Virginia in the Civil War by Joseph D’Arezzo

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Images of America

As an author of historical novels, I have to admit that I look for research books in the “Images of America” series. They are always very well done.

The old photographs along with the explanatory summaries transport me back to the locations where so much history took place. The photographs enhance what I’ve already researched in other nonfiction books.

Virginia’s citizens suffered through many battles during the Civil War. Photos and sketches of the locations and troops bring these to life. There is a photo of perhaps one hundred wagons in a field that toted necessary supplies for the troops.  

Informative and well-organized. I highlighted many sections of helpful facts.

Some of the battles touch my story in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for those desiring to learn more about Civil War history.

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Onion Soup Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

One of the fun things I get to do as an author of historical novels is search through old recipe books for the time period that I’m writing. I include those dishes in my novels. “Spies of the Civil War” is my current series. Onion soup is one the dishes served in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series. The hero is a talented baker and our heroine works as his assistant. 😊

A recipe for onion soup in an 1877 cookbook, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, was provided by a cook with the initials of E. W. W.  

Ingredients

3 onions

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 small potato

1 cup milk

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Peel and slice the onions. (I used yellow onions.)

Heat a large saucepan of water over medium high heat. Bring it to a boil while you continue with the recipe.

Stir 1 cup milk and 1 cup water together in a saucepan and heat to boiling. (An alternative is to use 2 cups of milk for an even creamier soup. Delicious!)

Melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the flour, which will thicken the soup. Then add the onions to the skillet. Sauté the onions, stirring often, for at least ten minutes over medium heat, until the onions are softened.

While the onions cook, peel and grate one small potato. Set aside.

Pour the cooked onions into a large metal mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling milk. Set the mixing bowl over the pan of softly boiling water to mimic a double boiler (or use a double boiler if you have one.)

Add the grated potato, salt, and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. The soup will be creamy. Stir occasionally as it cooks.  

Remove the metal mixing bowl carefully from the heat because it will be hot. Stir in a ¼ cup of heavy cream.

Serve immediately.

I must admit I’m not a big fan of onion soup, but this creamy soup is delicious. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my lunch! This soup wasn’t hot—as in spicy hot—and there was a hint of sweetness.

If you’d like an even creamier version of the onion soup, don’t mix any water with the milk, as noted.

This is the best onion soup I’ve ever eaten. I will make it again.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

Sources

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

Shadrach Minkins, Fugitive

by Sandra Merville Hart

Shadrach Minkins was about twenty-eight years old when he escaped slavery in the home of John DeBree in Norfolk, Virginia, in May of 1850. It’s likely that a schooner took him. He arrived in Boston that same month. Shadrach went by the name of Frederick while there.

Not long after his arrival, Minkins spotted William H. Parks, a white man who had worked with him in Norfolk. Instead of turning him in, Parks gave him a job. Then Minkins was hired by upscale restaurant, Cornhill Coffee House and Tavern, where he waited tables.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, requiring slaves to be returned to their owners even when in a free state, passed on September 18th, and this eventually affects Minkins.

Many citizens were outraged by the law, including folks in Boston. In October, a community of African Americans established the League of Freedom to rescue fugitives. Another group, The Committee of Vigilance and Safety, was formed by mostly white citizens with the same goal.

John DeBree hired a slave catcher John Caphart to bring Minkins back to Norfolk. Caphart, a man known for his violent history, arrived in Boston on February 12, 1851. Minkins was arrested at the Cornhill Coffee House and Tavern three days later and taken to the courthouse.

Six lawyers offered to represent Minkins. One helped him write his name.

Between 100 – 150 people, many of them black, crowded the courtroom within thirty minutes. Hundreds more gathered outside. A charge of about twenty black men broke through the outer and inner doors and took Minton away.

His rescuers hid him in various locations, including the home of Reverend Joseph C. Lovejoy. Minton made it to Leominster and then traveled along the Underground Railroad. He arrived in La Praire, Quebec, Canada four days later.

Minton wrote a letter thanking his friends in Boston. He signed the letter as Frederick Minton.

His story has a happy ending. He met and married Mary, an Irish woman, and they had four children. Minton returned to his former name of Shadrach Minton. In Old Montreal, he owned barbershops, inns, and restaurants.

One of the characters in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, has a station on the Underground Railroad in Richmond.

Sources

“Fugitive Slave Act,” American Battlefield Trust, 2022/06/20 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/fugitive-slave-act#.

Newby-Alexander, PHD, Cassandra L. Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad, History Press, 2017.

“Rescued from the Fangs of the Slave Hunter: The Case of Shadrach Minkins,” National Park Service, 2022/06/20 https://www.nps.gov/articles/-rescued-from-the-fangs-of-the-slave-hunter-the-case-of-shadrach-minkins.htm.

“Shadrach Minkins (d. 1875),” Encyclopedia Virginia, 2022/06/20 https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/minkins-shadrach-d-1875/#timeline.

Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

This book by Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander, PhD gives some historical background of slavery in Virginia. Much of the book gives accounts of folks who escaped slavery and how they accomplished it.

The author shows that many of the freedom seekers escaped on small vessels and steamships on Virginia’s tidal rivers like the James, York, and the Potomac.

I found this book informative, well-organized, and well-researched. Lots of helpful facts were included, such as laws and the years they were passed. For example, free blacks were able to purchase the freedom of relatives after the passage of a 1782 law.

The discussion of the Underground Railroad was helpful as were the charts, photos, maps, and sketches.

The Underground Railroad is a topic in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for those desiring to learn more about the history of slavery.

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Announcing Release of Byway to Danger!

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’m thrilled to announce the release of Byway to Danger, Book 3 of my new “Spies of the Civil War” today, July 19, 2022!

Though the series is about a fictional family, there are actual historical spies who touch the stories.

Byway to Danger is set in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, in 1862. Because Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, the Union army was often threatening the city. One might suppose that all of Richmond’s citizens supported the Confederacy, yet there were a lot of Union supporters and Union spies in the capital.

Here’s a bit about the book:

Everyone in Richmond has secrets. Especially the spies.

Meg Brooks, widow, didn’t stop spying for the Union when her job at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency ended, especially now that she lives in the Confederate capital. Her job at the Yancey bakery provides many opportunities to discover vital information about the Confederacy to pass on to her Union contact. She prefers to work alone, yet the strong, silent baker earns her respect and tugs at her heart.

Cade Yancey knows the beautiful widow is a spy when he hires her only because his fellow Unionist spies know of her activities. Meg sure didn’t tell him. He’s glad she knows how to keep her mouth shut, for he has hidden his dangerous activities from even his closest friends. The more his feelings for the courageous woman grow, the greater his determination to protect her by guarding his secrets. Her own investigations place her in enough peril.

As danger escalates, Meg realizes her choice to work alone isn’t a wise one. Can she trust Cade with details from her past not even her family knows?

Order your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and Books 2 Read!

The Richmond Slave Trade by Jack Trammell

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion

This book deals with a dark part of American history. For that reason, it isn’t an easy read.

The author traces the history of slavery in America. By 1671, there were 6,000 white indentured servants and 2,000 black slaves in Virginia.

I learned a lot in reading this book. For example, a Virginia law passed in 1806 gave newly freed slaves one year to leave the state or risk being automatically placed back into bondage for life.

The author included charts, photos, maps, and sketches to enhance readers’ understanding of information given.

The Underground Railroad is a topic in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for those desiring to learn more about the history of slavery.

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Orange Cake Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

One of the fun things I get to do as an author of historical novels is search through old recipe books for the time period that I’m writing. I include those dishes in my novels. “Spies of the Civil War” is my current series. Orange cake is one of the desserts in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series. The hero is a talented baker and our heroine works as his assistant. 😊

A recipe for orange cake in an 1877 cookbook, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, was provided by Mrs. D. Buxton.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 2 round cake pans or 1 13×9 baking pan. (I used a 13×9 pan.)

Separate 2 eggs and set aside the whites for frosting.

Beat in 2 additional eggs to the egg yolks (4 yolks and 2 whole eggs) and stir in 1 cup water. Set aside the egg mixture for the cake.

Sift together 3 cups all purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Set aside.

Combine 2 cups sugar with ½ cup butter until thoroughly mixed. Add egg mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the sifted flour a little at a time.

Add the zest, juice, and pulp of one large orange. (I used about 1/3 of the pulp, which definitely enhances the orange flavor.) Stir together.

Pour the mixture into the prepared 13×9 pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until brown.

Since it’s the middle of a hot summer, I made whipped topping instead of icing. It was a delicious, light topping that the children gobbled up. So did the adults!

This was a delicious summer dessert. The orange flavor was very strong. It’s a refreshing cake, especially with the whipped cream topping. I believe that it was also be good as a lemon cake. (I’d use the zest, juice, and pulp of 2 lemons in place of 1 large orange.)

Sources

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

Ohio Canal Ride

by Bettie Boswell

Today’s post is by an author friend, Bettie Boswell. She shares some historical background for her new release. I’m looking forward to reading it. Welcome back, Bettie!

Canals played an important role in United States history, bringing goods to parts of the land where large ships could not pass. The completion of the Ohio Miami Canal took place right before trains began to compete with commercial trade. Before trains took over the majority of that business, people enjoyed pleasant trips on passenger canal boats or shared a smelly ride with livestock, freight, and mail on packet boats traveling the waterway, spanning from the Cincinnati area to Toledo, Ohio.

Though the popularity of doing business on the canal faded in the 1840s, the route provided a physical map for those seeking freedom from slavery. The towpath became a popular guidepost for those following the Underground Railroad. Once escapees made it to the Toledo area, there were people who provided transportation to Detroit, Michigan, where the span between Canada and the United States narrowed enough for a short journey to a safe country. Toledo Metroparks still maintains a short stretch of the canal at lock 44 in Grand Rapids, Ohio. I had the privilege to ride on the Volunteer canal boat recently and was entertained with storytelling re-enactors.

In my latest book, Free to Love, I included several scenes that involve riding a canal boat and using it as a trail for the Underground Railroad. Ohio was a free state but it was not always a safe state so the journey north continued to be hazardous even after people reached states that supported freedom. Slave catchers lived as far north as Maumee, Ohio and would sometimes send people into slavery even if they had papers saying they were not bound in slavery. Helping someone on their way to freedom might mean imprisonment for a good-hearted Ohioan of any race.

About Bettie

Bettie Boswell has always loved to read and write. That interest helped her create musicals for both church and school and eventually she decided to write and illustrate stories to share with the world. Her writing interests extend from children’s to adult and from fiction to nonfiction. Free to Love is a prequel to her first novel, On Cue.

Pitch-As Ginny writes her musical, inspiration comes from journals about Missy and her maid, bound together by slavery and blood, journeying toward freedom and love. Early and her mistress have always been together. When Missy’s family forces Early into an arranged marriage with George, also held in slavery, their relationship will be forever changed. Will Early and George find a love that can survive the trials of a forced marriage and perilous journey?

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Fort Monroe by Quarstein and Mroczkowski

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Fort Monroe: The Key to the South

The Civil War History Series

This book gives a wonderful history of Fort Monroe during the Civil War and beyond. This important fort was under Union control throughout the war.

I love the photos that really enhance readers’ understanding of information given.

The authors provide details about Camp Hamilton. It was basically a tent city with temporary structures near Fort Monroe.

Runaway slaves escaped to Fort Monroe in May of 1861. General Butler sheltered them as “contraband of war,” an important decision that ultimately affected thousands.

I visited Fort Monroe on a research trip. What a wonderful place, steeped in history. That visit inspired me to use Fort Monroe as a setting in Byway to Danger, Book 2 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for history lovers and for those who desire to learn more about the Civil War.

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