Tag: Civil War

COME WITH ME TO WOLF CREEK! by Cheryl Pierson

This past year, I was honored to be asked to participate in two more of the “Wolf Creek” collections that are the brainchild of Dr. Troy Smith, a wonderful author, outstanding history professor at Tennessee Tech,  and a very good friend. Troy’s vision, when he created the fictional post-Civil War Kansas town of Wolf Creek, was that it would be populated by a very diverse community. That, in itself, would cause its own brand of problems as the people of Kansas were sorely divided during the Civil War—and that conflict left its mark long after the War ended.

With over two dozen western authors making up the fabled “Ford Fargo”, author of the Wolf Creek anthologies and shared universe books, I have found myself in some very fine company to work alongside in these creations. The beauty of this project is that each author has the freedom to incorporate their character(s) into a loose framework that Troy lays out, and every shared story gets off to a great start, has no “sagging middle”, and comes to a very climactic ending—yet, it does so with the efforts of (usually) 6 authors per book.Imagine the thrill of being a part of such a collective effort—and seeing how flawlessly the eventual project comes out!

Available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.

In 2016, I participated in two anthologies. These are somewhat different from the “shared universe” books in which there is one story, divided into chapters. The anthologies are separate short stories, but they do propel the same story along to the completion, in many ways, a lot like the chapter books do.

I had a story in a book that was published in May, Wolf Creek: Book 14—WAR STORIES. This was a fun one, because there is a creepy barber, John Hix, who lives in Wolf Creek. He claims to have had nothing at all to do with the Civil War, yet he’s always wanting others to talk about what THEY did during the War…and he has his own reasons. And let’s just say, there have been some “unexplained disappearances”… This was a bittersweet book, as the incomparable western author, Frank Roderus, was a contributor—and this was one of his last publications before he passed away.

In my story, UNCLE JOHN, my character, Derrick McCain, discovers quite by accident that he has a daughter, six-year-old Viviana, that he didn’t know he had—and her mother is dying. But just as Vivi’s mother passes, Derrick is in for another surprise—one that troubles him to his soul: it becomes apparent that somehow, John Hix, the barber, is well-acquainted with little Vivi and her mother—and this is one man that Derrick doesn’t want anywhere near his family!

Available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.

The second book I contributed to this past year was called Wolf Creek: Book 18—HUNTER’S MOON. My story was THREE GOOD MEN, and this time, the town of Wolf Creek will soon be under siege by a band of raiding Kiowas who will show no mercy. They’ll reach the McCain family farm first, and though Derrick wants nothing more than to stay behind with the three men who’ve come to warn him and make their stand in his farmhouse, he knows he has to see his family to safety above all else. With the help of Sheriff Sam Gardner, a crusty lawman, Derrick and his wife, Leah, begin the trip to Wolf Creek in the dead of night under a hunter’s moon. But it isn’t long before Derrick realizes they are going to have to abandon the wagon and take their chances in the darkness of the forest to have any kind of hope of making it safely to Wolf Creek.

Some of the Kiowas follow, and while Sam and Leah make their way through the night with Vivi and her baby twin brothers, Derrick battles the Kiowas to save his family. When daylight comes, will the McCains and Sam be alive to continue the journey to warn the citizens of Wolf Creek of the impending attack? And what will become of the THREE GOOD MEN who have stayed behind to hold off the Kiowas and give Derrick, his family, and the town of Wolf Creek a fighting chance under a HUNTER’S MOON?

Available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.

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Here’s an excerpt from THREE GOOD MEN. Leah, the children, and Sam are making their way through the forest, and Leah is understandably worried about what’s going to happen. Here, she talks things over with Sam–and wonders where in the heck her husband is–or if he’s even still alive…

They walked in silence for a few more moments. Leah’s mind raced. Where is Derrick? He said he’d be right behind us. By her guess, it had been at least twenty minutes since they’d parted—maybe longer. Leah hurried to catch up with Sam, leaving Vivi out of earshot. “Sam, can you tell me—what was going on with you and John Hix? Were you–”

“Hix is a killer. I figured him out, followed him to your place. Charlie and Roman had ridden up just before I got there. You know the rest.” He shook his head and shifted Liam in his arm. “I hated having to go off and leave him there with Charley and Roman. But…there was no other choice.”

“Do you think—” Leah bit her lip. “I shouldn’t even mention my house at all, with the danger of the Kiowas killing three men. But…I love my home. I love what it means—a family…where my children lay their heads to sleep every night, in safety. Where my husband and I drink coffee in the mornings…and plan our dreams for the future. And where I finally have a place of my own, where I belong. To lose it—”

“Leah, they may not come—”

“Oh, they’ll come. Charley and Roman wouldn’t have stopped at our place if they’d thought there’d be any chance the Kiowas would’ve gone straight on to Wolf Creek. I have a feeling…I know my home will be destroyed.”

“If that happens,” Sam said carefully, “Wolf Creek will help you rebuild. I know that’s small consolation, but—”

She shook her head. “Forgive me. I shouldn’t even be thinking about my things when men’s lives are at stake.” She smiled at him as he glanced at her.

“It’s natural. Thinking about everything you stand to lose,” he replied.

“My family is all that matters. We will rebuild if we have to, of course. The most important thing is that we keep everyone…safe.” Her voice broke.

“You’re worried about Derrick,” Sam stated flatly. “He’s an excellent tracker, as you well know. Could be he decided to go after them; buy us some time. Don’t be thinking the worst, Leah.”

She nodded, and kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to calm her thoughts. Don’t be thinking the worst. But how can I keep from it?

“Mama, Uncle John said he paid for some candy for me at the store,” Vivi reminded her.

Leah forced herself to smile back at the little girl. “I heard. That was nice of him.”

“He’s going away.”

“Yes.” If John Hix was killed by the Kiowas, or if he went away forever, it would be a relief. Leah had never liked Hix, and she knew Derrick felt the same. They tolerated Hix for Vivi’s sake. And to be fair, Hix doted on their daughter. It was strange to think that the odd little barber knew Vivi better than she or Derrick…or, at least, had known her longer.

“Will he ever come back, Mama?”

“I don’t know, Vivi. But at least he was able to say goodbye.”

Vivi nodded, but she looked downcast.

Leah’s heart clutched. Vivi had suffered so much loss—leaving her home, losing her mother, and now, John Hix. Leah refused to consider the further impending loss that weighed so heavy on her soul right now. Where is Derrick? The thought nagged. Thank goodness Vivi was too young to understand what was happening, truly, at the moment.

They could be in the process of losing everything. Everything, including their very lives.

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Both of my stories have been entered in the WESTERN FICTIONEERS PEACEMAKER COMPETITION. I’ve been a finalist in that contest three times before, so I’m sure hoping for a win this year in the short fiction category with one of these stories.

Y’all keep your fingers crossed for me!

My character, Derrick McCain, is an odd hero because he is “just a man”—not a lawman or an outlaw or anything glamorous. He is a farmer who did some things in the Civil War he isn’t proud of. He’s half Cherokee and half white, and though he didn’t set out to be a “family man”, throughout the Wolf Creek series, he’s found himself in that situation under very different circumstances.

I’m wondering what kind of heroes you all like to see? A lawman set on seeing right done? An outlaw who’s seen the error of his ways and turned his life around? A cowboy fighting for justice on the range? Or someone like Derrick, who just winds up through fate’s hand becoming a hero—though he never thinks of himself that way…

Leave me a comment! I always want to know what other people think, and I’m giving away a print copy of a past WOLF CREEK book that I’ve been a part of to TWO LUCKY COMMENTERS!

Why I wrote the JOURNEY HOME SERIES

Why I wrote the JOURNEY HOME SERIES: Back in 1990-91, a US military operation called Desert Storm took place in the Middle East. Not long afterward, the veterans involved returned home with invisible scars that later became known as PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The heartbreaking stories about the men and women who couldn’t keep jobs or relationships soon became a regular feature on the nightly news. The shocking numbers of veteran suicides have increased over the years.

I write historical fiction and wanted to know how Civil War veterans who suffered with the same symptoms of PTSD were treated. Nineteenth century doctors diagnosed those afflicted with the condition as Soldier’s Fatigue. They offered bed rest in a soldier’s convalescent home, or recommended a discharge and a train ticket home. Often the soldier had a note pinned to his uniform, giving his name and destination, because he was incapable of communicating. Let the veteran’s family deal with the troubled man. If the family couldn’t handle their loved one, suffering acute mania, for instance, then the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. (St. Elizabeth’s) was the destination. Two cemeteries on the grounds of St. Elizabeth hold hundreds of Civil War soldier’s remains today.

diane-kalas-andersonville-2As my story ideas came together, I especially wanted to write my heroes as strong Christians and show how they dealt with the horrors of Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers. Perhaps a 21st century veteran’s spouse, mother, sister, or girlfriend will read PATRIOT HEART, FAITHFUL HEART, AND HOPEFUL HEART and see there is hope for their loved one. Hope for the future in God, the Father, and salvation through Jesus Christ, His son.

diane-kalas-andersonville-1HOPEFUL HEART is the last story in my 3-book Journey Home Series. The series is about three Civil War POWs who met in the infamous Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers and survive because of their friendship and Christian faith. Each book features one of the memorable heroes and a unique heroine that’s perfect for him.

HOPEFUL HEART, Journey Home Series 3

An inspirational historical romance set in the West

Pennsylvania. November 1866 –Lucy Garner is a recent widow who just buried her stillborn. Grieving the loss of two people she loved the most in her world, she decides to journey out West and escape her adopted father’s stepson whose intentions strike terror into her being. She goes to work for a difficult and unprepared family, headed to Oregon by wagon train.

diane-kalas-hopeful%20heart%20coverMissouri. November 1866 – Nat Renshaw’s boyish good looks disguise his intense personality.

Before the war, his cheating wife died and he gave up on marriage. He joined the Union Army and became a Confederate POW with enough anger to power a locomotive. These events did not improve his outlook on life. Since the war ended, he’s elected sheriff for a river town.

Oregon Trail. March 1867 – Lucy’s arresting features and gentle spirit attract Nat Renshaw’s unwanted interest as he scouts for Lucy’s wagon train. Lucy’s distrustful of Nat’s determination for romance, but ends up admiring his courage and faith in God. Can Lucy open her heart for another chance at love amid the trials of the Oregon Trail?

HAVE YOU EVER VISITED A VETERAN’S GRAVE? LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER A DRAWING FOR ONE COPY OF HOPEFUL HEART (PRINT OR EBOOK!)

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Surprises in History (and a Boxed-Set Giveaway)

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Research is one of the most important tools of the fiction author’s trade. Regardless what an author writes—historical, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction—he or she must have some knowledge of the real world in order to create a world in which characters live and breathe.

A Kiss to RememberGood authors don’t beat readers over the head with their research, but what they dig up informs every aspect of their stories. Much of what we discover doesn’t make it into our books. Instead, the information clutters up our heads and trickles out at odd times.

This is one of those times.

Each of the five authors who contributed to Prairie Rose Publications’s new release, the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, uncovered historical tidbits that surprised, charmed, or saddened her. Since all of us are good authors and would never dream of beating readers over the head with our research in our books, we’re taking the opportunity to beat readers over the head with our research in a blog post. We can be sneaky that way.

Without further ado…

 

Her SanctuaryHer Sanctuary by Tracy Garrett

Beautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.

Tracy: I’m a “cradle Lutheran,” meaning I was born into a Lutheran family, baptized in the Lutheran church… You get the idea. Imagine my surprise when I began researching the history of the church in Missouri and found they’d been in the state a lot longer than I thought. It was fun, though.

 

Gabriels LawGabriel’s Law by Cheryl Pierson

Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun—and Gabriel’s Law.

Cheryl: Orphanages of the 1800s and early 1900s were mainly what I needed to research. And what sad research it was! The Indian orphanages and “schools” were the worst. The Indian children were forced to “assimilate”: cut their hair, wear white man’s clothing, and speak only English. Punishment was swift and sure if they were caught speaking their native tongues. In essence, they were taught they had to forget everything they knew—even their families—and adopt the ways of the whites completely. This only ensured they would never be wholly at ease in either world, white or Indian.

 

Outlaw HeartOutlaw Heart, by Tanya Hanson

Making a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain that her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.

Tanya: The research that fascinated me the most was meeting and getting to know Dr. John Henry Holliday. What a guy. I’ve quite fallen in love with him. This handsome, soft-spoken, peaches-n-cream Southern gentleman can bring me to tears. He died slowly from tuberculosis for fifteen years after losing his beloved mother to the disease when he was 15. Talented pianist, multilingual, skilled surgeon who won awards for denture design… Most of his “deadly dentist” stuff was contrived. He needed a bad reputation to keep himself safe from angry gamblers. I was thrilled and honored both when he asked to be a character in Outlaw Heart.

