Category: Civil War

The Widow of the South–by Cheryl Pierson

I read a book, and I knew I had to go see this place for myself… It all started when I read THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Robert Hicks, a novel he wrote about a woman who made the dead soldiers of the War Between the States her life’s work. By the time I finished reading that book, I knew I had to go visit this place, Carnton, where she had lived and devoted her life to the dead.

Carnton is the name of the plantation just outside of Franklin, TN, where Carrie Winder McGavock and her husband John made their home with their two children, Hattie and Winder. There is so much history that comes before the fateful Battle of Franklin that changed Carrie’s life forever that there is no room to include it in this post.

So I will start with a brief nutshell of the circumstances. At the time of the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, Carrie’s children were nine (Hattie) and seven (Winder). Carrie herself was thirty-five, her husband, John McGavock, fourteen years her senior at forty-nine.  They had been married several years, Carrie coming from Louisiana to marry John, who was quite a wealthy man for the times, worth over six million dollars in our present day currency. He owned the flourishing plantation, Carnton,  in middle Tennessee, where he and his brother James had been raised,. The McGavocks raised wheat, hay, corn, and potatoes, as well as maintaining a thoroughbred horse ranch.

Carnton, (Scottish for “the place of stones”) was less than one mile from the battle that took place on the far Union Eastern flank. Most of the battle took place after dark, from 5-9p.m., so the McGavocks could see the firefight that went on over the town of Franklin that evening. Because their plantation was so close, it became a field hospital for the Confederate troops.

More than 1,750 Confederates lost their lives at Franklin. It was on Carnton’s back porch that four Confederate generals’ bodies—Patrick Cleburne, John Adams, Otho F. Strahl and Hiram B. Granbury—were laid out for a few hours after the Battle of Franklin.

More than 6,000 soldiers were wounded and another 1,000 were missing. After the battle, many Franklin-area homes were converted into temporary field hospitals,  but Carnton by far was the largest hospital site. Hundreds of Confederate wounded and dying were tended by Carrie McGavock and the family after the battle. Some estimates say that as many as 300 Confederate soldiers were cared for by the McGavocks inside Carnton alone. Hundreds more were moved to the slave quarters, the outbuildings, even the smokehouse—and when the buildings were full, the  wounded had to lie outside during the frigid nights, when the temperature reached below zero.

After the battle, at 1 a.m. on December 1, Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, evacuated toward Nashville, leaving all the dead, including (several hundred) Union soldiers, and the wounded who were unable to walk, as well. So when morning came, the 750 or so residents of Franklin faced an unimaginable scene of what to do with over 2,500 dead soldiers, most of those being 1,750 Confederates.

According to George Cowan’s “History of McGavock Confederate Cemetery,” “All of the Confederate dead were buried as nearly as possible by states, close to where they fell, and wooden headboards were placed at each grave with the name, company and regiment painted or written on them.”  Many of the soldiers were originally buried on property belonging to Fountain Branch Carter and James McNutt. Many of the Union soldiers were re-interred in 1865 at the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro.

Over the next eighteen months (from all of 1865 through the first half of 1866) many of the markers were either rotting or used for firewood, and the writing on the boards was disappearing. Thus, to preserve the graves, John and Carrie McGavock donated 2 acres of their property to be designated as an area for the Confederate dead to be re-interred. The citizens of Franklin raised the funding and the soldiers were exhumed and re-interred in the McGavock Confederate Cemetery for the sum of $5.00 per soldier.

A team of individuals led by George Cuppett took responsibility for the reburial operation in the spring of 1866. By June, some ten weeks after the start, the last Confederate soldier was laid to rest at McGavock Cemetery. Some 1,481 Rebel soldiers would now be at peace. Soldiers from every Southern state in the Confederacy, except Virginia, is represented in the cemetery.

Sadly, George Cuppett’s brother, Marcellus, died during the process of the reburials. Just 25 years old, he is buried at the head of the Texas section in the McGavock Cemetery. He is the only civilian interred there.

The McGavocks, especially Carrie, took great care to preserve the identity of the Confederate soldiers. The original names and identities of the soldiers were recorded in a cemetery record book by George Cuppett, and the book fell into the watchful hands of Carrie after the battle. The original book is on display upstairs in Carnton. Time has not been favorable to the identities of the Confederate soldiers though. 780 Confederate soldiers’ identities are positively identified, leaving some 558 as officially listed as unknown.

Most of the above was taken from the Wikipedia article about Carnton and the McGavocks.  Now you know the FACTS, but let me tell you about my impression of this remarkable woman and the cause she put above all else.

Robert Hicks’s book, THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH, is a fictionalized story about Carrie and John McGavock and their lives, but that was what made me want to travel to Franklin and see the house for myself. I put the description that Wikipedia gave near the beginning because I can’t begin to do it justice. It is one of the most gorgeous, meticulously restored homes of that period you will ever see. They do not allow pictures AT ALL as you’re touring inside. Many of the pieces of furniture, glassware and the pictures that are on the walls have been donated by the McGavock extended family and most everything in the house is a genuine period piece, whether it belonged to the family or not.

