Posted in History

Celebrating History: The 152nd Anniversary of Lee’s Surrender to Grant

247This is probably my favorite moment in American history. I never cease to be fascinated by the men involved and their attitudes and actions. Some were expected, but many surprised me.

Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th, 1865, bringing the beginning of the end of the Civil War a reality. The surrender was more than a single moment but was an event that lasted for four days as parole papers were printed, signed, and ex-Rebels turned in their weapons.

In the past, I had done up the occasion rather nicely. I’ll be celebrating the moment a little quieter this year, but I want to point you toward a few links for anyone who is interested in taking a closer look.

Experiencing History Blog series: I had written a blog series during the 150th anniversary of the surrender, paying close attention to the historical timeline of events as they played out. The series starts days before the surrender, allowing you to see what was happening, as well as read the letters exchanged between generals. The series continues through Lincoln’s assassination which took place just days later. And the series wraps up with 5 collections of pictures that I took in Appomattox that year during the 150th celebration.

Celebrating History Facebook party: I reloaded the fascinating facts and hosted a grand party on Facebook last year. The link is still available so you can browse and comment to your heart’s content.

*Both the blog series and the facebook party were originally associated with a giveaway. Both giveaways are closed. You’re welcome to comment, and I’ll respond. But I’m no longer collecting entries or hosting a giveaway this year.

Current celebration on Facebook: I’m pulling up a few of my favorite party posts and sharing them anew this year. You can visit my page to take part in the discussion. We’ve kicked things off with my favorite, “Generals’ Ball” where we select a dress to wear and decide who we would dance with first–General Grant or General Lee.

I hope to see you around this week! You can chat with me below: Do you have a favorite moment in American History?

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Posted in History

Experiencing History Blog Series: Reliving the End of the Civil War, Moment by Moment

I had written a blog series during the 150th anniversary of the surrender, paying close attention to the historical timeline of events as they played out. The series starts days before the surrender, allowing you to see what was happening, as well as the letters exchanged between generals, as Lee and Grant were moving in position to collide in a most memorable way. The series continues through Lincoln’s assassination which took place just days later. And the series wraps up with 5 collections of pictures that I had taken in Appomattox that year during the 150th celebration.

To make things easier for you, I’ve pulled all the links together in order. I hope you enjoy!

*Originally I had hosted a giveaway along with this series. The giveaway is over. Feel free to comment on any of the posts, but I’m no longer collecting entries.

Experiencing History: Reliving the End of the Civil War, Moment by Moment:

4/7 Part 1: Let’s jump start this series with some basic feelings from both armies.

4/7 Part 2: Grant sends a message to Lee asking him to surrender

4/8 Part 1: Lee responds and Grant sends a second note

4/8 Part 2: A quote from a Union soldier and a new message from Lee

4/9 Part 1: The armies on the move again and Grant sends another message.

4/9 Part 2: Hours before their meeting, the generals exchange 2 more letters.

4/9 Part 3: The hour has come! Read the terms of surrender and Grant’s version of the events of that hour.

4/9 Part 4: Two eye witness accounts

4/10: Read what was happening the day after the surrender by a man who was there.

4/11: Read the accounts of both Union and Confederate supporters as they hear the news of Lee’s surrender

4/12: Stacking of Arms Ceremony. Read two eye witness accounts of this solemn moment

4/13: Read Lee’s Farewell Address to his army

4/14 Part 1: Hours before Lincoln enters Ford’s Theatre

4/14 Part 2: A fictionalized account of the moment Lincoln was shot

4/15: The country is thrown into mourning. Details of the day as well as the account of a Union soldier the moment he was told.

Pictures from Appomattox:

Part 1: Reenactors

Part 2: Personal Collection

Part 3: Soldier Life

Part 4: Museums

Part 5: Stacking of Arms Ceremony

 

Posted in About the Book, History

When Fiction Meets Reality: The Battle of Chickamauga

 

When I sat down to begin writing/researching for the Ancient Words Series, one of the first questions I had asked was, “If a man joined the Confederacy from Bedford Co. TN, which regiment would he join?” There were two infantry regiments. I chose the 17th and drowned myself in its history. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took notes. I followed their trail like a dedicated fan…because, let’s face it, that’s what I was at this point.

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While my characters were fictional, their experiences were based on reality. One of my favorite moments to research was the Battle of Chickamauga. The anniversary of this extremely bloody battle is today and tomorrow. While there are so many factors to cover, I only want to focus on the experience of the 17th. You can read about Frank Harper’s version of events in my 2nd book, In the Shadow of Thy Wings. I had the pleasure of weaving in several real details into the story.

