Friday, May 29, 2009

Treasure Hunting in the Backyard

The other day, my husband was digging in the garden, when he discovered an old piece of metal. Immediately, he assumed it was a piece off a Civil War cannon, and took it to his friend, who is the curator at the Tunica museum. Sadly, it wasn't as he'd thought. The round piece of metal was more likely a bearing from a piece of farm machinery, and was probably about forty years old.

It wouldn't be unusual to find Civil War relics buried around here, however. Lots of people do it, and have success doing it as well. You just have to know the right place to look, and have a high-powered metal detector. Minie balls constantly rise to the surface. Unfortunately, they are becoming more difficult to come by. I was told that back in the 60's, Shiloh Military Park allowed civilians to go in and search for relics. They don't condone the practice any longer, but there are many old campsites, prison sites, and battlefields in Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and elsewhere that have been left undisturbed to treasure hunters. The locals like to keep these places a secret, but if you're lucky and obtain permission, perhaps you can discover a treasure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It’s a Long Way Back Home

Barack Obama has stated that it will be sixteen months before the Iraq War ends and our soldiers are allowed to return home, the surge being the last final push before troop withdrawal takes place. During the American Civil War following Gettysburg, the war was also extended: for nearly two years. Many soldiers couldn’t wait for the end of the war, even though they were still caught up in ongoing battles.

During the Civil War, soldiers suffered from “soldiers’ heart disease,” which today would be called postwar trauma. Both then and now, soldiers’ mental health issues are being overlooked. Soon after the Civil War ended, many soldiers died due to exposure and medical inadequacies. Even though we have the medical know-how today, soldiers are still coming back with ailments caused from physical and psychological fallout to war.

After the Civil War, soldiers went back to lives they’d lived previously, back to their farms or city jobs. We expect the same, for our soldiers to return, get a job, and just be normal. One local anonymous Iraqi soldier relayed the sentiment that it was hard to concentrate on selling items at Home Depot when he was having deep emotional feelings about the people killed back in Iraq. He found it difficult to relate to customers because he was frequently distracted by memories and emotional events.

We are happy to send them a letter from home, but in the soldiers’ heart, they don’t want a letter from home. They want only to be home. When we finally bring them home, as in the Civil War, we expect to pick up the pieces and carry on as though nothing ever happened to them.

As it is, we have sixteen months to come up with something extraordinary so that our soldiers will feel welcome. Otherwise, if we don’t, 145 years from now, people will be wondering what impact the war had on our soldiers, just as we wonder what happened to our boys following the Civil War. The irony is that, in 145 years, this country hasn’t learned how to deal with the social impact war has on our soldiers. It wasn’t until years after the Civil War ended that statues and placards were erected for our fighting brethren, long after many had died, unable to see their names carved in stone.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Remembrances

Please take into account that Memorial Day is more than just a holiday from work, or the first long weekend of summer. We should make a special effort to remember those who fought and died for our freedom. Although many wars have long since faded from the American conscience, it is our obligation to honor the veterans whose beliefs were upheld by their actions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Music of the Civil War

As a musician, I have a keen appreciation for music of all genres, but I truly love music that originated from The War Between the States. I know my family thinks I'm crazy when I drive around listening to Civil War music in my car. In fact, my youngest son has told me so!

My favorite band is the 2nd South Carolina String Band. These guys are amazing, talented individuals who play at reenactments and put on concerts in and around Virginia. I met them last summer at the annual Battle of Gettysburg reenactment. They are so open that it seems anyone they meet likely becomes their friend for life. Even though these men are actually "Yankees," their songs center around the Confederacy. They met as reenactors, and discovered their musical talents while sitting around the campsite.

Another well-known Civil War artist is Bobby Horton. I was unfamiliar with him until recently, when I discovered that I'd listened to his music many times, albeit subconsciously. He participated in Ken Burns' Civil War documentary soundtrack, and I think his instrumental work is second to none.

There are many other Civil War era performers out there, and the challenge is finding an opportunity to see them perform live. They range from fiddle players to banjo pickers to hammer dulcimer players, and the music, even with arrangement changes, is as good today as it was way back when. It is the foundation of our modern day folk and bluegrass music, and I for one have a deep, affectionate reverence for it. Some songs are so stirring that they bring tears to your eyes. It's wonderful, too, how soldiers back then, experiencing the horrors they did, still found a way to hold onto their sense of humor (i.e. Goober Peas and The Invalid Corp) I would love having the opportunity to play these songs with talented musicians in an authentic setting. Maybe someday, I will.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Book Featured on Blog

I would like to let everyone know that my book will be featured tomorrow on Wendy Burt's blog. You can check it out at Thanks for your patronage!

Book Signing a Success

On Saturday, May 16, I held a book signing at the annual A-Fair in Hernando, Mississippi. The event was a great success! I would like to thank everyone for coming out, talking with me, and sharing their stories. It's always fun to hear other people's experiences relating to the "War Between the States." I would also like to thank the SCV and the UDC for sponsoring me. Without their support, the event wouldn't have been possible.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One Thing Leads to Another

My husband, Dave, and I attended a meeting of the DeSoto County Genealogical Society last weekend. It’s amazing how one thing can lead to another. In my case, I became interested in the Civil War after taking a trip to Gettysburg, where I saw the enormous battlefield. Never encountering one before, I was awestruck, and it inspired me to write my novel. After conducting my research, I convinced Dave to travel to Virginia, and once he had seen places such as Antietam, Bull Run, and Brandy Station, he was bitten by the Civil War bug as well.

Once you are bitten, the intrigue just keeps on building, and you find out coincidences that you never knew existed. I discovered that at the Battle of Chancellorsville, a farmstead known as the Hawkins farm played a significant role. Dave became curious, and started investigating his own genealogy. From there, he discovered that, on his mother’s side, his great-great grandfather served in the Confederate cavalry. More specifically, he was an interpreter for the Cherokee Indians. Because of my book, he learned of his heritage, and thus joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Non-fiction vs. Novel

Non-fiction vs. Novel

I’ve noticed that there never seems to be a shortage of new Civil War books coming out. After all, it is the most written about subject, having the most books published about it. New perspectives seem to pop up all the time. The thing I find interesting is that there are very few novels being written about the subject. When I attended the Civil War Antique Show in Southaven, Mississippi a couple of months ago, I was approached by several people who seemed intrigued that I had written a novel. Another author at the event put it this way: in his opinion, it is easier to write non-fiction (which is exactly what he was selling) than it is to write a novel. I assume the same amount of research goes into both, but a novel has to go a cut above. Non-fiction books merely tell the events that took place. A novel lives it. While I was writing, I found myself imagining what it must have been like to be in battle while on horseback. I put so much imagination into my story that I even dreamt I was being shot at! Because I have written both fiction and non-fiction, I agree with what that other author told me. Both have an important place, but to go a step beyond just telling the story by incorporating believable characters and events is a challenge this writer gladly accepts.