Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brother Against Brother

The preceding blogs about genealogy on this site got me thinking how little I know about my own family's roots. But several years ago, my huband did a search of his family to try to find an ancestor who'd fought during the American Civil War on the Union side and came up with very interesting information.

It all started about 12 years ago when my family visited Gettysburg, where we met a few Civil War reenactors. My husband was fascinated and set about finding a reenacting group he could join. He toyed with joining his co-worker's Confederate group based in New Jersey, but didn't want to go that far for meetings. He continued his search and found a local Union group, the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.

One of the requirements for male members of the group was to join the Sons of Union Veterans. Although members didn't have to have an ancestor who actually fought for the Union, it certainly was a perk. I think he got a special ribbon to wear.

My husband started research and found two uncles who'd fought for the Confederacy.

Wrong side. No perks there.

Besides, these Confederate soldiers weren't direct ancestors anyway. Continuing his research, he found Samuel Joseph Macateee, who not only fought for the Union, but was a direct ancestor. Ironically, Samuel was the younger brother of the two uncles who'd fought for the Confederacy.

He was sixteen when the Civil War broke out and living in Maryland with his family. After his older brothers joined the Confederate Army, his parents sent him north to York, Pennsylvania to live with an aunt, to keep him out of the war. Toward the end of the war, he joined the Union Army as part of Hampton's Battery.

So, while the American Civil War was said to have been a war of brother against brother, in my huband's family, it turned out to be the literal truth.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ten things I love/hate about the Victorian Era

Morning, everyone,

Today is my turn for Tuesday ten. I am, however, sick with yet another cold and my computer died last week. The new one I have has a super-sensitive touch pad that makes writing difficult. Of course I'll have to fix it, but it may take some time. Between those two things, I am not going to be as good a Tuesday-tenner as I would like. No references this time. This is more discussion time than information.

All right, on to ten things I love/hate about the era.

1.)Clothes--I love the clothes, from the beginning to the end of the era, most especially the ones for formal affairs. Silks and satins and velvets. . . .long dresses and lace. People dressed differently for different occasions, unlike today where unless someone specifically says "semi-formal attire" jeans and sandals are acceptable.

2.) Manners--People actually had them. Granted the U.S. has always been a little more, um, we'll call it independent in the manner category. In other words, we tend to dis things that are viewed as "prissy". I'm pretty certain that in the Old West, this occurred a lot more often than in the cities. Still, people said please and thank you, and held doors open and in most cases tried to be more polite.

3.) Furniture--I admit I wouldn't have it in my house, but I still love the furniture of the time, with all the swirls and roses carved in it. In my house though, which is constantly in chaos, it would just get lost in the mess.

4.) Wallpaper--These days our walls are generally painted--it's just easier. But in the Victorian period wallpaper was cheaper and everyone used it. Again, it was pretty intricate and in my chaotic house would just make the mess look messier. But if I could afford someone to clean my house--or could somehow learn to love cleaning it myself--I would have lots of Victorian wallpaper.

5.) Formality--In the Victorian era people said ma'am or sir, and used Mr and Mrs, even when referring to their own spouses. (I recently read something--don't remember where though--in which a woman was berate for not calling her husband Mr.). The only time people these days say Mr. or Mrs is when referring to an old friends' parents. Sometimes that's not even true. In the town we lived in when my kids were born, everyone referred to their friends' parents by their first name. Me, I like the formality. Yes, it does create distance, but it also shows immediately how close people are. I like it.

This may, by the way, be different in other sections of the U.S. (and other countries, of course). I believe people in the South are far more likely to use formalities, but I suspect even there it's relaxing.

6.)Dancing--Yes, we do still dance, but not nearly as much as I believe they did back then. In the Victorian era dancing, specifically the waltz, was the best way for a man to "get close" to a woman. Thus men were far more inclined to want to dance. And dancing was "easier" in that there were set dances, The Cotillion, the Waltz, The Quadrille, etc. You learned the steps, and you could dance. Today, it's mostly free-style, and those of us without rhythm (me!) do not dance. It's far too embarrassing. I would have back then, though!

7.) Food--The Victorians liked to eat. A lot. And, as I have blogged on before (I think) as the era progressed and the eating became more ritual, the fashions changed to allow for extra weight. By the end of the era women who had a good 10-15 extra pounds on them were envied. I have an extra 10 pounds on me. No one envies me for it.

8.)Travel--yes is took much longer, was expensive and often filthy, and uncomfortable for people without a certain financial means. But for others if wasn't--just look at the steamships being built at the time! All manner of luxury! I think slower travel allowed people to see more, and forced them to talk more to each other, to compel people to get to know people from different backgrounds. Today we take cruises for the purposes of vacation, which duplicates Victorian overseas travel to some extent. As for land travel, thought, well it's all about the plane or the car, isn't it? Few people take overnight trains. I think it's a real shame.

Two things I hate:

9.) Corsets--While they sort of "equalized" women, allowing the larger ones to squish their waists so that they too, looked wasp-waisted, I think they did women a great deal of damage. From what I've read women started wearing them in the early teen years, and I suspect they created the same sort of malformation that binding feet did in Chinese women. This sort of malformation would have created, I believe, a great deal if difficulty during child-bearing years. I wonder how many women might not have suffered or died in childbirth if they hadn't been forced by society to wear these things.

10.)Treatement of women--Of course I've discussed this a number of times, and how the laws were so unfair to women, even to the point that were a wife to divorce her husband (assuming she could actually get a divorce) she lost everything, including her children. Even if those children were from another marriage. The laws, though, were not special to the era, they were just more obvious because of the women who fought against them.

Well that's it. What about you? What do you love or hate about the era?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Year's reads

After Christmas each year, I get a ‘to be read’ pile, but the new year brings no time to read them. Nevertheless I’ve managed to read two.

I won Cynthia Owens’ Christmas contest, and in addition to a beautiful book bag, candles, bath salt and other great stuff, I finally got my hands on her book.

