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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Free Days

Laura Towne: Misfit

For all of her adult life (and much of her childhood as well), Laura Towne had known that she did not fit in with the society around her.  If someone had told her that in 150 years she would be touted as an example of a woman who made a permanent difference in the world, she would not have believed it.  Nor would she have believed that anyone would ever write a book about her life.  She knew she was different; she just didn’t know that being different was going to make her important. I see her as an example of how women can change their world. 
 
Laura’s world demanded that women fulfill one of two roles in society.  She could either marry and become a dutiful wife and doting mother, or she could remain in the family home as the caretaker of her parents, the support of her brothers and sisters, the family anchor. Laura wanted no part of either one.  She could not bring herself to be subordinate to a man, especially one who was not as intelligent or capable as she was.  She loved children but wanted to encourage them to flee the nest, not hover over them as protector. Her mother died when she was nine, her father when she was in her early twenties, so there was no need to take on the role of caregiver.  And she had no interest in encouraging her siblings to lean on her any more than they already did. She cherished a close friendship with another woman whom she considered her equal in every way.  She dreamed of sharing their lives, but knew that while Philadelphia society might allow two women to live together, they would never give their relationship the status of family. She thought she would always live a solitary existence, without the bonds of love and affection that sustained other people.
 
Laura wanted a career, even though she knew that there were few career options open to her.  She petitioned for years to be allowed to attend medical school, and finally found admission in Philadelphia’s first medical school for women.  There she was allowed to attend academic classes and lectures, but barred from any clinical experience on the grounds that women should never see the body of a man other than their husbands or children. Frustrated with the lack of contact with patients, she gave up her pursuit of a medical degree and turned to the study of homeopathic medicine, which put her even further outside the boundaries of acceptable careers. Most trained doctors looked down on homeopathy as quackery, but Laura found much to like.  It allowed her to be in close contact with her patients; treating them as individuals, not  cases; offering comfort and palliative care; and avoiding the harshness of dangerous medicines, quick amputation, or blood-letting.
 
Laura was a non-conformist when it came to religion, too.  In a city involved with evangelism in all its many forms, as well as a city that had been founded by Quakers, Laura was a Unitarian.  What was that?  The question bothered other people, too.  Unitarians believed in one God.  Only one, not a Trinity, which seemed to make them non-Christians.  They disliked dogma, official church doctrine, and any and creeds.  They believed religion should be a quiet and private affair.  They were ethical and reasonable, believers in free will, and flexible in their religious observances.  They were particularly irritating to traditional Christians because they denied the divinity of Jesus while following his teachings more closely than most Christians did.
 
Finally, there was the matter of politics.  Women did not have the right to vote and  were not expected to have political opinions.  They certainly were not expected to speak out about their views. But Laura was an abolitionist, and an outspoken one at that.  She was not afraid to express her hatred of slavery and demanded equality for all people, including women.  Abolitionists were usually northerners, but they were no more popular in the north they were in the south.  Workers feared an influx of free blacks would take away their jobs, while the wealthy feared attacks from those who had much less than they did. Laura the abolitionist was one of a very few uppity women who were hated by nearly everyone.





The Road to Frogmore,  a biographical novel by Carolyn P. Schriber, was published in 2012. In 2013, it won a Silver Medal from The Military Writers Society of America. A digital version will be available for free in the Kindle Store from Monday, April 25, 2016, through Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Don’t miss this chance to read the story of a remarkable woman.  


A Remarkable Woman You've Probably Never Heard of. . .


Miss Laura M. Towne was a Unitarian, an Abolitionist, and a medical student.  In 1862, at the age of 37, she left her Philadelphia home to travel to the Sea Islands of South Carolina.  Her purpose: to do whatever she could to help the newly freed slaves become useful and productive citizens.The Road to Frogmore, published in 2012, tells the story of the first few years she spent in South Carolina during the Civil War.

 Laura Town and her life-long friend Ellen Murray joined the Port Royal Experiment in 1862 to test their abolitionist ideals against the realities of slaves abandoned by their owners in the Low Country of South Carolina. They hoped to find a place they could call home, as well as an outlet for their talents as schoolteacher and doctor.. It seemed like a good idea at the time, until . . . 

. . . until they experienced the climate—violent storms spawned over the Atlantic, searing heat, tainted by swamp gasses, cockroaches, bedbugs, swarming mosquitoes,and the pesky “no-see-ums” that left nasty bites in their wake. 

. . . until they met the slaves themselves—full of fear and resentment of white people caused by centuries of cruelty, slaves who had never seen the outside world, slaves whose superstitions included breath-sucking night hags, evil graybeards living in local trees, and unfree spirits rolling down the roads at night in balls of fire. 

. . . until the dedication of the missionaries found itself tested by lack of food, furniture, medicine, and the bare necessities of life. Until the unity of the abolitionist effort fell apart under the strains of religious differences and unrecognized prejudices. 

. . . and until the combination of battle wounds and a raging smallpox epidemic made death their constant companion. Could these two independent women survive the Civil War and achieve their goal of turning slaves into citizens?

In the next couple of days, you'll have a chance to meet some of the real people with whom she worked--and those against whom she had to struggle in order to establish the kind of school she wanted to provide for the children she loved.

The Road to Frogmore,  a biographical novel by Carolyn P. Schriber, won a Silver Medal from The Military Writers Society of America in 2013. A digital version will be available for free in the Kindle Store from Monday, April 25, 2016, through Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Don’t miss this chance to read the story of a remarkable woman.  

Another Free Book Coming Your Way

When I speak to groups about the Civil War, I try to stress the things both sides had in common, not the things that drove us apart.  Tops on my list are medical conditions. To show how terrible the Civil War was, I offer the following statistics on war casualties, as supplied by the Pentagon:

American soldiers who died in our wars:

  • Revolutionary War, 4,435
  • War of 1812, 2,260
  • Mexican War, 13,283
  • Spanish-American War, 2,446
  • World War I, 116,516
  • World War II, 291,557
  • Korean War, 36,220
  • Vietnam, 58,220
  • Iraq, 4,416
                                        
   Total: 529,709

But in the Civil War (including both sides), there were roughly 620,000 deaths, including 368,000 from disease. This makes the Civil War not only the deadliest war in our history, but deadlier than all other American wars combined.

On the brighter side, if there is one, here is a list of medical improvements that can be traced back to the Civil War:

  1. Record-keeping, which in turn led to the first attempts at medical histories
  2. A system of managing mass casualties, still followed in wars of 20th century
  3. Pavilion-style hospitals which improved survival rates (used for the next 75 years)
  4. Immediate treatment of wounds
  5. An understanding of the importance of sanitation
  6. Development of new anesthetics 
  7. Widespread use of smallpox vaccinations
  8. A corps of female nurses and sisters in Catholic orders
  9. Improvements in medical education (Harvard Medical School got its first microscope)
  10. Ladies Aide Societies, which developed into the American Red Cross

A bit of self-promotion: Beyond All Price tells the story of Nellie Chase, whose experiences as a nurse during the war offers many examples of these improvements. It will be available for free on Kindle starting Monday, April 11.

Coming to a Kindle Near You Next Week

On a muddy South Carolina battlefield, a sergeant sat propped up against a hedge and tried to focus on the spot where he thought his leg should be. There was nothing – only the tattered remains of his trousers and a pool of blood that grew ever larger. The whistle of artillery shells had stopped, and the sudden quiet was as jarring as the previous battle noises had been. Shock had deadened the pain, so that all he felt was exhaustion as he closed his eyes. Sgt. James McCaskey had fought and lost his only battle. 

"From behind a hedge on that battlefield, a young private picked his way through the bodies, following orders to gather up the abandoned weapons and tend to the wounded. Pvt. Augustine T. Smythe was stunned by the mayhem that met his eyes, particularly the sight of a soldier who lay with his leg shot entirely away. He whispered a silent prayer, as was fitting for the son of a Presbyterian minister, that he would never again have to witness such horrors. 

"The Battle of Secessionville, fought out in the early hours of June 16, 1862, on James Island, South Carolina, brought these two young men together for a single moment. But the events of the Civil War had been drawing them together for almost a year. James and Gus were approximately the same age. Both were first-generation Americans, the sons of Scotch-Irish immigrants to the United States. Both stood firm in their Presbyterian faith, and both believed passionately in the cause of their countries. Both wanted to enlist from the day the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter; both had to spend months persuading their parents to allow them to join the army. They set out for their first battle on the same day – November 7, 1861-- and both missed the action by arriving too late. Both chafed at enforced inaction and longed to get into a real battle. Each of their Scotch-Irish mothers might have warned her son to be careful for what he wished. 

They were just two soldiers, alike in many ways but different in the one trait that mattered on that battlefield. One was North; the other, South. Sgt. James McCaskey belonged to the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment, known to their comrades as “The Roundheads.” They came from the farms of western Pennsylvania, determined to defend for all men the Calvinist principles they most valued – self-reliance, industriousness, and liberty. Gus Smythe served in the Washington Light Infantry, part of the 24th South Carolina Volunteers. He was a college student from a well-to-do Charleston family and an ardent supporter of the Confederate right to secede from a political union that did not serve the needs of its people. This is the story of how they came to their opposing positions, and how the Battle of Secessionville altered not only their own lives, but the lives of all those who shared their experiences. 

Get your free digital copy of A Scratch with the Rebelshere starting Sunday, March 27th at midnight.

And order the full version of the book,  complete with endnotes, maps, and illustrations, here for only $5.00 plus shipping.

The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux

Once in a while I like to remind some of you that under this "Civil War author" persona lies an old medievalist.  In 2012 Indiana University Press offered to return to me all the publishing rights for my very first book: The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux: New Ideas versus Old Ideals, originally published in 1990.  At first, I couldn't imagine that anyone would care about a 25-year-old doctoral dissertation that had been out of print for some time.  And then I got one of those wild hairs of an idea that sent me off in a new direction.

No one's ever heard of Arnulf, but he's a neat, quirky old geezer with some important lessons to teach us even today. And today's new publishing ventures just might be quirky enough to make room for him. So, after a couple of deep breaths (what the medieval world would call "girding my loins"), I sent the book off to CreateSpace, a print-on-demand publisher with the ability to photograph an old book and recreate an exact copy of the original -- except in a trade paper edition and a Kindle edition -- and at  such a reasonable printing rate that the book can now be offered for a fraction of what it cost originally. 

Will it interest any of you? I'm guessing that it might.  You see, despite the fact that Arnulf was a churchman living in France in the heart of the 12th-century, he had to deal with many of the same problems we face today.  He was educated in traditional monastic environment, indoctrinated with the belief that the word of God should govern his life, a conservative who took joy in the way things had been done in the past.  And he lived in the middle of a renaissance--a period of revolution, if  you will, when new learning from the east clashed with the inherited truths of the west, new architectural styles took buildings soaring to unimaginable heights, and kings seemed bound and determined to fight with popes. If Arnulf came back to visit today, he would immediately understand the ideological differences currently stirring up controversies.

So once again I'm going to introduce you to the cantankerous little man who fought with both sides because he couldn't get a foothold in either camp. You may even come to like him, as I did all those years ago. For the coming week, starting around midnight tonight, March 13, and running until midnight on Friday, March 18, the Kindle edition of Arnulf's story will be offered for FREE. Just click on the book cover above to order  your free copy.