It is said that Winder’s room was used as an operating room. A table was set up by the east-facing window where the surgeries were performed. Today, there is a table there much like what would have been used, along with the crude medical implements that were available at the time. Our guide told us that when the doctor finished an amputation, he would throw the limb out the window, get the man off the table and make room for the next one. Because the doctor most likely wore a rubberized apron, the blood pooled in a kind of horseshoe shape on the floor where he would have stood. He walked in it and stood in it, grinding it into the wood. It is still there, to this very day—a testament to five of the bloodiest hours in the history of the Civil War.

Once, Hattie was asked about her most enduring childhood memory. “The smell of blood,” she replied.

In the book, there is mention made of Carrie’s friend, Mariah, who had once been her slave but chose to stay with her as they had been together since childhood. Mariah was said to have had the ability to look at some of the graves and tell something about the person who was buried there. She had “the sight.”

For the next forty years, after the Battle of Franklin, Carrie dressed in black, visiting the graves every day. She carried the book of names with her. I have to tell you, when I saw that book of names I got chills thinking of the devotion she had to this cause. Those men were not forgotten.

At one point, the house fell into disrepair, but was bought by a historical preservation society and maintained. The cemetery was the largest privately owned war cemetery in the US. Robert Hicks meticulously researched for the book he wrote, and the profits from the book (which made it to the NYT Bestseller List) helped to re-establish this grand old home as a piece of history where we can go to learn firsthand about what happened on that fateful day.

My husband and I toured the house, a gorgeous old mansion, with a wonderful guide  who was glad to answer any and all questions. Tours are around $15, and well worth it. The cemetery tour is $5, or you can just walk around and look for yourself, which is what my husband and I did. If you buy the book, I promise you will be as anxious to see this place for yourself as I was.

Walking those same floors that were walked upon by Carrie and her family, and the wounded men, the generals, the doctors…gave me feeling I will never forget. I could almost swear I felt her presence, still there, still watching over the soldiers she devoted her adult life to at Carnton…the “place of stones.”

(This is a picture of Carrie as a young woman.)

 

Have you ever read a book that made this kind of impression on you? A book that, just from reading about a place, made you want to go there and see it more than anything else? What was it? I’d love to hear about the places you’ve gone after you read about them and just KNEW you had to see them for yourself!

 

Phoebe Couzins – First Female U.S. Marshal

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Last month I started a series of articles about 10 amazing women who paved the way for females in various branches of law enforcement. January’s post focused on Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton Agent. (If you missed it, you can read it HERE)

This month I want to talk about Phoebe Couzins, the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Marshall service.

Growing up, Phoebe’s parents taught her to view public service as something to be valued. They were a couple who truly walked the walk. For instance, when Phoebe was about six years old, St. Louis was devastated by a terrible cholera epidemic where thousands of residents perished. John and Adaline Couzins stepped forward and headed up the local relief organization that was responsible for helping the victims.

And that was only one instance of many. Among other things, John Couzins, was an architect and builder, served as a Union Major during the Civil War, and became Chief of Police in St. Louis. Adaline Couzins, was also quite active. She served as a nurse during the Civil War, tending soldiers on the battlefield at Wilson Creek, Shiloh, and Vicksburg. During the course of this, she herself was actually wounded at Vicksburg.

Which may be why, as she grew, Phoebe pushed against the boundaries imposed on nineteenth century women in a BIG way.

In 1869, she became a delegate to the American Equal Rights Association Convention in N.Y. That same year, Phoebe spoke on behalf of women suffrage to a joint meeting in the Missouri State General Assembly. She advocated the passage of State legislation granting women the right to vote. Unfortunately the proposal was ultimately rejected by a vote of 89-5.

Later that year, Phoebe was one of the first women to enter Washington University in St. Louis law school when they opened admission to women, and in 1871 she became the second woman in the nation to graduate with an L.L.B. degree. A big proponent of equality for women, once she graduated she stated that she primarily pursued a law degree in order to “open new paths for women, enlarge her usefulness, widen her responsibilities and to plead her case in a struggle which [she] believed surely was coming. . . . I trust the day is not far distant when men and women shall be recognized as equal administrators of that great bulwark of civilization, law.”  After graduating, she went on to become the second licensed attorney in her home state of Missouri and the third licensed attorney in the entire United States. Eventually she was also admitted to the bar associations of Arkansas, Utah, and Kansas, as well as the Dakota Territory federal courts.

In 1884, Phoebe’s father was appointed as the U.S. Marshal in eastern Missouri. Her father then named her a deputy U.S. Marshal, which placed her among the first women to hold that position. When John Couzins died in 1887, President Grover Cleveland asked Phoebe to step into the position temporarily, making her the first woman U.S. Marshal. She only held the position for two months, however, leaving the service altogether when she was replaced by a male.

As I mentioned above, Phoebe was a strong proponent of women’s rights. She was active in the suffrage movement for many years, as had been her mother. In the early days of the twentieth century she made the following statement: ”… today we round out the first century of a professed republic,—with woman figuratively representing freedom—and yet all free, save woman.” And she also stated “Until we are large enough to think of mind, of genius, of ability without the consciousness of sex, we are yet in the infancy of our development, we belong in kindergarten.” 

Unfortunately, Phoebe’s life did not end well. As the years passed, her strong personality and outspoken ways rubbed her associates and fellow suffragists the wrong way, eventually leaving her with few friends. At the age of sixty-eight, she found herself in a dire situation – destitute, in failing health, and unable to work – so she returned to St. Louis. She died there in December of 1913.

Phoebe was buried with her U.S. marshal’s badge pinned to her chest in an unmarked grave in Bellefontaine Cemetery. Only six people, including her brother, attended her funeral. It was a sad ending to a remarkable life.

However, in more recent years, Phoebe’s life and groundbreaking accomplishments have received more appropriate recognition.

In 1950 Phoebe Couzin’s final resting place received a marker. In that year, to acknowledge Phoebe’s many groundbreaking accomplishments, the members of the Women’s Bar Association of St. Louis placed a simple stone monument on her final grave.

And in 2000 , Phoebe, as well as Lemma Barkeloo (another early female lawyer) were honored by the establishment of the Lemma Barkeloo and Phoebe Couzins Professor of Law Chair at the Washington University school of law.

There you have it, a very brief sketch of the trailblazing life of yet another brave and ahead-of-her-times woman. What struck you most about her? If you’d already heard of her, did you learn anything new, or do you have more to add to her story?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing for winner’s choice of any book from my backlist.

 

 

Kate Warne – First Female Pinkerton

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope everyone had a joyous Christmas and the happiest of New Years!

I recently read an article about 10 amazing women who paved the way for females in various branches of law enforcement. Some of the names I was familiar with, some not, but I learned new tidbits about even the ones I’d already heard of.  So I thought I’d share what I learned with you. But to do these stories justice, I’m going to spread them over a series of articles rather than try to squeeze them all into one post.

The first one, speaking chronologically, is also the one I was most familiar with, Kate Warne.

In 1856 Kate walked into the Pinkerton National Detective Agency office seeking a position. To Allan Pinkerton’s surprise, she was not looking for a clerical position, but that of a field agent. It took quite a bit of convincing, but the 23 year old widow was more than up to the task. She calmly described the many potential benefits a female detective could offer, such as an ability to manipulate targets into believing she was on their side and confiding in her in a way that men could never manage.

Despite his initial skepticism, Pinkerton never had reason to regret his decision to hire the indomitable Kate. She proved her worth on the first major case she worked on. She was assigned to the investigation of possible embezzlement of funds at the Adams Express Co. The primary suspect was a Mr. Maroney. Kate immediately befriended Mrs. Maroney. She gained the woman’s confidence so much that not only did she learn the information she need to prove Mr. Maroney’s guilt but she managed to find and recover almost 80 percent of the money that had been stolen.

Within four years of hiring her, Pinkerton was convinced that there would be immeasurable value to him to have more female operatives in his organization. So in 1960 he opened a Female Detective Bureau and put Kate in charge.

Of course this didn’t put an end to Kate’s field work. At one point Pinkerton assigned five agents, Kate among them, to investigate secessionist threats against the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. Based on their field reports Pinkerton became convinced that there was an assassination plot against then President-elect Lincoln to take place during his trip to Washington DC for his inauguration. It was Kate who confirmed that not only did this plot exist, but she learned the specific time and location where it was to take place. She also played a key role in the secret alternate travel arrangements that foiled the assassins’ plans.

The start of the Civil War saw Kate’s role change from that of investigator to that of spy while she continued to serve as Superintendent of Female Detectives. Using over a dozen assumed names and her spot-on southern belle impersonation she worked both down south and in the north, successfully gathering needed intelligence.

After the end of the war, Kate continued on her course as a valuable senior member of the Pinkerton team. There is no telling how far she would have gone, but alas, while the ‘bad guys’ could not best her, her health did. In January of 1868, still in her mid 30s, Kate contracted a lung infection and died.

In his book The Spy of the Rebellion, Pinkerton wrote of Kate Warne  “Of rather a commanding person, with clear-cut, expressive features, and with an ease of manner that was quite captivating at times, she was calculated to make a favorable impression at once. She was a brilliant conversationalist when so disposed, and could be quite vivacious, but she also understood that rarer quality… the art of being silent.”

There you have it, a very brief sketch of the trailblazing adventures of this brave and adventurous woman. What struck you most about her? If you’d already heard of her, did you learn anything new, or do you have more to add to her story?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing for winner’s choice of any book from my backlist.

Updated: January 6, 2019 — 4:38 pm

Going, going, GONE!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should know that the classic candy that has been a constant since 1847, is about to go the way of phone booths.   Yes, that’s right.  The company that makes Necco Wafers has announced that, unless it finds a buyer, it will close its doors forever in May.

Do you know what that means?  Future generations will never know what drywall tastes like. 

Originally called hub wafers, the coin-shaped candies were carried by soldiers during the Civil War and World War II.  Since the candy traveled well and never melted or spoiled, soldiers and yes, even cowboys, could carry them with confidence.

These candies traveled as far as the North Pole, and that’s not all. Admiral Byrd took two tons of the things with him to the Antarctica.  Even more impressive; Necco Wafers was the first candy to multi-task.  They served as wafers during communion and were tossed in baskets for payment at toll booths.

Sad to say, Necco isn’t the only old company at risk. In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of the Sears Wish book and five and dime stores. Who knows what will be next? 

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I shudder to think that Baker’s chocolate—a friend to cooks since 1780—might someday be declared unfit for human consumption.  Don’t laugh. It happened to wheat, eggs and red meat. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to chocolate?

Never mind that cowboys and civil war soldiers enjoyed morning cups of Baker’s hot chocolate with no known problems.  Cast-iron stomachs of the past have no place in today’s world. 

It’s not just food and drink that’s in danger. The next company that could bite the dust could very well be Remington, established in 1818. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the “rifle that won the west” might one day close its doors. But firearms aren’t all that popular these days.  Nor for that matter are typewriters. So who knows? 

And what about Brooks Brothers, another formidable company founded in 1818? The company made the first ready-to-wear suits in 1849.  Those flocking to California that year for the gold rush couldn’t wait for tailors to outfit them. For that reason, forty-niners depended on Brooks Brothers for their clothing needs. So did Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower and J.F. Kennedy.

Anything made of paper is about to become obsolete, including maps, shopping bags and checks.  Here in California, the war on drinking straws is heating up.  If that’s not enough, many of the nation’s newspapers have vanished in recent years. That means that old standbys like The New York Times (founded in 1851 as the New York Daily Times) could one day shut down their presses forever. 

I also worry about Merriam-Webster, founded in 1831. If it goes the way of encyclopedia salesmen, I will have to share the blame. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked something up in an honest-to-goodness, print dictionary, can you? 

Nothing is safe in today’s fast-paced world as proven by Kodak. Who would have thought that a company that we all knew and loved would close its dark-room doors forever and stop making cameras?

Founded in 1889, Kodak was the absolute leader in photography. It’s still in business making mobile devices, but its past glory is gone. Phone cameras have taken its place, but it’s not the same. An iPhone second just doesn’t have the same ring as a Kodak moment.

So, what old-time product do you or would you miss? What were you glad to see go?

 

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Updated: April 19, 2018 — 1:49 pm

Gina Danna: Rags and Hope (plus Giveaway)

A Story of the West during The War of the Rebellion

The West – conjures up pictures of Cowboys and Indians, covered wagons, Wild Bill Hitchcock, saloons, gunslingers and Wyoming or Colorado, etc. But did you know that leading up to and including the Civil War, the ‘west’ was what we call today the Midwest – like Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Ohio. Huh? The original 13 colonies/states (New York to Maine, to Pennsylvania, Carolinas, etc) was considered the civilized society and anything past the Appalachian Mountains is the West.

When the Civil War is discussed even today, it is a story of the North and the South but what about the West? The Midwest was the food-producing states. Both sides counted it as theirs. Missouri, for instance, was the ‘west’, with no status as North or South until “Bloody Kansas” occurred. Newspapers in the North wrote their stories, painting the slave-holding Missouri as Southern. Missouri had a lot of ties to the north from an economic standard, being a bread-winning state and St. Louis was one of the nation’s highest importing towns, that you could by any import there, verses New York or New Orleans or Charleston (the other big ports).

Many businesses in St. Louis were tied to the North but this slanderous news stories propagated at this time during the crisis pushed Missouri in a corner, so to speak, and therefore, they did throw their hat in with the South. Many southerners did settle in the state and it was a slave state but that didn’t make them southerner. Even today, northerners referred to Missouri as southern and vice versa.

 When the war comes, it concentrates on the east and the prime objective by the north was ‘take Richmond!’ – the old concept of take the capital (yet at first, the capital for the Confederacy was in Alabama). The push was take the Army of Northern Virginia, led by the mastermind Robert E. Lee, out, take over Richmond and the North wins! But what of the west? The West does include more than the battles at Shiloh, Vicksburg and Franklin. The west was also the breadbasket of the South (& North) but the key to conquering the rebels was the Mississippi River. Take it and cut the Confederacy in half (plus cutting them from their main food source –Texas).

The western theater also became the dumping ground by both sides for officers that lost favor in the east. General Halleck (US), Rosecrans (US), Braxton Bragg (CS), Joseph E. Johnston (CS) are good examples, like Johnston and President Jefferson Davis didn’t get along, but the South needed men, so Johnston was kept, just reassigned to the west. Sounds pretty awful, right?

My latest release, Rags & Hope, deals with this issue.Here is the blurb:

There was one thing about the War of Rebellion they could both understand: At least on the battlefield, the enemy is clear.