Sure, and she can write a fine tale that has one seeing the green, smelling the peat fires and hearing the pipes and fiddles of Ireland. As someone said to me recently, it is the emotions that are key in romance writing, and this book has it in spades! The characters feelings were just dripping off the pages in the last three or four chapters--no, those were the constant tears pouring from my eyes. Made it hard to read, but such a satisfying finish.

The other book I’ve read this year I feel a bit guilty about. I didn’t have time to read, you see, and I meant just to take a quick peek at the first page. But Denise Eagan hooked me immediately and never let me go. What a fantastic story, and funny and action-packed to boot. While it kept me up all night, the lack of sleep was well worth it. With apologies to my critique partners for my tardiness.

So, IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW and WICKED WOMAN will go on my keeper shelf, right beside THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND by Caroline Clemmons. What a talented bunch I blog with!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Alternate Histories

One of the most famous alternate history writers is the Sci Fi guru Harry Turtledove. I'm currently reading (listening to) the first in his series, How Few Remain. In this, a key point during the Civil War changed - Lee's Special Order 191 wasn't lost as happened in the 'real' war, but was found before the Union Army could recover it. As a result, the South won the war and succeeded from the Union creating 2 countries; The Untied States of America and the Confederate States of America.

I think it's fascinating to read these changes, and to hear Mr. Turtledove's take on what could've happened. It has also had the effect of making me question what I know about history, and spend several hours looking up what really happened to key characters in the aftermath of the war, and what was going on 'here' in this timeline.

If you get the chance, give How Few Remain a try, or at least skim through it.

The year is 1881:

  • Abraham Lincoln wasn't assassinated and is a for-the-workers speaker with leanings towards Marx and socialism. He's widely reviled by the north for losing the war.
  • Stonewall Jackson lived to become the General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army. He's widely hated by the north for being such an excellent general, his reputation well deserved.
  • General J.E.B. Stuart is now stationed in El Paso and commands a large garrison to protect the west and newly acquired Mexican territories bought from Emperor Maximilian.
  • Colonel George A. Custer, is a cavalryman serving on the Great Plains far from Dakota Territory.
  • Theodore Roosevelt is a young, brash Montana Rancher who formed Roosevelt's Unauthorized Regiment in response to a 2nd war between the north and south.
  • Fredrick Douglass travels throughout the country witnessing the ongoing plight of the negro in the north and hoping to bring attention to the even worse plight of the slave in the south.
  • Colonel Alfred Graf von Schlieffen is the military attache to the German Ambassador to the United States.
  • Samuel Clemens is a newspaper editor in San Francisco.
  • General Grant is a homeless drunkard who wanders the USA but is friends with Frederick Douglass.
  • James G. Blane is now the president of the USA, while James Longstreet is president of the CSA.
  • Germany supports the USA, while England and France are allied with the CSA.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Heroes and Outlaws of The Old West (Part II.)

Part II: The Bad Boys

Like any self-avowed “good girl”, I have a weak spot for bad boys. But reading about some of these guys makes you realize just how baaaad some of them were. Here, for the second half of today’s Tuesday Ten are the guys who put the “wild” in Wild West!

Henry McCarty, better known as William Bonney. Even better known as Billy the Kid. Short, ugly and buck-toothed, Billy became a petty thief at a young age. He spent several years working as a cowboy in Arizona. He lost that job when he killed a man and was sent to jail. After escaping, he made his way to Lincoln County, New Mexico and was offered a job in by a kindly rancher named John Tunstall. For a while, Billy settled down and led a quiet life. But Tunstall’s death at the hands of a posse made Billy vow revenge. He got it --and then some, spurring the Lincoln County wars. These days historians point out that neither Billy and his gang, nor the lawmen who pursued them, can truly be considered “the good guys” or “the bad guys”—each side committed horrible atrocities and brutal murders. Billy eventually fled Lincoln County and got involved in cattle rustling and committed a few more murders. He was finally gunned down in 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett, a man Billy had once called friend.

Jesse James. Jesse’s father was a Baptist minister. His father died when Jesse and older brother Frank were young, and their mother remarried an abusive man. The Civil War broke out and the James’ sided with the Confederates. Jesse and Frank joined a band of guerilla soldiers and fought for the Confederates. When the Union won the war, the guerilla band turned to thieving. Taking full advantage of the lawlessness of the South in the early days after the war, Jesse and his gang orchestrated the first daylight robbery in US history. Jesse was the brains behind several more robberies after that, and he soon emerged as the leader of the group. These robberies usually resulted in a great deal of gunplay, so it’s hard to guess just how many deaths Jesse was personally responsible for. In 1873, Jesse and his boys took to train robbing. Private detectives were soon employed to guard the trains and Jesse was accused of murdering at least one of them. He always maintained his innocence and provided solid alibis for his whereabouts when the robberies took place. 1873 also saw Jesse settling into married life. Once he had a family, he decided it best to assume an alias and changed his name to Thomas Howard. Jesse was planning another bank heist in 1881 when he was murdered by a member of his own gang, Robert Ford, who had been commission by the governor to kill Jesse.

Cherokee Bill. Part Native American, part white, part Mexican and part African-American, Crawford Goldsby was the victim of racism from an early age. It’s widely believed this is what triggered the violence that would eventually consume him. Bill fell in with two brothers named Bill and Jim Cook. He was fiercely loyal to them, considering them the only true friends he’d ever had. One day, a sheriff came to arrest the Cook brothers for stealing some horses. Instead of the Cooks going to jail, Bill shot the lawman. The brothers were grateful and indoctrinated Bill into their gang, giving him the name Cherokee Bill. He joined them in numerous robberies and gunfights. The same year he joined the Cook gang, Bill learned his sister had been beaten by her husband. Bill hunted down, then shot and killed his brother-in-law. Several months later, Bill was arrested and sentenced to death for killing a train conductor. He was rescued by the Cook gang. A year later he was in trouble for killing again, and Judge Isaac Parker, a.k.a. “the hanging judge” sentenced him to death. That night, Bill killed one of the prison guards. Furious, Judge Parker had Cherokee Bill hanged the very next day.

Doc Holliday. Born into a wealthy Southern household, John Henry Holliday was another one who saw his family’s wealth lost—and his family destroyed—by the Civil War. Despite claims that John attended Baltimore College of Dentistry, there are no records to prove he ever did. More than likely, Holliday learned dentistry as an apprentice. Around 1870, John left Georgia in a hurry. Some claim he’d shot several men. Other claims say that he suffered a bout of tuberculosis and need a change of climate. Holliday found himself in Dallas and became a partner in a successful dentistry office. It was around this time that he began drinking and gambling on a daily basis. He carried a gun at all times and killed numerous men over card game disputes. In 1878, he headed to Dodge City and befriended Wyatt Earp. Little is known about Holliday’s time in Dodge City, but he left the town in a hurry in 1870 and soon opened a saloon in Las Vegas. Once again he was involved in several shootings, but due to his friendship with the sheriff, was never arrested. Around 1880 he became a card dealer in Tombstone, where once again, he made many enemies. He was involved in the shootout at the OK Corral with the Clantons and the Earps, but his participation is unclear. After the shootout, Holliday fled to Denver, where he was eventually arrested for his participation in Tombstone. Hearing of his incarceration, his friend Wyatt Earp sent Bat Masterson to arrange his release. Doc was soon a free man. By 1884, Doc was beginning to deteriorate from the symptoms of tuberculosis, but that didn’t keep him from getting into gunfights. He succumbed to his disease in 1887.

Black Bart. In 1875 a man wearing a flour sack over his head held up a Wells Fargo Stagecoach in Calvareas County, California. The man carried a double barrel shot gun and gave polite orders to his gang, who were apparently hiding behind boulders. The driver could not see the men, just their rifle barrels. The man in the flour sack took the Wells Fargo money box, but didn’t rob the passengers. When the stagecoach reached its destination, the driver wired Wells Fargo. Private police were sent to the scene of the crime. They discovered that the rifle barrels seen by the driver were merely sticks propped up on rocks. A poem left by the bandit was signed “Black Bart.” Another similar crime occurred a few weeks later and the investigation again turned up a poem signed by Bart. Wells Fargo hired some of the best criminal investigators available, and even posted an $800 reward for the capture of Black Bart. Five months later another hold up occurred and once again investigators found another poem. Investigators scoured the countryside and eventually found a farmer who had noticed a distinguished looking stranger with sideburns a few days earlier. Other investigators claimed the farmer was crazy, and the investigation stalled. Six months later Black Bart struck again. And again six months after that. This continued for several years. Wells Fargo began placing detectives along the routes so they could quickly find the bandit’s trail. The plan worked; one detective found a stockpile of evidence near a hold-up sight. One piece of evidence, a handkerchief, had a laundry mark inscribed on it. The detectives traced the mark to a laundry in San Francisco and learned the handkerchief belonged to a Mr. C.E. Bolton; Bolton was arrested and eventually confessed. Because he had spent only $200 of the thousands he had stolen, and returned the rest, he spent only a few years in jail. After Bolton’s release, Black Bart struck two more times. Police tried to track him down, but it turned out Bolton was merely an alias. No one knew where to begin looking for a bandit with no name.

Tuesday Ten: Heroes and Outlaws of The Old West (Part I.)

Before you can create your own Wild West characters, it helps if you know a little bit about the larger than life legends--good and bad--who populated the era and gave it its wild reputation. (Since this blog ended up being a bit long, I’ll post it in two parts.)

First up: The Good Guys.

Wyatt Earp. May as well start with the largest legend of them all. In 1875, tired of his career as a stagecoach driver twenty-seven year old Wyatt Earp moved to Wichita, Kansas and took a job as a policeman. He was fired after about a year. Legend has it he was fired for assaulting a local businessman who was about to beat another man to death. From there, Earp moved to Dodge City and became an assistant marshal (contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t a full fledged marshal). After an uneventful career (also contrary to popular belief, Dodge City was a peaceful town) He was eventually fired for getting into a fight with a dance hall girl. In 1879, he became deputy sheriff of a town called Tombstone in Arizona. He appointed his three brothers and the notorious Doc Holiday as deputies. In 1881, the five got into the famed “gunfight at the OK Corral” with the Clanton brothers. Though acquitted for acting in the line of duty, the men were criticized for their actions (some folks say the Clantons were ambushed) and eventually forced to leave town. Earp died in 1929 at the age of 80, but retains his legendary status.

Pat Garrett. Pat was raised the privileged son of a Louisiana plantation owner. The Civil War left the Garrett family in ruins and Pat’s parents died shortly thereafter. He headed for Dallas County, Texas, intent on becoming a cowboy. In 1878, while working in New Mexico, Garrett befriended William Bonney. The two men made an odd spectacle, with Garrett, at six foot four, towering over the five foot seven inch Bonney, but they gambled together so frequently they earned the nicknames Big Casino and Little Casino. Eventually their paths went separate ways; Garret married and had seven children. Bonney went on to live the life of an outlaw. In 1880, Garrett was elected sheriff of Lincoln County, and while proud of his new position was shocked to learn his first order of business would be to hunt down and kill his friend. The people of Lincoln were frightened of the criminals in the area, and wanted Billy the Kid dead. Garrett eventually captured his one-time buddy, but The Kid escaped before his death sentence could be carried out. Garrett later hunted down—and killed—the outlaw. In 1908 Pat Garrett met a violent end himself, shot in the back and the head by a man he’d rented property to.

Wild Bill Hickock. Perhaps one of the more colorful legends of the Old West, James Butler Hickock was born the son of a presbyterian deacon. After his father’s death fifteen-year-old, James got into a gunfight. He ran away to evade the law, ending up in Kansas. At the time, Kansas was in turmoil over the issue of slavery. James joined the “Free State Army” and was involved with many pro-slavery battles. Though he never enlisted in the Union army, he fought against the South as a spy, a scout and a sharpshooter. His aim became legendary and he earned the nickname Wild Bill for the risks he took during battle. When The War ended in 1865, Bill tried to settle into a peaceful existence, but repeatedly found himself embroiled in duels. His marksmanship continued to improve until he was regarded as one of the most feared men in the west—and the best shot in the world. Hickock eventually became Marshal of Abilene, Kansas, his very presence was enough to maintain order in the town. Wild Bill tried to cash in on his image several times by creating traveling road shows in which he would demonstrate his remarkable prowess with a gun. But Hickock, who loved to drink and gamble, was no businessman and the attempts failed. In 1876 Wild Bill was shot in the back during a game of poker by Broken Nose Jack McCall. To this day, the hand of cards Hickock held --an ace of spades, an ace of clubs; an eight of spades; an eight of clubs and the jack of diamonds—is regarded as “the dead man’s hand” and considered bad luck.

Tom Smith. Perhaps one of the lesser-known heroes, little is known about Smith’s early life. Born in New York sometime around 1840, he was of Irish descent. Smith would go on to become Marshal of Abilene in the years prior to Wild Bill Hickock. He was known as quiet, soft spoken and one who avoided using his gun whenever possible. Smith was seriously wounded while protecting a friend during a shoot out. His quick recovery prompted rumors that he was “bullet proof.” Abilene was one of the stops on the Chisholm Trail (the route by which cattle were shipped from Texas to the east). While the town was bustling and prosperous, the cowboys who drove the cattle were a rowdy bunch who often made trouble. Trying to maintain order in the town was such a dangerous job that no one wanted to be marshal of Abilene. Then Tom Smith arrived in town. The mayor warned Smith of the dangers, but he took the job of Marshal anyway. Smith’s first decree was that all visitors hand their guns in to the Marshal’s office. In 1870, when smith was around thirty years of age, he and the county sheriff rode out to arrest Andrew McConnell, who had killed a neighbor in a dispute over cattle. A gunfight ensued in which Smith was wounded. Fearing for his life, the sheriff ran, leaving the seriously wounded Smith to fight McConnell on his own. Smith and McConnell began to struggle on the floor, but the Marshal hadn’t noticed that his adversary had a back up. The friend picked up an ax and cut off Smith’s head. Tom Smith was given the funeral of a hero.

Bat Masterson. William Barclay Masterson was born on a farm in Illinois, but grew up in Wichita, Kansas. His father gave him his first gun at an early age. Young William spent much of his childhood practicing his aim. As a young man, he and his older brother, Ed, ran away, seeking a life of adventure. One of their first jobs was working on a railroad line for several months. When the time came to collect their pay, they were double crossed by their boss. Defeated, Edward returned home. But Bill stayed and worked elsewhere until he had enough money to buy a gun. Then he looked up his former boss and demanded the money owed him. Masterson then became a buffalo hunter, and his prowess with a gun helped earn up to a hundred dollars a day. Once while out hunting buffalo, Masterson was beaten and robbed by a group of Native Americans. Frightened, the other buffalo hunters returned to Dodge. Not Bill! He stayed and got his revenge. He found the men who had robbed him and stole forty horses from them. He then sold the horses in Dodge City for a tidy profit. Masterson hated the sheriff of Dodge, Larry Deger. The two once got into a fist fight and Deger tossed Masterson in jail. The following year Masterson beat Deger in the election for sheriff. During his tenure as sheriff, Dodge was a quiet, peaceful town. By now Masterson had earned himself the nickname Bat for his tendency to hit criminals over the head with a cane. (The cane was necessary due to an old leg injury incurred during a gunfight over a woman.). In 1902, Masterson moved to New York and became a sportswriter for The Morning Telegraph. He died in 1921 at sixty seven years of age, still writing for the newspaper.

I’ll be back a little bit later to post the second half of our Tuesday Ten—The Bad Guys.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Family Trees

My mother, Vivian Kirkpatrick Madsen, spent the last ten years of her life working on our family genealogy. I was fortunate enough to be the one who typed her work for her and, in remembering these special stories of my family I decided it would be fun to start sharing some of them. She put endless hours of research into the years and we each have a set of five three-inch binders of photos, certificates, and memories of people she contacted.

I guess what started all of the endless hours of family research for Mother was when we discovered that we are descendants of Danish royalty on my father’s side of the family. She was certain her family tree must have interesting people to brag about as well. I remember when we were younger my Grandfather Madsen would never talk about the family. He would shrug our ancestors off as horse thieves and such. One day at a family reunion my father’s cousin let the facts out of the bag. Years and years ago when King Fredrik VIII came through a small town in Denmark, he noticed my great, great grandmother and wanted her in his bed that night. That was the beginning of this part of the family tree. Of course, we cannot prove this as the records are sealed, but there is a great family resemblance along the branches of the tree. Poor old King Fredrik VIII ended up dying in a bordello in Hamburg, Germany, as stories passed along through the ages go. He only reigned as king for twelve years.

When I heard the story, I had to laugh as I’d been telling my oldest daughter that she was a princess since she was a little girl. The child absolutely would not allow anything to be put under her mattress. I honestly say, it didn’t matter what I tried, she would know it was there. Hans Christian Andersen’s Princess and the Pea came to mind every time she would complain. When we heard about being of royal blood, she looked at me and acknowledged that I’d been right all along, she was a princess.

It’s fun to know where you’ve come from sometimes. It has been for us. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the stories as I can get them on my blog over the next couple of months. Oh, and by the way, the day my mother discovered she was a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Alden, who came over on the Mayflower, she felt vindicated. She did have someone that almost elevated her to the height and glory of our royal blood. (grin)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Well-Travelled Victorian

I love to travel. I haven't been to as many places as I'd like, and there are some I'd never go to for various reasons, but there are so many places in this world to see, how can you resist? Where did the well-mannered Victorian travel to? What part of the Empire did one see in the late 1800s?
1. London - Start with the center of the Empire, the capital city. Even if you've visited every season of your life, there's plenty to do outside the social circle. If you don't want to crusade for the downtrodden, there are those balls and soirees. Then again, if you do want to help your fellow man, I hear they're offering tours of the local goals. Just remember: in 1889 they had a dock strike, so it's best you avoid travel by ship. But then there were so many other means by then.

2. Edinburgh - Take the train up to Scotland to avoid the docks. Let's face it, there's plenty of things to see and do up there. If you're not into history, there's hunting. And if you're not into that, mayhap a nice stroll about the countryside will refresh the spirits. Take a boat ride down the Caledonia Canal, then see the lochs that form 2/3 of the canal; Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. I'd be wary of Loch Ness, however. I've heard of strange sightings there.

3. Cairo - Now that you've rested and relaxed, you want a little excitement! What better place than the bazaars of such an ancient city? With the Suez Canal is open, you can continue around Africa instead of safari-ing through the interior.

4. Interior Africa - The Dark Continent. It was called many things, and even in the late 1880s when explorers mapped everything and journalists and scientists spilled many secrets, there were still things left unexplored. I caution you, when traveling through Sudan - this is an Islamic State and the Sharia Courts preside.

5. South Africa - Natives of this beautiful tip of Africa include the Khoikhoi, San and Bantu. Their customs may seem strange to us, but what is this world if not diverse? Conditions are not what one would hope for when visiting a part of the Empire, but with the discovery of gold and diamonds, it's hard to find luxurious accommodations. But then you opted for the world tour, didn't you. I'm sure you're prepared for this.

6. India - Magnificent architecture, spicy foods, history dating back thousands of years, and all wrapped up with the British Army looking after you. What more can a traveler want? It's all here, the bazaars, the markets, the cooking that results in delicious food. Sure, there are a few malcontents, but what great colony doesn't have them?

7. Burma - traveling overland might be harder than my sea, but it's such beautiful country, everyone should experience it once. Railroads are hard to construct in this backland, but believe me, the Empire is working on that. Think of it this way, you can tell your friends you saw the colonies as they once were, not after all that newfangled construction. Magnificent Buddha temples, beautiful rivers, and lush mountainous forests please the senses and inspire the soul. Not to be missed.

8. Hong Kong - our final stop on the Asian tour is this once-small outpost in China. With their own grandiose buildings and outlandish costumes, this is a place guaranteed to bring out the poet in all of us. And the tea, oh heavens, the tea! And you simply must hire a (reputable) guide to take you to see the Wall. For barbarians, their building concepts are on scale with anything we could think of. One final word of warning - the Dens. Be very careful not to fall into the Dens. The stories I've heard...!

9. Canada - Tis a long trip to be sure, but that Australian territory is filled with convicts and their outlaw descendants. (Did you perchance read of Ned Kelly? Ask the steamship porter if they can find you a copy in the next port.) O' Canada, a beautiful and vast place. I'd recommend at least 3 weeks to properly see the entire stretch of it. French upstarts or not. Try the fishing off Prince Edward Island, take the Canadian Pacific Railway to the beautiful and temperate city of Vancouver. It's worth the time.

10. Caribbean - Our final leg of this Empire trip is the Caribbean. Your ship's captain will know where to go, there are so many wonderful places to explore. Bahamas, Bermuda, The Virgin Islands, Antigua, Jamaica, even Belize on the coast of Central America. Bring your parasol, ladies, the sun is blinding bright, but expect phenomenal food and colorful natives.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Haunted Vineyard House

Built in 1878-79, the Vineyard House stands on a hill overlooking the town of Coloma, nestled close to the American River in the Sierra Mountains of California. This four-story Victorian structure, with nineteen rooms, nine fireplaces, encircled by a porch with a second-floor balcony is haunted.

The story began when two men’s lives became strangely entwined and both died shocking deaths. Martin Allhoff, a native of Germany, and Robert Chalmers, a Scotsman, came to California during the rush of gold seekers hoping to strike it rich in the land around Coloma. They found some gold, but neither found great wealth.

Disillusioned with the difficulties of gold mining, bloody hands, broken bones and such, the two men decided to change occupations. Allhoff became a vintner and Chalmers an innkeeper.

Allhoff and his wife Louise enjoyed a prosperous life. He boasted that he had the best varieties of grapes, Concord, Cataawha, and Eden. Beyond the vineyards were his wine cellars, where the grape juices would be aged into multi-tasting delicacies. When he was jailed for alleged tax and liquor license violations, he brooded about the shame and disgrace he’d brought on his family and business. He committed suicide.

Robert Chalmers acquired the Sierra Nevada Hotel. He made a decision that was both unique and courageous for the gold rush country. In a region inundated with saloons and hotel bars, guests at his inn would be limited to teetotalers. No one came, the rooms remained vacant, the cashbox empty. In time he developed a small clientele of religious zealots and families seeking to protect their children from the influence of dens of iniquity all around them. He sponsored several civic affairs, but hardly any money came in.

He needed to look for more profitable means. He thought of the vast vineyards of his deceased friend, Martin Allhoff. His wife inherited the vineyards, winery, and cellars as well as all the other assets of her late husband. They married in 1869 and began a period of prosperity. As with Allhoff, Chalmers’ wines won special awards. In 1878, nine years after his marriage to Louise, he began his dream home. It would be called the Vineyard House. It became the home for his family, and a hotel considered the finest in all of Northern California. On April 4, 1879, a grand opening was held, and in all its pageantry, a large crowd partied and participated in the festivities. It became the meeting place of the elite, those who had found riches and wealth in the gold fields, and those who had it without the hardships of labor.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant visited and discussed the Civil War and Chalmers announced he’d been elected to the State Legislature. Then disaster struck. But unlike Allhoff, his started with a loss of memory. He’d say one thing and do another. He became short tempered, frightening his wife and children as well as the household staff. He would watch a grave being dug in the cemetery across the street from the mansion where Allhoff was buried. He’d go and lie in it, his arms crossed over his chest in the traditional position. His family and staff would have to restrain him and bring him home.

Several servants threatened to quit and, frightened for everyone’s safety, Louise had a cell with iron bars constructed in the basement. She convinced her husband that he should look inside, and once there, she locked the door behind him. There, alone, in the solitary world of his own demented illness, Chalmers drifted into the crazy darkness that he was destined for, without a worry of harming others. He writhed and moaned, cried out and banged his head against the bars which held him captive. Eventually he lost his eyesight and mumbled incoherently, as he moved about in this black, miserable cell. He was fed and checked on a daily basis, a chore no one in the family looked forward to.

In the end, he thought his wife was trying to poison him so he stopped eating. In 1881, he starved to death. After Louise died in 1900, strange occurrences started happening at Vineyard House. Robert Chalmers, although dead, refused to leave his home. A spirit, a part of his psyche, chose to be earthbound and stubbornly decided to remain at the mansion. Tenants complained of mysterious voices and sounds of ghostly footsteps and stomping that echoed along the corridors in what should have been the quiet hours of darkness. One boarder fled in the middle of the night so frightened he refused to say what he’d seen.

For many decades the Vineyard House was operated as a run-down rooming house and restaurant under a succession of owners. Ghost rumors abounded and the weird phenomena continued. Guests complained of hearing the rustling of skirts, metallic clangs and heavy breathing. One couple said they heard a group of noisy guests enter the front door and start up the stairs. Planning to complain, the couple opened their door to quiet the revelers. What they saw were three men in Victorian clothing who vanished before their eyes.

In 1975 a former restaurateur purchased the mansion and started renovations. Floors, stairs and balustrades were stripped to the natural wood. Walls were papered. Paint was applied where needed, which meant everywhere. They found forgotten furniture in the dark corners of the attic which helped their plan of refurbishing the mansion back to its original state.

No matter what plans the owner made for redecorating, it seemed to be predestined. “I’d painstakingly choose colors and wallpaper, paint and accessories,” he said. “My order would arrive in completely contrasting shades than what I asked for. This happened consistently. Imagine my surprise when thumbing through an old Vineyard scrapbook I found that the colors and fabrics that had been delivered matched the original Vineyard House d├ęcor. That’s when I began to realize somebody from beyond our world wanted to keep this house the way it was.”

He went on to say, “Strange things began to happen right after I purchased the mansion. A cup would be misplaced; a treasured bud vase would disappear and be rediscovered in some ungodly and most unlikely spot.”

Several old style wood coffins were discovered under the porch during the restoration – the homemade type, wider angled in the middle, held together with wood slots. It was known several prisoners who occupied the basement jail in the 1800’s had been executed, strung from an old oak tree the front yard of the Vineyard House. Another coffin was found in an old crawl space.

Today Robert Chalmers’ ghost bangs the walls when he’s aggravated. His spirit takes pride in annoying the guests that do not meet with his approval. His presence is felt throughout the house, including the basement, which when occupied, houses a downstairs dungeon-like pub, alongside the cell he once occupied. In life he was not a man sympathetic to the consumption of alcohol. “One night while tending the bar in the downstairs pub,” one of the owners said, “my customers and I were startled to see one cup in a series of eight hanging from nails on the wall begin to rattle by itself. It tweaked and moved while the others were still. A hollow silence fell over the place. Then, the cups started to bang and bump against the others in random disorder. Then as quickly as it began, the cups calmed and stopped. I thought it was over, but not the case. When I picked up dual shot glasses from beneath the counter, and wrists up, placed them together on the bar, I turned momentarily to grab the bottle to fill them. As I turned back, ready to pour, I saw the teetering and jumping of those two shot glasses, unaided by any human hands, proceed to slide across the bar to the waiting customer, empty.”

So many more sightings have happened over the years. Right now the place is empty, at least of mortals. I always look to see if Louise is standing at an upstairs window when I drive through Coloma, past the Vineyard House. Rumors that she walks the halls protecting her home still persist.

Information found in Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert’s accounting in their book, “Gold Rush Ghosts.”

Saturday, January 12, 2008

James Clavell makes record-breaking book deal

Nothing what-so-ever about Victoriana, but the headline caught my attention. In 1986 he got a record-breaking $5 million in a bidding war for Whirlwind. This was the 5th book in his series that includes Shogun.

Ah, the life of Clavell...if only we could all be so lucky.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tuesday Ten--Victorian Furniture Facts, Sort of

All right the original post only had 7 of the Tuesday Ten because blogger hates me. But I finally got it to work well enough that I now have 10 bits of information on Victorian Furniture. The majority of this information comes from A Field Guide to American Victorian Furniture. One of my most useful research sources. I strongly recommend it to anyone writing in this era, or people very interested in the era.

1.) There were quite a few subsets of Victorian Furniture. First, Traditional Early Victorian. These are early years in Victorian America, 1840-1850 and are fairly simple in design. The U.S. was yet to come into its own. It reflects, apparently, the American Empire form, with with some of the molding, medallions and details of later Victorian periods starting to show up. I couldn't find any examples of it on the internet. Does anyone have examples they might share?

2.) Gothic: 1840-1865. I used this furniture to delineate one of the villains in Wicked Woman, because the word and its connotations seemed to suit his personality. This furniture came with the Greek Revival fashion in architecture. This style was used in most kinds of furniture, although there aren't a whole lot of tables or sofas. From what I can see it was pretty ornate and had a lot of steeple type things.

3.) Spool turned--1850-1880 : This was the first factory manufactured and mass produced furniture in America. It's characterized by a sort of spool shaped design and was not particularly expensive. I imagine this is the sort of furniture that was most often found in middle-class homes, maybe even the Old West? I'm not sure. Nevertheless, it never caught on in Europe and so is particularly American. For more information on this specific kind of furniture, you can check out this website:

4.) French, Louis XV, 1845-1870. This is my favorite, the most ornate and the sort of furniture we typically think of when we think Victorian. Its typically carved in rosewood, mahogany or black walnut. This is the stuff with the grape leaves and roses carving and C & S shaped scrolling. Belter's furniture, which I did a post on earlier, was made in the Louis XV tradition. This pair is currently on sale at ebay for about $27000.

Some very pretty armchairs here:

5.) Renaissance, 1860-1875. This style was developed in Europe during the middle of the century. This sort of furniture included "tall arched pediments, semicircular arched panels, large carved cartouches, boldly done cornice moldings and cyma-curved or scrolled brackets." (Field Guid to American Victorian Furniture, Thomas H Ormsbee) I have no clue as to what any of that means and honestly, I can't see how it varies from the French Louis XV. Maybe because it looks sort of spiky as opposed to curvy. It is at this point that I am so, so glad I never elected to make a living dealing in antique furniture. I doubt anyone would take me seriously if I started describing furniture as spiky as opposed to curvy.

6.) French, Louis XVI, 1865-1875. Because one Louis is not enough? You got me. There's not a whole lot of description here, and it doesn't seem like it was very popular. This furniture apparently had "turned rosettes" and "fine incised and gilded straight lines or scrolls." Well okay but apparently the other Louis furniture had turned rosettes too. It seems like the only difference were the gilded straight lines? None of my characters will ever be a furniture dealers, although they may very well make fun of the furniture. . . .All right, let me see if I can find an example somewhere on the internet. Ah here's a website that might explain this all much better, and if someone can understand it, would you mind explaining it to me?

7.) There's this Eastlake furniture that I am going to skip over to get to the furniture I wanted to talk about to begin with--Turkish Furniture! 1870-1880. Yup, it was called Turkish and was the predecessor of the overstuffed furniture we use today. It really does look far more comfortable (although maybe not as pretty) as all the rest. I used it in Wild Card for that reason. It was often sort of rectangular with "plain or figured upholstery with corresponding fringe from the seat to floor". It had tassels too! It came in all sorts of material, plus, velour, tapestry and occasionally leather. They appear to be on the lower side of cost. Now let me see if there's an internet picture somewhere. . . . Yes! Here it is, one in leather:,massive-victorian-turkish,1152014.html

And now for some specific pieces of furniture

8) Spool Turned Bed—Jenny Lind Bed. In use between 1840-1870, this kind of low rise bed is sometimes referred to the Jenny Lind Bed because if was in fashion at the time of her tours. Maybe she slept in them when touring? I don’t know. Seems kind of weird to me because there were a lot of things fashionable (I’m sure) when she touring which were not named after her.

9.) Washstand—although the well-to-do in urban areas had bathrooms in the late 1850’s, they weren’t widespread for many many more years. People used washstands instead (with the pitcher of water and bowl). They were freestanding chests with a back splash and sometimes an attached towel rack. Blogging about this turned out to be very useful to me today in my writing life because I wasn't quite sure where to place the water pitcher and bowl my heroine was using.

There's a really pretty marbled topped one here:

10.) Victorian table—contrary to what I knew when I started writing, coffee tables were not around until the very end of the century, and then probably only in Europe. When people got together for tea or coffee they’d use the typical Victorian table of a height between 27 and 29 inches. This has caused me a great deal of difficulty in writing because I’m used to the coffee table and have a difficult time picturing people drinking tea and coffee without one. I assume they held the tea in their laps, or used side tables. Unless it was a small tea party, where I believe they would gather around the pedestal table?

All right, I got all 10 in there, finally (blogger and my computer are fighting today). I have to say after writing this blog, I'm more confused about Victorian Furniture than I was before it. I really don't see the difference in quite a few of the styles. Which means that you'll probably be seeing more posts on it, because I get awfully irritated when I can't "get" something.

Assuming, of course, blogger and my computer will stop fighting.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Basket Give Away Winner!

Happy Twelth Day of Christmas (yesterday) and welcome to the Winter Doldrums. I personally thing they last until Mid-April to early May. Many others though, would say March 1? What do you think?

Today is the day we announce the winner of the basket--I'll have it posted on this post by 9:30 est this morning (assuming no computer problems).

Sometime later. . . .

After a very scientific approach to choosing our winner (I wrote all the names on slips of paper and picked one out of a hat) we have our winner! Kimberly! Congratulations!

If you would please email Denise Eagan at with your mailing information I'll get that basket right on out to you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Weapons of the American Civil War

The American Civil War, like other wars both before and after, was responsible for a leap in technology regarding advances in weapons and military tactics in the space of a few years.

In the first years of the war, the generals used the same battlefield tactics as was used in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, when the smoothbore musket was the only weapon available. Fired at 100 yards, these muskets didn't inflict much damage on troops.

Early Civil War troops were massed together in a frontal attack just as in earlier times. The old smoothbore musket still in use necessitated such tactics. Unfortunately, as the war progressed, so did the deadliness of weapons. The . . . "Civil War musket was rifled . . . It completely changed the conditions under which soldiers fought."

Troops in a Napoleonic style charge could now be killed at a distance of half a mile. The new technology made the military formations of the past out of date and greatly increased casualties. But it took Civil War generals a long time to change
tactics to match the advanced weaponry of the times.

Small arms carried by soldiers included muskets, rifles, carbines (short barrel rifles), and handguns, that included pistols and revolvers. The principal small arms of both sides were the .58 caliber Springfield musket and .69 caliber Harpers Ferry Rifle. They were muzzle loading arms that fired the minie ball.

Revolvers were used by both sides. The most common were the 1860 Colt Revolver and 1851 Navy. "The Remington New Model and the Starr Army Percussion revolvers were also purchased in large numbers by both sides."

The development of the rifle bullet known as the minie ball revolutionized warfare. It caused high numbers of deaths making the American Civil War one of the bloodiest wars.

"In 1848 . . . French Army Captain Claude F. Minie created a smaller, hollow-based bullet that could far more quickly and easily be rammed into the bore, expanding when the weapon was fired to catch in the rifling and be shot spinning out of the barrel. That spin made the minie ball . . ."

Artillery also went through a technological transformation, beginning in 1861 with pre-Mexican War smoothbores not much different than those used in the American Revolution and ending in 1865 with the Gatling Gun, a precurser to the modern machine gun.

These weapons forever changed the tactics of Civil War armies, ending with trench warfare around Petersburg, Virginia in 1864-65. This also led to the foxholes of the early twentieth century wars.

The technology of the 19th century was fast moving, leading to many inventions we use today. And the American Civil War changed the weaponry and battle tactics for all future wars.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Scandalous Victorian Interview--Jeanmarie Hamilton

Why do you write historical?

I write historical because I love the adventure of an entertaining historical romance.

What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?

I write in the Victorian era of the 1880s wild west. My American Title Contest finalist book, SEDUCTION, which I've sold to Highland Press, takes place in Arizona in 1880.

What is it about the era that most intrigues you?

To be honest I think it's the men and horses that intrigues me most. There's just something about a confident western man riding a powerful horse. The growth of the railroads at that time created an atmosphere of new adventure and prosperity in the towns and cities. My family lived the old west in Texas just outside San Antonio.

Where do you get your information?

I have heard and read stories about my Texas and Montana families since I was little. In addition, I've researched old family letters, legal documents, and family histories as well as information from books and maps in libraries in Texas and Arizona. I have photos of my family from the 1860s on. The photos provide information on how folks dressed in those days, and what their homes looked like, inside and out. They decorated their western homes with Victorian furniture, and they wore the latest Victorian fashions. They also incorporated suitable western fashions depending on the need and occassion, whether for a cattle drive in Montana or a fiesta in Texas. I'm told my great grandmother in Texas wore a velvet riding gown when she rode her horse during holiday celebrations. The skirt draped over the horse all the way to the ground. My great grandfather wore a black frock coat, vest, black trousers and western style hat. My grandmother told us that he taught her how to swim her horse across the Medina River when she was little. They often rode together on day trips between towns.

What are you working on now?

I'm having fun with a contemporary werewolf story which takes place in Texas near the border with Mexico. Waiting in the wings is an 1870s Victorian werewolf story that I'm impatient to finish.

How many books have you written?

I've written three western historicals and a paranormal western historical novella.

Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?

Yes, as I mentioned above. Also waiting is a fully plotted paranormal which takes place in the past before ancient cultures developed in the New World.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

Challenges which I think most writers face. Enough rejections to paper my office space. ;-) Contests. The American Title Contest II in which my book Seduction finaled. The need to rewrite and keep my goal of publishing books readers will love foremost in my mind. All while taking care of normal family needs and expectations.

What is you writing schedule like?

Crazy! Any scheduled plans for writing and finishing a current work in progress inevitably take second place to requests from editors to read full manuscripts. So my writing schedule basically involves writing and polishing the latest request before mailing it. Ideally, being a night owl, I plan to work on a current wip by writing every week day while my husband is at the office. But with interruptions, in reality that schedule only kicks in when an editor requests the full. Whether it's writing, blogging or emailing with other writers and readers, my main goal is to accomplish something writing-related every day.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Victorian Picnics, a Role Reversal

In my Victorian era storyline, a pivotal scene to the caper occurs during a peaceful picnic. Wondering whether the Victorians did this tradition differently, or not, I looked it up.

It wasn’t woman’s work to host a picnic in the 19th Century. By 1850, they were a popular and coveted pastime.

Queen Victoria contributed to the popularization of picnics during her lifetime. When Victorian ladies and gentlemen wished to get away from the stricter settings, they meandered out to idyllic settings.

Gentlemen became the hosts, the purveyors of the fine fare, and the tour guides including for organized entertainments. Nearly any civilized activity was game as long as the host-gentleman led it.

Scenery was paramount. In fact, it was often held up as the reason for a picnic.

Fare was as important as when dining inside, but limited by convenience, of course. Chickens baked the day before were popular, as were dainty sandwiches (sans crusts).
Fresh fruit and pickled or deviled items accompanied the requisite bread and butter. Spices were toted along, especially salt and pepper and any that were popular. Desserts were compact and refreshing such as a loaf-cake or cookies.

Picnics were originally a pot-luck style with each guest bringing one dish. But, soon, the fare became something ladies would often oversee and the gentlemen would serve by waiting hand and foot on each guest.

Blankets were layered with cloths. Table service was china and silver, although each person’s setting might have their name etched or inscribed to keep things sorted out.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Chastity Belts--Victorian Creation

I heard this from television the other night on The History of Sex. While many of us consider chastity belts something from the middle ages, they turn out to be mostly Victorian in nature. In fact, no one has ever found a chastity belt dating back to the middle ages. They were written about in the poetry of the times, but the first ones made were made in the 19th century. And they weren't made for purposes of chastity, but to deny people the dangerous practice of "self-pleasure", which of course could lead to insanity. Actually too much of any sexual pleasure could lead to illness or insanity, according to my 19th century medical book The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser by R. V. Pierce. I could have sworn there were actual pictures of chastity belts in this book, but I have yet to find them. If anyone wants more information here's a link:

and here's a link to a book:

Anyone have any interesting ideas on how to incorporate this tid-bit in a book?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Tuesday Ten: How to Really Spoil Your True Love

Can we stand another holiday-themed blog? I've read a lot, but there's always room for one more. Sure it’s a Tuesday Twelve, instead of our usual ten, but it’s in keeping with our Twelve Days of Christmas theme, so bear with me! (And you thought it would be another cowboy blog!)

Did you know 2007 was the priciest Christmas ever – that is, if you wanted to spoil your true love with an authentic Twelve Days of Christmas! This year it would set you back $78,100 for all 364 items, a four percent increase over 2006.

The breakdown, for those of you ready to pull out your checkbook, is as follows:

* One partridge in a pear tree 164.99

Partridge 15.00
Pear Tree 149.99

* Two Turtle Doves 40.00

*Three French Hens 45.00

* Four Calling Birds 599.96

* Five Golden Rings 395.00

*Six Geese A Laying 360.00

*Seven Swans A Swimming 4,200.00

*Eight Maids A Milking 46.80

*Nine Ladies Dancing 4,759.19

*Ten Lords A Leaping 4,285.06

*Eleven Pipers Piping 2,213.40

*Twelve Drummers Drumming 2,397.85

Total Cost $78,100