A Meandering Mini Rant About Queries

As many of you may have noticed, I didn’t finish the A-Z challenge. I’m going to finish the topics I had chosen, but there may be some pauses along the way, such as today. My next post will be on J, which will be General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. So much has been written about him I didn’t feel like I could add anything of interest, but I had just finished reading “Beloved Bride his collection of letters to his wife. They show how utterly devoted and madly in love with her he was. He felt so very blessed to have her in his life, but also they showed a very normal side of an extraordinary man. He wishes he were home to help work in their hothouse and get plants ready for her garden. He loved tending the garden with her. He tells her to sell the house and give as much of the money as she can to the Black church they helped found. He’s afraid with the deprivations of war, donations will stop and it will fail. In one letter, he chastises himself for being late with a tithe to their pastor that is meant to support the Black Sunday school. He was late due to a forced march by his army when they arrived just in time to help turn the tide at the first Battle of Manassas where he earned the name “Stonewall”. The letters reveal a complex man with many layers, like an onion. The best kind of character and person.

In the end, I decided to focus on how he maintained a positive attitude in life though he was one of those men who seemed born under a black cloud of grief and misery. It would mean doing a bit of research just for a blog post, but it may be of interest to my readers because one of my main characters serves under Jackson.

I will finish reading Personal Recollections of the Civil War By One Who Took Part in It as a Private Soldier in the 21st Volunteer Regiment of Infantry from Massachusetts by James Madison Stone today. Isn’t that a title for the ages? Stone is a bit biased in some of his reporting, but it’s a good diary. For instance, I had to go back and look up the results of Second Manassas as he made it sound like they had won the battle. I thought, “Am I finally losing my mind?” From his point of view, his company made a heroic effort at Stone Bridge and that’s a victory. They deserved to feel some measure of pride, it was dearly bought with heavy casualties.

The main value of this diary is small details I have been able to glean from it. The Union army took over Patterson Park in Baltimore to train at one point. I needed the name of a park in Baltimore and had been unable to find one with reference to Union soldiers, so that fell happily into my lap. It wasn’t a big deal, but it’s one of those bits that add richness to a story. He describes a friend leaning exhausted against a tree, safely sheltered from Confederate fire. A bullet strikes the tree and his friend falls down dead. He was killed by the concussion. A scene based on this will make it into the book. It’s too interesting not to use it. Mostly, it’s little things, camp life, wounds in battle, deaths, how the soldiers felt going into battle that will be picked up here and there. I will read an entire diary covering four years for maybe a dozen tidbits. But, more than that, it helps put me in the minds of the people. The language and syntax start seeping in so they become more a part of me as I write The Rain Crow.

And so it goes with the dozens of other diaries, journals, and collections of letters. Seriously, I have over 600 books on the Civil War.

Hopefully, readers will appreciate the effort that’s been put into it to make it not only an enjoyable read, but as accurate as I could make it while keeping in mind it’s a work of fiction. My friends at TheLitForum have suggested I keep a bibliography so readers will know what books I called on. It will be an extensive list, but perhaps a necessary one. There will be people who say, “That never happened.” I’ll have to have something proving this is what “that” was based on, once again keeping in mind it’s still a work of fiction.

And that brings me to the rant of the day. While I have always enjoyed history, I would never in life delve into so many archives, diaries, letters, journals, memoirs, military reports, congressional records, and biographies if not for The Rain Crow. My brain feels like it’s going to explode at times. Reading the manumission laws of South Carolina was somewhat interesting, but holy crow, my head.

A lot of writers say, “Oh, I don’t care if I’m ever published. I just write because I love writing.”

I love writing also, but I want people to see the product of my groanings and sighings. I want an agent to be named at a later date to fall in love with it and say, “I really need this book and Law do I hope she has another one planned.” (Unless the agent is from the south, she or he probably won’t say “Law”.)

I’m on the last bit of Rain Crow now. It will end up at about 180,000 words by the time I finish the First Manassas Battle and wrap up the heroine’s journey. Then it will be going back to start the bloodletting and word massacre with the word-by-word examination of what works, what doesn’t, and what can be stronger or disappear altogether.

I have a high fantasy that needs to be reworked because an agent (I will sing his praises unto my dying breath) finally sent me some comments on what didn’t work. I had umpteen requests for fulls and then got the passes. Several agents said to keep them in mind for my next work, so I know they liked the writing, but something wasn’t working. Thank you, Jesus, someone finally told me.

Fantasy. No big deal. A writer makes up their world. It’s all in their head.

Not really. I researched A LOT even with the fantasy.

At a conference, I was at a private party the historical author Jack Whyte also attended. We holed up in a corner, drank and talked history for about an hour if not more. Sarmatians, Celtic burial mounds, the Norse, Roman cavalry tactics, military medicine through the ages. You name it, we discussed it. I knew the things he was talking about because I wanted the battle scenes and the armies in my fantasy to be realistic. One of my cultures was loosely based on ancient Celts. Who knew you could make armor from horse hooves? The Roman historian Tacitus did and described how the Sarmatians did it.

It was fantasy, but it was heavily researched fantasy.

So, you have a finished book, dear author. You’ve done everything you can to make it the best you can. Maybe you’ve researched your details. You’ve definitely polished it to a high gleam. You’ve had beta readers go over it with a fine tooth comb. You’ve listened to it for cadence. It sings.

Oh, but that isn’t the end. Now you must write a compelling query. Hie thee off to Query Shark with you.

We won’t even discuss the synopsis.

You spend weeks, maybe months perfecting the query and synopsis. Off to the query trenches with you and lo, what happens? In many cases, nothing.

Nothing, you say?


Nothing happens because a great many agencies have a no response means no interest policy.

Wait, so this book that I have spent A LOT of time and effort and money on researching and making it the best I possibly can isn’t even worth a cursory, “Not for me”? I won’t know if the agent received the email. I have to assume they did. A few agencies, praise the Lord, have an automated response letting you know it’s been received.

I understand agents are busy and this is just the way the world is. Your game, your rules. I can deal with about anything as long as I know the rules. I’m not ranting at agents or the publishing industry, but it makes me sad.

At times it feels like when you get all gussied up in your best Sunday-go-to-meeting dress, get your hair and nails done and the guy shows up to take you to McDonald’s for their buy-one-get-one-free special. You think, “I shaved my legs for this? The least he could have done is take me to Whataburger.”


I very, very seldom post about agents or publishing unless it’s something positive, so please forgive this foray down a slippery, corduroy road. Agent Jessica Faust made a youtube post about no reply means no interest recently and I debated on responding even though I was going, “You tell ’em, girl”. Everything she says is true. Will it change anything? Doubtful. Still, it was nice to know someone gets it. I’m sure she’s not the only one, but with the number of no response policies, sometimes I wonder. So, thank you, Jessica. I don’t drink wine, but I did have a Shiner Bock and played my theme song in your honor.

I Is For Identification Tag

I have in my desk drawer a set of dog tags Will gave me when he deployed. I wore them all the time he was gone. He had his own set he wore.

During the Civil War, there was no standard identification system and many soldiers worried they would not be identified or their families notified in case of death. Northern newspapers advertised metal pins, stencils, discs, and rings for identification. Union sutlers seemed to notice and have the materials to address this need. They started carrying materials to stamp metal discs or plates and selling them in the camps they visited.

Sutler tent

There were also cardboard tags with metal grommets on one end given out by the Christian Commission. The soldier filled in the blanks on the tag and then wore the tag around his neck on a string or leather thong.


Sometimes battles were fought in bad weather or bodies left in the rain, swamps, and snow. Other times wounded lay in forests where either shot or lightning caught the underbrush on fire and unable to move they burned to death.


The metal identifications were the best, of course. News accounts painted a poignant picture of soldiers before the Battle of Cold Harbor writing their information on slips of paper and pinning them to their coats or putting them inside a pocket. At the end of the battle, the Union had lost 7,000 casualties to the Confederate 1,500.

When the soldiers started digging the entrenchments for the battle on May 31, 1864, that lasted through June 12, they found several remains of soldiers that had been buried in unmarked graves from the previous battle there.

The wounded lay where they fell mostly in 1864, unable to get attention.

Every corpse I saw was as black as coal. It was not possible to remove them. They were buried where they fell. … I saw no live man lying on this ground. The wounded must have suffered horribly before death relieved them, lying there exposed to the blazing southern sun o’ days, and being eaten alive by beetles o’ nights.

Union artillery officer, Frank Wilkeson

Soldiers, as they always did before battle throughout time if they were able to, tried to write some kind of letter to family and loved ones to reassure them of their affections. They also wrote out slips of paper with their names, unit, home address, and names of next of kin in case they were killed. Unfortunately, many times wounded weren’t collected immediately after a battle. Dead were buried even more slowly.

By the time the bodies could be recovered, paper slips and cardboard tags, even if they had survived the initial wounding were illegible if anyone had attempted to read them. Gravediggers went through pockets for valuables and had no interest in bibles, letters, or paper identification markers that might be found on bodies.

Cold Harbor was just one example of the way war went and the reason for some many missing loved ones after the war. As an aside, after the war, Clara Barton set up an aid society to help families find out what happened to their missing soldiers.

Compendium of the War of Rebellion (1959, p.20), states that of the 325,230 federal soldiers who are buried in National Cemeteries, 148,883 are marked unknown.

Suggested reading:

Paul F. Braddock, author of Dog Tags, History of the American Military Identification Tag, has a Confederate identification tag in his collection that was privately made. These are rare.

Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War: A Complete Classification Guide and Illustrated History by Larry B Maier and Joseph W. Stahl

In the Hills of Shiloh a song sung by Bobby Bare that brings home the pain of so many women left behind.


H Is For Housewife

This image from the Library of Congress titled, “War views. No. 1501, Camp life, Army of the Potomac – writing to friends at home” shows a soldier in the foreground doing some mending.



This is a patriotic Confederate housewife with three different Confederate flags.


Someone certainly put a lot of love into this one. The roll at the end was stuffed to use for a pin cushion.

Housewifes were sewing kits for Civil War soldiers. They normally carried one uniform and if they were lucky, two. They uniforms saw heavy wear and needed constant repair so the men learned how to sew.

Most were made by the women of the family, mothers, wives, sisters, sweethearts and sometimes patriotic women made up the kits for deploying soldiers. They made them from rectangular scraps of fabric or leather that could be easily folded up and secured with a ribbon. Inside were needles, thread (usually black, white, and navy), buttons, small pieces of fabric to use for patching, a small pair of scissors, perhaps a thimble. Some included a darning egg of some sort. If a soldier was very lucky, his loved one might include a lock of hair to remember her by.

In a previous A-Z post, I wrote about buttons and mentioned Baron, one of the characters in my WIP The Rain Crow, using a housewife.


G is for Rose O’Neal Greenhow

G is for Greenhow.


I’m determined to catch up today. Rawr, go me.

Rose O’Neale Greenhow is most likely the best-known spy of the Civil War, though I’m not sure the most effective. There was one who operated deep in the Washington machinery who regularly fed information to the south throughout the war. His true identity is not known to this day. Rebel Rose as she was known, made no attempt to hide her secessionist leanings and loyalty all the time she was in Washington. It’s surprising she was as successful as she was as a spy, but this was an unusual woman and men will forgive much to a charming, intelligent, and most of all, beautiful woman.

Born Maria Rosetta O’Neale on a small in Montgomery County (probably Port Tobacco) Maryland in variously 1813-1817 depending on which historian, she was the third of five daughters. In 1817, the father was murdered by his black valet, leaving Eliza O’Neal (they had dropped the final e off the name by then) with four daughters and a cash-poor farm.

