Blogging A-Z Q Is For Quinine

 

il_fullxfull.288767897

I have a steamer trunk similar to this and it would be like some of the trunks Lorena and Imogene have.

ANTIQUES PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHRIS CHALLIS

Some of the traveling Victorian vanity cases in were quite elegant.

With the outbreak of war, supplies of medicines and manufactured goods soon became a problem in the South, which was definitely a agrarian society. The capital, which had been in Montgomery, Alabama was moved to Richmond, Virginia to defend its manufacturing center even though Richmond was perilously close to the northern border. With so little manufacturing already in place in the South, they couldn’t afford to lose any.

Very soon couriers and smugglers began procuring needed supplies, including medicines. The Moon Sisters and mother were involved in smuggling and spying. Ginnie Moon and her mother were arrested while carrying a large quantity of quinine, opium, and morphine hidden in quilts and their their hoop skirts. They might possibly have escaped with the bottles hidden in the hoop skirts if someone hadn’t brushed against Ginnie and the bottles in her skirt clinked together.

It didn’t help that the arresting officer mumbled, “I suppose you feel like hurrahing for Jeff Davis,” whereupon she raised her arm in the air and proclaimed, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!”

This happened over and over during the war. Women crept into Union camps and stole shoes, weapons, and food and hid them in their skirts to scurry away in the dark. Carriages were rigged with false bottoms to smuggle supplies as with Lorena’s in the following scene where she’s smuggling medical supplies as well as military plans out of Washington. She and Imogene have been stopped by a group of Zouaves who are stationed to search travelers. We’ll see more of the Zouaves on Z day.

I stopped fanning. “I spoke to the commandant before I left to make sure I was not breaking any rules. Ink was not on the contraband list.”

He (the captain) motioned to the rest of the crates. “Open them up. See what’s in there.”

I flounced over to him. “Captain, really I–”

“Yes, I know. You must protest.”

While the rest of the ink crates were being opened he had two soldiers pull our trunks from the back of carriage.

“Really, Captain? What do you think we’re going to carry in our trunks? We could barely get our clothes in there. This is intolerable.”

“Four trunks for two women? I could stuff a small army in there.”

“I’ll refrain from comment.”

“Please do.”

The trunks were unloaded and opened. Dresses were taken out and shaken. They opened every drawer, holding up each item for the captain to inspect. Imogene had a very complete array of vanity items, so that took a while though I had stocked up also, anticipating just such a situation. The soldiers doing the unpacking were completely flummoxed and a bit embarrassed by the procedure. I had a sense this was not normal.

“Is all this really necessary?” the captain asked as the third row of drawers was opened.

“Not if you prefer unkempt women who care nothing of their appearance. There’s a reason southern men don’t stray.”

“Because they fear for their damned lives mostly.”

“Language.” I continued to fan myself and watched with mild interest as the poor soldiers grew more agitated the deeper they dug.

“Miss?” I turned to see Lieutenant Cormac. “We can’t get Miss Boudreaux’s boot off. Our button hooks are too large. She has seventeen buttons and refused to let the doctor cut the boot off!”

“Well, yes, she has such a small foot the buttons are quite delicate. If the captain would allow me, I could fetch it for you. If it’s still where it was though heaven knows I seem to have a summer storm blowing through everything from caplet to corset.”

“I ain’t touched no corsets, ma’am,” said one of the poor conscripted soldiers.

“The day is young.” I pulled a button hook from the top vanity drawer of Imogene’s trunk. “There you go, sir. Is there anything else she requires?”

“She is quite upset and in pain,” Cormac said. “Perhaps you can come comfort her?”

“Tell her I will come as soon as we’ve been thoroughly searched. Do not tell her your comrades are rifling her unmentionables.”

“Oh, dear God, no, ma’am. I would never in life tell her that. Trust me.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogging From A-Z Petticoats and Pinafores

I’m so far behind today on comments here and elsewhere, but I shall persevere!

Oh, my stars. Petticoats and pinafores. Ringlets and ruffled drawers. Little girls were so sweet. Now, I’m not quite that old, but I well remember my aunt fixing my hair in rag rollers to make ringlets for church. Once the ringlets went out, and they’ll stay in longer than you’d think if you use rags, I wore my hair braided. It was long enough to sit on even though it was in a high braid. So, you can imagine working and playing outdoors would be a mess for unbound hair. The ringlets or braids tend to keep a little girl’s hair sort of in order.

