the two Founding Fathers. “Did you know they both died on the same day — July 4?”
Another favorite spot for the Hogg family is historic Williamsburg, Va., where 80 percent of the people are walking around in character. When he goes, James Linden is among that group.
His favorite character to portray is John Quincy Adams, but he’s also portrayed Patrick Henry and Peyton Randolph.
“George Washington called him (Randolph) our first president,” added James Linden. “We just act out events that really occurred.
“I like the Revolutionary War and Civil War both but the Revolutionary War a little more so,” he said. “I really like history and music. People were more proper, there was more order, they knew who they could trust … they followed the Golden Rule.”
“We want James Linden to understand how this country was founded, the sacrifices that were made,” said Jim Hogg. “Too many people try and rewrite history, but there’s so much history around here, in Louisiana and we go to Washington, D.C., and see it there, too.”
While every war has its music, Jim Hogg said the Civil War may have been the most musical of them all. “Minstrel shows were still popular then and the banjo was real big,” explained Jim Hogg. “Music was a very important part of their lives back then … it was entertainment.”
For “My 1863 Adventure” James Linden penned not only the title song but “Buttermilk Moon” and “General Jackson.” He played the violin and fiddle, banjo, bagpipes and penny whistle in the movie, but he can also play the piano and recorder (a gift from music aficionado Dr. Hypolite Landry), and is currently taking cello and bagpipe lessons.
“I take cello lessons at the LSU School of Music and bagpipe lessons with a member of the Caledonian Society,” said James Linden. “It teaches me history as well as music.”
“He’s been around music all his life,” said Jim Hogg, who often plays with his son at Rural Life events, area re-enactments, backyard get-togethers and any other chance they get. “We traveled some with Ricky Skaggs after Hurricane Gustav. Ricky prayed over him (James Linden) on the bus one night, passed on his mantle. Ricky transformed this small boy.”
On his last trip to Williamsburg, James Linden recorded several songs for the soundtrack of his latest project, a movie about the Revolutionary War titled “Turning Point 1777,” which he explains is after General Washington crossed the Delaware and started winning battles — “a turning point in the American Revolution.” One on the songs is titled “James’ Meadow,” which James Linden plays on a harpsichord. Another is called “Gloucester Street.”
This film is still a work in progress but “My 1863 Adventure” has had several screenings, including one to benefit James Linden’s Boy Scout Troop. Several history teachers have found it a great way to teach what might be considered a boring subject by some students. Check it out at http://www.1863.tv.
Seeing James Linden in character bringing history to life is anything but boring and with his love of history and music one might think he aspires to one day become a teacher or professional musician. Nope, this young lad, wise beyond his years with a definite gift of the gab, wants to be a constitutional lawyer. Until then, he’s quite content studying and portraying the men who wrote the document upon which the United States of America was founded.