American Civil War, Researching Historical Fiction

Abe Lincoln Dead — Film at 11

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated 150 years ago today, and nearly 60 years ago, the last surviving eyewitness appeared on a TV game show called “I’ve Got a Secret.” Samuel J. Seymour was 96 when the show aired. The Atlantic posted a video clip of his appearance, and Robbie Gonzalez picked it up on the… Continue reading Abe Lincoln Dead — Film at 11

American Civil War, Researching Historical Fiction

Celebrating the End of the Civil War Today

Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant 150 years ago today, and bells will toll across the country this afternoon to commemorate the occasion. The bells will peal at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia at 3:00 p.m. (EDT) to mark the time when Lee and Grant concluded their meeting to negotiate… Continue reading Celebrating the End of the Civil War Today

Researching Historical Fiction, Women in the West

Blizzards in the Old West

My driveway in the early stages of clearing after a winter storm. We've been using a combination of snow blowing, shoveling and salting. It has been a battle keeping our long, curving, sloping driveway free of snow and ice this winter, and the experience made me wonder how people used to clear snow. After doing… Continue reading Blizzards in the Old West

Researching Historical Fiction, Women in the West

Minnie the Moocher and Opium Use in the Old West

It’s tough to research people and life in the Old West without stumbling over references to opium use. Opiates in various forms were widely prescribed and used, and legal at the time. I’ve read numerous books and articles on the topic of opium, and one day when I’d been delving deep, I happened to listen… Continue reading Minnie the Moocher and Opium Use in the Old West

American Civil War, American Indians, Researching Historical Fiction, Women in the West

Thanksgiving without the Pilgrims

Sarah Josepha Hale. Portrait by James Reid Lambdin. Americans owe the modern-day celebration of Thanksgiving to Abraham Lincoln and Sarah Josepha Hale. However, I fear we owe our warm, fuzzy image of Pilgrims and Indians living in harmony to a lazy attitude toward history. Hale promoted women’s issues through the American Ladies Magazine, which she… Continue reading Thanksgiving without the Pilgrims

Researching Historical Fiction

Brisco County and His Horse Comet

While we’re on the subject of horses, I have to confess to a deep affection for “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.,” a short-lived (one season) TV series from the early 1990s. It is a strange and charming combination of western, comedy, action and sci-fi starring Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell with one of the horses… Continue reading Brisco County and His Horse Comet

American Indians, Famous People of the Old West, Researching Historical Fiction, Resources and Events for Writers

My Kingdom for a Horse

It’s impossible to imagine the Old West without horses. Impossible to imagine cowboys, outlaws or lawmen making their way across the plains without them. I recently volunteered to help with a 30- and 50-mile endurance riding event to learn more about the sport, and in the process, I learned a lot about horses, which naturally… Continue reading My Kingdom for a Horse

American Civil War, Blacks in the Old West, Researching Historical Fiction

Contraband: The Secret to the Union Army’s Success?

I came across this photograph in a magazine with a fascinating article about the often-overlooked impact that refugees from slavery had on the Union’s victory in the Civil War. When three slaves — Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker and James Townsend — fled to the Union-held Fort Monroe, Va., in May 1861, Gen. Benjamin Butler faced… Continue reading Contraband: The Secret to the Union Army’s Success?

Creativity and Productivity, Researching Historical Fiction

The Pleasures of Stacking Firewood

Since I moved (see previous post), my life is busy in different ways. Here are some of my new distractions: caring for the three geese and one duck we inherited from the previous owners, maintaining an amazing series of gardens, and hauling and stacking firewood for our furnace. Wood is cheaper to burn than any… Continue reading The Pleasures of Stacking Firewood

Researching Historical Fiction

Beyond the wives of famous men: Myrlie Evers-Williams

Writing fictional accounts of the women involved with influential men presents the challenge of making the women strong enough to keep their story from being overshadowed by the men’s. Medgar and Myrlie Evers on their wedding day, Christmas Eve 1951. She was 18. An article a few months back in the Washington Post gave me… Continue reading Beyond the wives of famous men: Myrlie Evers-Williams

American Civil War, Researching Historical Fiction, Women in the West

In her own words: Civil War soldier Sarah Rosetta Wakeman

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman I went looking for some of the source material for "They Fought Like Demons" and found "An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman," edited by Lauren Cook. It is rare to come across an account written in an everyday woman’s… Continue reading In her own words: Civil War soldier Sarah Rosetta Wakeman

American Civil War, Researching Historical Fiction, Women in the West

How we lost sight of women soldiers

Women soldiers were not a secret during the Civil War. Men wrote letters home about the women discovered in their ranks, most often with surprise and admiration, and newspapers also carried the stories. The knowledge naturally worked its way up to the highest level of both armies, with evidence that Sherman, Sheridan, Burnside, Forrest and… Continue reading How we lost sight of women soldiers