• Coming This Week

  • Victorian Quote of the Week

    A classic--something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
    Mark Twain

  • The Scandalous Vics

  • Want to Guest Blog With Us?

    Victorian-era authors are welcome to contact us about guest blogging opportunities by emailing Isabel at isabel@isabelroman.com

    (all victorian genres welcome, fiction and non-fiction, including Westerns)

  • Pages

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,508 other followers

  • Facebook

  • Meta

This Day In Civil War History – Andersonville

400px-Andersonville_PrisonOn February 27, 1864, the first Federal inmates were brought into Andersonville prison, but the prison was not fully constructed at that time. The name Andersonville was associated with a death trap, since a quarter of the inmates died while in captivity. Henry Wirz ran the camp and, after the war ended, he was executed for brutality and mistreatment of prisoners by those under  his command.


The official name of the prison was Camp Sumter. Prior to 1863, Northern and Southern armies had enacted a prisoner exchange syster for those captured. But arguments over the handling of black soldiers caused problems and prison camps had to be hastily constructed by both sides. Andersonville was built with slave labor and was located in the Georgia woods close to a railroad but away from front battle lines. On 16 acres of land, the prison was supposed to include a barracks constructed of wood, but due to inflated lumber prices, Union prisoners were forced to live under open skies, with only makeshift shanties named “shebangs” made of wood scraps and blankets, for shelter. A stream supplied fresh water in the beginning, but it soon grew contaminated with human waste.

The prison was supposed to hold 10,000 men, but after six months, three times that number were imprisoned there. The contaminated creek eroded, becoming a swamp. It took up a great portion of the compound. The prisoners received inadequate rations and most of the time, half of the population were ill. Guards often brutalized inmates and violence existed between prisoners.

Andersonville proved to be the worst among both Union and Confederate prisons.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/federal-prisoners-begin-arriving-at-andersonville

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/warfare/andersonville.html

Victorian Slang of the Week–clawhammer

clawhammer–a man’s dress coat. Really. It seems that Nathaniel Hawthorne used it first and it was a nautical term. It was used from 1863 through the end of the century, but it doesn’t appear to be used much after that. I’ve been watching the first few seasons of Downton Abbey (which is the Edwardian period, but the grandmother is from the Victorian period, and the Earl and Lady Grantham to some extent) and couldn’t figure out which coat to which this was referring. So I googled and found out it was evening dress, a cutaway/ tails coat, based upon this wonderful, free book, Historic Dress in America 1800-1870. No worries, not stealing from anybody. Apparently it’s free because it’s 100 years past the 1910 copyright date. The reference to clawhammer is on page 423.

So there you go, slang and a cool book to look at!

The Sinking of The Sultana

Sultana[1]In Shadows of the Soul, the hero, Luke Devlin, is a mentally and emotionally tortured hero. The torture starts when he’s young, perpetrated by an emotionally abusive aunt. But his life after leaving home is no picnic (partly to his own choices). He ends up in Andersonville prison. When he’s released, he decides to travel to Iowa to find the heroine. Unfortunately, he chooses the Sultana.

The Sultana was a riverboat that traveled the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, which sank after a terrible explosion on the morning of April 27, 1865. Most of the people on board were soldiers, many like my fictional character Luke, survivors of Andersonville prison or Cahaba prison.

Launched on January 3rd 1863, the Sultana was a $60,000 side-wheel riverboat/steamboat, 260 feet long with a hold 7 feet deep. Constructed with a flat bottom for inland water ways, it sported four coal-burning boilers, made in the new “fire tube” style. This style was considered more efficient, but were not, however , particularly good for the muddy water of the  lower Mississippi.

Originally built for the lower Mississippi cotton trade, The Sultana was a beautifully appointed ship with glass chandeliers and ornate Victorian trimming. It had room for 66 cabin passengers. The staterooms were small but luxurious, and the passengers could enjoy the passing scenery from the boiler deck promenade. The rest of the ship could accommodate 300 deck passengers and crew, the former of whom were like “steerage” passengers on ocean liners, and slept on bare planks, and had their food served on tin plates.

For all that, on the day the Sultana sank two years later it carried an estimated 2400 passengers.