 

The Dumont WayThe Dumont Way by Kathleen Rice Adams

The biggest ranch in Texas will give her all to save her children…but only the right woman’s love can save a man’s tortured soul. This trilogy of stories about the Dumont family contains The Trouble with Honey, a new, never-before-published novella. Nothing will stop this powerful family from doing things The Dumont Way.

Kathleen: Did you realize George Armstrong Custer was part of the Union occupation force in Texas after the Civil War? Neither did I. While I was double-checking my facts about Reconstruction-era Texas, I ran across that little tidbit. Texans may not have liked him any better than any other Yankee, but they were grateful for his kindness. During his five months in Texas, Custer was disliked by his own men because he strictly enforced Army regulations about “foraging” (read “stealing”) and poor treatment of civilians. I must admit I’m one of those who tended to view Custer as one of history’s real-life bad guys, but that one tidbit softened my impression. Funny how little things can make a big difference, isn’t it?

 

YESTERDAYS FLAMEYesterday’s Flame by Livia J. Washburn

When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love—no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~ The Literary Times

Livia: I really enjoyed learning about the firefighting companies in San Francisco. The massive earthquake in 1906 was followed by an equally devastating fire, and there were a lot of heroes among those early firefighters.

 

Have you ever been surprised, charmed, alarmed, or vexed by something you’ve read—in either fiction or non-fiction? What was it? We’d love to hear! One brave soul who shares her or his discovery in the comments will win a digital copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Remember before it’s available to the public! The five books comprise more than 1,000 pages of heart-melting western historical romance…and that’s a fact.

 

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Love in the Time of Miscegenation

Kathleen Rice Adams header

She’s the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.

Those are the original words to the chorus of “The Yellow Rose Texas,” a folksong dating to early colonial Texas. The first known transcribed version—handwritten on a piece of plain paper—appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836.

Marie Laveau 1774-1881 Marie Laveau by Franck Schneider

“New Orleans’ Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau (1774-1881) was a free Creole of mixed race.

In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man (“darky”) who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. The lyrics indicate the sweetheart was a free mulatto woman—a person of mixed black and white heritage. In those days, “person of color” was considered a polite way to refer to black people who were not slaves. “Yellow” was a common term for people of mixed race.

During the Civil War, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” became a popular marching tune for troops all over the Confederacy; consequently, the lyrics changed. White Confederates were not eager to refer to themselves as darkies, so “darky” became “soldier.” In addition, “rose of color” became “little flower.”

Aside from the obvious racist reasons for the modifications, legal doctrine played into the picture as well. Until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1967, all eleven formerly Confederate states plus Delaware, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia outlawed marriage and sexual relations between whites and blacks. In four of the former Confederate states—Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—marriage or sexual relations between whites and any non-white was labeled a felony. Such laws were called anti-miscegenation laws, or simply miscegenation laws. In order to draw what attorneys term a “bright line” between legal and illegal behavior, many states codified the “single-drop rule,” which held that a person with a single drop of Negro blood was black, regardless the color of his or her skin.

Texas’s miscegenation law, enacted in 1837, prescribed among the most severe penalties nationwide: A white person convicted of marrying, attempting to marry, or having sex with a person of another ethnicity was subject to a prison sentence of two to five years. Well into the twentieth century, it was not uncommon for the non-white half of the illicit relationship to be severely beaten or killed by irate local citizens.

The first American miscegenation laws arose in the colonies in the 1600s. The laws breathed their last gasp in 2001, when Alabama finally removed the anti-miscegenation clause from its state constitution after a referendum barely passed with only sixty percent of the popular vote.

Texas’s miscegenation law plays a role in “The Big Uneasy,” one half of the duet of stories in my new release, The Dumont Brand. The father of the heroine’s intended “lives in sin” with a free Creole of color. Under a tradition known as plaçage, wealthy white men openly kept well-bred women of color as mistresses in the heroine’s hometown, New Orleans. Texans frowned on the practice nonetheless. The situation causes no end of heartache for the heroine.

The Dumont Brand releases Friday, along with 20 other books, as part of Prairie Rose PublicationsChristmas in July event. About half of the books are holiday tales (like The Last Three Miles), and the other half are stories set in other seasons (like The Dumont Brand). Each of them will warm readers’ hearts all year long. Prairie Rose will host an extra-special Facebook fandango to celebrate the mountain of releases July 28-29. You can RSVP here. Did I mention the Prairie Roses will be giving away free books, jewelry, and other fun prizes?

The Dumont Brand 2 Web

 

On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until Amon Collier finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother Ben’s wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy: To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace: After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.

 

The-Last-3-Miles-Kathleen-2-Web_FinalThe Last Three Miles also will debut Friday as part of PRP’s Christmas in July:

When an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive. Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.

The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles.

You can read excerpts from both books and peruse a complete list of the titles that are part of PRP’s Christmas in July event here.

 

To do a little celebrating of my own, I’ll give an e-copy of The Dumont Brand to one of today’s commenters and an e-copy of The Last Three Miles to another.

Please note: Both are available only as ebooks.

 

The Bloodiest Trading Post in Kansas

 

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Trading Post, Kansas, near the Marais Des Cygnes River, is about an hour down the highway from where I live. This unincorporated town is reputed to be the longest continuously occupied community in Kansas, established in 1825 as (you guessed it) a trading post with the Osage Indians.

For years I drove by this tiny spot on the map and had no idea of the monumental impact it had on this region and the whole United States.

In 1858, a brutal massacre on “free state” men occurred just a few miles away. John Brown built a cabin close by to protect fellow abolitionists and plotted vengeance on slave owners, which culminated with his raid on Harper’s Ferry Virginia, a year later. From trading post, Kansas Senator Jim Lane and his infamous Jayhawkers launched a retaliatory raid on southern sympathizers in Missouri in 1861.

All this from a little place called Trading Post.door to cabin

I stopped one day and visited the small museum there and found a few interesting artifacts. Here’s the door to the cabin built by John Brown, who vowed to protect “freestate men” in Kansas after the massacre.

Near the museum, a memorial to the massacre victims was erected.

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I also visited the site of the MARAIS DES CYNES MASSACRE, which inspired John Brown to greater violence, spurred Jim Lane to attack Missouri, and arguably lit the spark that started a Civil War.

Did you know?massacre image (1)

Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.

The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles (1854-1861) occurred May 19, 1858, when thirty pro-slavery Missourians seized eleven Kansas ‘Free-State’ men and marched them to a creek bed near Trading Post. The eleven men were lined up execution style and promptly shot, apparently for no other reason than occupying land in a Free State.

The incident shocked the nation and galvanized abolitionists.

A few weeks later, John Brown arrived and built a two-story log “fort” (about 14 x 18 feet), which he occupied with a few men through that summer.  That December he led a raid into Missouri and liberated eleven slaves, killing one white man in the process. Ultimately, he took his fight east to Virginia, where after his ill-fated raid he was captured and hanged.

Later that same year, Kansans rejected a pro-slavery constitution and entered the Union as a “free state” in 1861.

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A Brown follower bought Brown’s property near Trading Post and later, at the site of the fort, built a stone house that still stands there today. The building and grounds are now part of a State Historical Site.
fort site

Visiting this and other historical sites caught up in the bloody conflict, I thought about how the border conflict changed the lives of everyday people for decades to come.

The character of the hero in my upcoming novel, Fugitive Hearts, is shaped by this tragedy, which leads him down a path of vengeance first, and then to the pursuit of justice.

Read more about it here:

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“Sheriff…I just shot my husband.”

Hotel owner Claire Daines is a respected member of the community. Until she shocks the entire town by rushing into a saloon wearing only her nightclothes and confessing to very inebriated lawman.

Is she a killer? Is she crazy? Or is she covering up something worse?

For years, Claire hushed up her husband’s dangerous condition to guard his reputation. When tragedy strikes, she puts her own life at risk when she vows to keep another terrible secret.

Sheriff Frank Garrity must get to the truth, although the tough, hard-drinking lawman hides his own secrets and would rather walk a lonely path than face his demons. But as Frank unravels Claire’s subterfuge and unlocks her heart, he’s torn between his desire to save her and his duty to bring her to justice.

Will he bring her to justice…or into his heart?

“Pure romance and passion that will steal your breath!”

Linda Broday, New York Times Best Selling Author

Coming July 28, 2015

Available for pre-order on Amazon

Other books in the series:

http://www.amazon.com/E.E.-Burke/e/B00EDYK9AU

Today, I’ll be giving away a free eBook in the Steam! Romance and Rails series: A Dangerous Passion. Just comment to enter the drawing.

The Widow of the South–by Cheryl Pierson

It all started when I read THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Robert Hicks, a novel 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 where he and his brother James had been raised, Carnton, in middle Tennessee. The McGavock’s 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’ 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.

Carrie McGavock as a young woman

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.”

 

 

 

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