I also had the pleasure of touring the battlefield for the first time this summer. Here are some of my favorite photos…most of them featuring the 17th! The flag pictured above is a replica of the regimental flag. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it in person. What a TREAT!!
Perryville and Murfreesboro were two significant battles for the 17th. And both are featured in Where Can I Flee.

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After touring the museum inside, we set out in search of monuments featuring the 17th. This was one of my favorite family moments of the entire weekend. We had turned it into a contest to see who could find the monuments first and all of a sudden children and adults that might not have cared in the beginning was invested and enjoying themselves. It does my heart good to see people enjoying history.
*Family Fun Tip: When visiting historical sites with children or history-hating adults, create a scavenger hunt. It worked on my family and maybe it’ll work on yours. 😉

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At long last, we were rewarded with two monuments. There was something so special about standing before a monument honoring the regiment that I’ve spent so much time with.

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We found smaller monuments dedicated to individual regiments around this larger one. But sadly, we couldn’t find one for the 17th. We hiked all over the area, searching for it but came up empty. I’m not sure if there ever was one for the 17th or not. I’d love to check into the situation and see what can be done, but for today, Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings act as monuments to a now beloved regiment.

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Words can hardly explain and these pictures will hardly do it justice when describing the hilly terrain. I’m convinced any semi-flat area that we stood on was man-made. I stepped off to the side and snapped a few pictures of the area. You can only imagine the additional hardships the armies faced on account of the landscape.

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And here are some cannon shots.

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A trip to Chickamauga isn’t complete without visiting the impressive Wilder Brigade Monument.

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Visitors can climb to the top of the tower. I’d advise you to bring a water bottle and inhaler with you, both of which, I had left outside with my parents. Lol

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But thankfully, I had brought my camera. 😉

 

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Posted in Book Reviews, History

Civil War Research Book Review: Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

38The book is both the most wonderful thing and the most dreadful all at once. First, let’s talk about what’s so great about it.

What I Loved: There’s nothing like reading original letters from people in the past. They shine so much light on the culture of the time. This recollection and letters by the famous general is made better because it was compiled together by one of his sons. If you’re interested in reading Lee’s letters, then you’re going to love reading his son’s commentary along the way!
The one thing I really wish he’d done differently was to leave the letters whole. I understand wanting to cut off the more mundane portions but 150 years later, the mundane sections can carry the best information. As it is, this collection is mostly snippets of letters. Some longer than others.

What I Didn’t Love: The formatting might have been acceptable when it was originally published, but it isn’t anymore. It would have been nice if someone would have made the effort to bring the format up to date. You can hardly read the book at all. The font is extremely small. There are NO breaks ANYWHERE on the page. Not between letters or commentary. If it wasn’t for the timeless information offered here, I would say it was a complete waste.

Buying Options: I bought a used paperback copy from Amazon but also found a FREE Kindle edition. Follow the link to find your favorite buying option.

Posted in History

The Wise Words of Lincoln

253In honor of the 151st anniversary of Lincoln’s death earlier this month, I’ve pulled together a list of wise and witty sayings from our former president. Which is your favorite?

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

“There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.”

“My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

“Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”

If I am killed, I can die but once; but to live in constant dread of it, is to die over and over again.

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

“No man is poor who has a Godly mother.”

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

 

Posted in Fiction Friday

Facebook Party and Giveaway!!

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I’m hosting a Facebook party starting Saturday. It’s a fun little gathering where history and Christian fiction meet. As a Civil War novelist, I had studied several important moments in American history, but Lee’s surrender to Grant was always a highlight for me.

Celebrating History is a 4-day party so they’ll be plenty of time to visit even if you can’t make it on the first day. I promise not to approach history like your old teacher did, but in a fun and inviting way. 🙂 I hope you’ll join us! You can attend the party here.

Also in celebration of the big day, I’ve marked down both books in my Civil War series. You can actually pick them up at the discounted prices today.
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Posted in Book Reviews, History

Civil War Research Book Review: The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon

28The wonderful and fascinating details of the 1800s have been gathered into one interesting volume, in which McCutcheon has included quotes from 19th-century citizens concerning or describing hairstyles and fashion, favorite swear words and slang, jokes of the period, courtship and marriage rituals, and more. A must for both fiction and nonfiction historical writers.

Oh how I wish I had found this book sooner!!! The book is exactly as it claims to be. A guide for writers (or history enthusiasts) for all things in the 1800s. You’ll find another version by the same title but a different cover. Rest assured, you’re looking at the same book. However, there is another version specifically on the Civil War. That is different. 

The Everyday Life collection is pretty extensive. You’ll find others on Regency and Victorian England, Prohibition through WWII, Colonial American, Indian, Wild West, etc. If you write historical fiction and haven’t heard of this collection, it’s time to do a quick search on Amazon to see what you can uncover to assist you in your work. 