I also remember getting dressed up for church on Sunday. My little undershirt with pink bow and rosebud in the center, full length white stockings with elastic garters, patent leather shoes, full slip, ruffled petticoat, dress, dress coat, hat, gloves.

Girls in the antebellum period reflected their mother’s fashions to some extent, with some strong differences such as hem length. Comfort, unless the girl was a working or farm girl, didn’t enter into the picture. Girls wore corsets, though not as constrictive as their mothers (and some of their fathers).

 

0e59d13839777dde074ae4fe7c81886b  6ea62dcea412faa8d604895fc378d075  816385478ac85dbcb9a5d3606e9f6fc5

The first layer was the chemise a sort of smocked undershirt that came to the knees or above. In the 1869’s they started tucking the chemise into long drawers, which were heavily embellished with lace and ruffles because they were meant to show. Above were the stays or the corset, which, as I said wasn’t as restrictive as Mother’s. Then a short petticoat, which could be several layers to get the desired volume.

Whereas a woman’s dress buttoned up the front, a child’s dress buttons up the back and usually comes up to the neck. Skirts come to just below the knee at about age five and lower about an inch a year until age eighteen when the girl was eighteen and the skirts were floor length. Both girls and women wore high-topped boots most of the time, which had to be fastened using a button hook.  Colors in the south tended to be brighter until the blockade took effect and dyes became hard to obtain. (Hence the birth of butternut uniforms, but that’s another story.)

Everyone wore bonnets or hats and gloves outdoors to protect their skin.

The following is a scene from Rain Crow. Captain Fox has come to see if Lorena has made a decision about spying for him. They walk back into the house where she also has a boarding school and find the girls in the middle of a math lesson. Persy and Lucille are two little heathens who are always in trouble.

Purdy clicked up the limestone stairs beside Fox who opened the door for me. If not for his quick reflexes, he would have walked over me as I stopped dead still in the doorway. At the bottom of the grand stairway were piles of pillows beneath each banister. Girls flocked in the middle of the great hall staring upward where Persy and Lucille perched at the top.

“Go!” shouted Cecile.

The two pushed away and slid down the banisters, laughing uproariously while the crowd cheered them on, each for their favorite. I hurried over to them just in time for Persy to fly off the banister through the air barely ahead of Lucille, and plop down on the pillows, skirt and clouds of petticoats everywhere but where they should be on a young lady. She sprawled out on the pillows laughing too hard to care that everyone could see her ruffled drawers.

The crowd had still not noticed Captain Fox and myself until he burst out laughing himself. “Who won?’ he asked.

“Where’s Imogene?!” I demanded.

Lucille was still giggling, but stood up and straightened her skirts. The crowd parted, wide-eyed. Lucille pointed at Imogene who was left alone in the middle with a fist full of money. “Imogene’s taking the bets. She’s teaching us math.”

“Pity I wasn’t here sooner,” Fox said. “I love a good race. Will you be going again?”

“I should teach you all subtraction. No, they will not. Please don’t encourage them.” I glared at him, but having made many a trip down those banisters myself in my younger day, I wasn’t inclined to say too much lest Maisy or George tell on me. And they would.

Posted in A-Z Blogging, Civil War, spies, The Rain Crow, Uncategorized

Blogging A-Z O Is For Old Capitol Prison

Whoa ho. We’re half way through the month. Apparently I don’t know how to write a short blog post. sigh.

 

Prison2

During the war of 1812, the British burned the United States Capitol building in August, 1814. Congress built a Federal-style brick financed by Washington real estate investors as temporary quarters. The building became known as Old Brick Capitol in 1819 when Congress moved back to the refurbished Capitol.

It became a private school and then an upscale boarding house owned by Rose O’Neal’s aunt Maria Anna Hill. Rose was orphaned at a young age and went with her sister to live with her aunt in Washington at the boarding house. This boarding house was home to great politicians, military men, social giants, intellectuals who either lived or dined there. Rose grew up around some of the greatest minds of the time and learned to converse intelligently on a wide variety of subjects, including politics.

In addition to having a brilliant mind, quick wit, and devastating charm, Rose was also quite beautiful. Wild Rose traveled in the highest social circles. She pressed Congress to pension Dolly Madison, a friend who was living in near poverty. It was Rose who stayed with John C. Calhoun as he died at the boarding house.