Riverboats on Mississippi had a rough life. They were only expected to last  4 -5 years due to the perils of snags, debris and collisions. However about 200 of steamship disasters in the first half of century were due to boiler explosions.

At any rate Captain J.C. Mason piloted the Sultana out of Cairo, Illinois headed for New Orleans on April 15, 1865, the day President Lincoln died, and a week after the official end of the war. At the time, War Secretary Stanton had ordered southern newspapers not to print anything about Lincoln’s assassination, so when the Sultana arrived in New Orleans on April 19th, it was the first time they’d heard this news, which many didn’t believe.

The Sultana left New Orleans two days later on April 21st 1865 with only 75-100 passengers. 75 miles south of Vicksburg it was discovered that one of the coal-burning boilers was leaking from a bulging seam. They reduced the ship’s speed and it was decided to repair the boiler in Vicksburg. There the Captain was informed that the best repair, the most thorough and permanent, would be to replace two metal sheets adjoining the leak. However, Captain Mason was persuaded against his better judgment to patch the seam instead. It took 20 hours and the patch itself was thinner than the regular plating on the boiler. In addition heavy rain and melting snow increased the current made it harder for the steamship to travel.

While the Sultana was being repaired, Federal prisoners from Andersonville and Cahaba were arriving for passage to Cairo, Illinois. The price paid to transport enlisted men was generally five dollars, and ten dollars for an officer, good money for the time. The first 1300 soldiers, the lucky ones, were taken north by the Henry Ames on April 22. Afterwards more ex-prisoners being held at Camp Fisk were marched four miles to Vicksburg to board the Sultana. They were crammed on board, along with army mules, horses and hogs.

When the Sultana left Vicksburg it had 2400 people on board. It steamed North for 30 or more hours to Helena Arkansas, on April 26. There the last picture of the Sultana was taken. When the passengers heard of the photograph they moved to the port side to be part of the photograph, nearly capsizing the boat. An hour later it started up river. It’s next stop was Memphis, Tennessee, where they docked at 6:30 pm that night. There they did some minor repairs again on the boiler while some passengers disembarked. The ones who didn’t re-embark were the lucky ones. At midnight the Sultana cut across-stream to a coal yard, where it picked up a thousand bushels of coal. It left at 1 am on April 27th.

7 miles north of Memphis, at 2 am, The Sultana’s boiler finally gave out. It’s believe that the explosion ruptured two of three remaining boilers, and was heard all the way to Memphis. Debris tore through decks below, and many passengers were instantly scalded by superheated steam. Some were hurled into the air and thrown into the river. Others were burned or wounded by flying metal, and some were trapped in the burning ship.

The Sultana Saga, The Titanic of the Mississippi by Rex T. Jackson, has many different direct recollections of survivors’ tales. One passenger reported the hissing of steam and the crashing of the different decks, along with the horrors of the falling of the smoke stacks, and flames bursting through crowds of people, burning alive men who had survived battle and the horrors of Andersonville. He reported the sounds of people begging for help, of women shrieking and the sounds of horses neighing and mules braying, all kicking frantically in fear.

The explosion made machinery parts into projectiles, flying through the upper decks and killing passengers as they slept. One man wrote an account of waking up surrounded by fire. He escaped to the hurricane deck and used ropes to get to the bow, where he saw the dead and dying being trampled as people tried to escape. He reported seeing people crying, praying and singing.

As the Sultana burned, terrified people jumped into the water, whether they could swim or not. The water, one passenger reported, was a seething mass of humanity, and people jumping in often landed on top of other people. The passengers in the water hung onto each other. It didn’t last for very long, however. Many were injured by the explosion. Many were weakened by their time in prison, and drowned quickly.

One man was thrown into the water by the explosion, fully clothed. He swam as best he could for a while and was lucky  to catch hold a piece of debris large enough to keep him afloat.

One man sleeping on the boiler deck about 16 feet away from the explosion had his shoulder broken by the explosion. He was badly scalded and believed he should be burned alive, but he managed to crawl to the front of the boat. He jumped into the water and swam three and a half miles to shore, where he stayed until 9 am the next morning.

One smart man picked up a hatch door, threw it into the water, and then jumped on top of it. He floated on it until another steamer, the Bostonia picked him up. The Bostonia picked up about one hundred passengers.

