Ladies of the Civil War

Author G.S. Carr provides the backdrop for a series she’s written about women of the Civil War. She’s also written The Cost of Love series and one book in Westward Home & Hearts series. When not crunching numbers and gushing over spreadsheets, she’s creating stories. Her tagline is Heart, hope and love to last through the ages. Many thanks for visiting today, GS.

Women have been kicking butt and taking names for centuries. They have defied cultural and societal expectations, resulting in many great feats of courage and changes to our world on both a micro and macro level. In honor of the many wonderful women of the past that have laid the groundwork for where we are today and where we will go in the future, I wanted to create a historical romance series based on a set of brave women, fighting for a set of principles they believe in. 

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This is how my newest series Ladies of the Civil War came to be. While watching a documentary about the Civil War with my husband I heard a brief mention of a woman who was in the Andersonville Confederate prisoner camp. Needless to say, that inspired me to embark on a research road trip. It was such a great experience being able to drive down to Georgia and visit the historical Andersonville site. Below is a picture I took of what the fort looked like while in use. 

During this trip not only did I leave with a new respect and deeper understanding of what many male soldiers went through. I also learned about some of their brave wives who accompanied them in the encampments. Now for those of you who are history aficionados this may not be news to you. But for this young lady who barely made it out of high school U.S. History, my mind was blown (writing historical romance has sparked my now love of learning about history). 

Andersonville Prison

Also during this trip, I found a gem of a book titled, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil Warby DeAnne Blanton and Lauren Cook Wike. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend it. It helped to further expand my understanding of the various roles women assumed during the Civil War. From spies, to nurses, to soldiers, and much more, they were amazing. The book highlights several women who disguised themselves as men to fight in various battles. For example, Sarah Emma Edmonds, who went by the alias Pvt. Franklin Thompson and served with the 2ndMichigan Infantry.

During further research I found out about a woman named Cathay Williams. She enlisted in the Army under the name William Cathay on Nov. 15, 1866 (post Civil War) when she was only 22 years old.

 Cathay was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry and traveled throughout the West with her unit. Her bravery makes her go down in history as the first documented black woman to enlist in the Army (even though U.S. Army regulations forbade the enlistment of women at the time).

I was honored to learn about this amazing woman! I stand upon her shoulders, and the shoulders of many other women just like her, who bucked the status quo and changed the course of history. My hope is to live a life worthy of their sacrifices and create a new wrung in the ladder for the next generation. 

So needless to say, I had to give these women a story. The inspiration was too good not to use. And that is how three women, Henrietta, Ruth, and Abigail came to be. During a slightly inebriated game of cards, these friends make a promise that they will all find a way to serve the Union Army. And if navigating how to fulfill their promise wasn’t enough of a challenge, of course I had to toss in how they try to navigate the complicated landscape of love. 

Book one, Lady of Secrets, is already available on Amazon. Book two, Lady of Disguise, will be released soon. Henrietta is catapulted down a path of intrigue, coded messages, and intelligence operations. And Ruth disguises herself as a man to fight as a Union solider. 

These books were so much fun and an absolute honor to create. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Happy Reading!  

I understand your fascination with women serving in the army, GS. I remember reading of several women who served alongside men when I was writing my WWI novels. Such courage is hard to fathom.

Lady of Secrets by G.S. Carr ~~ Henrietta Wright is a Free Colored woman who teaches reading and writing to anyone who enters her classroom. At least she was, until a drunken night with friends catapults her down a path of intrigue, coded messages, and intelligence operations. All in service of the Union Army. She can’t tell anyone what she’s doing, including the handsome Irishman she knows she shouldn’t want, but can’t seem to resist.

Since stepping onto American soil, Elijah Byrne’s only goal has been to survive another day. That is until Henrietta burst into his life and made him want more. She was never meant to be his – her fiancé can attest to that – but she makes him long for things men like him aren’t lucky enough to have. When she asks for his help, he can’t resist tumbling with her into a clandestine expedition that could cost them everything—including their lives.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

REAL LIVES ARE STRANGER THAN FICTION

I met Curt Locklear at this year’s Historical Novel Society conference. He’s an author, historian, teacher, education consultant, and public speaker. He also plays the banjo. Welcome, Curt!

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Real Lives are Stranger than Fiction by Curt Locklear

One of the great things about research for historical fiction is coming upon a surprise and knowing immediately that you can use it in your story. In my discovery of the amazing lives of the Fox Sisters, it was not just a neat tidbit to insert to add flavor to a good story. Their lives, or should I say antics, became a driving element in the plot of all three of my Civil War novels.

The Fox Sisters were the first and most notable, or notorious, spiritualists. The  phenomenon they helped engender – the “Spiritualist Movement” – swept through the nation.  This movement, proclaimed by even church leaders as religious in nature, clutched the United States and Great Britain in its grubby paws. Twelve years prior to the Civil War, in upstate New York, two young sisters, Kate Fox, age12, and Maggie Fox, age13, began their elaborate hoax innocently enough. Their father was devout Methodist minister, but the girls had no qualms about their extended effort to deceive their parents and neighbors.