Mrs. Maria Ann Hill took in Ellen, an older sister, and Rose to live with her in her stylish Washington, DC boarding house in 1830. The boarding house was the Old Capitol building that had been built to hold Congress after the British burned the original capitol down during the War of 1812. Thus the die was cast.

All of the important Washington personages stayed at Mrs. Hill’s boarding house when they were in town as well as visiting dignitaries. Some lived there permanently. Rose became close friends with John C. Calhoun and President James Buchanan. She remained friend with Dolley Madison all her life and petitioned Congress for a pension for the former first lady who was living in near poverty. Dolley got her pension allowing her some small measure of dignity in her declining years.

Some called O’Neal Wild Rose for the way her olive complexion flushed delicately pink. The nickname was more appropriate than they realized when she earned it as a youngster.

Though courted by just about every eligible and probably quite a few ineligible men in Washington, she met a prominent doctor, lawyer, and linguist from Virginia in the 1830’s who held her quick mind and heart. Rose had grown up with conversations about politics, foreign policy, and everything Washington and the world had to offer at her dinner table. She absorbed it all eagerly and participated frequently in the discussions. No child could have had a better education and she could settle for no less than an equally exciting mind to be yoked with. In 1835 Greenhow and Rose married.

The Greenhow’s had four daughters who lived and eight children in all, Florence, Gertrude, Leila, and Rose. Little Rose as she was known was Rose O’Neal Greenhow and was born in 1853. Robert Greenhow worked for the State Department, forcing the family to move to Mexico City in 1850 and then San Francisco, California. Rose picked up the language and customs easily and was just as popular in Mexico City as she had been in the Washington social circles. She wasn’t quite as popular in San Francisco where the wives of local politicians could barely control their jealousy and went out of their way to make her life miserable. She was above such pettiness and carried on as she always had, immersing herself in the intriguing work of her husband.

She returned to Washington in 1852, the journey taking several months and gave birth to Little Rose in 1853. Robert was expected to follow them, but was killed in an accident in 1854 leaving her a widow. Shortly after that, their eldest daughter married a West Point graduate and US army officer.

Rose was called to testify in the Linmantour Land case, which was a multi-million dollar affair over false land grants. Reporters and spectators jammed the court to get a look at the society dame defending the French claimant.

Since there had been much speculation about her age, she was variously guessed between seventy and thirty, many people were anxious to hear her swearing in. The lawyer asked her to state her name, place of residence, and age. Most people honestly said she looked closer to thirty than her true age.

She held her head high and smiled. “My name is Rose O’Neal Greenhow, and I reside in Washington City, District of Columbia. I am of lawful age.”

No one challenged her, much to the chagrin of the women who thought they would finally learn the truth.

Back in Washington, the country was coming to war in spite of all efforts to avoid it. The peace convention failed. Thomas Jordan knew it was coming and started building a spy ring for the Confederacy at least a year and probably two years before the actual outbreak. He recruited Rose, though he didn’t entirely trust her. She was too impetuous and outspoken to be an effective spy.

Rose took on her new mission with gusto, but refused to temper her demeanor or remarks in public. Though some people stopped visiting her dinners quite so frequently, there was no shortage of men ready to pay her court privately.

She proved her worth when she sent Betty Duvall out in disguise with a message for General Beauregard. McDowell’s army was moving to attack. Betty arrived at General Bonham’s camp at Fairfax Court House, Virginia and demanded to see the general. The pickets initially refused entrance as so many young ladies had been riding up with information, most of it false, that he didn’t want to be bothered with more of it. She finally told them if they would not see her, General Beauregard would and she’d ride to Manassas.

At his headquarters, she took out her tucking combs and according to Bonham, the most beautiful roll of dark hair he had ever seen fell down to her knees. She had a small message tied in her hair about the size of a silver dollar and written in cipher. Bonham barely escaped ahead of McDowell.

Jordan put more faith in Greenhow after that as much of the information she got out did help in the First Battle of Manassas. Unfortunately, Rose kept a list of her operatives and other damning information in her house that would later be enough to hold her in prison. She was smart enough to send her daughter Leila to live with her oldest daughter where she would be safe and kept only Little Rose with her.

She continued her spying operations until August 23, 1861, when Pinkerton arrested Greenhow and placed her under house arrest at her 16th Street residence. Rose tossed one message in a gutter as she neared her house and ate another one so it wouldn’t be found on her. She recognized trouble standing on her front stoop waiting for her, but was powerless to stop them.

“Is this Mrs. Greenhow?” Pinkerton asked when she arrived at her house.

“Yes,” she replied, “who are you and what do you want?”

“I have come to arrest you.” He was wearing his officer’s uniform in his guise as Major Allen.

“By what authority?”

“By sufficient authority.”

She took out a handkerchief and wiped her cheek. It was a signal to an approaching spy not to come closer. “Let me see your warrant.”

Pinkerton continued, demanding she comply. He placed two men on either side of her to prevent her escape. She looked down the street to see that her signal had been understood and leveled a cold glare on him. “I have no power to resist you, but had I been in my house, I would have killed one of you before I submitted to this illegal process.”

Pinkerton hoped to keep this all very quiet on the chance other couriers might appear before word got out of her capture. Little Rose ruined that. She climbed a tree in the backyard and leaned over the garden wall screaming, “Mother has been arrested! Mother has been arrested!”

It took sufficient time to get the child out of the tree for word to spread far and wide.

Rose was held in her house, which became known as Fort Greenhow when they started placing more Confederate spies there. She still continued to get messages out, but was highly compromised and  Jordan disregarded most messages coming from her ring as he knew Pinkerton was planting false information.

Newspapers whipped up a frenzy about her lenient punishment for spying and she was transferred to Old Capitol Prison, oddly enough her Aunt’s old boarding house that had fallen on hard times. There, entered a new phase of imprisonment with Little Rose on January 18, 1862.

Rose called for a public trial where she would reveal all. That’s the last thing Washington wanted. Generals, congressmen, every layer of the powerful of Washington had graced her arm and more most likely. Rose had not managed to destroy a stash of love letters from one influential and very married senator before her house was searched. An officer said southern women should all be imprisoned and kept guard by aging crones who were impervious to their charms. He had been one of Rose’s early admirers.

Living at Old Capitol didn’t dampen her ardor much. At one point, she flew a Confederate flag from her window.

On May 31, 1862, Greenhow was released along with Little Rose, on condition she stay within Confederate boundaries and never return. Rose had eight children in Washington. Three survived. It was home to her. It was where her greatest glories and fondest memories lay. It was a city she loved even though she was at war with it.

Rose then went to Europe where she wrote her memoir My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington two months after arriving in London. In her diary she wrote, August 5, 1863, to August 10, 1864, when she wrote, “A sad sick feeling crept over me, of parting perhaps forever, from many dear to me…A few months before I had landed a stranger–I will not say in a foreign land–for it was the land of my ancestors–and many memories twined around my heart when my feet touched the shores of Merry England–but I was literally a stranger in the land of my fathers and a feeling of cold isolation was upon me.”

She traveled through France, and Britain on behalf of the Confederacy and was very well received even by the aristocracy including Queen Victoria. In 1864 she became engaged to Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville. She would make one last trip to Richmond and begin her new life.

On October 1, 1864, the British blockade runner the Condor ran aground at the mouth of the Cape Fear River at Wilmington, North Carolina while being chased by the Union gunboat USS Niphon. Fearing capture, Rose insisted she be put ashore by rowboat. A wave capsized the boat. Weighed down by gold she had sewn into her underwear and put in a bag around her neck, money she had earned from her memoir, she drowned. Her last mission and hopes to help the Confederacy were at an end.

They found a note to her daughter, Little Rose inside a notebook she carried. She was honored with a military funeral.

Suggested reading:

Wild Rose: Rose O’Neale Greenhow, Civil War Spy by Ann Blackman (Very good book)

Rebel Rose: The Life of Rose O’Neal Greenhow, Confederate Spy by Ishbel Ross (Also very good)

My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington by Rose O’Neal Greenhow

Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War by H. Donald Winkler

The Spy of the Rebellion by Allan Pinkerton


F Is For Fox And Geese And Other Civil War Games

Well, let’s try this again. I opened up the file to finish it and it was gibberish as in completely unreadable. I have no idea what happened.

F is for Fox and Geese. It was a board game played by adult and child alike during the Civil War. One marker was the fox. The others were geese. The object of the games was with a series of jumps to either box the fox in on four sides so he couldn’t move or to get down to four geese, whereupon the fox wins. It’s a classic game of strategy. It’s sort of like those wooden triangles with the golf tees at Cracker Barrel that drive you crazy so you have to buy one to take home.

Soldiers have always played a hurry up and wait game. Since Lorena, the main character in The Rain Crow, operates a boarding school for young ladies at Rosemount and soldiers had to deal with boredom, I went down the rabbit hole of what some of the favorite games of the time were.

For adults, it would have been a lot of card games. Whist, euchre, poker, vingtetun, and quadrille were popular. Most commanders frowned on gambling as that created hard feelings and fights, but it was hard to control the competitive spirit in so large a group of men. They bet on everything, foot races, horse races, even louse races. Yes, louse races, we’ll discuss it later. I know you can’t wait.

Checkers, cribbage boards, and dominoes were convenient enough to carry with a soldier and helped pass many a tedious hour. A few of the officers even kept their chess sets handy.


The men also played baseball. One Union POW in a Texas prison wrote home about a game they played between the Yanks and Rebels and wished all differences could be settled with a ball game. The commander was later ordered to kill the prisoners as they were out of food and none was expected to reach them. He refused to do it and instead marched the prisoners out to a new location. Along the way they found an abandoned farm with a root cellar that had food. A soldier shot a wild steer and so they had an early Christmas feast. When they reached their destination, the commander told them he would buy stamps for letters if anyone wished to write home. The Union officer spent the day writing letters for illiterate soldiers, Union and Rebel alike. They would play more ball before the war was over.


Game of the Great Exhibition of 1851 showed just how beautiful and educational a board game could be.

[Image courtesy of Pointed Leaf Press]

Board games had been in use for a while, but for the children, they were mostly morality games such as the Mansion of Happiness. Milton Bradley came up with a new game that was a little more fun in 1860 called the Checkered Game of Life.

Lincoln, consarned him, had nearly destroyed Bradley the year before when he took the advice of a little boy who thought he would look better with a beard and grew his beard out. Bradley had printed off a large quantity of the little-known Republican candidate without a beard. They were initially very popular, but when a customer demanded his money back because the lithograph no longer looked like Lincoln, Bradley was undone and he burned the remaining copies.

Fortunately, his game did better and was an instant success.

Children spent a lot of time outdoors. Boys played with hoops. Rolling a hoop with a stick is more difficult than you think and kept them well occupied. Skittles or nine pins was an outdoor bowling game. Scotch-hopper (hop scotch) was also popular. Quoits was a ring toss game. Marbles were in high demand. Poorer children played with clay marbles while more wealthy ones might have real marble or glass marbles.

There were also the indoor toys: soldiers, dolls, tops, cup and ball, cast iron toys and wind up trains. There were a lot of homemade wooden toys such as whirlygig and Jacob’s Ladder.

Reading was a universal pastime for both adult and child. If a man couldn’t get a bible in camp the American Bible Society would help. By the end of the war, they had given out 5,297,832 bibles. Soldiers also wrote when they could or kept journals and thank God for that.

Lorena has two darling little girls at Rosemount names Persy (short for Persephone) and Lucy. Persy and Lucy are hell on wheels.  What one can’t think of, the other does. One day when they’re all in town shopping, Persy and Lucy disappear. Lorena finds them in an alley engaged in a lucrative marble game that has gone awry.


We talked about the school and some of our star pupils and our not so star pupils, namely Lucille and Persy.

“I’m sure the little girls are not that bad,” Shoemaker said in his very proper upper-crust Boston accent. “I’ve never met a southern girl who wasn’t truly a delicate flower. I confess, I’m smitten.”

Imogene leaned back to allow the server to set her plate, but I caught the roll of her eyes.

I sliced through the seared ham steak on my plate and contemplated Lucille and Persy. “Yes, delicate flowers.” I swallowed the juicy bite and asked Shoemaker if he’d ever played marbles as a boy.

“I surely did,” he replied proudly. “Used to beat everyone around my neighborhood. I had two jars of marbles I’d won.”

“The last time we went to town with all the girls, Persy and Lucille disappeared. We finally found them behind a billiard hall shooting marbles with a bunch of boys. The girls had pretty well skunked the boys, but Persy especially had made a nice haul. I was just closing in on her when one of the boys lost his marble. He jumped up and accused her of cheating, then threatened to whup her if she didn’t give his marbles back. She dropped the marble in the bag, which was filled near to bursting, and hit him in the eye with it.

“I was sure he was about to trounce her, being a full head taller than her and the two girls being surrounded by half a dozen local boys. He doubled up his fists, but she popped him in the nose and bloodied it before he could blink. The other boys were so dumbfounded they didn’t know what to do.

“Lucille screamed, ‘Hit him again! Hit him again!’, while we tried to pull the two away.”

“His wail brought Mama and Daddy running. She insisted I punish my little hooligan immediately.”

The table erupted in laughter. “Did you punish your delicate flower?” Shoemaker asked.

“Daddy said, ‘Actually, Flora, I believe I am going to tan his hide for fighting with a little girl and especially for getting whipped by her.’ That seemed to end the conversation about my hooligan being punished. Daddy made the boy apologize to Persy, who decided to give him back his prize marble, but refused to part with the rest, they being the spoils of victory.”

The soldiers raised their cups. “Hear, hear. To Persy!”

Suggested reading Georgian and Victorian Board Games the Linman Collection by Ellen Linman. It’s a beautiful book.




E is for Enfield Rifle

Well, real life and a book nearing completion got in the way, but I’m going to try to get back on track if I can. I’m not sure I can finish as the book beckons and it’s taking priority.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the south was woefully unprepared. The governor of Louisiana asked Beauregard what Louisiana should do to prepare for war. Beauregard had resigned his command at West Point to become a private in the “Orleans Guards”, a battalion of French Creole aristocrats. Beauregard replied, “Buy all the armament, weapons, and ammunition you can. Buy more than you can afford.”

The governor scoffed at him, thinking the war wouldn’t be that serious. Sherman, Lee, and Beauregard seemed to be the only three who knew if war broke out, it would be long and it would be bloody.

Many of the southern troops went in armed with antique weapons if they had anything. Shotguns, muskets, pistols, and pikes were common even at Shiloh. The .577 calibre Minié-ball was gaining popularity as was the Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket, which was a .577 calibre Minié-ball rifle. Until then, smooth bores had been used, but rifling gave the gun greater accuracy and distance. Instead of 100 yards, they might now have up to 2,000 yards, though accuracy dropped off after 600 yards. That’s a lot of advantage when you’re fighting from any kind of cover.

Rifling, grooving the inner bore of the barrel, improved the range of a long gun, but it had its problems. The black powder available at the time fouled the barrel fairly fast, making reloading slower and more arduous. Balls had to match the bore size of rifles closely. The Minié-ball solved that problem because it expanded as it discharged and didn’t foul the barrels. Fighting with smoothbores had another disadvantage, they produced a lot of smoke. Once a battle started with thousands of combatants, troops could easily be lost to sight in the haze..

At the Battle of Shiloh, a shocking 22,000 men fell and it’s estimated around 70% of the weapons in use were still smoothbores. Witnesses record groves of trees were completely felled simply by shot after the battle and clouds of smoke hung low over the battlefield so they couldn’t tell where anyone was. The Minié-ball had its advantages, but it also wreaked havoc on its target, human, animal, or forest it seems. A ball could go through a 4″ piece of wood even at distance.

As the war progressed, the Enfield became the weapon of choice for the south, while the Springfield grew in popularity in the north. Both were deadly .58 calibre weapons.

A demonstration shooting with an original Enfield.


D is for Dick the Sheep and other Civil War Mascots

Military mascots are nothing new and the Civil war certainly had its share of them.

Dick the sheep was adopted by the 2nd Rhode Island. The men were quite fond of Dick and taught him all manner of tricks, but upon reaching Washington they had to make a painful decision. “We took our pet sheep with us, but on reaching Washington, the field and staff officers found themselves without money, so we sacrificed our sentiment and sold poor Dick to a butcher for $5.00 and invested the proceeds of the sale in bread and Bologna sausage.”– Captain Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the 2nd Rhode Island recording his thoughts about his pet sheep.

Ole Abe the War Eagle was one of the best known mascots. The bald eagle belonged to Company C, 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. He was found as a young bird by Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin and sold to the McCann family as a pet. The family later gave the bird to the regiment. Confederates often tried to capture him, so much so General Sterling Price said, “I’d rather have the bird than the whole brigade!” Known as the “Yankee Buzzard” to the Confederate soldiers, Old Abe survived 42 battles and skirmishes. He’d often fly above a battle screeching and invariably found his men. Remarkably, he survived the war unscathed and was retired in 1864. He lived in Wisconsin in the state capitol building until his death in 1881.


Ole Abe

JEB Stuart carried his two setters Nip and Tuck with him and they also had a pet bobcat for a while they kept tied to cannon when in camp.

Lee was fond of chickens. He carried some hens with him when he was campaigning in Texas as he liked an egg for breakfast and fix some willow cages for his little hens to keep them safe from the coyotes. Imagine his delight when in early 1862 a shipment of chickens came in for food. He was fond of fried chicken as the next man, but he liked them live better really.

One little black hen escaped and found sanctuary under his cot, laid an egg, and settled in. Lee found the hen and the egg and named her Nellie. He took the egg to William Mack Lee, his body servant and cook to make breakfast. From then on, Nellie had a home in the baggage wagons or under Lee’s cot and everyone knew who Nellie was and who she belonged to. The retreat from Gettysburg had to be halted while they searched for the missing chicken who was found in an ambulance.

On may 4, 1864, Lee invited some of his generals to eat with him on the eve of the Battle of the Wilderness. William was going to cook flannel cakes, but he decided that wasn’t nearly good enough for such a distinguished group of gentlemen. The generals, including a very suspicious General Lee, had stuffed hen for dinner.

“William, now that you have killed Nellie, what are we going to do for eggs?”

“I jes’ had ter do it, Marse Robert,” William replied.

Lee didn’t relent. “No, you didn’t, William. I’m going to write Miss Mary about you.  I’m going to tell her you have killed Nellie.”

Marse Robert kep’ on scoldin’ me mout dat hen.  He never scolded ‘bout naything else.  He tol’ me I was a fool to kill her whut lay de golden egg.  Hit made Marse Robert awful sad ter think of anything being killed, whedder der ‘twas one of his soljers, or his little black hen.

(From History of the Life of Rev. Wm. Mack Lee: With Anecdotes about General Robert E. Lee by Rev. William Mack Lee)

The 3rd Louisiana had a donkey named Jason. The donkey would push into the commander’s tent and try to sleep with him, mistaking the officer for his original owner.

The 12th Wisconsin Volunteers had a pet bear that marched with them all the way to Missouri.

The 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry had a badger. What else would the Badger State have, pray tell?

Soldiers of the Richmond Howitzers kept roosters. The Battalion also kept a dog named Stonewall who traveled in the safety of a limber chest during battle. He attend roll call, sitting on his haunches in line.

The 43rd Mississippi Infantry had a camel. Douglas was killed by a minie ball during the siege of Vicksburg and, like Dick, went to a higher cause when he fed hungry soldiers.

Sallie Ann Jarrett was one of the better known dogs. She’s immortalized in the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument, Gettysburg National Military Park. Sallie was an English Bull Terrier with a brindle coat born in the spring of 1861. Someone gave her to Captain William Terry of Company I and the men named her Sallie Ann after a lady they admired and Pharon Jarrett, their colonel.

She adopted Colonel Coulter and always trotted beside his horse at the head of parades or marches, earning her the nickname “Dick Coulter’s” dog. She saw action at eight major battles and always stayed right at the front with her men, barking at the enemy. At Gettysburg, they feared she’d been killed, when they retreated to Cemetery Hill but found her later guarding the dead and wounded on Oak Ridge.

On February 6, 1865, she was killed at Hatcher’s Run. Despite being under heavy fire, the men stopped to bury her.


Sallie Ann and her soldier at Gettysburg

The stories of these famous and beloved pets could fill a book, and do, but I wanted to offer a look at a few of them today. Soldiers on both sides craved the companionship and love these animals provided. So it has always been. The more war changes, the more it stays the same.


Suggested reading:

Davis, Burke. The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts. Wings Books, New York, 1960.

Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Historical Times Illustrated, Patricia L. Faust, editor, Harper and Row, NY, 1986.

Lang, J. Stephen. The Complete Book of Confederate Trivia, Combined Books, Inc. Conshohocken, PA, 1994.

Library of Congress

Seguin, Marilyn W. Dogs of War and Stories of Other Beasts of Battle in the Civil War. Branden Publishing Company, Brookline Village, MA, 1998.

Smith, Helene. Sally Civil War Dog 1861-1865, MacDonald/Sward Publishing Company, Greensburg, PA, 1996.

“The Civil War Reader” by E.J. Patrick

History of the Life of Rev. Wm. Mack Lee: With Anecdotes about General Robert E. Lee by Rev. William Mack Lee

C is for Camilla

The America Schooner

You thought I forgot, didn’t you? Oh, no, mon ami.


Surprisingly enough, the English had been keeping a close eye on American shipbuilders for a while. In the mid-1850’s they were particularly scouting out two designers named James and George Steers of the  George Steers and Co. There was a traditional design to yachts called the “cod-head-and-mackerel-tail”, but the Steers’ pilot boat designs were arguably the fastest and most seaworthy to be had. Pilot boats had to be both fast and hearty to operate in any kind of weather and to withstand the unpredictable seas. Plus, the harbor pilots only made money if they were there first to guide the ships in. It was always a race.

A group of Americans hired the Steers to build them a yacht with an eye to the British 53-mile regatta around the Isle of Wight known as the Squadron’s “One Hundred Sovereign Cup”. They named their entry the America and everyone was watching her. Only one yacht would take up the challenge before the race and she won her race handily. This put even more fear in the men who’d been watching the ship closely even as she was being built.

On August 22, 1851, the race started at 10:00 AM with seven schooners and eight cutters.  America fouled her anchor and was off to a bad start, but had closed to fifth within thirty minutes. She broke a jib boom at one point and it took them fifteen minutes to replace it. Even so, she finished eighteen minutes ahead of the Aurora.

Queen Victoria is said to have asked who finished second and someone replied, “There is no second, your Majesty.”

The race was thereafter named after the gallant yacht and is forever after run as the America’s Cup.

The story might end there, but beautiful ladies are always more interesting when they have tragic stories. She was sold a month later to John de Blaquiere, 2nd Baron de Blaquiere who changed her name to Camilla and raced her only a few times. He sold her in 1856 to Henry Montagu Upton, 2nd Viscount Templetown, who let her fall into disrepair and shame and sold her again in 1858. Finally, she passed on to a man named Edward Decie who bought her from a shipbuilder who had rebuilt her.

Decie claimed to be an Irish lord when he arrived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1861. There were serious doubts about him, but he was charming enough to get some backers and was soon flush with money and a letter of marque, or so he said, from President Davis. The Camilla was now a Confederate blockade runner. Decie ran her until 1862 when he scuttled her to keep the Union troops from getting her. He didn’t do a good enough job, however, as they raised her, re-equipped her and used her until the end of the war in the Union blockade. She was eventually donated to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, but they failed to maintain her and she was burned in 1945.

Well, of course, this story was too good not to use in The Rain Crow. Lorena’s bodyguard Carl has decided to go to sea.


B is for Beast Butler

Welcome to day two of the challenge. I had intended to write about “butternut” today, where the term came from and other innovative ways southerners coped with shortages brought on by the blockade, but something reminded me of “Beast” Butler. He was an interesting character who gained international attention with his infamous Order 28.

Butler was a lawyer and politician before the war. Through sheer luck, he advanced to a major general rank and with the best luck ever, was assigned to take New Orleans. The city fell to overwhelming forces, but mainly due to Admiral Farragut’s naval bombardment without much of a fight.

I’m taking the following from diaries of citizens who lived there at the time. Once occupied, it was not uncommon for Union officers who had taken pretty black mistresses into the homes of wealthy citizens and allow the girls to take anything that caught their fancy, and they fancied a lot.

One woman with five children whose husband had been killed and was, therefore, left alone with just a few servants was invaded by a swarm of Union soldiers who ransacked her home. What they couldn’t steal, they destroyed. She asked what her children were going to do if they took all their clothes and she had no money to replace them. “Ain’t I got a wife and younguns at home myself?” a soldier replied.

Loot by the trainload made its way north.

Farragut landed and put up the United States flag at the Mint, causing a riot in which the flag was torn down. William Mumford was foolish enough to brag he had been in on the desecration and had a scrap of it to prove his actions. He was arrested and sentenced to die.  Butler had him executed in front of the Mint with the furious crowd looking down the barrels of cannons the general was more than ready to use on them if they twitched. Tempers were already treetop high. None of this helped quell the situation.

To Butler’s credit, he allowed the man to make a speech before he was executed. Mumford said he did it out of patriotism and was sorely worried about his wife and children. Butler said he would see to it they were cared for if necessary. After the war, he paid off her mortgage and helped her find a job.

The women crossed the street so they wouldn’t have to pass close to soldiers, spat on them, and conveniently emptied chamber pots on ones passing beneath their windows. The final straw was when of them dumped her pot on Admiral Farragut.

Butler issued Order 28 “that if any woman should insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and shall be held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.” She could be considered a common prostitute and treated as such, arrested, fined, and imprisoned.

The order garnered so much outrage even European newspapers raised the roof over it.

Diarists recorded asking for an explanation of “show contempt” and were told if they looked away, turned their back, refused to speak to, or did anything to show disdain they were in violation. One wrote if she so much as moved her skirts to keep them from getting tromped on by passing soldiers, she might be treated as a common woman. She stopped going out in public except for church.

The diary of Sarah Morgan has some good information about the occupation of Louisiana.

Butler made his point and there were no more chamber pot attacks. Ladies had to content themselves with putting portraits of Butler in the bottoms of their pots. Some enterprising manufacturers found a ready market for the Butler Chamber Pots.

Even the churches were highly regulated. They were not allowed to pray for the Confederacy. The Episcopal churches were closed and their three ministers arrested and sent to New York with a military escort. Several clergymen were arrested for refusing to pray for President Lincoln.

General Butler’s brother Andrew set up shop in the St. Charles Hotel where he ran a very profitable and illegal business. According to Herbert Asbury in his book The French Quarter, Butler issued two orders. One, all gambling was stopped and the military shut down every gambling house. Two, a private order, pay a hefty license fee to Jonas French the head of the provost police and take Andrew Butler on as a silent partner.

Butler would allow people to leave New Orleans, but only with personal possessions. Anything of value was confiscated. When a woman with a permit to leave was searched and they found her 38-piece silver service, Butler confiscated it, thus earning him the name “Spoons” Butler to go along with the “Beast” Butler Order 28 earned him. Apparently valuables and family silver are not personal possessions.

He rigged the Confiscation Act of 1862 to seize cotton and resell it, profiting greatly.

Butler controlled all the newspapers and demanded everything be cleared through him first. When the Commercial Bulletin editor William Seymour asked Butler what he would do if they ignored him, Butler responded, “I am the military governor of this state — the supreme power — you cannot disregard my order, Sir. By God, he that sins against me, sins against the Holy Ghost.” Seymour published a favorable obituary of his father, who had been killed serving in the Confederate army in Virginia, prompting Butler to confiscate the newspaper and imprison Seymour for three months.

George Devol, a real deal gambler and author of 40 Years A Gambler On The Mississippi, was imprisoned for a year for showing some Union officers how to play three-card monte. Butler confiscated his string of race horses he ran at Oakland and according to Devol, Andrew Butler shipped them across Lake Ponchartrain to sell to the Confederates where they brought a premium price.

Andrew had been selling to the Confederate army for some time and making huge profits. Few doubt that Gen. Butler knew and approved his brother’s profiteering and going so far as to railroad an honest Federal policeman who had complained about their actions. Butler had the man sent to prison for a year on false charges to shut him up.

Butler seized $800,000 that had been deposited in the Dutch consul and imprisoned the French champagne magnate Charles Heidsieck. He particularly focused on Great Britain’s George Coppell and suspended him for refusal to cooperate with the Union. Butler accused Coppell of giving aid to the Confederate cause.

Reverdy Johnson of the Secretary of State’s office came to New Orleans to investigate complaints against Butler by foreign consuls. Keep in mind there were a lot of foreign consuls in New Orleans because of the cotton and sugar trade and proximity to the coast. President Lincoln ordered Butler to restore a sugar shipment claimed by Europeans, but Butler undermined the order, by imposing a strict quarantine to protect against yellow fever. His quarantine did help the yellow fever outbreak, but his orders were also conveniently timed and delayed foreign commerce. Lincoln might ignore all the other complaints against Butler and his brother, they were actually quite popular with a lot of northerners who wanted the south punished and punished severely, but he could not afford to make enemies of foreign powers he wanted to stay out of the war.

General Banks replaced him and ordered his brother out as well, but the damage was done and the Butlers were rich. New Orleans was not the only focus of his greed, but enough for today.

Grant wrote regarding Butler: “Whilst the army was holding Lee in Richmond and Petersburg, I found … [Lee] … was receiving supplies, either through the inefficiency or permission of [an] officer selected by General Butler … from Norfolk (Virginia) through the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal.”

The sixty-page report on Butler’s treasonous activities was buried after Lincoln’s assassination. He returned to law and politics after the war.

On the credit side, Butler supported civil rights for emancipated slaves, women’s suffrage, and an eight hour day for workers.


A is For Angel’s Glow




Gen. Johnston                                                  Gen. Wallace


It was a year into the Civil War. Sumter had been fired on April 12, 1861, the first major battle at Manassas had culminated in an astonishing and undignified rout of Union forces. If anyone was under the still under the assumption it was going to be a ninety-day unpleasantly, those notions were long gone. Union General Ulysses Grant was pushing deep into Confederate territory in Tennessee at the beginning of April 1862. As with many battles, his objective was to take or disrupt a railhead. The Confederate army under General Albert Sidney Johnston controlled Corinth, Mississippi, which was a major railway and supply transport link between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic.

Grant headquartered in Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee with the Army of the Tennessee at 44,894 troops. He was holing for Buell’s reinforcements of The Army of the Ohio with another 18,000 men. Johnston had 40,000 men and knew he had to strike before Buell arrived.

The Confederates struck on April 6 two days after they originally planned to. A severe storm had turned the roads into soup and it took him three days to move his men twenty-three miles. Beauregard wanted to hold in Corinth and let the enemy come to them as the element of surprise had been lost anyway and they were not equipped nor rationed well enough for a pitched battle and by the time they reached them they would be fighting they would be “facing an enemy entrenched up to the eyes.”

“I would fight them if they were a million,” Johnston replied and insisted they go after Grant. His poorly equipped (many were carrying antique weapons and some carried pikes and no firearms at all) and exhausted army arrived with the idea of driving Grant away from the river and back to Owl Creek. Initially, the Confederates seemed to be driving the Union lines back, but Buell arrived with fresher well-armed and experienced troops the night of the 6th.

At 2:30 in the afternoon Johnston was wounded while trying to rally his troops. He continued leading the charge, but an aide noticed him slumping in the saddle and asked if he was wounded.

“Yes, and I fear seriously.” The aide went to find a surgeon without applying a tourniquet to the leg and Johnston bled to death before he returned.

A torrential rain fell that night. The Confederates had driven the Union forces out of their camps and were enjoying their shelter and food, while Grant was trying to get some sleep under a tree. He had a severely sprained ankle from a horse falling with him days before and the pain was nearly unbearable, but the cries of the wounded on the battlefield erased any chance of sleep had he been safe in a featherbed with no discomfort. He decided to go to Shiloh Church, which was being used as a temporary hospital, but the misery there was so great he fled back to his tree where Sherman found him leaned up against the tree smoking a cigar.

“Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” remarked Sherman.

“Yes,” Grant replied and blew out a puff of cigar smoke, “but we’ll lick them tomorrow.”

The Confederates withdrew after a bloody second day of fighting. Grant did not pursue them. Both armies were exhausted, hungry, cold, and miserable.

No one was prepared for the carnage. Union casualties were 13,047 (1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing) with Grant’s army taking the brunt of it. General W. H. L. Wallace and Colonel Everett Peabody, numbered among the lost. Confederate casualties were 10,699 (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 missing or captured). General Albert Sidney Johnston and Brigadier General Adley H. Gladden were lost to the Confederates.

Many of the wounded lay in the cold and mud for days before they were all gathered. And that’s when something strange happened. Some of their wounds started glowing in the dark with an ethereal blue-green light. The soldiers named it Angels’ Glow. They wrote home about it. They wrote about it in their journals. It wasn’t something imagined by a few men having hallucinations, it was real. The ones who had been glowing recovered faster with fewer problems. There was less infection and scarring, but no one could explain why. It was a miracle.

140 years later, 17-year-old William Martin and 18-year-old Jonathan Curtis needed a project for a science fair. They had read about the phenomenon and decided to find out what might have caused it. Granted, Martin’s mother is a microbiologist, so she probably inspired some curiosity in that direction, but she insists the idea and experiment were all theirs.

The boys discovered nematodes are attracted to insects that would have been clustering in the gruesome wounds. Photorhabdus luminescens lives in the nematode’s guts. Nematodes track insect larvae on plants and in the soil, burrow into their bodies, and take up residence in their blood vessels. They puke up the Photorhabdus luminescens bacteria inside the insect and it spilled into the wound. This would not only have caused the wounds to glow, but it also killed bacteria that causes gangrene and other infections.

The boys ran experiments and proved their theory. (In Petri dishes this time, not on a battlefield.)

The problem is, the nematodes and Photorhabdus luminescens can’t live at warmer temperatures, such as those in the human body. If the good bacteria can’t survive the human body, how was it killing the bad bacteria and how was it causing the wounds to glow?

Remember the weather? It was just cold enough during those first miserable days in April to drop the body temperatures enough to allow the bacteria to live. Once the men were rescued and brought in to warm up, their wounds stopped glowing. The good bacteria, the Angel’s Glow, was dead.

Hat’s off gentlemen, the 140-year-old mystery of Angel’s Glow solved.