Sadly, the Sultana had only one lifeboat. Although people did manage to get it into the water, so many tried to get into it that eventually it sank, taking everybody down with it.

Meanwhile on shor, a man whose house was across the river from the explosion said that fire was so bright, he could the ground clearly by it. He watched as the ship because a ball of fire and drifted down the river. By dawn of April 27th it sank in 26 feet of water, taking many dead with it.

That day and for weeks to follow bodies washed up on shore in and around Memphis, Fort Pickering and Helena. Many bodies just floated in the water decomposing and getting in the way of other boats and steamers, some of which would get caught up in the wheels of the paddle boats. To get them untangled was a gruesome job. 520 victims made it to hospitals, 200 of whom died, many so badly burned or wounded they died within hours.

In the end an estimated 1,547 people died that day. However, taking into account the people at the hospital, the casualty count is probably more like 1700-1800 in all. In comparison, the estimated dead of the Titanic 47 years later was about 1500 people. And yet, very few people have heard of this disaster, probably because it was so close to the end of the war and the death of Lincoln. Understandable, of course, but for the people who lost loved ones on the Sultana, and those who survived it to be physically and mentally scarred for the rest of their lives, the lack of press and therefore lack of understanding, was difficult and painful.

PHOTO borrowed from this site, which has some more very interesting information, and an eyewitness account.

The majority of my information came from The Sultana Saga, The Titanic of the Mississippi, by Tex T. Jackson

Victorian Slang of the Week–claret

claret–blood, especially in boxing. This is a term that for some reason I generally associate with the Regency era in England. However, it appears to have been used quite a bit in the U.S., from 1831 on. Also, claret jug, which is the bleeding nose, first mentioned in 1859, but I expect it was used earlier.

This Day in the Civil War – Negro soldiers liberating slaves

On January 23, 1864, Harper’s Weekly featured a story about Negro soldiers liberating slaves in North Carolina.

NEGRO SOLDIERS LIBERATING SLAVES.

70652-004-0F577C98General Wild’s late raid into the interior of North Carolina abounded in incidents of peculiar interest, from which we have selected a single one as the subject of the illustration on page 52, representing the liberation by the negro battalion of the slaves on Mr. Terrebee’s plantation. As the reader may imagine, the scene was both novel and original in all its features. General Wild having scoured the peninsula between Pasquotank and Little Rivers to Elizabeth City, proceeded from the latter place toward Indiantown in Camden County. Having encamped overnight, the column moved on into a rich country which was covered with wealthy plantations. The scene in our sketch represents the colored troops on one of these plantations freeing the slaves. The morning light is shining upon their bristling bayonets in the back-ground, and upon a scene in front as ludicrous as it is interesting. The personal effects of the slaves are being gathered together from the outhouses on the plantation and piled, regardless of order, in an old cart, the party meanwhile availing themselves in a promiscuous manner of the Confiscation Act by plundering hens and chickens and larger fowl; and after all of these preliminary arrangements the women and children are (in a double sense) placed on an eminence above their chattels and carted off in triumph, leaving “Ole Massa” to glory in solitude and secession.

http://history.ncsu.edu/projects/cwnc/items/show/175

New Release–Shadows of the Soul

DeniseEagan_ShadowsOfTheSoul_200pxWhat do you do when you discover your imaginary friend is real?

That’s the tag line of the book I just published after a long hiatus due to family difficulties.  I’ve got a heroine who has grown up in a town that has labeled her as “crazy”, and a hero who was psychologically tortured by the aunt who raised him, and is a Civil War veteran to boot. I’ve set it in Iowa 1871, which makes it neither a Western or typically Victorian. Honestly, I am the queen of choosing settings and topics most people shy away from. I couldn’t help it though, because in addition to the romantic plot of the story I wanted to see how a small farming town would react to a serial killer (although obviously not labeled as such in the book).The only way for me to do that, was to write it.

So here’s the blurb, and an excerpt following it:

 

Available 99 cents on kindle

She thought she’d imagined him

Beth Hartwell is a little bit crazy. Or so her hometown of Mayfield believes, due to her long-ago obsession with her imaginary friend. Although in 1871, at the age of twenty-two, Beth has long since forgotten him, the phrase sticks to her like prickles to wool. If she’s ever going to be normal, she must marry a nice, normal man, have nice, normal children and live a nice normal life. She’s one reluctant yes away from accepting the only man who’ll take her, when handsome, mysterious Luke Devlin comes to town. Upon touching him, visions of fire beset her, along with a deep, unexplainable familiarity. . .