What I Loved: I love how easy it is to gather the information offered. For me, being a busy mom of four and trying to keep up with the demands of writing full time, I don’t always have the time to research. I MAKE the time, but I don’t always have the time. I appreciate sources that lay things out in an easy to read format that doesn’t involve long-winded paragraphs.
The book actually looks like a dictionary with one word in bold on the left and a brief explanation. Some words are simply definitions and others have a more detailed explanation and even a short quote from a source during that time. Marc shares the dates of his sources so it’s helpful to understand whether it directly applies to your particular decade or not.
I also really appreciate how many categories were compiled together in this one book. Here’s a look at the table of contents:
Slang and Everyday Speech
Getting Around (This was my favorite section! Marc breaks down the various types of carriages, coaches, and wagons and also the details of a Stage Line. Then explains the various details and companies of the Railroad, Water travel, and even the mail carrier.)
Around the House
Clothing and Fashion
Occupations
Money and Coinage
Health, Medicine, and Hygiene
Food, Drink, and Tobacco
Amusements
Courtship and Marriage
Slavery and Black Plantation Culture
The Civil War
Out on the Range
Crime

Clearly, this is a goldmine. It’s a handy overview of the time and a great asset to your library. I encourage you to slip on over to Amazon and take a look inside this book for yourself.

Rating and Buying Options: I’m giving it 5 stars.
As previously noted, I like to buy my used books from Amazon or Half.com At the time of writing this post, I didn’t find any copies on Half.com but found plenty on Amazon. Used copies start at $3. 

Posted in History

Civil War Letters: A Southern Dinner

8The longer the war lasted, the harder it was to find food on Southern tables. We often read about the soldier’s fare, but what were they eating at home?
I had the pleasure of reading some interesting accounts of Southern meals from 1865 written by Eliza Frances Andrews. Enjoy!

“She had such a dinner as good old Methodist ladies know how to get up for their preachers, though where all good things came from, Heaven only knows. She must have been hoarding them for months. We ate as only hungry Rebs can, that have been half-starved for weeks, and expect to starve the rest of our days. We have no kind of meat in our house but ham and bacon, and have to eat hominy instead of rice at dinner. Sometimes we get a few vegetables out of the garden, but everything has been stripped to feed the soldiers, that we never have enough to spread a respectable meal before the large number of guests, expected and unexpected, who sit down to our table every day…
Cornfield peas have been our staple diet for the last ten days. Mother has them cooked in every variety of style she ever heard of, but they are cornfield peas still. All this would have been horribly mortifying a year or two ago, but everybody knows how it is now, and I am glad to have even cornfield peas to share with the soldiers.”

“We have nothing but ham, ham, ham, every day, and such crowds of company in the house, and so many lunches to furnish, that even the ham has to be husbanded carefully. It is dreadful to think what wretched fare we have to set before the charming people who are thrown upon our hospitatlity. Ham and cornfield peas for dinner one day, and cornfield peas and ham the next, is the tedious menu. Mother does her best by making Emily give us every variation on peas that ever was heard of; one day we have pea soup, another, pea croquettes, then baked peas and ham, and so on, through the whole gamut, but alas! they are cornfield peas still, and often not enough of even them. Sorghum molasses is all the sweetening we have, and if it were not for the nice home-made butter and milk, and father’s fine old Catawba wine and brandy, there would be literally nothing to redeem the family larder from bankruptcy.” 

~Quotes curtesy of The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl

Posted in Book Reviews, History

Civil War Research Book Review: The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle by Robert E. Denney

18Follow the story of the Civil War as it unfolds in the words of the people who lived through it. With records of daily events from January 1, 1861 to May 30, 1866, this fascinating chronicle includes illuminating background information on the population of America, its society and economics, the issue of states’ rights, and even medical practices of the day. Here is a major contribution to the legacy and recorded history of the Civil War.

I have heard back from several of you, and know that I’m far from the only Civil War fan out there. I thought you’d be interested in taking a better look at my research shelf. Since the fourth Monday of the month is History week on the blog, I decided to bring you a review on one of my research books on the 4th week of every month. I hope you enjoy the new review series!!

This was one of the first research books I picked up, and it remains a goldmine.This isn’t the only chronological book out there. If you’ve never seen one before, they’re well worth checking out! There’s nothing like having a full overview of the entire war at your fingertips.

What I Loved: It’s not possible to go into a great amount of detail since the book covers so much ground, but several other books detail the various battles. Where a Chronicle shines is in showing you what happened EVERY day of the way. It may seem simple, but just knowing what day of the week it was became extremely helpful to me as I wrote my novels. I had the pleasure of working with two different chronicles so far, but this one included excepts from letters, journals, and newspapers. I really enjoyed reading the experiences of the people along the way.

