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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

daily events

The Week in Review

What have I been up to this week? It certainly hasn't been blogging, and I apologize to all of you who keep checking back, only to find the same old stuff. Better days are coming, I promise.

This week my only postings had to do with the publication of my boxed set of the early South Carolina books. That's mostly taken care of now, and I can report that pre-orders  are available wherever you prefer to shop --Kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo, or iBooks. Just look for "The Civil War in South Carolina's Low Country."



I was also busy this past week with two Lions events--both were important. First, we attended a Southern College of Optometry meeting for "Dining in the Dark."   The SCO Lions are finishing a drive for new members -- 81 recruits from the First-Year class so far. This experience of what it is like to be blind may inspire others to join.







Then yesterday we spent the morning at "VisionWalk," a Memphis-wide fundraiser for retinal diseases. I spent the week recruiting among the Germantown Lions and had signed up some of its members and friends as part of our mission to help fight the causes of preventable blindness in the world.  We joined a dedicated band of supporters -- all races, all ages, sighted and visually impaired, children and parents accompanied by strollers, babies in arms, and dogs in Halloween costumes.  (Note a little girl using her white cane in the picture below in the lower left corner.) We had 16 participants and raised approximately $620.  Here are a couple of pictures.














Beyond that? Well, I've now completed the initial draft of the first seven chapters of "Yankee Reconstructed," the sequel to "Damned Yankee." That's almost 15,000 words, and I'm starting to see the story taking shape.  The historical period in which it takes place, however, is not one I'm really up to speed on yet, so here's a  lot of research involved.

For example, today, I needed an undertaker, and I wanted him to be as authentic as possible. So I spent yesterday afternoon reading SC newspapers from 1867, looking for ads for undertakers and reading obituaries to get a feel for funeral practices (Yes, someone dies early in the new book!)  I found one, too! That's what makes writing historical fiction so much fun. You can't make these details up.

Thomas E. Dalwick had a shop located on King Street, just across from where The Ordinary stands today.  He advertised his carpentry skills and his upholstery business, and then in small print mentioned that he was an undertaker (using his skills to produce caskets). He also offered 24-hour-a-day service in body removal and disinterment, in case someone needed to move or dig up a body. Look for him when the new book comes out!



Ice on the River, but No Groundhogs



From ice on the river to soldiers needing discipline to a president in pain, things don't seem to have changed much in 150 years. Here's the latest from Memphis in 1864:

In recognition of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, “Civil War-Era Memories” features excerpts from The Memphis Daily Appeal of 150 years ago. The Appeal is publishing from Atlanta. Perspective from our staff is in italics.

Jan. 27, 1864

Distinguished Arrivals (in Memphis) — Major Gen. W.T. Sherman arrived on Sunday by a gunboat, and is now stopping at the Gayoso House.

Jan. 28, 1864 

From the Memphis Bulletin of the 7th — The Mississippi River was full of floating ice yesterday, the cakes ranging in size from six inches square to half an acre in extent. It was not thick enough to materially impede navigation, but sufficiently observable to form a remarkable incident for this latitude ... We hear that in Wolf River the ice in some places is frozen six inches thick.

Jan. 29, 1864 

Rags Wanted — The highest market price, either in money or subscription, will be paid for clean cotton or linen rags, white or colored, delivered at the APPEAL counting-room, Atlanta. (Before the late 19th century, paper was often made from textile fibers, like cotton and linen, taken from recycled rags. The APPEAL supplied rags to its paper vendors who produced paper that was often more durable than that made later from wood pulp).

Jan. 30, 1864

The cavalry in Mississippi has been divided into two parts: all north of Grenada and in West Tennessee is under command of Major-Gen. Forrest; all south of an imaginary line running through Grenada, east and west, and in Louisiana, is under command of Major-Gen. S.D. Lee. General Forrest’s headquarters will be at Como, Panola County and Gen. Lee’s at Jackson (Miss).

Feb. 1, 1864

Letters from Mississippi — Gen. Forrest is busily engaged organizing and bringing under proper discipline and restraint the troops which he brought out of West Tennessee. They need it.

Feb. 2, 1864

Lincoln’s Cares — No man in this agony, says the “Boston Watchman,” has suffered more and deeper, albeit with a dry, weary patient pain that seemed to some like insensibility. “Whichever way it ends,” he said to the writer, “I have the impression that I shan’t last long after it is over.”

I Don't Want to Argue about Global Warming, but . . . .

Does anything in this news article from 150 years ago sound familiar?  I'm almost embarrassed to write anything about the weather because we've been very lucky in Memphis so far this year:  NO SNOW! But our temperatures, like elsewhere, have been unusually low.  We dealt with a frozen pipe after a 9-degree night a week or so ago, but nothing like what the Commercial Appeal reported in 1864!

In recognition of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, “Civil War-Era Memories” features excerpts from The Memphis Daily Appeal of 150 years ago. The Appeal is publishing from Atlanta. Perspective from our staff is in italics.

Jan. 20, 1864

We have frequently heard of our troops “charging the Yankees,” but they have invariably been fortified with muskets and fixed bayonets. It remained for (Gen. Nathan Bedford) Forrest to inaugurate charging an enemy without a weapon of any description. In his recent retreat from Jackson, Tennessee, he was attacked by the Yankees near the line of the Memphis and Charleston railroad, and his armed forces being small, he ordered the new recruits, two thousand in number, who had not received arms, to charge the enemy. They immediately rushed forward, and the Yankees, astounded at the force coming toward them, fled in all directions, leaving Forrest a clear road to Oxford.

An account from Jan. 23 describes the charge in more detail: (Forrest) divided his men into two columns, one of which he sent, under Col. Faulkner, across the railroad, within five miles of Memphis. The other he commanded in person, taking the Bolivar route, and crossing the railroad near Collierville. Near Bolivar, he met Col. Hatch’s Yankee cavalry, and though they largely outnumbered his force, he charged them with a yell, causing them to scatter in every direction ... Not more than a third of Gen. Forrest’s men were armed, but he mixed up the armed with the unarmed men, and ordered the whole to charge at once. His men were nearly all raw recruits, while the Federals had, from their own accounts, not less than twenty thousand disciplined men after him.

Jan. 22, 1864

Letter from Mississippi (Grenada) — The weather continues intensely cold. The managers of the hospitals are taking advantage of the heaviest ice ever known in Mississippi to lay in a supply for next summer. Travel and mails have been much interrupted by water and mud freezing over the railroad tracks.

Memphis Intelligence — The cold was severe in Memphis — 10 below zero ... On President’s Island about eighty negroes perished. A detachment of ten soldiers from Fort Pillow, chasing after deserters, were frozen, as were also five on a sandbar in the river ... At Cairo the mercury stood at 15 degrees below zero, at St. Louis 25 below.

Things Do Not Seem To Be Going Well

While I'm editing another Civil a text for publication, here's this week's notes on what was happening in Memphis 150 years ago.  I'm noticing a trend to concentrate on trivia rather than on details of the war -- probably because news was not very good for the Confederacy.

Jan. 13, 1864

Letter from Richmond — Gen. John Morgan is the lion of the day (Morgan escaped from a Yankee prison in November 1863). Yesterday he was formally received by the civil authorities ... was made to ride up Main street in an open carriage, the mercury being twelve degrees below freezing; was violently assaulted in a set speech by the Mayor; was cruelly compelled to respond, and was afterwards carried back to the hotel. Gen. John Morgan, I fear, is a good deal bored by his lionization ... he must write his autograph in numberless albums of admiring young ladies and eat ever so many leaden lunches, dismal dinners and stupid suppers — need we wonder if the hero should yawn over the hospitable board and wish himself for the nonce back again in the Ohio penitentiary.

Jan. 15, 1864

Not a Lock Left — A lady asked General John H. Morgan for a lock of his hair, when he pulled off his hat, and showed her that had none to give her, the Yankees having shaved his head in the Ohio penitentiary.

A soldier in Gen. Lee’s army, in complaining of camp life, says he is one of “Lee’s Miserables.”

A Noble Example Set — Right glad we are that the famous old hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee has taken the initiative. As it was among the very first to enter the service, it evinces a determination to be the last to leave it: An enthusiastic meeting of the old 154th senior regiment volunteers, was held today, at which stirring resolutions were unanimously passed, tendering their services to the Confederate States as long as the war lasts. (The 154th Tennessee included many soldiers from Memphis and Shelby County).

Jan. 18, 1864

Specially proud are we that the old one hundred and fifty fourth Tennessee regiment, made up of our friends and neighbors and commanded by the immortal Smith, the gallant Vaughan, and now by the chivalrous Magevney, should be the illustrious exemplar.

Jan. 19, 1864

In order to accommodate our subscribers and that portion of the public supplied by the Augusta and Macon and Western roads, we have determined to issue both a morning and evening edition of the APPEAL.

Big Plans for Christmas?

I certainly had them this year.  Then something went terribly wrong!