Civil War Hospital Trains

by Sandra Merville Hart

Civil War soldiers wounded on the battlefield were first treated at tent hospitals or in local buildings. With a combined total dead and wounded at Gettysburg for both armies at over 40,000, wounded soldiers filled the courthouse, churches, homes, barns, and every available public building.

The overworked, exhausted surgeons at Gettysburg couldn’t keep up with the demand. As soon as a patient was able to survive a trip, he traveled by hospital train to a city hospital.

A typical Civil War era hospital train contained between 5 to 10 hospital cars and a passenger car for wounded soldiers able to sit. Additionally, there was a surgeon’s car for the medical staff, a kitchen car for the nourishing food provided to wounded, and a box car for supplies.

The outside car panels had “U.S. Hospital Train” painted in large letters. A yellow flag flew on the slow-moving engine. Three red lanterns hung under the engine headlight at night. Ten-car trains carried up to 200 patients.

Injured soldiers were carried on stretchers to a hospital car. Four India rubber rings hooked onto wooden posts to support the stretcher. There were 3 tiers of stretchers stacked in a 50-foot hospital car. A nice period sketch of these cars may be found at

Early in the war, a surgeon noticed the agony that sick and wounded soldiers suffered from the locomotive jostling over tracks. He suggested the above design for hospital cars, greatly increasing patients’ comfort while traveling to the general hospitals in the cities.

A Rebel in My House Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

A promise to her sister becomes impossible to keep …


Book Trailer


Compiled by the editors of Combined Books. The Civil War Book of Lists, Da Capo Press, 1994.

“Hospital Trains,” Son of the South, 2021/03/23

Wilbur, M.D., C. Keith. Civil War Medicine 1861 – 1865, C. Keith Wilbur, 1998.


Deadly Probabilities by D.L. Koontz

by Sandra Merville Hart

Book 1 of Risky Changes Series

Ann McCarthy is good at her job as part owner of CRS (Corporate Response Specialists) yet can’t wait to leave it. When a stranger on a bicycle knocks her down, it’s not an accident. He gives her a message and leaves her a sinister warning.

Her new client, Logan Kassell, reports an explosion at his company and needs her company’s expertise to navigate the press. The former SEAL recognizes a fake bomb in her pocket and realizes she’s in danger.

There is danger at every turn but which one of them is the target? Action-packed. Suspenseful. Unexpected twists and turns kept me turning pages to the end.

Believable, likeable characters drew me into the story and had me pulling for them the whole way. I tried to guess who was behind the attacks and danger along with the characters. I couldn’t put down the book for long as I had to know what happened.

The suspense as well as the love story kept me turning pages. This isn’t the first time I’ve read books by this author and I will look for more.

Looking forward to the next book in this series!

Coop Knows the Scoop by Taryn Souders

What a great middle-grade mystery novel!

I read in a variety of genres and enjoyed this story about Coop, a thirteen-year-old boy. After he lost his dad, he and his mom moved in with his grandfather. Gramps had raised his dad as a single parent and Coop adores him.

When a body is found at the playground, the skeleton is identified as Coop’s grandmother. She had left a note forty years ago and never returned to her husband and child. Now everyone knows why … she was murdered.

This story held my attention with its twists and turns that deepen the mystery. It’s told entirely from Coop’s point of view. This clean read is geared to middle-grade readers yet I’d also recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery.

I will look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Portsmouth Frosting

by Sandra Merville Hart

I baked a banana cake from a recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It suggested icing the cake with Portsmouth Frosting. It’s a quick, easy frosting that will taste delicious on many types of cakes.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Set aside to cool.

Whip ¼ cup heavy whipping cream in a mixer for a minute or two until it thickens and begins to form soft peaks. (I used a hand mixer.) Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla or rum. (I chose vanilla.) Gently stir in the melted butter.

While using the mixer, add 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, beating the mixture until it is thick and creamy.

I frosted a banana cake with this icing. It wasn’t quite enough to frost the entire cake and I made a second batch.     

This is a delicious frosting with a light, smooth, and creamy consistency. It takes between 5 – 10 minutes to prepare and I had all the ingredients in my fridge or pantry. Recommend!

I will definitely make this again.


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.

A Surprising Cemetery

Fellow author and friend Shelia Stovall shares about a family cemetery with us today. Welcome back to Historical Nibbles, Shelia!

by Shelia Stovall

Thank you for inviting me to share a story that might interest genealogists. Judy, my mother-in-law, loved genealogy. One of my deepest regrets is that I didn’t record her family stories. She said her ancestor received a land grant for our property for serving in the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, we have no documentation to prove this because the Simpson County, Kentucky Courthouse burned in May of 1882.

A couple of years ago, my husband visited our neighbor’s farm and discovered a cemetery, hidden in a grove of trees, about five hundred yards from our property line.