What I Didn’t Like: It’s my personal belief that when you bring historical facts to the table, you leave your opinions behind. The author never added his own voice to the work, but I did notice that nearly all (if not all) excerpts were from the Union perspective. This doesn’t hur the average person’s ability to enjoy and learn from it, but when I was digging deeper into the feelings of the Southern people during certain events, say…the surrender of Lee, I was greatly disappointed. Since the excerpts are more of an addition and not the purpose itself, I still greatly enjoyed it and can highly recommend it.

Buying Options: I do most of my used book shopping on Amazon and Half.com Since books come and go so quickly on these sites you’ll have to check for the best prices when you’re ready to purchase. But I did notice more buying options on Amazon. Both sites have copies listed at extremely reasonable prices. At the date of this post, I was able to find copies for under $5, making this an especially wonderful addition to your Civil War collection.

Sample: You can peek into the book from the Amazon link. I checked it out myself. You’ll have to pass several pages before coming to the actual chronicle, but they do show several entries to give you an idea of what the book has to offer.
I’ve also quoted the book here on my blog and you can read that entry here.

Posted in History

Civil War Letters: Honest Journal Entries

52One of the highlights to reading a journal is the brutally honest approach the author has when she believes no one will ever read her journal. I’ve had the pleasure of reading two journals written by women so far and will be sharing a few quotes from these ladies. I should warn you, that I’ve spent enough time with these ladies to know that they normally aren’t so harsh so don’t judge them too hard. 😉 And I hope you get a giggle out it.

Nannie Haskins Williams:
July 25, 1863
“Yesterday was the first time I ever met with Mr. Ensly. I think he is handsome when he is not looking at you, but when you catch his eye, what a sleepy expression. He actually looks stupid to me, although he talks very well; but I would not let anybody see this for the world.”
August 14, 1863
“Miss Williams is one of the prettiest, most fascinating young ladies young ladies I ever met with, but it is a great shame that she receives the attention of the Yankees. Anna Ewing is very pretty, but is much too fast for me. She’ll admit anybody to wait on her, but I suppose I ought not to speak so of strangers.”
October 2, 1863
“Fannie brought me a thousand messages from Mr. Sypert. He sent me the most beautiful bouquet by Fannie when she returned. Sometimes I think probably Mr. Sypert is trying to flirt with me, but he cannot do that for I do not care one straw for him. Then again I think he really loves me. However time will prove. I know there is one who loves me, but I do not even like him. He says he could always heretofore talk to young ladies, but in my company, he is perfectly mute. I believe he loves me devotedly and sincerely. I wish I could transfer his love to someone who could return it.”

Eliza Frances Andrews:
April 6, 1865
“Captain Greenlaw brought his flute and spent the morning. He is red-headed and ugly, but very musical, and such jolly good company that one can’t help liking him.”
April 7, 1865
“Captain Greenlaw spend the day here and brought me the biggest bouquet of the biggest red roses I ever saw; I couldn’t help laughing when he threw it in my lap. He calls me “cousin,” because he says we both have such red heads that we ought to be kin. There is something in his easy, good-natured way of laughing and joking about everything that reminds me a good deal of Fred. And he has the sweetest way in the world of carrying flowers about with him, and slipping them into your work basket, or throwing them into you lap, or laying them on your handkerchief -no matter where, but I can always tell when he has ben about by finding a full-blown rose, or a sprig of wild honeysuckle, or a bunch of swamp lilies, or some other big bright flower lying around among my things.”
May 4, 1865
“General Breckinridge is called the handsomest man in the Confederate army, and Bragg might well be called the ugliest. I saw him at Mrs. Vickers’s where he is staying, and he looks like an old porcupine. I never was a special admirer of his…”
May 4, 1865
(Truly, one of the most surprising gems in the entire journal!)”Judge Crump, especially, is one of the most entertaining men I ever knew. He has traveled a great deal and I was very much interested in his account of Dickens’s wife, whom he knows well. He says that she is altogether the most unattractive woman he ever met. She has a yellowish, cat-like eye, a muddy complexion, dull coarse hair of an undecided color, and a very awkward person. On top of it all she is, he says, one of the most intolerably stupid women he ever met. He has had to entertain her for hours at a time and could never get an idea out of her nor one into her. Think of such a wife for Dickens!”
May 12, 1865
(Speaking of one of the Union soldiers station in her town) “He really seems to have the instincts of a gentleman, and I am afraid I shall be obliged to respect him a little, in spite of his uniform.”

Quotes courtesy of The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl written by Eliza Frances Andrews and The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams