Civil War Women: Clara Judd, Confederate Spy

Clara Judd, a Northerner, had moved to Winchester, Tennessee, in 1859 with her husband and eight children. He and one of their children was killed in an accident two years later. The widow found jobs at a government factory for her older sons.

Union armies controlled Winchester five times during the first two years of the Civil War (1861-1862) and Clara hosted them. A Union officer warned her that they’d been ordered to destroy her crops “except enough to last six weeks” and that she should leave.

Losing her possessions probably embittered her toward the Union soldiers.

She eventually ended up leaving her children with her sister in Louisville. Obtaining Union passes to travel to Atlanta to visit her son and Louisville to visit her youngest children enabled Clara to learn troop movements and other military information for the Confederacy.

Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, while planning his famous raid, contacted Clara in December of 1862. He asked her to discover Union troop locations and strength of those controlling the railroad. She agreed.

While traveling north, she was stopped in Murfreesboro and had to wait three days for a pass to Nashville. Unable to find transportation, she walked.

Delos Thurman Blythe, a Northern counterespionage agent posing as Southern paroled prisoner, offered her a ride in his buggy. Blythe’s pass into Nashville was accepted but not Clara’s. He overheard a Confederate soldier giving her information about getting through Union lines and became suspicious.

Clara received a pass to visit her children and then told Blythe everything. He promised to help her.

His pretense of loyalty to the South had worked. He reported her to Union authorities yet advised them to give her the passes she requested.

They traveled north by train. Clara, from her window, asked folks at each station about troops in the area. In Louisville, Blythe escorted her in all her errands and took her to dinner. She fell in love with him. Meanwhile, Blythe asked the authorities to arrest him and Clara in Mitchelsville, Tennessee.

On their return trip, military police arrested them in Mitchelsville. Goods and drugs for the Confederate army were found in her bags—quinine, nitrate of silver, and morphine.

Placed under guard in a Nashville hotel shortly before Christmas, Clara told her captors that Blythe was innocent. She didn’t know that he had already been released or that loving her had been an act.

Charged with espionage, she went to prison in Alton, Illinois for about eight months before being paroled due to poor health.

-Sandra Merville Hart




McCurry, Stephanie. “Clara Judd and the Laws of War,” HistoryNet, 2019/08/16

Winkler, H. Donald. Stealing Secrets, Cumberland House, 2010.



Where Treasure Hides by Johnnie Alexander

A page-turner!

Alison Schuyler meets British Lieutenant Ian Devlin in a train station. She falls in love with him for championing a young boy transported by the unrest settling over Europe in 1939. But she parts from Ian with a heavy heart—even if he can find a way to survive the coming hostilities, she’ll never rise above her family’s curse.

Great Britain enters the war shortly after he meets Alison but he promises he will come home—a promise that isn’t easy to keep.

While Ian fights bravely, Alison busies herself with hiding her family’s priceless art and smuggling Jewish children to safety. And that’s just the beginning.

Danger follows them with every step as the war rages throughout Europe. Is any place safe?

This World War II romance kept me on the edge of my seat through the novel’s many twists. Believable characters struggle to save themselves and their loved ones, making this a story that stays with you.

Recommend! I will look for more novels by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart



Economical Dinner Suggestions

We all have our “go to” choices for inexpensive suppers when we’re waiting for that next paycheck.

The author of 1877 Cookbook Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping included several meal choices for economical dinners.

First suggestion:

Spare ribs, cabbage, roast potatoes, rice pudding, and fruit.

Second suggestion:

Codfish, egg sauce, parsnips, horseradish, Lancashire pie, pickles, bread, and custard pie.

Third suggestion:

Boiled pork, beans, greens, potatoes, and green currant pie.

Fourth suggestion:

Fish, baked tomatoes, potato cakes, applesauce, and bread pudding.

Fifth suggestion:

Boiled beef, boiled potatoes, squash, lima beans, sliced tomatoes, and apple tapioca pudding.

Sixth suggestion:

Roast beef and potatoes, meatless bean soup, apple butter, macaroni with cheese, and custard pie.

Seventh suggestion:

Broiled chicken, meatless tomato soup, turnips, fricasseed potatoes, fresh fruit, and tomato toast.

What a list! There are some good ideas here. I had to look up Lancashire pie—it’s a potato and onion pie. I think I’ll have to try this soon.

Chicken is more of a supper staple than fish at our house, but if we lived beside the lake or ocean that might not be the case.

How about you? Did you find any gems in these lists?

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.


Washington Monument

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the National Mall late on a rainy evening. Though I didn’t go into the Washington Monument, the view at night was spectacular.

Early Americans wanted to build a monument to honor George Washington. Not only had he defeated the British as commander of the Continental Army, he paved the way for future leaders by serving as our first president.

The Washington National Monument Society began asking for donations to the monument in 1833. This private organization collected money and chose Robert Mills’ design in 1845.

On July 4, 1848, construction began with a ceremony to lay the cornerstone. President James K. Polk attended with about 20,000 citizens, including three future presidents—Buchanan, Lincoln, and Johnson.

Problems arose when the Society was taken over by the Know-Nothing Party. Building the monument stopped when the money ran out in 1854.

The nation had more pressing concerns with the Civil War looming and the monument stood idle, about a third completed.

Congress took over the funding of the monument in 1876. After this, Lt. Col. Thomas Lincoln Casey led the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the monument with a few changes to Mills’ original design. He did away with a ring of columns around the monument and adjusted the height from 600 feet to 555 feet. One of the inscriptions on the east face of the aluminum cap topping the Washington Monument is Laus Deo, Latin for “Praise be to God.”

Citizens, groups, cities, states, and other countries donated commemorative stones that are inset into the walls of the building dedicated on February 21, 1885. It was the tallest building in the world at its dedication.

Another fun fact about the monument is that the original elevator took 10-12 minutes to ascend to the top.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Guide to Visiting the Soon-to-be Reopened Washington Monument,” Washington DC, 2019/09/05

“Washington Monument,” NPS, 2019/09/05


What Ta-Ta’s Teach Us by Jane Jenkins Herlong

I expected this book to be about breast cancer.

It touches on the topic of cancer, but it is about so much more.

As girls mature into women, their bodies go through many changes. The author briefly talks about those changes and then offers words of wisdom for each change.

The book is also beautifully illustrated by Beth R. Clark.

Lighthearted and full of advice, this quick read is one that many women and girls would find benefits from reading.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, something that has touched many of us personally or through loved ones. That’s why I chose this month to review this book.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Corn Rolls Recipe

The author of 1877 Cookbook Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping included meal suggestions. A fall breakfast meal suggestion is: fried trout; Graham mush; beef croquette; pork steak; boiled Irish potatoes; baked sweet potatoes; bread; corn rolls; coffee; and cocoa. I imagine an everyday breakfast did not include all these dishes.

The cookbook includes recipes for some of these. Today I’m sharing one for corn rolls from cook Mrs. Capt. J.P. Rea.

If you happen to own a gem pan, bake these in it.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray cooking spray on a muffin pan.

Beat 3 eggs and set aside.

Combine 2 cups of corn meal, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well.

In a small saucepan, heat 2 cups of milk to boiling. Then add the milk to the corn meal mixture. Allow this to cool and then stir in the eggs.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I tasted a bit of sweetness from the sugar in these rolls so it was slightly sweet corn muffin. It’s a nice, easy recipe that can be prepared from ingredients usually stocked in pantries. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.


Announcing New Christmas Book Release!

I’m thrilled to announce my newest book release! This collection of Christmas stories is called “Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path” and contains stories with an unexpected twist.

I’ve always wanted to be in a Christmas collection. The story that I’ve written for the collection, Not This Year, is very close to my heart.

Here is the back blurb:

Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …

Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.

Inspired by the song, Mary Did You Know?— a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY, DID YOU KNOW?

A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES

Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant — combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA

Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchange presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR

Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life — and the echoes from that day continue to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED

A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world — a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS

Pick up your copy today on Amazon!

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

Captivating story!

Chelsea Chambers recently separated from Sawyer, her NFL celebrity husband, and is trying to make the coffee shop that her mother left her a success for her two children. Business crawls. Her only employee quits. Manny shows up the same day. He’s a real godsend and she hires him on the spot.

Then the IRS delivers a huge tax bill that her mother neglected to pay. Sawyer can’t help—he’s somehow managed to go through millions of dollars. Chelsea has to close the shop and sell the property.

Then someone delivers a router that she can try out for three months. Free. She jumps at the chance to increase her business.

But there’s a catch. Internet access is limited to one blog—the God Blog.

And there’s something special about Manny…

I loved this book! The reader sees early on that Manny is really Chelsea’s guardian angel. We’re given glimpses into his conversations with Gabriel.

I particularly loved how the author shows the behind-the-scenes battle between good and evil. Can our prayers for our loved really live on past our death?

Thought-provoking. An enjoyable multi-layered story. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Corn Mush Recipe

The author of 1877 Cookbook Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping included meal suggestions. A spring breakfast meal suggestion is: fried ham; Graham bread: fried mush; scrambled eggs; radishes; potatoes boiled in jackets; coffee; tea; and chocolate. What time would you have to get up?!? 😊

The cookbook includes recipes for some of these. Today I’m sharing one for corn mush from Mrs. W.W. Woods, the 1877 cook.

Mrs. Woods gave no ingredient measurements so I looked at a few modern recipes to give me an idea how much water to boil.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cooking spray or grease a skillet or loaf pan.

Boil 3 cups of water in a large saucepan. Stir in ½ teaspoon of salt.

A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME, add 1 cup of cornmeal to the boiling water. Prevent lumps by sifting the cornmeal through your fingers. Stir constantly over medium high heat until all the cornmeal is added.

Remove from the burner. Because it’s difficult to boil the mush thoroughly enough to cook it without scorching, Mrs. Woods put her kettle directly into the oven and baked it for an hour. Since she recommended stirring the mixture using a 2-foot paddle with a 2-inch blade that was 7 inches long, it’s safe to say she made huge batches at a time. My “paddle” was an ordinary wooden spoon! 😊

I transferred the mush to a sectioned-skillet for baking and it still took about an hour. I then chilled it in the fridge for frying later. (Baking and chilling the mush in a loaf pan makes it easier to slice for frying.)

Once chilled, beat 2-3 eggs in one bowl. Bread crumbs should go in a different bowl.

While the Crisco or lard heats, dip the mush slices into the egg mixture and then the bread crumbs. Fry until golden brown.

I enjoyed the baked corn mush as a nice side dish. The fried mush was delicious—I liked it better than I imagined I would. Frying the mush enhanced the flavor. I liked it both baked and fried. To save the calories, I’d eat it baked.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.


Korean War Veterans Memorial

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It was a dark, rainy evening for my first view of these rugged American soldiers wearing ponchos. The soldiers in the field face different directions so one of the statues is looking at you from any of three sides. When I returned home, I discovered more about this memorial located on the National Mall.

American served in the Korean War from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953. Of 5.8 million who served, 54,246 Americans died, 8,200 went missing in action, and 103,284 were wounded.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, dedicated on July 27, 1995, honors Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard on a Mural Wall.

The United Nations Wall honors the 22 nations that sent troops to Korea.

A Pool of Remembrances offers a reflective place to sit.

Most impressive are the 19 seven-foot tall statues standing among juniper bushes and separated by granite strips that symbolize Korea’s rice paddies. Each represents duties filled by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Above the Lead Scout is a Dedication Stone with the saying:

     Our Nation honors her sons and daughters

     who answered the call to defend a country

     they never knew and a people they never met

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Korean War Memorial,” American Battle Monuments Commission, 2019/09/05

“Korean War Veterans Memorial,” Washington DC, 2019/09/05

“The Korean War Veterans Memorial,” The Korean War Veterans Memorial, 2019/09/05