I love a good historical, and any story with an unlikely hero is bound to find its way onto my keeper shelf. When I discovered Gone With the Wind, I found both, as well as a love for Civil War era tales. Imagine my surprise when I found out one of the most surprising tales of the era took place almost within walking distance of where I was born in Jefferson County, Texas.
Picture it: Five thousand Union sailors in a flotilla of seventeen vessels against 44 Confederate artillerymen at the command of an Irish saloon owner. Sounds like the making of a sound defeat or a Hollywood action movie, doesn’t it?
In truth, it is the story of a band of soldiers called the Davis Guards, or Company F of the First Texas Heavy Artillery Regiment stationed at tiny Fort Griffin on the mouth of the Sabine River. Their stunning victory is one that Confederate President Jefferson Davis called “one of the most significant military victories in world history.”
Richard “Dick” Dowling started life in County Galway, Ireland. After immigrating to New Orleans then losing his family to yellow fever, Dowling settled in Houston in the mid-1850s, where he established a chain of saloons. The most successful of these, the Bank of Bacchus, was situated on Courthouse Square in downtown Houston and was, according to several sources, the first business in the city to boast gas lighting.
At the outset of the war, Dowling enlisted and eventually found himself assigned to the remote outpost of Fort Griffin (near the city of Sabine Pass, Texas). To pass the time – which moved quite slowly in the mosquito-ridden lowlands – Dowling drilled his men on artillery exercises. These lazy-day activities came in handy on September 8, 1863 when a flotilla of seventeen Union vessels appeared on the horizon. While the four-dozen men scrambled to their well-rehearsed positions, the brown waters where the Sabine River poured into the Gulf of Mexico filled with enemy ships. The first two crafts were quickly disabled by the Davis Guard sharpshooters, blocking the channel and effectively keeping the other fifteen ships out of the river.
At the end of the battle, 350 prisoners had been taken and the enemy had retreated leaving significant amount of supplies, weapons and ammunition behind. Lt. Dowling and his men were heroes, hailed by President Davis and commemorated with medals melted down from Mexican silver.
Interesting fact: two streets in downtown Houston are named for Dowling. The first is obviously Dowling Street. The second is Tuam, named for the city of his birth. And ironically, the Yankees couldn’t best him but the yellow fever that took his family back in New Orleans did. Dowling died in 1867 of the disease, just a few scant years after his stunning victory. Not the ending I would have written, but still quite a story!
So, what sort of history can you find within walking distance of your birthplace?
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper.
Thanks Petticoats & Pistols for having me here today! Why did I join this anthology? Everyone’s enthusiasm made me want to take part. The Wild Rose Press’s editors’ interest in our proposal increased our desire to write the novellas. We all chose a different time, either before, during, or after the war in my case, and we dove in.
My family’s experiences inspired my story, Are You Going to the Dance? With TWRP’s support, it all came together easily. I enjoyed it so much I have written two other novella’s since, and I have one out now with Red Rose Publishing, titled Pure Pleasure, and have sent another novella, a werewolf historical, to The Wild Rose Press for consideration. Along with all our anthology stories, I’m anxious to see Are You Going to the Dance? in print because the story that inspired it is dear to my heart.
What did towns that didn’t choose to fight in the war do instead?
Jeanmarie Hamilton: My great great grandfather came to Texas from Holland. In Texas he married my great great grandmother who immigrated from Alsace Lorraine. My story, “Are You Going to the Dance?” is inspired by their experiences, but does not represent them. He and many folks in the German communities of the Texas Hill Country believed in preserving the Union. If he had been caught taking the mules he raised to the Union army, he could have been shot by the Confederates.
The town where he lived in Texas voted to form local militia units rather than send men to the Confederate army. His son joined the local militia unit and took part in protecting their own town. All of the local citizens, farmers, and ranchers enjoyed frequent weekend gatherings to dance and socialize.
My great great grandmother was also independent and it is said of her that she would have rather been outside riding her horse and working with the men than working inside the house. One night, she found an Indian brave who had been wounded during a raid, but not discovered by the farmers.
She saved his life without the farmers knowing, and as a result his tribe never again raided their farm.
* * * * Excerpt from Are You Going to the Dance?:
Lexie went to the front window. Friends from the Lipan camp had come to trade. They carried baskets of honey. Though she was happy to see them and trade for the honey, she worried for their safety. With the raids uncontrolled, and the militia convinced the Lipan were responsible, it could be dangerous for them to venture so far from home.
“I’ll see what they need. It shouldn’t take long. Go ahead with what we’ve started.” Lexie put down the dress pattern, left the parlor and opened the front door. The Indians were almost to the front yard. She waited on the porch for them. They waved to her and she returned their greeting.
