Gettysburg Attorney David Wills Prepares for National Cemetery

Over 7,000 soldiers died in Gettysburg at the Civil War battle that lasted from July 1st to July 3rd in 1863. While the Confederates under General Robert E. Lee retreated in the pouring rain on July 4th, some Southerners stayed to bury a small portion of their dead. The rest of the fallen were left for Union soldiers and Gettysburg citizens, who had their hands full caring for the wounded, to bury.

There was little time. Over 5,000 shallow graves were dug along fences, in the Wheatfield, beside the Peach Orchard, on Culp’s Hill, in the fields of Cemetery Ridge and other battle locations.

Gettysburg attorney David Wills wanted to purchase land for a national cemetery as a burial place for those killed in the battle. He requested approval from Pennsylvania Governor Curtin, who granted it. Curtin also requested that Wills write the other 17 Union state governors. Fifteen approved the plan.

Wills bought 17 acres next to the town’s cemetery. A monument was to be erected in the center of a semi-circle of graves. There are 22 sections: 3 sections for unidentified soldiers; 1 for regular army soldiers; and the remaining 18 sections were for the 18 individual Union states’ soldiers.

About 25% of the soldiers were from New York, so that state has the largest section.

They began transferring bodies to the new cemetery on October 27, 1863. Only 50 – 60 were reburied on a daily basis.

Wills wanted to dedicate the new national cemetery in a ceremony. Edward Everett, a well-known orator of the day, was invited as the main speaker. President Lincoln and his Cabinet received invitations. Some notable Union generals were also invited.

President Lincoln accepted. Wills then invited him to make “a few appropriate remarks” at the November 19th dedication ceremony.

History has overshadowed the gifted Everett’s two-hour speech for Lincoln’s two-minute Gettysburg Address.

No one predicted just how much Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks” would inspire a nation—even today—and deliver a message the people attending desperately needed to hear.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.


Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.


Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.



Shine Like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky

Maggie Lounsbury works hard in her grandmother’s millinery shop but each day brings its own struggles. Life has been difficult since the drowning deaths of her parents and older sister four years ago. The only family she has left is her little sister and her grandmother. She can’t help resenting that her former friend, Nate Harcourt, did nothing to help her after the tragedy. He couldn’t even be bothered to attend the funeral, so when he returns to her small English town she’s unable to trust him.

A rift with his family and service in the Royal Navy has kept Nate from his home town for four years. He comes home to make amends with his dying father. But there is trouble brewing in their company and workers threaten to strike. After his father dies, a troubled relationship with his stepmother continues. Just what is she up to?

Maggie wonders the same thing. And she also wonders if her family’s drowning deaths were an accident. How can she discover the truth when old feelings for Nate resurface?

The Prologue that begins with such a tranquil scene quickly becomes a nightmare, snaring my interest right away.

Twists and turns keep the story interesting. I love being surprised by novel events that I don’t see coming. The characters sometimes made frustrating choices but, as time went on, I began to see why.

Many layers are intricately interwoven into this story. And I loved the historical setting in a small English village in 1903.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Using Food to Enhance Story Settings

Today’s post has been written by JPC Allen, friend and fellow author in “Christian Fiction Off the Beaten Path”—welcome to Historical Nibbles, JPC!

Food, like music, is a universal language. People connect with one another over mutual likes, dislikes, cooking techniques, and fond experiences with food. Writers can connect with readers using food to explore characters, enhance settings, and establish plot points.

Explore character

In my YA Christmas mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes”, my main character is Rae Riley, a nineteen-year-old, who is living on her own in a tiny apartment on the salary she makes as clerk at a library. She often mentions food, especially snagging free food at a church lunch or Christmas party.

All these remarks about food tell readers, without actually stating it, that Rae doesn’t have much money. It’s a concern for any young adult, and I hope it makes a connection with readers.

Enhance setting

Two scenes in “A Rose from the Ashes” are centered around food. One is a church lunch. Rae is invited by a grandmother to eat with her family. The aromas of chili and soup make Rae hungry. She stays to clean up after the lunch to see if she can get any leftovers to take home. These activities with food show how Rae is welcomed at the church. The grandmother has given Rae homemade food in the past, demonstrating that she cares for Rae.

Establish plot points

If I need to slow the narrative, a great way to do it is to sit my characters down to a meal. It’s also a very effective way to impart information to the reader as my characters talk while they eat. But I have to be careful and not take this opportunity to dump too much information.

What memorable meals have you read about in books?

-JPC Allen

JPC Allen is holding a book giveaway on her site! Click here for details.



JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since. A former children’s librarian, she is a member of ACFW and has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Online, she offers writing tips and prompts to beginning writers. She also leads writing workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. A lifelong Buckeye, she has deep roots in the Mountain State. Join the adventure on her blog.


Book Blurb

Christmas fiction off the beaten path

 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? By Patricia Meredith

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. By JPC Allen

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. By Laurie Lucking

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

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 continued to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED. By Ronnell Kay Gibson

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. By Michelle L. Levigne

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 24Symbols, Kobo



World War II Memorial

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the National Mall late one rainy evening. I think that my favorite memorial was the World War II Memorial, which I’d somehow missed on an earlier trip. The beauty of the fountains and the soothing sounds of the water splashing into the pool drew me in immediately.

The memorial designed by Friedrich St. Florian opened on April 29, 2004. The official dedication, May 27 – 30, 2004, was a celebration filled with reunions for World War II veterans.



Citizens and veterans alike enjoyed big band music from that era. Family activities, a display of military equipment, and a Wartime Stories Tent were among the activities enjoyed by about 315,000 over the four-day celebration. President George W. Bush spoke at the formal dedication.

The spacious memorial is adjacent to the Reflecting Pool. The Lincoln Memorial can be clearly seen from the fountains inside the memorial.

World War II Memorial honors the sixteen million who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

Also honored are millions of citizens on the home front, who sacrificed throughout the war to support our troops. They bought War Bonds. They endured rationing of many common staples like sugar, butter, coal, gasoline, and shoes. Quotes etched on the walls honor their sacrifice.

Four thousand golden stars on a curved Freedom Wall serve as a memorial to the 405,399 Americans who died in the war. Each star represents 100 deaths by our American military. In front of the wall is a granite engraving: “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

-Sandra Merville Hart



Murray, Lorraine. “National World War II Memorial, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019/10/22

“National WWII Memorial,” National WWII Memorial Washington D.C., 2019/10/22

“World War II Memorial,” National Park Service, 2019/10/22

Get Your Spirit On! by Michelle Medlock Adams

Devotions for Cheerleaders

This devotional book is an inspirational read. Each day begins with a scripture reference. Then the author gives a devotional thought geared to middle-school and high-school girls. The stories are written in such a way that many girls of that age will be able to relate to them, even if they don’t cheer.

After an inspiring story about the author’s own squad or from her past, she gives another scripture in STRENGTH TRAINING.

Find spiritual tips in FIRE UP!

MEGAPHONE TO MASTER are prayers inspired by the day’s topic.

GIVE A SHOUT are encouraging remarks.

READY. OK. and JUMP INTO ACTION gives ideas for the girls to put what they’ve learned into action.

FAST FACTS and FIT TIPS are included in every devotion, along with a cheer.

I loved this book! Such a positive reinforcement of good life lessons on everyday trials. If your daughter or granddaughter is in middle school or high school, I recommend picking this up!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas– Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!

Fannie Farmer’s Tips for Cake Flour

I purchased The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in an antique store. This book was originally published in 1896. Fannie Farmer’s name is still well-known today.

In the chapter for Cakes, the author gives some tips about the ingredients.

It turns out there are a few decisions to make about the flour used in recipes.

Firstly, all flour should be stored in airtight containers.

Secondly, some recipes call for cake flour, which has less gluten and more starch than all-purpose flour. Cake flour makes lighter cakes and can be used in any cake recipe.

Cakes made with all-purpose flour are also good, though sometimes using cake flour makes a significant difference.

Tip: If you don’t have cake flour on hand: for every cup of all-purpose flour, use 2 tablespoons less of flour in the recipe. Alternately, if you have cake flour and want to substitute it for all-purpose flour, use 2 tablespoons more of cake flour for every cup.

Thirdly, don’t use quick-mixing all-purpose flour as a substitute for cake flour. Also, don’t substitute with self-rising flour because it has both leavening and salt.

Fourthly, sifting lightens flour and mixes the dry ingredients. In older recipes, all flour was supposed to be sifted. However, flour is sifted many times during the packaging process today (1896) and the cookbook authors found that this extra step of sifting flour made no difference, except in refined cakes like angel food or sponge cakes because lighter flour makes it easier to fold in beaten egg whites.

When not sifting the flour, scoop it into the measuring cup and the level it off with a knife.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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




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