Bookmark Wild Rose, we’ll be back.

In 1861, the government bought the building to turn into a prison for captured Confederates and political prisoners and it became Old Capitol Prison. At one time Federals packed 6,917 prisoners into the facility.

In May of 1861, Lincoln had the Baltimore, MD mayor, police chief, all the Board of Police, City Council,  and a sitting U.S. Congressman from Baltimore arrested without charges and sent to Old Capitol. The Chief Justice Of The Supreme Court ruled in June Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus was unconstitutional, which Lincoln ignored. When Baltimore newspaper editor Frank Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key, criticized this in an editorial, he was imprisoned also. Ironically, he was imprisoned without trial for fourteen months in Ft. McHenry where his grandfather penned the Star Spangled Banner.

During all this, Wild Rose was running a very successful spy ring in Washington. She didn’t even bother to hide her loyalties. While she had been the political darling of the Buchanan administration, Mary Lincoln made no secret of her dislike.

On August 23, 1861 Rose was walking toward her home and noticed some men hanging about her stoop. She told a companion to keep watch and if she raised a handkerchief to her face to spread the word she was captured. Her instincts were correct. She swallowed a ciphered message she was carrying before the men could take control of her.

“Is this Mrs. Greenhow?” Allen Pinkerton asked.

“Yes,” said Rose. “Who are you and what do you want?”

“I come to arrest you.”

“By what authority?”

“By sufficient authority.”

“Let me see your warrant.”

He mumbled something about authority of the war department.

She whisked out her handkerchief to her face. “I have no power to resist you, but had I been inside my house, I would have killed one of you before I submitted to this illegal process.”

The men had hoped to take her quietly and trap any spies who came to the house, but Little Rose, Rose’s daughter, escaped and climbed the apple tree in the back yard. There she screamed as loudly as she could, “Mama’s been arrested! Mama’s been arrested!”

The Pinkerton men did eventually get the little spy out of the tree, but not before the entire neighborhood had been alerted.

ONealRoseLittleRose

Rose was kept under house arrest for a time and then transferred to Old Capitol Prison where she and Little Rose were held for five months. There never was a full trial, probably because too many politicians were at risk, so she was exiled to Richmond.

Old Capitol held a variety of famous prisoners including Belle Boyd, John Mosby, the members of the Lincoln assassination group, including wrongly accused John Ford, who owned Ford’s Theater.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogging A-Z N Is For Neckcloth

I adore Victorian fashion and etiquette. Men wore more colorful garb than a person might imagine. I think the Netflix show Ripper Street does a very good job on costuming. Etiquette rules were very well defined. A lady never lifted her skirt high enough to show more than one ankle while stepping up. A gentleman did not adjust his collar, neckcloth or tie, or cuffs in company. So, when the man who has been trying very hard to court Lorena starts fiddling with all three at the dinner table in polite company, everyone perks up like meerkats because they know something is up.

And, oh, those neckcloths and ties. They could be absolutely lovely. Sometimes they wore two silk cloths tied intricately together.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_engraving_by_Timothy_Cole wingcollarsmall

Above Is E.A. Poe in a natty cravat and the gentleman next to him in a patricide collar. I’m not sure of the knot.

A patricide collar is a very stiffly starched winged collar that got its name from a fictional story where a son wearing one hugged his father and it was so sharp it cut the father’s throat.

I very much apologize for the length. You can stop reading here. The other post I had planned was too similar to a previous one and I am brain dead today.

Budge dabbed at his mouth for the seventh time since finishing his cake and readjusted his cuffs, then his very properly starched patricide collar. His plump fingers eeled through the folds in the intricately tied silk neckcloth until I wondered if her were contemplating strangling himself with it. He looked around the room, tugged at his sleeves again and took out his handkerchief. General Beauregard, who had settled back in his chair with a cup of strong coffee, was now interested in Budge also and watched him with those hooded eyes as a cat might a nervous mouse.

“Pudge, what’s wrong with you?” asked Captain Collins.

“That’s Budge. Budgeon Theodore Catton III, if you will,” corrected Mrs. Catton.

I ducked my head and patted my mouth with my napkin. When I raised it again, I noticed Miss Priscilla Catton approaching across the room with a wide smile on her slight face and her eyes locked on mine. Oh, dear Lord in heaven. Budge didn’t have the box, Priscilla did.

General Beauregard leaned forward, as did the rest of the officers, now fully engaged in the unfolding scene. I had the impression, they might surround me and whisk me away to safety at any moment. Pray God they would.

Priscilla was as thin as her mother, sisters, and cousins were. The flock of cousins and sisters had all swiveled their long, thin necks to better watch the coming show. It was like watching a group of frilled flamingoes. “Miss McKenzie,” Priscilla said. “We all, some of us especially, are very fond of you.”

Is he going to have her propose to me?

It was Beauregard’s turn to cock an eyebrow at me. Captain Collins coughed nervously. I felt sure if I aimed just right I could faint into his side. I scooted my chair back a bit more lest I faint into the remnants of the cake’s lemon sauce. He matched my action and leaned back in his chair, giving me a straight shot to his chest or possibly blocking my escape if I decided to run. You never know how a disaster will unfold.

Without warning, she opened her mouth as if to scream and out came something I believe akin to a banshee’s wail. “The years creep slowly by, Lorena. Snow is on the grass again.”

Behind me, a servant dropped a dish he’d been clearing. I stared at Priscilla who waved her arms dramatically as she sang. Mrs. Catton clapped wildly, nearly overcome by emotion. Budge was in danger of slicing his sagging bullfrog throat on the razor-sharp collar points from jerking his head to look at my reaction and back to his sister and then back to me. I can only imagine I looked horrified, because I truly was. How could this get any worse? I reminded myself too late never to ask that question of the universe because it will answer. And it did. The flock stood up to join Priscilla in serenading the last two lines of the first verse. The first verse? Dear Lord. There were five more to go.

The flock sat down, atwitter with delight at their performance, while Priscilla launched into the second verse. Captain Collins nudged me with his elbow and glanced down. I, being a coward to my marrow about some things and at this point quite sure the performance was going to be concluded with a proposal, accepted the offer to retreat. I sighed and dropped away so quickly he had to scramble to catch me.

Posted in A-Z Blogging, Civil War, The Rain Crow, Uncategorized

Blogging A-Z M Is For Mistress

jeb_stuart

 

Jeb Stuart was well known for his audacious raids. In one raid they captured quite a bit of gear from a Union camp, including a trunk belonging to a Union captain. Later, he decided to sit down with his setters Nip and Tuck and go through the trunk. Inside, he found some interesting letters. Aside from adding my character, Baron Callahan, this is what happened.

 

Lord above. No, this was no sister. Callahan’s face heated. “For God’s sake, Beauty. Have you read this?”

Stuart laughed. “Not that one, but I’ve read several from Katie. Captain Morgan’s mistress is quite colorful and explicit in her passionate missives.”

“What are you going to do with them?” For himself, as guilty as he felt about peering in the woman’s lovemaking, he continued reading, unable to stop himself.

“Oh, I’ll finish reading them all. Captain Morgan liked to brag about how important he is and divulged all manner of operations to his wife and lover. We may be able to find some useful information. After that, I will do what any honorable man would do.”

Callahan replaced the letter and reached for another from the wife. “I’m not even sure what an honorable man would do in this case. Probably not read such intimate letters.”

Stuart laughed again. Callahan seldom saw his colonel without a silly grin, but this genuinely amused him. He returned to his chair with Nip on his heels. “Call, I intend to return Captain Morgan’s letters to his loving wife just as soon as we have gleaned all we can from them. All of them. I would guess the captain won’t be applying for a Christmas leave.”

“After his wife reads these letters the Yanks may be short one captain.”

Stuart reached for another letter from the red-ribboned bundle. “That’s entirely possible. I envision lots of fireworks in the Morgan household. Let that be a lesson, Call. Be true to your lady love or failing that, take up an illiterate mistress.”

 

Stuart did the honorable thing and returned all the letters to the captain’s wife. No word was heard on the captain’s fate.

Posted in A-Z Blogging, Civil War, Uncategorized

Blogging A-Z L Is For Latin

Generalgrantpainting

Watercolor by Grant at age 18 done while he was at West Point.

Education was a interesting thing in antebellum America. Most children didn’t go to school past the eighth grade, but could and did enter college at young ages due to their advanced academics. Children in the fifth grade read at present day college levels and an eighth grade education was comparable to today’s college education in many respects.

Anyone considered cultured knew Latin, Greek, and probably French. Classics were read in schools and in the homes. General Grant, who was a farmer’s son who didn’t do particularly well at West Point aside from two things: he was an expert horseman and studied under the romantic artist Robert Walter Weir. Grant was a talented artist, but few of his paintings survive. At West Point, he fell in love with classic literature.

It was remarkable to me to read so many letters home to loved ones from soldiers where poetry from the likes of Byron and Tennyson were quoted. Soldiers shucked off everything they could on marches, including coats they’d need later, but they often carried little volumes of poetry and bibles.

Lorena is a plantation owner, having inherited it from her father, as well as being a Confederate spy. At the plantation she runs a boarding school for young ladies. The following is a scene from Rain Crow dealing with two of the young students.

 

Abigail swept into my office like Atropos on her way to a battle, shears in one hand and one small, terrified child in the other. I wondered if she were about to snip Lucille’s life strand in twain. “Yes, Miss Boggs. How may I help?”

“Persephone managed to sneak out of Latin class while I was cutting out some words and Lucille won’t tell me where she went.”

I cleaned the pen nib and laid it aside. “Lucille, what a remarkable child you are. When did you become a seer and take up the dark art of mind reading? Now look deep with your powers and tell us where Persy has gone.” I wriggled my fingers at her.

Her owl-wide eyes relaxed into soft crinkles at the corners and she giggled. “I ain’t no seer, Miss McKenzie. I can’t seer where she is.”

Abigail, who always spoke with her hands, waved the shears about like a drunken swordsman. “Miss McKenzie, we certainly do not need to be teaching children to mock their elders and speaking of dark arts. I swan. Your mother would have fits at the way you carry on.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Boggs. And yes, I’m sure Mother would. Would you mind putting the shears away before we have an accident?” I smiled at Lucille who appeared on the verge of tears again. “I forbid you to dabble in the dark arts and do any seering. Do you have an idea where Persy might be? I know you are her best friend.”

She looked up at Abigail and then at me. “She was hungry.”

I leaned back in my chair. “There. I’m sure she just went to Maisy for a treat and will be back before you return to class.”

Lucille’s black curls shook vigorously. “I don’t think so. She said Latin bored the horse piss out of her. If it—”

“That will be all, Lucille. Miss Boggs, I’ll find Persy and bring her to you.”

Abigail pursed her mouth in fury and snatched up Lucille’s hand. They disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared and I set off in search of my missing student.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogging A-Z K Is For Kitchen

Fredericksburg-Va-Cooking-tent-of-the-U.S.-Sanitary-Commission-602x498

Sanitary Commission Cooking Tent at Fredericksburg, VA

(You thought I forgot, didn’t you? No, I was on babysitting duty and didn’t have research material at hand.)

We walk into our kitchens each morning not thinking about all the conveniences at our fingertips. For the participants in the Civil War, hunger was a constant companion, especially in the south. Camp kitchens might be fully stocked or simply kettles over a fire.

Again we sat down beside (the campfire) for supper. It consisted of hard pilot-bread, raw pork and coffee. The coffee you probably wouldn’t recognize in New York. Boiled in an open kettle, and about the color of a brownstone front, it was nevertheless… the only warm thing we had.

– Charles Nott, Union Soldier, 16 yrs. old

Charles was fortunate to be getting his raw pork and weak coffee.

 

The Union formed a Sanitary Commission that tried to organize feeding their two million men once they realized the war was going to take more than ninety days and 75,000 men. James M. Sanderson was a member of the Sanitary who was concerned about reports of poor food quality and preparation. He’d also been a hotel operator in New York with experience in food service. With this in mind he started making the rounds teaching camp cooks how to prepare simple, healthy meals for the men. He even wrote a cookbook for them called the Camp Fires and Camp Cooking; or Culinary Hints for the Soldier: Including Receipt for Making Bread in the “Portable Field Oven” Furnished by the Subsistence Department.

The cookbook had some interesting recipes and information to be sure.

Below is a scene from Rain Crow where Jeb Stuart and the camp acquire some fresh pork for a change. Stuart, Callahan and some others have been out all night meeting with an informant, so they were jerked out of a deep sleep.

The hog-shooting scene due to not giving a password actually did happen as recorded in a diary, though it didn’t happen in the Stuart camp also that I know of.

 

It was mid-morning when the first shot fired and tumbled Callahan out of the dream in his grandmother’s kitchen where she was just serving up hot apple pie. He jerked on his pants and boots, grabbed his gun and ran to the sound when another shot answered. The entire camp was running. Ten yards from the picket lay a one-eared, black and white hog still twitching on the road, but quite dead with a hole through his head. Soldiers spilled out of the camp prepared for a full on Yankee attack, but the only casualty seemed to be Hamilton Hog.

“Miller!” Stuart, who hadn’t even bothered to dress, stood over the hog in his carpet slippers and robe with a revolver in each hand, shouting at the picket.

Miller ran up the road to stand before Stuart, quite purposely not looking at the hog between them. “Yes, sir?”

“Why is this hog dead?”

“I shot him, sir.”

“Well, I had guessed that.” Stuart moved away from the growing blood puddle before it engulfed his slippers. “Why did you shoot him?”

“I told him to halt three times and identify himself, sir. He refused to halt or give the password, so I felt compelled to halt him with force.”

Stuart shoved his guns into his belt. “Refused to give the password, huh? Well, we have rules about these things. You men take up a collection so we can pay that farmer for him. Call.” He turned around to find Callahan. “You take the money to the farmer. Ask him how much he wants to sell us a pig. Don’t tell him we already shot it or it’ll be the prize hog in the ten county area.” He glanced down at the carcass. “Though that is a damn fine looking hog. I hope it wasn’t his only boar.”

 

Posted in A-Z Blogging, Civil War, The Rain Crow, Uncategorized

A-Z Blogging J Is For Jordan

jordan

Thomas Jordan, like most Confederate generals, started out in the Federal army. It was a tough decision for many to leave the army they loved, but they could not bring themselves to raise arms against their homes. What man would not defend his home and loved ones? For certain, some southerners did join the Union, but for those who became rebels it was mostly a matter of defense.

Jordan knew war was coming and had been setting up a spy ring for at least a year before Virginia seceded and Lee resigned. He created a cypher system to encode messages and passed control of the ring on to Wild Rose O’Neal Greenbow who continued to pass information even after her arrest in January of 1862.

Jordan remained in the army as long as he could to continue gathering information and organizing his spy ring in Washington. He didn’t resign until May 22, 1861. Gen. Winfield Scott offered command of the army to Robert E. Lee whom he considered the finest soldier in the army. Lee asked if he could remain out of the war, which Scott refused even though he’d been promising southern officers they would not be forced to take up arms against the south if they remained.

 

Since I had to fudge dates and times where Jordan would be in the story, I decided to create a character based on him to keep purists from complaining about my inaccuracies.

In the following scene, this character is meeting with the main character Lorena McKenzie about becoming a spy for him.

 

Captain Fox regarded me with large brown, alert eyes, as if appraising me. They were handsome eyes in a handsome face, but there was a bird of prey edge to them. I could very well imagine him sizing up a situation, taking in every detail, and formulating an attack with methodical grace and speed. This was a man used to action. He laid his cap on the split log mantle and returned his attention to the fire.

I mapped out his face, so I might remember it later to sketch him. His features were remarkably symmetrical, with a strong, straight nose, slightly cleft chin marred only by a deep crescent scar on the left side, curving up toward his mouth. He had the strong, classic features artists adored. The mouth, though, was a poet’s mouth. Sensitive and full, I could see him reciting Byron to his lady love and yet the coming discussion was the farthest thing from soothing, else we would have met over lunch.

He glanced over at me, frowning, as if aware of being watched. “You seem very attentive.”

I lowered my gaze, embarrassed at my brazen stares. “Forgive me. I’m a bit of an artist. Your face intrigues me. I thought to memorize it so I could sketch it later.”

He chuckled, revealing deep dimples. “Well, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t do that. It could be quite . . . hazardous for me if the wrong people knew I was here. I prefer my neck unstretched.”

Posted in A-Z Blogging, Civil War, spies, The Rain Crow, Uncategorized Tagged with:

Blogging A-Z I Is For Ironclads

 

THE_CSS_VIRGINIA_AND_THE_USS_MONITOR_reg

The Merrimack was in the Gosport Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Virginia when the war broke out. It had been scheduled for repairs, but congress denied the funds, leaving her there in port. The Confederates sank lightboats between Craney Island and Sewell’s Point, which blocked the channel away from the port on April 16, 1861. On April 17, Virginia seceded and the Federal officers were ordered to remove all ships from the port.