The group included the fathers of two families and their older sons, all of whom she knew and trusted. She greeted them in their language, having learned from her mother. “Good evening. It’s good to see you.”
They answered her in kind, smiles on their darkly tanned faces.
“What are you carrying?” She waited while they started across the front lawn.
“Honey to sweeten your bread,” said Mr. Domingo, the older of the two fathers.
Lexie stepped down from the porch. She crossed to meet them and accept their honey. Hoof beats rumbled from the direction of town. Lexie recognized Clay’s militia racing down the road. They’d seen the Indians. Fearing Clay and his men would arrest them, she warned, “Go. You must get away. Hurry.”
The Indians left their baskets and ran for the corn field. As they started to hide among the tall stalks of corn, she turned to flag down Clay and his militia. Seeing that the oldest of the sons, Ynez Domingo, had been watching to make sure the others got away, she yelled and waved her arms at Clay, desperate to distract him from following the Lipan.
When the militia never slowed, she screamed Clay’s name. He and his men kept on. In horror she watched the brave turn toward her as an explosion blasted from someone’s rifle. He spun and ran deep between the rows of corn stalks.
“No!” she cried. She ran after her Lipan friends, desperate to protect them. Her hem caught on dried leaf stems. Strands of her hair tangled in the waving leaves.
Clay galloped his horse hard toward her. Before she could stop him, he swept her up in front of him in the saddle. In turmoil, she held onto his arms while he guided his horse to the back of her home. He reined his mount around the baskets of honey and toward the far side of the house to the back porch. He eased her from his lap and her feet touched the ground. She spun to glare at him.
“Go inside and stay down,” he warned.
* * * *
Jeanmarie Hamilton considers Texas home as it was to some of her ancestors — men who were farmers, ranchers, judges, lawmen, — women who would rather be outside riding their horses than inside cooking, who learned to speak the language of the Lipan Apache, stopped hangings, and raised children. She loves writing stories set in the Southwest about heroes and heroines, the problems they overcame, their fears and triumphs and the forever love they can’t deny. You can find her at: http://www.jeanmariehamilton.com/
Susan Macatee: I didn’t know there were towns that didn’t chose to fight. I do know for a fact that families on both sides tried to keep sons from fighting. Many shipped their sons either North or South to keep them out of the war, but it often backfired as they ended up fighting for the other side.
Caroline Clemmons: Although there was no local militia in my story, I know there were in many parts of the country. My family moved into town, and there were a lot of people migrating to escape the conflict.
Mary Ann Webber: I haven’t heard about this happening in either the North or the South. Emotions ran so high in the South that people were cautious about appearing “soft” on the Union. In my story, No Decorum, Juliet sits in church and nervously listens to her father’s sermon. She’s afraid the congregation will eventually notice he doesn’t speak out against Lincoln like the other ministers in town. Also, she is unnerved because he’s allowed a Yankee soldier to attend their church — that is, until she falls in love with the young man.
Jennifer Ross: Obviously, towns in Canada didn’t choose to fight in the American Civil War. But I was totally amazed at the number of individual “Canadians” (we weren’t a country yet) who volunteered or were “recruited” for the Union Army. Check out this site (Susan Macatee!) it even includes a Canadian woman who volunteered, posing as a man!
Isabel Roman: I had no idea that there were towns who decided not to fight! In school (and I have a BA in American History) I was taught that it was a country-fight: everyone took a side, families were torn apart, the literal north vs. south was the end all be all of the entire existence of the country! I’ve since learned the American Revolution was the true civil war, and there were entire sections of people who never fought, didn’t care because they weren’t involved, and barely kept up with the news. Huh.
* * * * Jeanmarie will give away to 1 lucky commenter: $10(USD) The Wild Rose Press gift certificate. Remember, everyone who leaves a comment on the day of the post for each of the six days will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Northern Roses and Southern Belles signed by all six authors.
The Civil War as you’ve never read it! Northern Roses and Southern Belles now available from The Wild Rose Press!
Every writer’s process is different for developing stories. Personally, I can’t just sit down and write a story. I have to see it, hear it…the characters have to talk to me, compel me to want to learn more about them, to care about them. In November I began to embark on writing a new western series…well…almost.I began to think about writing a new series. This is the first time I have finished a book and didn’t have another already in the works. I was starting with a blank page and this vague idea to write a series based on the founding and development of a western boomtown. But where, who, and what historical element could I tap into? Too many options can be a mind-boggling thing! I went on a research book-buying spree and poured over books about pioneer doctors, pioneer teachers, mail-order brides, western madams, desperados, railroads and ranchers–in a sense I was mining for characters, sparks of inspiration to help me form a community. I read countless intriguing tales, and yet, nothing really called to me, no voices or faces of new characters formed in my mind. I’m not one to take notes (I’d only lose them), either something takes hold in my mind or it doesn’t. I needed a series title, character names. For me, these are cornerstones I use to build a visual foundation and a connection to my story.