Thanks to his father’s political machinations, grieving widower Colonel Pierce Duval wants nothing more than to leave his family home in New York and return to his Union command in Tennessee. A chance and harrowing encounter with a true-blue Southern belle stirs emotions in him he thought long buried. When her safety is at stake, how can he not help her? 

Cerisa Fontaine ran away from her wealthy Louisiana home, hoping to form a new life where no one would know her family’s awful secret. But her controversial marriage and southern drawl make her a pariah in New York. Her situation becomes downright perilous when her husband is killed in battle and Cerisa is left alone and penniless, forced to seek employment at the only establishment that will accept her: a brothel. When the handsome colonel offers her a way out, she’s compelled to accept despite his Yankee roots.

Each for self-serving reasons of their own, Pierce and Cerisa embark on a journey south to Tennessee, posing as a married couple. But even as their secrets stand between them, their passion wages its own war against their better judgment. All too soon, they must make a life altering choice: remain loyal to their cause, or give in to their heart’s desire.

To Order Click Here 

I’m giving away a digital copy of my book Rags and Hope. For a chance to win, please leave a comment. (Giveaway guidelines apply.)

Updated: April 9, 2018 — 4:51 pm

How the West Was Wed–Giveaway

It’s PUB week for my book How the West Was Wed

and I’m giving away an eBook copy.

The only thing threatening their success is love.

After finding herself a widow at the age of twenty-six, JOSIE JOHNSON moves back home to Two-Time, Texas and takes over the town’s only newspaper, the Gazette.  Everything works as planned until the very charming, very handsome BRANDON WADE moves to town to start his own newspaper. At first Josie welcomes the competition, but soon learns that readers prefer Wade’s bold hyperbole to her more serious type of journalism.

Brandon never meant to put the pretty publisher out of business and suggests a solution.  Nothing sells newspapers like a good juicy scandal, but lacking that, the next best thing is a good old-fashioned print war between two battling editors.  Brandon even writes up an article disparaging himself and his paper to demonstrate. Josie refuses to stoop to such tactics.  She’ll gain her readers back on her own terms—or not at all!  But when her paper accidentally publishers Wade’s article, the print wars are on.

The rivalry between Josie and Brandon meets with immediate success and both newspapers fly off the racks. The editorial warfare is the talk of the town and readers can’t seem to get enough. While the ink wars rage on, Josie and Brandon find themselves fighting yet another battle—a mutual attraction that could put everything they worked for at risk.

Before the Civil War, people were content to receive news weeks and even months after an event, if at all.  The war changed that. Suddenly, people were demanding to know what was going on, and newspapers became an important part of life.  President Lincoln recognized that newspapers could be used to sway public opinion and he used them to good advantage, much as politicians do today.  

Here’s my question: What’s your favorite way of getting the news?

 

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Updated: March 17, 2018 — 7:03 am

The Only Female Recipient of the Medal of Honor

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

One of the writer-related questions I get most often is where do my ideas come from. The answer is a bit complex. As a writer, I see stories everywhere – in snippets of conversation, in song lyrics, in throwaway scenes from movies and TV shows and just from everyday life. But story ideas are also very fragile – they can disappear like mist when the sun beats down or like dream fragments once you’re fully awake.

So, whenever I get an idea for a new story, even if it’s just for a character or scene, I’ll set up a document in my Ideas folder to capture it before it gets away. From time to time I’ll go back in and add to one or more of the files, depending on what snags my interest at the time. And eventually one of these ideas will tell me it’s ready to be turned into a full blown book.

All of the above is backdrop to explain that one of these idea files contained a snippet of a story set in the late 19th century with a female doctor in the lead role. Of course a story like this requires a lot of research – questions such as what educational options were available for women and where could these be found, how well received were female doctors, what difficulties would they have faced due to their gender and just in general what medical treatments and a medical practice looked like during that time period.

And as often happens, while I was happily ensconced in researching some of this, I stumbled upon an unexpected and totally intriguing story about a fascinating woman.  Her name was Mary Walker. She was born in 1832, in upstate New York to parents who encouraged all of their children to pursue formal education. Mary took full advantage of her parents’  ideals and at the age of 25 graduated from Syracuse Medical School  with a doctor of medicine degree – she was the only woman in her class.  She then went into private practice and eventually married another physician, Dr. Albert Miller. However, in an action that was typical of her fierce independent spirit, she retained her maiden name. Eventually, she and Miller divorced due to his alleged infidelity.

When the Civil War broke out, Mary wanted to serve in the army as a surgeon, but because she was a woman she was unable to do so. Not willing to give up, she worked for free in a temporary hospital in Washington D.C.   From there she moved on to Virginia, treating the wounded at numerous field hospitals throughout the area.  Finally, in 1863, her medical credentials were acknowledged and she was appointed as a War Department surgeon. A year later she was captured by the Confederate Army and remained their prisoner for about four months.

 

 

In 1865, Dr. Walker became the first woman to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, an acknowledgement for her services during the Civil War.

Mary’s unconventional life extended past her service during the war.  She was an active and vigorous proponent of women’s rights.  She became an author and a lecturer, focusing on issues such as temperance, health care and dress reform.  And putting action to her words, she could often be seen garbed in bloomers or even men’s trousers and  a top hat. Dr. Walker was a member of the Woman’s Suffrage Bureau in Washington D.C. and testified before committees in the US House of Representatives on woman’s suffrage issues.

In 1917 her name, along with 910 others, was stricken from the list of Medal of Honor recipients. The reason given was that none of these had ever officially served in the military. However, despite orders to return her medal, Mary refused and continued to wear it for the remainder of her life. She passed away in 1919 at the age of 86.

But that’s not the end of Dr. Walker’s story.  In 1977, thanks to efforts made by her family who pushed for a Congressional reappraisal of her accomplishments, President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously. She is one of only six people to have this honor restored after it was rescinded. And to date she is still the only female to ever have this medal awarded to her.

So what do you think of this very unorthodox woman? Is there something about her life that particularly intrigued you?  Comment on this post for a chance to win an advance copy of my upcoming December release Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else… 

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

 

 

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Shelley Shepard Gray: The Story Behind The Book

We’re very happy to welcome Shelley Shepard Gray to the corral for a visit. She’s going to give us an interesting overview and the background of her newest book Love Held Captive

 

Every so often, I come across something while doing research that surprises me. Discovering that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp on Johnson Island, in the middle of Lake Erie, was one of those things!

Months before that discovery, I had been making dinner with my husband and told him about my idea for a series. I wanted to focus on a band of brothers who made a vow to be there for each other after the War Between the States. One idea led to another, and by the time we sat down to eat, I had the outline for a three book series.  The leader of this group was Captain Devin Monroe. I knew he was going to be the heart and the soul of this group of men. So well respected, he was almost larger than life. All of that was good. I just couldn’t figure out how the men had formed their bond. I came up with several scenarios, covering everything from being neighbors to meeting during basic training, to forming a bond during specific battles.

Then I discovered the POW camp on Johnson’s Island. During my research, I read one thing that stuck with me-that the best of the Confederacy was being guarded by the worst the Union had. I learned that these officers were carted up to Sandusky, Ohio by train and marched across the ice to Johnson’s Island. Then, these generals and captains and first lieutenants were essentially left to govern themselves. They made gardens, they whittled, and they cared for each other. One group of men even wrote a play. I knew right then and there that I had my men’s bonding experience!

Of course, no matter how much it differed from other encampments, it was still a POW camp. Dozens of men died while being incarcerated and the officers buried them on the island. When the war ended, groups from several southern states raised funds so the men would have tombstones. The cemetery is still there.

Right before I began writing the first book in the series, my husband and I drove up to Sandusky and visited a Veterans Home. A kind gentlemen took us up to the third floor of the museum there and showed us the many artifacts that remained from the camp. Then, after a few wrong turns and more than a couple dead ends, we finally found the Confederate cemetery. The site of it took my breath away.

People ask all the time how much research I feel I need to do for my historicals. For me, the story and the characters always come first…but the experience of actually being where my characters might have walked? Well, for me, it was priceless.

Love Held Captive is the last book in my Lone Star Hero’s Love Story series. It features both Captain Devin Monroe’s and Major Ethan Kelly’s stories. It takes place in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel and on Johnson’s Island. At its heart, it’s a romance about two men and two women who truly deserve their happiness. But it’s also about perseverance and grit. And about surviving, forging friendships, and clinging to hope in even the darkest of circumstances.  I hope you will enjoy the book.

Here’s the link to the website, so you can get a copy in your favorite format.

http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/love-held-captive/

We are very pleased that Shelley is giving one reader, who leaves a comment,

a boxed set of her series.

Free State of Van Zandt and Belinda Blurb

 

I love research and love to walk-the-walk when it comes to research.  As my friends know, if I could do what I’d really love  it’d be researching and outlining novels, while someone else writes the book.  I came across two interesting tidbits that I want to share with you all.

                                                                                 The Free State of Van Zandt

Van Zandt County in east Texas was once known as the Free State of Van Zandt, an independent state once in conflict with the United States.  Following the Civil War, federal troops were stationed in many Texas towns. Fed up with martial law, the citizens of Van Zandt voted to secede not just from Texas, but from the United States as well.  The government wasn’t going to stand for any shenanigans, so United States Army soldiers led by General Sheridan were sent to put down the uprising.

Fortunately, the Van Zandt army had celebrated their new freedom a little too heartily and the drunks were rounded up without too much hassle.  Later, many of the men escaped custody. Seceding from the U.S. was no longer in the cards, though the resolution made by the county to separate from Texas and the U.S. was never formally withdrawn.

Where did the word “blurb” come from?

This second little tidbit is for the writers out there, and we have plenty of readers who are also writers!  I found it so interesting and had not heard of this before.

Ever wonder where we got the term “blurb” to indicate a short summary or promotional piece accompanying a creative work?  At a trade association dinner in 1907, author Gelett Burgess presented attendees with a limited edition of one of his books.  It was customary to have a brief summary included on the front of the dust jacket of such books, along with a picture of an attractive woman.  Notice I said woman, not author!  Burgess followed this custom — with a twist. On the front of his book was an image of a woman with her hand held to her mouth, as if shouting. The caption for this image was “Belinda Blurb, in the act of blurbing,” and bold letters at the top of the dust jacket declared, “Yes, this is a Blurb!”  The name stuck.

I found this tidbit about the time, Kensington sent me the back blurb on my newest Kasota Springs Romance story Out of a Texas Night,  so I thought I’d share the tidbit with you all.

For an autographed copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger, referred to in  the Publisher’s Weekly review, or any one of the six anthologies by Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace and myself, give me your thoughts on Van Zandt County, Texas, withdrawing not just from Texas but the United States.

How many of you have ever heard of “Belinda Blurb”?

                                 Everything’s bigger in Texas…including love.

A deputy sheriff in Houston, Avery Humphrey is ready for some hometown comfort when she heads back to Kasota Springs, but one kiss from Brody VanZant is enough to make her trade “soothing” for “sizzling.” When it turns out hot, hard-headed Brody is another Bonita County deputy, sizzling gets complicated, especially after Avery is made the interim sheriff. Brody knows romancing the boss isn’t on the duty roster, but to him it’s a state of emergency to prove to Avery that he’s the partner she needs—in her life and in her bed—and he’s ready to give her as many kisses as there are stars in the Texas sky to convince her.

Praise for Phyliss Miranda

“Outlaw Savannah Parker finds hope for justice—and redemption—in the arms of Texas Ranger Ethan Kimble in Miranda’s ‘Texas Flame,’ which deftly weaves layers of secrets into a narrative that keeps readers guessing.”

Publishers Weekly

Updated: May 29, 2017 — 9:32 pm

Wild West Words: That’s Downright Insultin’

Insults and pejoratives have been around since man’s first spoken word. Below are some that were popular in the 19th-century American west. (Terms for food are here, women here, outlaws here, and gambling here.)

Bigmouth: a person who talks too much, usually about something another doesn’t want discussed. American English, c. 1889.

Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864

Battle of Franklin (Tenn.) Nov. 30, 1864 (Library of Congress collection)

Bluebelly: from the early 1800s in the U.S. South, a derogatory term for a northerner; a Yankee. From about 1850, a pretentious, opinionated person. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), any Union sympathizer, especially a Union soldier. Union soldiers also were called blueskins, after the color of their uniforms.

Bottom-feeder: a reviled person, especially someone who uses a position of authority to abuse others; a lowlife. Originally used to describe fishes, the word became American slang c. 1866.

Dude: a fastidious man; fop or clotheshorse. The term originated in New York City c. 1880-1885; antecedents uncertain. Westerners picked up the word as derisive slang for any city dweller out of his element on the rough frontier. Cowboys used the phrase “duded up” to mean “dressed up.” Contemporary usage of “dude” as a minor term of endearment or indication of spiritual kinship arose in California’s surfer culture during the latter half of the 20th century.

Fiddleheaded: inane; lacking good sense; “possessing a head as hollow as a fiddle.” Arose c. 1854; American slang.

Grass-bellied: disparaging term for the prosperous (especially those whose prosperity had gone to their waist); originally applied to cattle whose stomachs were dangerously distended due to eating too much green grass. The word arose prior to 1897, when it appeared in Owen Wister’s A Journey in Search of Christmas.

Confederate soldier re-enactors charge into battle during 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg July 6, 2013 (courtesy E.J. Hersom, U.S. Department of Defense)

Confederate soldier re-enactors charge into battle during 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg July 6, 2013 (photo by E.J. Hersom, U.S. Department of Defense)

Grayback: Confederate soldier, based on the color of their coats. Arose during the American Civil War.

Greaser: derogatory term for a Hispanic of the lower classes. Arose in Texas before 1836.

Greenhorn: novice, neophyte, or newcomer; pejorative in the American west from at least 1885. In the mid-15th century the word meant any young horned animal; by the 17th century, it had been applied to new military recruits.

Heeler: unscrupulous political lackey. The U.S. slang meaning dates to about 1877, no doubt from the image of a dog following its master’s heels. The word “heel” took on that very meaning in 1810. Previously (dating to the 1660s), “heeler” described a person who attached heels to shoes.

Hellion: disorderly, troublesome, rowdy, or mischievous. Arose mid-1800s in the U.S. from Scottish and Northern English hallion, meaning “worthless fellow.” Americans may have changed the A to an E because “hell seemed appropriate, although the shift could as easily represent a simple mispronunciation that stuck.

"An East-Side Politician" (Frederic Remington, 1894)

“An East-Side Politician” (Frederic Remington, 1894)

High-binder: swindler, confidence man, cheat (especially of the political variety). Americanism; arose 1800-10.

High yellow: offensive term for light-skinned person of mixed white and black ancestry. Arose about 1808 in the southern U.S. The term and the notion are reflected in popular songs of the mid-1800s, including the original lyrics for “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Hustler: in 1825, a thief, especially one who roughed up his victims. By 1884, meaning had shifted to “energetic worker.” The sense “prostitute” arose c. 1924.

Lead-footed: slow and/or awkward. Arose as American slang c. 1896. By the late 1940s, thanks to the burgeoning interstate highway system in the U.S., the term had taken on the opposite meaning — “fast” — as a reference to a heavy foot on a vehicle’s accelerator.

Loco: Borrowed from Spanish about 1844, the word has the same meaning in both languages: “insane.” “Loco-weed,” meaning a species of plants that make cattle behave strangely, arose about 1877.

Loony: short for lunatic; possibly also influenced by the loon bird, known for its wild cry. American English. The adjective appeared in 1853; the noun followed in 1884. “Loony bin,” slang for insane asylum, arose 1919.

Lunk: slow-witted person. Americanism; first documented appearance was in Harper’s Weekly, May 1867. Probably a shortened form of lunkhead, which arose in the U.S. about 1852.

Alexander W. Monroe, prominent Virginia lawyer and politician,1875. (courtesy West Virginia Division of Culture and History)

Alexander W. Monroe, prominent Virginia lawyer and politician,1875. (courtesy West Virginia Division of Culture and History)

Mouthpiece: from 1805, one who speaks on behalf of others. The word first became tied to lawyers — especially of the slimy variety — in 1857.

Mudsill: unflattering Confederate term for a Yankee. In the 1680s, the word meant “lowest sill of a house.” In March 1858, it entered American politics when James M. Hammond of South Carolina used the term derogatorily during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Yankees embraced the term as a way of flipping Rebs the proverbial bird.

Nuts: mentally unbalanced; crazy in a negative way. From 1846, based on an earlier (1785) expression “be nuts upon” (to be very fond of), which itself arose from the use of “nuts” for “any source of pleasure” (c. 1610). Oddly, “nut” also became a metaphorical term for “head” about 1846, probably arising from the use of “nuts” to describe a mental state. “Off one’s nut” as a slang synonym for insane arose c. 1860. The adjective nutty, i.e. crazy, appeared about 1898; nut as a substitute for “crazy person” didn’t arrive until 1903. (The related British term “nutter,” meaning insane person, first appeared in print 1958.)

Panhandle: to beg. Americanism c. 1849 as a derogatory comparison of a beggar’s outstretched hand to a pan’s handle. The noun panhandler followed in 1893.

Rawheel: newcomer; an inexperienced person. Exactly when the term arose is uncertain, but diaries indicate it was in use in California’s mining districts by 1849.

Redneck: uncouth hick. First documented use 1830. Originally applied to Scottish immigrants who wore red neck scarves during the American Colonial period, the word shifted meaning as it traveled west, possibly in reference to the notion farmers’ necks became sunburned because they looked down as they worked in their fields, leaving the backs of their necks exposed.

Secesh: short for secessionist. First recorded 1860 as a pejorative for Confederates during the American Civil War.

Sidewinder: dangerously cunning or devious person. Arose American west c. 1875 as a reference to some species of rattlesnakes’ “peculiar lateral movement.”

Son of a gun: politer version of the epithet “son of a bitch,” indicating extreme contempt. It’s unknown when the American figurative connotation arose, but the literal meaning appeared 1705-15 among the British navy, during a period when officers’ wives accompanied them to sea. Babies sometimes literally were born in the shadow of a gun carriage.

"The Squatters" by George Caleb Bingham, 1850 (courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston )

“The Squatters” by George Caleb Bingham, 1850 (The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, collection )

Squatter: settler who attempts to settle land belonging to someone else. Arose in Britain in 1788 as a reference to paupers occupying vacant buildings; first recorded use in the American west 1880.

Tenderfoot: newcomer; inexperienced person. Arose c. 1866 among miners, apparently in reference to an outsider’s need to “toughen his feet” in order to walk among rocks and stones where mining typically took place. Tender-footed, originally said of horses, leapt to humans in 1854 as a description of awkwardness or timidity.

Whippersnapper:
young, presumptuous and/or impertinent person. The term arose in England c. 1665-1675, possibly as a variant of the much older (and obscure) “snippersnapper.” Modern Americans have Hollywood westerns to thank for inexorably associating the term with cranky elders in the Old West: The word was virtually unused in America prior to the popularity of western “talkies.”

Windbag: person who talks too much, especially in a self-aggrandizing way. First appearance in print 1827. Originally (late-15th C.) “bellows for an organ.”

Yellow-belly: from 1842, a Texian term for Mexican soldiers. Origin obscure, but possibly from traditional association of yellow with treachery or the yellow sashes that were part of a soldado’s uniform. Yellow became slang for “cowardly” c. 1856, but yellow-belly didn’t become synonymous with coward until 1924.

Yellow dog: contemptible person. First recorded use 1881, based on the earlier meaning “mongrel” (c. 1770).