They began their hijinks at night, tying a string on an apple and bouncing it on the floorboards of their upstairs room to sound like footsteps. Both girls later found they had an innate ability to make the joints in their big toes pop extremely loudly. They went on to invent a story about a peddler, Mr. Split-foot, who had been murdered. In the presence of their parents and neighbors, they would “ask” Mr. Split-foot’s ghost a question, and he would always rap the floors exactly correctly. No one doubted their story or discovered their ruse.

After a while, their mother sent them to stay with their much older sister, Leah. Rather than bring a halt to their connivance, the older sister saw the makings of a good income. If snake oil salesmen could sell their wares, Leah was certain that the sisters could market their uncanny ability of “speaking to the dead” to a nation of suckers. Their first séance, or spirit rapping, was held at Corinthian Hall – Rochester, New York’s largest venue. The price was one dollar.

The show was a success as were several more soon after. In a short while, “Spirit Societies” were formed all through New York state. The young sisters, in later seances, were speaking to Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and even Shakespeare. It was not long before other entrepreneurs figured out that a naïve and easily-fooled public would pay for séance shenanigans – wholly believing the purveyors of spiritual nonsense.

With newly burgeoning “science findings” sometimes flying in the face of some religious dogmas, many people searched for proof that immortality and the afterworld existed. Of course, skeptics immediately took on the hoaxes. A number of the shysters were found out. They were caught using small drums between their legs or having an accomplice behind a curtain, and so on.

Despite the skeptics, the spiritualist societies grew in number, most notably in Ohio.

The Fox Sisters, being more than once tied to chairs and monitored closely by renowned skeptics, were never found out. When the two spiritualists cracked their toe joints inside their shoes against wooden floorboards, the sound reverberated everywhere on the stage. No one guessed their ploy.

With their overbearing older sister forcing them into compliance, both Kate and Maggie became alcoholics and ended up broke at the ends of their lives. Both later admitted their lies.

The larger story is that many of the most respected individuals in the United States and Great Britain succumbed to the belief that certain people could openly consort with the deceased. Among them were Horace Greeley, the outspoken publisher of the New York Tribune and A. Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

When the Civil War began, never had the American nation seen such loss of life. The effects of witnessing the inconceivable devastation first-hand when the battle arrived in their front yards; and the dire news delivered by newspaper almost daily, led to a sort of national insanity. Large cities had a steady stream of hearses and coffin-laden wagons, the deaths being more from disease than battlefield death. Sometimes, in a single battle, small towns lost almost every young man who had joined the army.

No wonder people sought some sort of relief from their anguish.

The panacea was a chance to speak to lost loved ones during a séance. Historians estimate that as much as one-fifth of the US population believed in Spiritualism (the ability of some people to speak to the dead.)

Perhaps the most notable person to consort with spiritualists was Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of the president. Mrs. Lincoln held numerous seances in the White House after the untimely death by typhoid of their young son, Willie. Even the president sometimes attended. Mary Lincoln’s favorite spiritualist was Nettie Colburn, though she had Charles Colchester lead a séance as well. President Lincoln, his wife, and Charles Colchester play prominently in my third novel – Reconciled. The Fox Sisters are in all three novels and are involved in the dramatic climax in Reconciled.

Fascinating history, Curt. It’s my understanding that the famous French author Victor Hugo was also captivated by spiritualism. Best wishes for your Civil War novels.

Asunder Trilogy by Curt Locklear ~~ Thrust into the middle of Civil War battle, with both Union and Rebel protagonists and antagonists, Curt Locklear’s Asunder trilogy are stories of love and loss and of families torn apart.

Splintered is the second in the trilogy. From its heart-wrenching opening scene of stoic grief in a Lincoln White House on the day of his son Willie’s death to the final heart-wrenching battle scene and suprising assasination plot against Lincoln, Splintered proves itself a novel of sweeping, artfully rendered proportions, and one that is at times deeply moving, while always intelligent and socially conscious.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

An interview with Robert Kofman – author of General Meade: A Novel of the Civil War

It seems fitting to follow Diane C. McPhail’s interview about the writing of The Abolitionist’s Daughter with Robert Kofman, author of General Meade: A Novel of the Civil War. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing, Robert.

Why did you choose to write historical fictionI’ve had a lifetime passion for history and seriously considered pursuing a doctorate before opting for law school. When I retired after a forty-year legal career my first trip was to the Gettysburg battlefield. I had been to Gettysburg before but never for more than two days. On this trip, I spent a week immersing myself in the great battle. Prior to the visit I reread Michael Sharra’s brilliant novel Killer Angels and was again awed by how he brought the battle of Gettysburg to life. That week in Gettysburg planted a seed in my mind that I could pursue a second career as a writer of historical fiction. I decided to start with a novel set in the Civil War.

What drew you to the world of this particular novelDuring my research, I read The Life and Letters of General George Gordon Meade which contains hundreds of letters Meade wrote to his beloved wife Margaret. His letters offer exceptional insights into the turbulent politics and dysfunctional leadership that swirled around the Union’s largest fighting force, the Army of the Potomac “AOP”. I realized there was a dramatic story that could be told through Meade’s eyes. Known as the Old Snapping Turtle for his fierce temper, Meade fought in every AOP battle as that star-crossed army confronted its arch nemesis, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Lincoln made Meade Commanding General of the AOP just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade was the AOP’s fourth commander in eight months [the three preceding commanders had been sacked by Lincoln for their inability to beat Lee]. At Gettysburg, Meade defeated the seemingly invincible Lee in the largest, bloodiest and most dramatic battle of the war. After the Battle of Gettysburg Meade was subjected to a vicious smear campaign that falsely claimed he had wanted to retreat, had poorly managed the army and disaster was avoided only because of the brilliant work of his subordinates. The effort to disparage Meade was led by a General he had offended, Dan Sickles. That former Congressman had gained fame before the war for having murdered his wife’s lover and been acquitted in the first case recognizing the defense of temporary insanity. Great efforts were made in Congress and the press to have Lincoln sack the Victor of Gettysburg but Lincoln never did and Meade was still leading the AOP when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

Can you tell us how you did your research and any surprises you discovered along the wayI read historical works on every battle Meade fought in, visited the battlefields on multiple occasions and attended a Civil War reenactment in Gettysburg. I contacted the General Meade Society in Philadelphia and communicated with its President, Professor Andrew Waskie. He cordially invited me to visit Philadelphia which I accepted. During that visit, Andy gave me a tour of the City’s Grand Army of the Republic Museum and I attended the annual celebration of Meade’s life that is held on his birthday, December 31. I read numerous biographies on all the historical figures including Meade, Lee, Lincoln, members of his cabinet and all the Union generals [and many of their subordinates]. The vicious politics of Washington was on display in many books including those on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War which investigated Meade based on Sickles allegations of his generalship at Gettysburg. I researched Lincoln’s prodigious output of jokes and yarns and the President recounts many of his humorous stories the book.

One surprise was the importance of the 1840’s Mexican War in forming lasting bonds of friendship between so many of the key officers on both sides of the conflict. Meade, Grant, Lee and many others fought together in Mexico. Those close ties allowed senior officers of the Union and Confederate armies to promote reconciliation and begin the healing process that would reunite the country after four years of bloodshed that saw 600,000 soldiers perish.

Which authors have inspired your writing? Can you tell us why? Great historical fiction transports the reader on a journey to a different time and place and educates while often provoking serious thinking about parallels to modern society. Two of the best that I admire are James Michener and Ken Follett. Michener explores civilizations and captures the clashes of cultures in many of his works. I feel like I’m in a graduate history course when I’m reading one of his books. I have always been fascinated with the Second World War and loved Follett’s first book, Eye of the Needle, a fictional story of a Nazi spy being pursued by British intelligence. Follett has written many fine novels since and, similar to Michener, captures history with a broad canvas.

Three writers inspired me in writing about the Civil War, Michael Sharra, his son Jeff Sharra and Ralph Peters. They are the standard setters in Civil War military fiction.

What is your writing process? I do extensive research and prepare a timeline of events to be covered before beginning to write. I work eight to twelve hours a day until I produce a first draft. Thereafter I do revisions until I am satisfied that I have written a good story that flows smoothly and moves crisply.

What is the subject of your next novel? I have begun researching for a novel set in the European theater of World War II. Similar to General Meade it will include leading political and military leaders such as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, and Charles De Gaulle.

Many thanks, Robert. I love novels that show the complexities and tragedies of war. Your next one reminds me of Citizens of London by Lynne Olson.

General Meade: A Novel of the Civil War by Robert Kofman ~~ As the Civil War rages on, President Lincoln desperately seeks a commander to defeat the seemingly invincible Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, whose army has invaded Pennsylvania. Lincoln turns to the Old Snapping Turtle, General George Meade—a courageous man with remarkable integrity and a fiery temper—to save the Union during its greatest time of need. Just three days later, Meade confronts Lee’s troops at Gettysburg, resulting in the bloodiest and most dramatic battle of the war. Delivering a glorious victory, General Meade vanquishes the Confederate Army, forcing a retreat south. But for Meade, the battle is far from over. At first heralded as a hero who turned the tide of the war, he falls victim to a nefarious smear campaign that threatens to ruin his reputation and his career. The general is forced to muster all his strength to persevere against an onslaught of political attacks, all while leading the Army of the Potomac and serving his superiors: General Ulysses S. Grant and President Lincoln. A compelling work of historical fiction, General Meade: A Novel of the Civil War paints an engrossing picture of an unsung American hero. Filled with primary sources, including letters written by Meade himself, the narrative uses firsthand accounts to reveal fascinating details of life in a nation dangerously divided.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.