We’d never crossed the fence line and had no idea the cemetery existed. Later, my husband took me to his find. Judy grew up on our farm, and I am sure she knew the cemetery existed but failed to mention it. Perhaps it is something she took for granted that we knew.

Simple stones mark many gravesites, and others are very ornate. Sadly, the cemetery needs attention. One tombstone identifies the grave of the Revolutionary War soldier, William Lowe. I couldn’t help but wonder if this might mark the resting place of my husband’s relative who received the land grant. We’d never heard anyone mention the last name of “Lowe” in the family history. The surname of Johns, Peden, and Snider are the familiar family names. 

We scanned Judy’s many scrapbooks in search of her genealogy work. Ready to give up, I put away the albums,but my father-in-law said, “Let’s look inside her desk.” The first folder I pulled out was labeled, “For Evan Leslie’s D.A.R.” (Evan Leslie is my daughter.) It seemed Judy knew that someday, someone would be interested. It took mere seconds to locate the name I hoped to see, William Lowe.  

I am thankful Judy took such care to document her family ancestry. We’ll never be able to prove the farm has been in my husband’s family since the land grants, but I feel confident the trails I walk with my grandchildren are the same as their ancestors from ten generations back.

To me, the most special place is by a tiny stream that branches into Drake’s Creek. I need this quiet place where no one speaks to me but God.

We are blessed by our inheritance, but a better inheritance awaits us because we are to be co-heirs with Jesus Christ. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:17.

My prayer is that you too will share in this glorious inheritance.

To learn more about me and my books, subscribe to my blog.

Readers can download three free novellas from my website under the media tab and be introduced to my make-believe communities of Weldon and Sassy Creek. My novel, Every Window Filled with Light, can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About Shelia

Shelia Stovall is the director of a small-town library in southern Kentucky, where only strangers mention her last name, and the children call her Miss Shelia.  

Shelia and her husband Michael live on a farm, and she enjoys taking daily rambles to the creek with their three dogs. Spending time with family, especially her grandchildren, is her all-time favorite thing. The only hobby Shelia loves more than reading uplifting stories of hope is writing them. Connect with Shelia on her blog.

Every Window Filled with Light

Welcome to Weldon, Kentucky, where the only things the locals love more than fried pies are gossip and match-making.

Librarian Emma Baker, a young and childless widow, believes her dream to build a family is over. It’s been two years since a student accidentally stabbed Emma’s husband to death, and her grief has stifled any interest in romance—until she meets Pastor Luke Davis. But when Emma learns Luke is counseling her husband’s killer fresh out of jail, her temper gets in the way.

Meanwhile, Emma discovers twelve-year-old Harley, abandoned by her drug-addict mother, hiding in the library, and takes the girl in as her foster mom. Then a young mother is made homeless by an apartment fire, and Emma opens her home again. One person and one prayer at a time, Emma begins to discover hope.

That Grand Easter Day! by Jill Roman Lord

by Sandra Merville Hart

What a delightful children’s picture book!

I love children’s stories that rhyme, especially when it builds and expands it with each new page. What I mean by that is that the phrase on the first page is included in following pages to tell the story.

This book is about the day that Jesus arose from the dead on that first Easter. I’ve read this to my children in my life who were captured by the story and the rhythm of the words.

Well-done! I love this book and its illustrations. Recommended for children from 2 – 7.

A Currier & Ives Christmas

by Sandra Merville Hart

Four Stories of Love Come to Life from the Canvas of Classic Christmas Art

All four of these romances are feel-good stories set in historical snowy settings at Christmas.

In Lynn A. Coleman’s The Snow Storm, a widower needs to somehow push his grief for his wife aside and make Christmas special for his two sons. He rescues Angela, a young woman caught in a snow storm. Stranded at the cabin with her rescuer’s family, Angela cooks and cleans and prepares them for the holidays. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with her rescuer. The characters in this story captivated my heart, especially the two boys.

JoAnn A. Grote’s Image of Love is set in beautiful Minnesota in 1869. I loved this story about Mantie, a sister who shared responsibilities of raising her niece and nephew with her brother. With her brother and his new wife expecting a child, Mantie worries that they’ll want her to leave. Lane, a newcomer raising his little brother, captures her attention in this lighthearted romance. This story includes pearls of wisdom along the way.

Dreams and Secrets by DiAnn Mills is a story that has stayed with me, perhaps because the heroine, Emma Leigh, works so hard to help her ailing father provide for her large family. They are poverty-stricken and often go hungry. Thad, a man she’s known since childhood, wants to help them but her father is proud. Emma Leigh fears that her family needs her pay too much for the her to marry. I loved this touching story of love and sacrifice.  

In Circle of Blessings by Deborah Raney, James has worked hard to make up for past mistakes. He needs to tell Stella about his past before their courtship gets too serious. Stella, a student at the college where he teaches, tries to make her overprotective father comfortable about her relationship with James. I loved the characters and the story. It was an added bonus to glimpse college life in 1871.

I enjoyed this collection of light-hearted, easy-to-read romances!

Cottage Cheese Griddlecakes

by Sandra Merville Hart

I happened to notice this recipe for cottage cheese griddlecakes (pancakes) in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook while preparing another dish. I did a double-take. Yes, this pancake recipe has cottage cheese as the main ingredient. It was too different—I had to try it.

Place 1 cup of cottage cheese in a sieve. (I used a colander.) Press the cottage cheese down to start removing the moisture. Let it stand in the sieve for an hour over a bowl to allow it to dry.

Beat 3 eggs well in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the cottage cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter, ¼ cup of flour, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir together just enough to blend the ingredients.

Add pats of butter to your griddle or skillet and allow it to melt on a medium heat. (A cast iron skillet worked best for me.) Pour ¼ cup of batter onto the hot skillet.

These griddlecakes are delicate. Wait slightly longer to turn than you would a normal pancake or they will fall apart. Then turn them gently.

What’s immediately noticeable is the difference in texture so your first pancake might be too done or not done enough as you figure it out. I let them cook a minute and then started to work the spatula around the edges to prepare it for turning.

Surprisingly good! In fact, they reminded me more of a potato pancake with the soft center than a regular pancake. Actually, the taste and texture is about halfway between breakfast pancakes and potato pancakes. They aren’t sweet and require no syrup. Two were a filling, satisfying meal.

I noticed that these were Keto except for the flour so I made them again. This time I substituted the flour for almond flour. I liked these even better with the hint of almond flavor—and they are low carb!

I love to find easy recipes for items normally stocked in the fridge and pantry. I’ll make this again when I want a low-carb pancake.

Let me know what you think!


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.

An Excerpt from A Rebel in My House

by Sandra Merville Hart

Excerpt from A Rebel In My House:

Friday, June 26, 1863

Two miles outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Running feet on the dirt road outside quickened Sarah Hubbard’s heartbeat. Her fingers stiffened on her sewing machine and her back straightened.

Were they coming? Every conversation these days centered on the Confederate soldiers crossing into southern Pennsylvania.

“Miz Hubbard. Miz Hubbard, please let us in!”

Not soldiers but friends. Sarah’s body sagged at Elsie Craig’s voice, but why did she yell? Sarah dropped the gingham dress she’d been sewing and ran to throw open the front door. Alarmed at the fear lining Elsie’s dark face and eyes as she clutched the hand of her four-year-old daughter, Mae, Sarah scanned the horizon for Confederate soldiers. “Hurry inside.”

Elsie needed no second bidding. She guided Mae over the threshold and closed the door. “Miz Hubbard, you gotta hide us.” Her tall, thin body leaned against the door. “The Rebs are in town gathering up all the colored folks they can find. Someone said they’ll be taking them south as slaves and that they’re warning folks not to hide us.”

Sarah gasped. “Why do such a terrible thing?”

“Don’t make sense, does it? Some of us have lived in Gettysburg for years. Others like me have always been free, but it don’t seem to matter to the Southern army.” A long loaf of bread peeked out among jars and clothing in a well-laden basket Elsie set on the rug. She dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around her trembling child. “I had to leave my house and most of my possessions, but I’ve got the most important thing right here.” She looked up at Sarah as she patted Mae’s shoulder. “Last week my Sam left for Pine Hill, the settlement up near Biglerville. With it being two miles off the main road to Carlisle, the Rebs won’t find him there. Sam never expected the army to come after women and children or he’d never have left us. I miss him something fierce. We’ll go to him when the soldiers get out of town.”

Tears etched tracks in a smudge on Mae’s cheek, tugging at Sarah’s heart as much as Elsie’s wide eyes and trembling hands. Sarah rushed to an open window and pushed aside the curtain a few inches. The Pennsylvania governor, Andrew Curtin, had declared a state of emergency two weeks earlier and called for local militia. Where was their help?

Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?


Book Trailer

This is the Lunch that Jesus Served by Dandi Daley Mackall

by Sandra Merville Hart

This is a fun children’s picture book about the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus.

The title is the first line of the book. As the story unfolds, each new line rhymes and builds on the previous pages so that the title is the last sentence on each page.

I read this book to my two-year-old granddaughter. The story is told in a repetitive, sing-song fashion and I read it rhythmically to her.

To my delight she got up and began to dance to the rhythm of the words! What a precious moment. As an author, I want her to love books, the written word. This book, read rhythmically, showed her the music written words can bring.

Recommended for children 2 – 7.

-Sandra Merville Hart