Civil War Women: Sarah Morgan Dawson, Confederate Diarist

Sarah Morgan Dawson was twenty when she began writing in her diary on March 9, 1862. The Civil War raged near her family’s home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her family had already known hard times. In 1861, illness claimed her father’s life and a duel claimed a brother’s life.

War threatened to divide her family. Three brothers fought for the Confederacy and another, though he sided with the Union, refused to fight against his brothers.

Baton Rouge fell into Union hands. Most citizens ran for their lives, including Sarah’s family. She returned a few times to gather possessions from her home, but found that the Union soldiers who occupied the city had ransacked it. The home was unrecognizable on her last trip—the soldiers had plundered valuables and destroyed what they left behind. Sarah didn’t return to her childhood home until after the war.

Made homeless by the war, her family wandered from Baton Rouge, staying with friends and strangers.

Food supplies dwindled. Sarah had money to purchase food yet some places had none for sale.

They stayed near the Confederate army, making friends with many soldiers. Sarah did all she could to help them. Her family had escaped with few clothes … and everyone else was in the same predicament.

A serious buggy accident injured Sarah’s back. The injury prevented her from walking more than a few steps. She clung to her faith throughout the difficulties that mounted almost daily.

Her Union-sympathizer brother urged them to stay with him in New Orleans, which was now under Union control. They had little choice. A hard train ride and then a schooner took them to New Orleans.

Upon their arrival, they had to take an oath of allegiance to the Union. A Southerner at heart, taking the oath broke Sarah’s spirit. Even worse, Sarah’s mother complained so passionately to the Union soldiers of all she’d suffered at their hands that she was almost arrested. Sarah’s brother smoothed things over and took them into his home.

At the beginning of 1864, Sarah’s heart broke to discover that two of her brothers died. They’d lost so much to the war that she hated the Union.

General Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. Sarah’s diary entries stopped on June 15, 1865.

It was published and inscribed: “To those who endured and forgave”.

Sarah read her diary many years later and wanted people to know that through it all, God never failed her. “Whatever the anguish, whatever the extremity, in His own good time He ever delivered me. So that I bless Him to-day for all of life’s joys and sorrows—for all He gave—for all He has taken—and I bear witness that it was all Very Good.” –Sarah Morgan Dawson, July 23rd, 1896, Charleston, South Carolina.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Dawson, Sarah Morgan. A Confederate Girl’s Diary: Civil War Centennial Series, Indiana University Press, 1960.



Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

From The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations

Hope Springs, Texas October 1890

Ruth Fulbright and seven-year-old daughter, Naomi, are coming to Hope Springs to accept a job as cook at a café. The widow must make this new job work. She sold her wedding ring to pay for travel expenses.

Bo Azlin shuns the company of others because of a childhood injury. He owns most of the town’s businesses including the resort, yet the folks don’t know him. Hoping to hide his useless right arm, he avoids the townspeople … until Ruth insists on meeting him directly.

Her plight raises his compassion. Dare he dream the pretty widow and her daughter can learn to love him?

A heart-warming story that snatched my attention immediately. Before long, I was pulling for their relationship to blossom.

Lovable, strong characters add to the charm of this story. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sugared Pecans Recipe

This Sugared Nuts recipe is from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which was originally published in 1896.

I needed to take something to share at a recent writers’ meeting. Because it travels easily, this recipe caught my eye. You can use either pecan halves or walnut halves. I chose pecans.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

I used a pound of pecans since I was taking these to a meeting. You may need less depending on the size of the crowd.

Mix together ½ cup sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon in a flat bowl and set aside.

Take 1 egg white (room temperature works best for beating) and add 1 tablespoon of water. The recipe did not say how long to beat the egg white mixture, so I beat it until stiff, frothy white peaks formed.

It worked best for me to set up an assembly line: beaten egg whites next to the sugar mixture and then the cookie sheet.

Dip the pecans into the egg whites. Roll it in sugar and then place it on the cookie sheet. One by one grew tedious quickly. I put a handful of pecans into the egg whites and then placed them on a separate plate. I added pecans to the plate until the excess egg whites were absorbed. Then I rolled them by small bunches into the sugar.

I had to make a second batch of cinnamon sugar to finish a pound of pecans.

Bake the sugared pecans for 1 hour at 225 degrees, stirring them every 15 minutes. They smell heavenly!

Delicious! Baking made the pecans a crunchy dessert that later softened. The aroma made me hungry. I like cinnamon so I will double it the next time I make these.

A pound of pecans filled the whole cookie sheet, so let that guide you in guessing how many you will need to serve. These make a delicious appetizer for a party.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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





Cover Reveal for Upcoming “The Cowboys Collection” Release!


Revealing the book cover for the “Smitten Historical Romance Collection: The Cowboys” that releases in August!

All the authors in collection—Jennifer Uhlarik, Linda W. Yezak, Sandra Merville Hart, and Cindy Ervin Huff—have written stories with cowboy heroes and feisty heroines. Prepare to head to the Wild West!

I hope you love the book cover as much as we do!

Trail’s End, my novella in the collection, is set in the wild cowtown of Abilene, Kansas.

Back cover blurb:

Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear…and so does her brother.

Future President Abraham Lincoln Visits Cincinnati

September 17, 1859 was a warm, sultry Saturday night in Cincinnati. Drummers played. Rockets glared reddish-yellow above Fifth Street residences. A Union flag waved above the Fifth Street Market House. Youngsters fed several bonfires to light the night for a crowd of over 4,000 who gazed at a man speaking from a 2nd floor balcony.

Abraham Lincoln of Illinois spoke from a building on the north side of the street where the Federal Courthouse stands. Earnest and, at time, humorous, Lincoln spoke against the expansion of slavery.

Reverend Moncure Conway was used to political gatherings. This one was a campaign specifically for Cincinnati attorney William Dennison who was running for Governor. Yet there was something compelling about Lincoln. He said that slavery was wrong. In that border city where slavery was legal across the Ohio River into Kentucky, a few folks in the crowd hissed their disapproval.

Lincoln waited for outbursts to subside a little. Then he replied that everyone was born with two hands and a mouth to be fed and he inferred it was the job of those two hands to feed that mouth.

The Republicans didn’t ask Lincoln to be their nominee until six months later on May 23, 1860. When someone in the Cincinnati crowd asked who Lincoln recommended they vote for, he didn’t have a choice for candidate. His advice was to vote for a man who’d fight slavery’s expansion.

Front-Porch Campaigns of the era preferred that presidential candidates allow the Republican Party to give their message to citizens.

Seventeen months later on February 18, 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, was back in Cincinnati. City buildings were decorated in red, white, and blue bunting. Wearing black with a gray shawl over his shoulders, Lincoln smiled at the train station’s enthusiastic crowd. Cannons boomed in welcome on his procession to center of the city. Young girls sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hail Columbia.” Officials made patriotic speeches. He went to Cincinnati’s Burnet House while there but it’s not clear where these speeches were made.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Tucker, Louis Leonard. Cincinnati during the Civil War, Ohio State University Press, 1962.

Wimberg, Robert J. Cincinnati and the Civil War: Off to Battle, Ohio Book Store, 1992.

“With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition,” Library of Congress Exhibitions, 2019/04/01



When Love Returns by Beth Wiseman

An Amish Homecoming: Four Amish Stories

 Sarah and her five-year-old daughter, Miriam, lose everything they own in a hurricane. Now they have no choice but to return to Sarah’s parents’ Lancaster County home. She hasn’t seen them since leaving at seventeen.

Sarah’s father welcomes her with open arms. No hug from her mother—typical. They had trouble getting along in her teenaged years.

But there’s someone else she needs to see—Abram, her ex-fiancé.  She’d left him without a word, too.

This is a multi-layered story. Each character inspired varying levels of sympathy as a I read it. Each character is believable and so are the emotions they battle.

A great read. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart





Corn Crisps Recipe

I bought The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which was originally published in 1896.

A recipe for corn crisps caught my eye. I’d never eaten them. The recipe is quick and easy so I decided to try it with two different corn meals.

The first batch was made using a coarse grind corn meal.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with cooking spray. (The original recipe says to use butter on the baking pan. That probably enhances the buttery flavor of the crisp.)

Set aside a ½ cup of yellow cornmeal and ¼–½ teaspoon of salt.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter and ¾ cup of water to a small saucepan. Bring this to boil and then immediately stir in the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes.

The batch with the coarse grind corn meal lightly browned in 12 minutes. They tasted good but very salty.

I then made the recipe using some cornmeal milled in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These took longer to bake. I took them out at 16 minutes. The bottom was lightly browned but the top was still pale. These retained their shape. They still tasted salty, so I think reducing salt by half may be better.

Leave them in the oven longer for a crispy consistency.

All in all, an easy salty snack that can be cooked and served within a half hour.

I halved this recipe and it made 6 crisps each time.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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



Civil War Women: Sister Anthony, Angel of the Battlefield

Mary O’Connell’s family emigrated to Boston from Ireland in 1821 when she was about seven-years-old. After joining the Sisters of Charity, she became known as Sister Anthony.

In 1837, she began working at St. Peter’s Orphan Asylum and School for girls in Cincinnati. Later she was given charge of a new hospital, St. John’s Hotel for Invalids.

Camp Dennison, a Civil War training camp about fifteen miles from Cincinnati, required nurses for sick soldiers after the war began. Sister Anthony and five other nuns rode the train and then walked two to three miles to visit the regimental hospitals every day. To save this daily expense, the sisters stayed at a small wooden church near camp.

Requests for nurses prompted Sister Anthony and others to care for wounded on a hospital ship with Dr. George Curtis Blackman at the Battle of Shiloh. Dead and dying soldiers filled the decks. One overcrowded ship had seven hundred patients.

Because the sisters didn’t give preferential treatment, they were asked to care for wounded prisoners.

Sister Anthony helped bring wounded soldiers from the battlefield. She is credited with developing Battlefield Triage, earning President Lincoln’s praise.

After caring for wounded at Shiloh, she became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” Sister Anthony served at several battlefields, including Nashville, Cumberland Gap, Richmond, Lynchburg, and Culpeper Court House.

She didn’t distinguish between Union and Confederate soldiers. She knew generals on both sides and was acquainted with Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Joseph C. Butler and Louis Worthington gave a large Cincinnati building at Sixth and Lock Street to Sister Anthony in 1866. The hospital, meant to honor her and the other sisters’ war service, had two stipulations: exclude no one because of religion or color and they were to name it “The Hospital of the Good Samaritan.”

St. Joseph Foundling and Maternity Hospital opened later that year. It’s not clear why the name changed.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Battle Nurses,”, 2019/03/30

Graves, Dan, MSL. “Sister Anthony, Battlefield Heroine,”, 2019/03/30

“Mary O’Connell,” Wikipedia, 2019/03/30

Wimberg, Robert J. Cincinnati and the Civil War: Off to Battle, Ohio Book Store, 1992.



Ice Melts in Spring by Linda Yezak

A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing

 Kerry Graham has avoided the beach since her husband died in boating accident. If she didn’t need her job cataloging items for an author’s museum donations, she wouldn’t be here now.

Quinn Russell, her handsome yet nosy beach neighbor, seems nice but Kerry holds everyone at an arm’s length these days, including God. Especially God.

Compassionate, believable characters in this novella drew me right into the story.  The setting made me long for an extended beach vacation.

Well-written. Recommend.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories in the collection!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Popcorn Balls

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook was originally published in 1896. Fannie Farmer’s name is still well-known today.

A recipe for Popcorn Balls stated that it was “an authentic old-fashioned version.” Intrigued by a recipe considered “old-fashioned” in 1896, I decided to make it.

Preheat oven to 250. (All temperatures are Fahrenheit.)

Pop 3 quarts of unbuttered, unsalted popcorn. To do this frugally, add 1/3 cup of popcorn to a lunch-sized paper bag. Important—tape the bag shut. Microwave it on the popcorn setting until popping slows. This makes at least 10 cups of popcorn, which was plenty.

Coat a large, oven-safe bowl with shortening. Pour the popcorn in the bowl and keep warm in a 250 oven.

You’ll need 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter later. For now, butter a large spoon or fork and set it aside. You’ll need some wax paper for the hot popcorn balls as well.

In a 3-quart heavy pot, combine 2 cups light corn syrup, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir to mix together.

Cook over medium heat. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the syrup until it reaches the hard-ball stage of 250 degrees.

There was a strong vinegar smell when the syrup began to cook that dissipated after a few minutes.

The recipe says you can stir occasionally, but I had to make this twice because I forgot to add vanilla at the end the first time. The final caramel-type mixture worked better without stirring.

When the temperature reaches 200, watch carefully as it begins to shoot up quickly.

Remove from heat when it reaches 250. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla. I was surprised that the vanilla sizzled. Stir to mix it in.

Remove the warm popcorn from the oven. Moving quickly, use the buttered spoon to toss the popcorn as you pour it slowly from the kettle. The caramel is very thick and pours in a thin ribbon while you move the popcorn around to cover it.

Butter your fingers. Since the popcorn sets quickly, as soon as the popcorn mixture cools enough to handle, begin shaping it into 3-inch balls. Start from the outside parts that have cooled a bit. Keep buttering your fingers to enable you to work with the sticky popcorn.

My husband and I both thought these popcorn balls tasted like Cracker Jacks. Delicious! But, if you cook it until 250, the caramel is little hard. I’d remove it at about 240—or even a little less. Experiment for the caramel consistency you enjoy.

I had fun learning how to make this, but the makers of Cracker Jacks have perfected it long ago. I think I’d buy a box next time. I bought Cracker Jacks a few months ago for a baseball party so they are still around.


-Sandra Merville Hart


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