It wasn’t until I’d gone to Borders to find a World War II book for one of my boys that I happened across GREAT MAPS OF THE CIVIL WAR—not just a map book, but one with a pocket on each page containing a map of a major battle, and on the pages were accounts and information about the cartographers who drew those maps. I had never realized what a huge part these map makers played in the war or the danger they faced. Cartographers on both sides risked their lives to survey battle grounds where opposing troops patrolled and capturing the others maps was a prized advantage. I was mesmerized for days and began to see an image of a hero, a scarred and callous Civil War veteran and skilled cartographer who’s life now has no direction (much like my writing at this point!). One tidbit of information that had stuck out in my mind from earlier readings about post Civil War was the movement of the railroad and their campaigns to lay routes into the mining territories of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Since I’ve already written a series in Wyoming, the other two states were at the top of my list for possible locations. This newly forming hero was the perfect candidate for a railroad surveyor team to travel into the western frontier for possible railroad routes.
I still had no heroine, no set location, no burning drive to lead this team in one direction or another. All through November and December as I shopped and worked on my house I chipped away at the hardpan of my brain, trying to find the vein of my story. As of last week I was still waffling between Colorado and Montana…did the heroine meet up with the men on the trail or was she already in a mining community–was she a widow, a virgin, a spitfire with a grudge against the railroad? What was the significance of their first encounter? Nothing would stand out and sing to me. I needed a bolt of lightening!! Just one strong jolt to charge this story and bring my characters to life!
This past Monday my boys went back to school and as I drove home in the blessed silence, I heard it, this soft whisper in my mind…Copper Canyon.I don’t know where those particular words came from—perhaps the copper faucets I’ve been trying to decide on for the new kitchen (still haven’t moved home), but this moment was the lightening strike I’d been waiting for, the charge of inspiration to breath life into these characters who’d been bumping around in my mind, waiting to be grounded. I got home and Googled Copper and Montana. Wouldn’t you know, Montana had the world’s largest copper mine, first discovered in the early 1870’s–the major vein wasn’t tapped into until the 1890’s–the early claims were just enough to start small booms–Eureka!!!!!
After two months of mining and chiseling out vague impressions of character story arcs my Copper Canyon Series has life! In the past few days I’ve been fleshing out the characters and storyline which has been unfolding in my mind with bold color. This is a picture I sent to my editor with the suggestion for the series title…the working series title, which could change–as they usually do 😉
This is where I’ll be for the next few months, and the months after that as I dig into the second book in the series–which is already coming along nicely–strange how a single spark can make such a huge difference.
Here’s wishing lots of lightening strikes for all y’all! Anyone else’s new year starting off with a bang? I hit a bit of a bump on Tuesday when I got a speeding ticket after dropping off my boys *ggg* My resolution was to find balance in ’09, so I guess that balanced out my excitement from Monday–I guess I need balance and Cruise Control 😉
A big thanks to the ladies from Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me to come blog!
When I was working on my new release, The Bargain, I had a rare chance to do research with my husband.(Not the way you’re thinking.LOL.)Like the hero in my story, my husband is a doctor, although in a different specialty.The history of medicine is a hobby of my husband’s, so he enjoyed sharing with me what it was like to be a doctor back in the 1800’s.I’d like to share with you what I discovered.
The first Medical College in America was founded at the University of Pennsylvania in 1765.American medicine in the mid-19th century was a far cry from today’s curriculum of 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3-6 years of residency training.
Most aspiring doctors would spend a few months in a medical school for 2 terms, often without having a college degree, then spend a year or two apprenticed to a practicing doctor where they would learn the practical aspects of patient care.Medical students were renowned for their raucous and drunken behavior.Most medical schools in America were privately owned and run by individual doctors.
Medical techniques were still rudimentary.No anesthesia, save for perhaps intoxicating the patient with liquor, was available at that time for surgery – even ether was not yet available.A surgeon was prized for his ability to perform operations quickly due to the pain, and a good surgeon could, for example, amputate a leg in about 2 minutes.
Antibiotics were still decades in the future, so post-op infections were the rule, with mortality rates for even simple operations running about 50%.Wounds were usually cauterized with boiling oil or hot pokers after surgery.The operating theaters in hospitals were often located in towers or in a separate building so that other patients could not hear the screams of the surgery patients.Surgeries of the abdomen or chest were uniformly fatal.
Medicine theory was still grounded in the passive, nature-based principles of Hippocrates, a Greek physician from 4th century BC, and Galen, the 2nd century AD Roman physician. Some herbs were available in 19th century America and some plants were used, such as the foxglove plant which provided digitalis for dropsy, or congestive heart failure, but the mechanism of action was unknown and doses were not precise.
Hospital wards were unsanitary to say the least – often 3-4 patients shared a bed, and one could often awaken to find oneself sleeping with the corpse of a bedfellow who had passed on during the night.Doctors had little knowledge of the germ theory, which was doubted and ridiculed by some doctors, so handwashing between patient visits, or even between the doctor doing an autopsy and examining his next patient, was rare.No wonder people would do most anything to avoid going into a hospital when they could.
With standard medicine in such a state, many people sought out herbalists or homeopaths who, even if their nostrums were ineffective, at least did little harm and let the patient heal by themselves if possible.This was preferable to the frequent bloodletting or provision of emetics and strong purgatives to make the patient vomit or have diarrhea which were among the “heroic medicine” treatments most doctors used at the time.
Of necessity, medical practice advanced during the Civil War, possibly due to the sheer number of patients. Attention began to be paid to basic hygiene as cause and effect perhaps became more readily apparent, and army physicians began to compare notes on epidemics and infection. Slowly, new methods of dealing with traumatic injuries were developed and patient care overall began to improve, although it was still primitive. Some believe that medicine advanced more during the Civil War than during any other four-year period in history.
My latest release, The Bargain, takes place in a Union field hospital in the closing days of the Civil War. It is the jumping off point for my Western series, Finding Home. Researching the medical practices of the time gave me a greater sense of admiration for the doctors of the Old West and what they went through to try to help others.
I have an autographed copy of my new release The Bargain to give away. I’ll draw a winner from all the comments.Thanks in advance for stopping by to leave a comment.
In Petticoat Ranch, my hero Clay fought in the Civil War as did Sophie’s first husband. Research can really lead you into fascinating areas. I saw this head line on a story the other day.
Gertrude Janeway, 93, Is Dead; Last Widow of a UnionSoldier
Gertrude Grubb Janeway, age 93, died Friday Jan. 19, 2003, at her home in Blaine, Tenn. She lived in a three-room log cabin bought for her by her husband in 1927. She was the last surviving widow of a Union soldier. Her husband, John Janeway, died in 1937 at age 91. She married her husband in 1927 when she was 18 and he was 81. In an interview in 1998 she said they sparked for three years because her mother would not sign for her to marry. As a Union widow pensioner Janeway received $70 per month from the Veterans Administration until the day she died. Gertrude never remarried and talked all her life about how much she loved John. So that article led me to this one:
Alberta Martin, 97, Confederate Widow, Dies
The person thought to be the last-known Confederate widow, Alberta Martin, was born Dec, 4, 1906, and died at age 97 in Alabama on May 31, 2004. In 1927, at age 21, she married William Jasper Martin, then 81. William and Alberta had one son. Mrs. Martin died nearly 140 years after the Civil War ended.Her marriage in the 1920s to Civil War veteran William Jasper Martin and her longevity made her a celebrated final link to the old Confederacy.And, do you think we’re done yet? No!
Widow recalls marrying Civil War veteran
The publicity surrounding Alberta Martin’s death prompted relatives of Maudie Celia Hopkins of Arkansas to reveal that the 89-year-old was in fact the last civil war widow.
Hopkins married 86-year-old William Cantrell on Feb. 2, 1934, when she was 19.To me this is almost staggering…isn’t it? C’mon! It’s history come to life. Our links to the past seem so distant and, as I sit here typing on my computer, and click around on the World Wide Web–sometimes annoyed because it takes WEBSITES too long to open–I get hit with this. Someone is still alive today who was married to a Civil War veteran. In the historical western novels the Petticoats and Pistols fillies write we have to capture that long ago time. But as long as Maudie Celia Hopkins is still alive, that history is now.Who is the oldest person you know?
Any veterans in your past?
My father, Jack Moore—who never did much traveling at all until he retired, spent a year and a half in Korea. There’s traveling for you. Can your parents remember when the lights went on? My mom and mother-in-law can. Ask them about it. You can see the amazement in their eyes at the miracle of an electric light bulb. At church one day someone mentioned WWII and I asked the lady who brought it up, ‘Did your husband go to war?’ She said, “Everybody went.”
I remember someone saying Laura Ingalls Wilder came west on a wagon train and lived to see a rocket launched into space. It’s just not that long ago.
Tell me what the oldest person you know lived through. World War II? The Dust Bowl? The Depression? And if you don’t know the answer to that, go talk to them. Have you ever heard the saying,
“When an old man dies, a library burns down.”
There is a book in everybody’s story, and a library in an old person’s story.
Who’s the oldest person you know? Tell me about your own living history.