Engineer in Chief Isherwood managed to get Merrimack’s engines lit, but could not get her out of the harbor, so he scuttled her. She burned to the water line and sank.

The Confederates took possession of a fully provisioned harbor and salvaged the Merrimack (also known as the Merrimac). She was rebuilt as the ironclad CSS Virginia. The decision to resurrect her as an ironclad was in response to reports in northern newspapers talking about construction of an ironclad to go against the southern navy.

It’s remarkable to note here how much information was freely posted in newspapers. Civil War spy Frank Stringfellow spent moths cutting out troop movements from newspapers and sending them south.

The Virginia still had workmen aboard when she sailed into her first battle at Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862 where she rammed and sank the USS Cumberland. On March 9, the Monitor arrived after nearly foundering twice. She was sent to fight the rebel monster though still unfinished in an effort to safe the Union blockade fleet.

The two ironclads fought to a standstill with neither declaring a victory, though history will give it to the Monitor since the blockade remained unbroken. The ironclads broke off and sailed away.

On May 11, 1862 the Confederates destroyed the Virginia rather than let her fall into Federal hands. Federals occupied Norfolk and the Virginia was no longer seaworthy due to the modifications turning her into an ironclad. Knowing it would be too dangerous to take her into the Atlantic, they decided to blow her up themselves.

The Monitor was lost on December 31, 1862 in high seas.

However, naval warfare was forever changed due to two squat little ironclads.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogging A-Z H Is For Hysterical Humours

She inclined her head. “You’ll notice Abalone is gone. She was looking after me when I got back from that place just like she had since I was a baby. Daddy decided she was getting too old and sold her. Truth be known, she was giving the nurse fits about drugging me all the time and keeping my babies from me.”

“Sold her?”

She nodded, her eyes swimming in unshed tears. “Oh dear. I musn’t cry.”

“Oh, honey. Sometimes it’s all right to cry.”

She shook her head vigorously. “Oh, no. If I start crying again, they’ll send me back to that place. I can’t go back, Lorena. I’d die first.”

I patted her hand. “I’m sure they won’t. You were so brave when little Thomas died, but people know it’s human to grieve.”

“Brave nothing! I was terrified. I knew if I let down and mourned for my poor darling boy Daddy would send me back to that place and that horrible doctor.”

“Well, we shall pray for you to find another loving husband and have many more children. Not that they can replace Thomas, but it would help cheer your heart.”

She nibbled some tea bread and looked over the pond. “In a session with Dr. Whittey. What an appropriate name. I used to call him Whitless, but he is actually very clever. He gives not a whit about his patients, aside from the money their families send each month, though. One day he leaned back in his great leather chair and said, ‘Mrs. Chesswood, in my opinion as a professional, the chief cause of hysteria in women is them being over stimulated with female humours. When we take those things away that cause excitement the hysterical woman becomes calm and docile as she was meant to be. Remove these agitations and restore the woman. That is my theory, and it has been proven successful time and again.’ This was his excuse for putting patients in solitary confinement where they often went completely insane if they weren’t before. I had been placed there upon arrival to cure me of grieving for my husband, taken out only for my sessions with him or to bathe once a week.

“I responded, to him, ‘I tend to agree with you, Doctor. I think if men were removed from women’s lives they would be much saner.’

“He cut our session short and the next day I was given a hysterectomy to remove the ‘excitable organs’.” She sighed. “There will be no more children for me, but look! I am sane once more.”

I recoiled in horror. Peters’ threats became even more frightening. God help me if something happened to Esquire Lewis. “Emily, I don’t know what to say.  I had heard rumors of terrible things, but could not believe they were true.”

She smiled wanly. “Oh, Lorena, you have no idea. God pray you never will.”

“How did you escape that place?”

“I learned not to cry. No matter what they did, I wouldn’t cry. I agreed with the doctor on all matters. I became as docile as a lamb. I played the part laid out for women so well he could not deny I was cured.”

This is a bit longer than I intended and I apologize. Lorena has gone to check on a friend of hers who has returned from an insane asylum, having been sent there after grieving too much for her dead husband. Humours are bodily fluids such as blood.

Victorian doctors felt that non-docile women could be returned to their proper mental state by performing various treatments, including hysterectomies, solitary confinement, shock therapy, being pelted with ice, or ice baths, or opiates, etc.

Posted in Uncategorized
Top