Just a quick post. It’s beautiful out and I want to work in the garden before it gets too hot for we northwesterners. And I want to write.
But I am thinking of vets today, including my late husband who served in Vietnam and my great grandfather who was a surgeon in the Civil War. For many, this could be a painful time. My husband never wanted to talk about his experiences except for a brief time when we first met. For others, like my great grandfather, he did want to remember. He went all over the west and to the east coast at GAR encampments, returning for even the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg where he was captured by the rebs for a few days and set up a surgery in a church and treated everyone.
On this day of memorial, of memory, I’ll be thinking of both men and how deeply they affected me: my true love for his opening up my eyes to many things and broadening my love of nature all those years following him on fishing trails and streams and to WF Osborn, whose Civil War journals inspired me at a young age to turn to history and seek out the ordinary, not so famous people who lived through it.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I got in to history because of my great grandfather William F. Osborn’s Civil War journals. He was an assistant surgeon with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and was, for a few days, a prisoner under Confederate guard during the Battle of Gettysburg. My grandfather, his son, transcribed them sometimes in the 1940s and 50s. But I got to hold the real ones when I was seven.
Not long ago, I studied the journals more closely and discovered a wealth of information written on the end papers and sometimes upside down in the corners. A good historian always looked closer. In one journal from 1864 he laid out the order of how the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers lined up in the end papers of the front. Being a civilian in life before the war, he had to figure it out.
Right of Reg D. I. E. C. A. K. H. B. F. G. Left of Reg.
On the end papers on the back, he wrote down the officers with each company.
A Noble Capt Amstrong 1st Lieu
B Haines capt Stran Phillips
C Cap Shawl 1 L 2
D Capt Overmine (?) 1st L Hall 2 More
E Piper Hammond Briggs
F Chalfant Anderson McCutchin
Perhaps someone out there recognizes the names. Historical research is like peeling an onion or better a collection of dots that eventually connect
Part of writing about lives past is understanding the things people used in that time period. I’ve been very fortunate to come from a tradition where women passed their sewing tools and projects down through the centuries. My great-grandmother Martha Margaret March, affectionately known as Bongie in my family, was born in 1850. When she was ten, she watched Abraham Lincoln go on his way to his inauguration in 1861. Not long after her family moved to Kansas. Her parents were Quakers.
She has written about her experiences as a young girl and later, but nothing means more to me than to have the tools that she used to quilt, sew and darn. Such riches are more powerful than gold and they help me when I create a character from her timeline to understand the craftiness and creativity that women’s hands did and still do.
Something happened on the way to writing this blog. I guess it was history with the historic election of Barrack Obama. It was easy to get sidetracked.
As a young person I had seen history unfold with the assassination of John Kennedy. I was in high school near Annapolis, Maryland at the time and went down to the Capitol with several of my friends to catch the caisson coming by. I saw Jackie Kennedy and the children go up the stairs. Heard the heavy beating of the drums. Felt the deep grief with the thousands gathered there, some folks up in the trees. And I heard the shooting of Oswald over the radio as we stood twelve deep along the curb.
“Good riddance,” someone said. The only breaking of silence on that solemn day.
I saw history with the Vietnam Protest March on Washington and later, the Poverty March with mules come all the way from the Deep South. Heard Coretta King speak. A tumultuous time.
Now a new president.
History is that way.
We live it every day.
That’s why I love to research and write about it. I love the history of the Pacific Northwest from 1800 to the 1930s. The Civil War. World War II. The Depression. Things really haven’t changed. But every once and a while, an ideal comes full circle and a promise is fulfilled.
I come from a family of pack rats. History stirs on the shelves in teapots and in boxes full of letters and journals as long ago as 1830. The family story goes back to 1638. But it’s been the stories of my Nana, her mother known as Bongie and my 93-year-old mother that nourished me. There are strong women in my family. Ansenith Parker, Quaker missionary to the Shawnee and Kaw. Martha (Bongie) March, teacher of ex-slaves and Kiowa children and president of the Idaho Womans’ Relief Corps. Mysterious Judith March who was fined for wearing a lace cap above her station in the 1600s. Writing about them has helped me examine my own life and upbringing.
And then there is my great-grandfather, Dr. William F. Osborn, Civil War surgeon from Fairchance, Pennsylvania. I was seven years old when my mother put his journal from Gettysburg in my hands. That began my life-long love of history of many times and places, especially World War II and the Pacific Northwest.
Here at Historyweaver’s, I hope to write about history, writing historical fiction, family story, and the writing craft of time and place.