But he was real

Calamity and suffering follow Luke everywhere he goes. An orphan from birth, Luke was raised in the shadow of a mad aunt who insisted that he was evil incarnate—Satan’s son. After years of seeking proof that she was wrong, he finally accepts her ravings as prophesy. To fulfill that prophesy, he must claim his “dark angel,” the little girl with whom he had a telepathic relationship as a boy.

Trapped between love and a prophecy

Unfortunately Beth, a midwife and sister to the town’s preacher, is hardly “dark.” In order for Luke to win her, he must use everything in his arsenal, including seduction, lies and trickery. In order for Beth to pull him out of the shadows, she must uncover the secrets behind his sad, dying eyes. As the battle lines are drawn, however, a murderer strikes in Mayfield and the town accuses Luke. . .

 

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,

Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost;

Evil, be thou my good.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

The fire rose like a monster from the depths of Hell, its only purpose to consume the building it enveloped. Its yellow head towered over the fragile wooden structure, orange hair jumping and leaping with a life of its own, scraping the underbelly of the star-studded heavens. Long, pointed fingers wrapped around the corners of the building and crawled through windows, and everything they touched turned black. The building hissed, crackled, cried, and its windows shattered under the heat. The people inside, unimportant to either building or fire, screamed for mercy.

A short distance from the building, Luke Devlin stood under a tree, the shade of new spring leaves concealing his expression. He made no attempt to assist the panicked rescuers, who threw buckets of water on the flames in a futile attempt to save the inn. Luke watched the burning stoically as words and memories passed through his mind, just across the border of conscious thought.

You killed her, you wicked, wicked boy. My sister’s dead because of you!

They’re all gonna die, son. That friend of yours is goin’ next.

It’s yellow fever. It’ll take more than half the souls that get it.

She’s a witch, a dark angel. How else could you talk to her in your mind?

You’re evil, destined to cause naught but misery and death for the good folk of the world. But you shall stay away from me. Do you understand me, boy? You stay away from me!

The last thought crept into consciousness, and Luke winced at the sound of a slamming door echoing in his head, an attic door locking him in darkness. And his soul, locked in the same.

God didn’t give you a soul.

Death and destruction shadowed him, followed him, preceded him—undesired at first, then expected, finally anticipated.

A roar filled the yard, and a piece of the roof caved in. Flames leapt through the opening; shrieks of pain clawed the air. As the fire burned, the remnants of the boy who had once chosen to stay in prison to save a friend instead of escaping burned with it. Luke could all but see his own image peering out of a cracked, soot-stained window—a shaggy, blond boy, the rough anger in his stare eclipsed by gut-wrenching fear. A spirit from years past when he’d still believed his aunt was wrong, before Andersonville and Galveston, before New York and Chicago and all the miles of misery between.

The window exploded; the spirit vanished.

It was time.

He’d accomplished the worst possible on his own. It was time to seek out the girl, his dark angel. In one swift move Luke mounted up and turned west.

He’d been born on All Hallows’ Eve five minutes before lightning started the fire that had killed his family. In his mind he envisioned the charred bodies and smelled burning flesh; the visions fed a hunger in the sucking pit in his chest where a soul ought to have been. He was evil and he was death, and up ahead, in Mayfield, Iowa, was the woman he’d waited half his life to claim.

 

 

Edgar Allan Poe–birthday

So, yeah. I kinda feel like I should write original posts and not send people off into the web-o-sphere. But I saw this on face book, and thought I should throw the link up. Yesterday was Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday and he was one of the most famous Victorians. Oh, and I love quotes. So here you go! Thirty Quotes by Mr. Poe. And I’ll add one right here, which I just put in my new release, Shadows of the Soul (announcement later this week, with cover and blurb and such). For my indie-books, I put quotes at the beginning of the chapters like my favorite author, Mary Stewart did.

From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were—I have not seen

As others saw.

Edgar Allan Poe, Alone

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,508 other followers

%d bloggers like this: