J.E.B. Stuart’s June 1863 Raid into the North

From Observation Tower at Oak Ridge, Gettysburg Battlefield

Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart left Salem Depot with three brigades on June 25, 1863, at 1 a.m. Brig. General Fitzhugh Lee, Brig. General Wade Hampton, and Colonel John R. Chambliss led the brigades.

Captain John Esten Cooke, Stuart’s chief of ordnance, wrote of his experiences on the raid. Stuart shouted orders to “Ho! for the Valley!” while in the villagers’ hearing. Once out of sight, he changed course to head eastward. They bivouacked under pine trees that night. The following evening, they skirted around Union General Hooker’s rear force in Manassas.

The cavalry passed abandoned cabins and debris near Fairfax Station where they must have found supplies because Captain Cooke laughed to recall that every Southerner wore a white straw hat and snowy cotton gloves. A bale of smoking tobacco or drum of figs rested on the pommel of every soldier’s saddle. They held ginger cakes.

Each cavalry man held aloft a case, shell, or solid shot with fixed cartridge when crossing the Potomac River on June 28th at 3 a.m. to keep the ammunition dry.

As Stuart’s cavalry approached Rockville, Maryland, from the south, a Federal wagon train of nearly 200 wagons entered from the east. The new and freshly painted wagons, each drawn by six sleek mules, stretched out for miles. Stuart’s men chased the fleeing wagons and captured them within sight of Washington D.C. Cooke believed he saw the dome of the Capitol.

Stuart captured Union prisoners, set fire to some of the wagons, and seized the rest of them.

The Southerners reached Brookville that night, where beautiful girls fed them from baskets filled with cakes, meat, and bread. They offered huge pitchers of iced water. Stuart paroled hundreds of the wagon train prisoners at Brookville before riding on.

On June 29th, Stuart’s men arrived at Westminster. They clashed with Union cavalry and chased them along the Baltimore road, causing Baltimore citizens to panic.

They left Westminster and bivouacked in the rain. They reached Pennsylvania the next day.

Stuart’s cavalry scattered Union Brig. General Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry near Hanover. Kilpatrick rallied and drove the Southerners out of town.

Still traveling with a long wagon train they confiscated, Cooke writes that they “rode, rode, rode” perhaps all night because he does not mention them camping. They paroled more prisoners at Dover, which they reached around sunrise.

On the evening of July 1st, Stuart’s cavalry arrived at the Federal army post of Carlisle. A short assault ended when General Lee ordered Stuart to Gettysburg. He arrived there on the afternoon of July 2nd, the second day of the famous battle.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader: An Eyewitness History of The Civil War’s Greatest Battle, Regnery History, 2013.

“J.E.B. Stuart,” A&E Television Networks, LLC, 2017/05/03 http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/j-e-b-stuart.

“J.E.B. Stuart,” Wikipedia, 2017/05/03 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._E._B._Stuart.


The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig


This Military thriller is packed with suspense and adventure.

The Prologue starts in the Byzantine Empire in 1230 AD. Knights search for the deadly Mace of Subjugation, a deadly toxin that spreads like a plague. Only a Warrior’s Seal can stop it.

The mace rears its ugly head again in modern times. Villagers are dying. The President of the United States and his wife have been captured. Staff Sergeant “Tox” Russell leads a special team to find them and the deadly toxin before it’s too late.

But Tox needs more information. Tzivia Khalon knows about the mace. There is danger at every turn as she travels to the Mideast to help recover the deadly substance.

This novella, part of The Tox Files Collection published by Bethany House, kept me turning pages.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Cream of Carrot Soup

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, originally published in 1896, has a lot of great recipes. This cream of carrot soup is surprisingly light and delicious.

Stock, water enriched by the food cooked in it, is an important ingredient in numerous soups. Homemade stock brings full-bodied flavor to recipes. The recipe for the chicken stock used in this recipe is found  here.

To make cream of carrot soup, chop 1 onion and 1 celery stalk with leaves. Peel and slice 4 carrots.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Stir in onion, celery, and carrots. Cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While those vegetables are cooking, peel and dice 2 medium potatoes. Chop 2 sprigs of parsley.

Stir potatoes and parsley into the vegetables just until coated. Pour in 5 cups of chicken stock or chicken broth. (I didn’t have enough chicken stock so I used half of each.) Cook, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Puree the vegetables and broth in a food processor or a blender.

Pour the pureed liquid through a colander into a medium mixing bowl to catch anything the blender missed.

Rinse out the saucepan and then pour the soup back into it. Stir in 1 cup of heavy cream. Salt and pepper to taste. I used a teaspoon of salt.

Heat the soup over a medium heat until hot. Do not boil.

Garnish the creamy soup with a parsley sprig if desired. This delicious soup was worth the extra steps. I plan to make it again to serve to dinner guests.

This recipe makes 7 one-cup servings and can be served hot or cold.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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



This Week in History: Greencastle, Pennsylvania and the Gettysburg Campaign

Monday, June 15, 1863

The fall of Martinsburg, Virginia, (now West Virginia) on June 14th encouraged Confederate Lieutenant Hermann Schuricht, Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry. He was happy that the glorious battle ended with the Southerners in possession of the city and several thousand bushels of grain. It was the first Battle of Martinsburg.

Buglers sounded orders to mount their horses around 2 am. By breakfast time Schuricht and his comrades were in Williamsport, Maryland, where the residents kindly set up tables in the streets stocked with meat, bread, and milk. Schuricht and other hungry troops ate quickly before remounting.

They received an enthusiastic welcome from the ladies in Hagerstown, Maryland, at noon. The women gave flowers to the soldiers. The children shouted, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!”

They rode to Greencastle, Pennsylvania. General Albert G. Jenkins divided his brigade. Schuricht, along with others in the right wing who intimidated locals by waving muskets and pistols, rode his horse over ditches and fences to take the town. Federal cavalry there all escaped except one lieutenant.

The Confederates cut telegraph wires and destroyed the railroad depot in Greencastle.

Their day wasn’t over.

By 11 pm, an exhausted Schuricht entered Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with his companions. They camped on the eastern outskirts of town.

Confederates occupied Greencastle from mid-June until early July. Federal cavalry led by Captain Ulric Dahlgren rode into the town square on July 2nd. The Union troops captured several Confederate cavalry troops in the square while a bigger battle took place in another part of Pennsylvania.


-Sandra Merville Hart


Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader, Regnery History, 2013.

“Greencastle, Pennsylvania,” Wikipedia, 2017/05/01 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greencastle,_Pennsylvania.

Long, E.B with Long, Barbara. The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865, A Da Capo Paperback, 1971.

Noyalas, J. A. “Martinsburg during the Civil War.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 1 May. 2017.

Love’s Sweet Storm by Miralee Ferrell

Addie Patrick can’t continue to live off charity after the death of her parents. She answers an ad for a mail-order bride. Mr. Tolliver, who wants help with his store, agrees to marry her. Addie heads to Southern Colorado.

A terrible snowstorm strands Addie with rancher, Grant Hollister, on her way to Mr. Tolliver. Besides looking like an angel, Addie impresses Grant with her presence of mind in a crisis. Could she be the one he’s waited for?

His disappointment to find her already betrothed is mirrored in Addie’s heart. She’s already made a commitment. She will stand behind her promise.

The story captured my interest from the first page. I enjoyed this historical romance.

This novella is part of The Cowboy’s Bride Collection published by Barbour.

-Sandra Merville Hart


New Civil War Novel Releasing in July

Sandra’s newest novel, A Rebel in My House, is a Civil War romance set in Gettysburg during the famous 1863 battle. This novel releases on July 15th!

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 regiment 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?



Click here to receive the special pre-order price!


Cheese Soup

I found this recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, originally published in 1896. Fannie Farmer’s name is still well-known today.

Stock, water enriched by the food cooked in it, is an important ingredient in numerous soups. Homemade stock brings full-bodied flavor to soups and sauces. The recipe for the beef stock used in this recipe is found  here.

To make this soup, finely chop enough onion to give 1 tablespoon.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onion to the melted butter, cooking until the onion is limp. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour. The recipe said to stir and cook this for 3 minutes, but mine started to brown after about 90 seconds. I’d suggest cooking this about 1 ½ minutes.

Slowly add 1 cup of beef stock (or 1 cup of beef bouillon or beef broth) and 2 cups of milk. Stirring frequently, heat until it boils.

Turn off the heat and stir in ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese. To achieve a creamier consistency, I added 2 slices of American cheese.

The recipe then calls for 2 teaspoons of paprika. I tasted the soup without it and enjoyed the flavor. Then I added paprika, which gave the soup a bit of zing that I also liked. Try it both ways to see which you prefer.

Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of paprika. The color of the soup made me think it wasn’t going to taste “cheesy” enough, but it did. I liked it.

This recipe makes 3 one-cup servings. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart


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


This Week in History: Civil War Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia

Tuesday, June 9, 1863

Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to fight the battle above the Mason-Dixon. He began marching his army west from Fredericksburg toward Culpeper Court House. Lee wanted the protection of the Shenandoah Valley and asked General J.E.B. Stuart to mask the army’s movements with his cavalry.

Stuart had about 9,500 cavalry troops at Brandy Station—a small crossroads between the Rappahannock River and Culpeper—on June 8, 1863. Lee ordered Stuart to lead a raid across the river on June 9th to create a diversion.

Federal General Joseph Hooker, having guessed Stuart’s plan, deployed his cavalry under General Alfred Pleasonton to attack on June 9th. His men surprised Confederate pickets at Beverly’s Ford at 4:30 am and chased them back to their camp near St. James Church on the road to Brandy Station.

Confederates suffered until their artillery was ready to fire on Union troops at the church. Union General Buford ordered his troops to charge. They were repulsed.

In the meantime, Union General David Gregg brought his cavalry behind Stuart’s men with Fleetwood Hill blocking them. Union artillery fired on Fleetwood Hill, startling Stuart but he rallied in time to fight the Union’s charge.

After almost five hours of hard fighting, Pleasonton received reports of Confederate reinforcements and withdrew at 5 pm. Union casualties totaled 866 with 81 killed. Confederate casualties were 523.

The infantry used to joke, “Whoever saw a dead cavalryman?”

The fierce battle at Brandy Station ended that.

The Union cavalry was respected after the battle.

And the battle hid the Confederate march northward.

-Sandra Merville Hart



“Brandy Station,” Civil War Trust, 2017/05/01, http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/brandy-station.html?tab=facts.

Long, E.B with Long, Barbara. The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865, A Da Capo Paperback, 1971.


Mattie’s Pledge by Jan Drexler

This novel took me on a journey into the 1840s.

Mattie Schock’s family is traveling with several other Amish family from Brothers Valley, Pennsylvania, to Indiana. She hasn’t seen Jacob Yoder since they were children and looks forward to getting to know him again.

Jacob never forgot Mattie and their friendship deepens. He soon begins to dream of her as his wife on the new farm he will build in Indiana.

Mattie dreams of settling further west and fears she’d be bored living in one location for the rest of her life. The Englishman who keeps turning up at odd places promises her new adventures in Oregon. He’s exciting and dangerous.

But the danger is more real than Mattie realizes.

I love novels that transport me to another time and place. This story did that for me. I enjoyed this story.

-Sandra Merville Hart