Civil War Women: Rebecca Littlepage Thwarts a General

by Sandra Merville Hart

Confederate General Henry Wise replaced Colonel Christopher Tompkins as commander of the Kanawha forces. Marching from Richmond, he arrived in Kanawha County on June 26, 1861. Wise soon stayed in Kanawha House Hotel’s best room.

Fort Sumter had been fired upon two and half months earlier.

The small Virginia town of Charleston was of strategic importance to Wise. He decided to claim a stone mansion surrounded by a thousand acres of farmland as his headquarters.

He should have run the idea by the lady of the house, Mrs. Rebecca Littlepage.

Confederate troops camped near a farm owned by the Littlepage family. Soldiers used the farm’s grain, sugar, bacon, molasses, and horses.

Wise strode to the home and told Mrs. Littlepage he intended to take her mansion as his headquarters. The spunky woman refused to release her home. The general threatened to blow the house down.

He returned with artillery. A crowd followed. Rebecca stood on the front step with her children around her. Wise told her to leave. She refused.

The general ordered his soldiers-some of them family friends—to fire upon the house. The men refused his command. Wise left that day.

Instead of taking over the home, his soldiers camped on the family’s property. Fort Fife, a one-hundred-square foot fort, was built on a hill overlooking the stone mansion. The location gave wonderful views of the Kanawha Turnpike, its junction with the road to Parkersburg, and the James River.

Adam Littlepage, Rebecca’s husband, became the quartermaster officer of the 21st Virginia. He died in a duel and never returned to the stone mansion home that his wife fought so bravely to preserve.

Sources

Egnatoff, Daniel et. al. “Littlepage Mansion-Charleston Civil War Trail.” Clio: Your Guide to History. September 19, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2021. https://theclio.com/entry/4901.

Mortimer, Gavin. Double Death: The True Story of Pryce Lewis, the Civil War’s Most Daring Spy, Walker & Company, 2010.

 

The Spy of the Rebellion by Allan Pinkerton

by Sandra Merville Hart

Being A True History of the Spy System of the United States Army During the Late Rebellion

Allan Pinkerton had established the Pinkerton National Detective Agency before the Civil War. General George McClellan hired Pinkerton, who used his detectives to spy on the Confederates.

This book reads like a fiction novel. The book was published in 1883, and Pinkerton’s formal ties to the United States Secret Service ended in 1862. Pinkerton also admits that most of his records were burned in the Great Chicago Fire and he wrote the book from memory. The passage of 21 years since the events as well as the loss of precious written records led to some inconsistencies.

I read this to research Pinkerton’s agency for a novel I’m writing. Subsequent research from nonfiction sources have referenced Pinkerton’s The Spy of the Rebellion as part fiction. I’ve learned from other sources which provide specific names and dates not to trust all the details in this book.

Either way, I must say that this is a fascinating story that I couldn’t put down. The author tells an enthralling story. It’s true to the language, customs, and beliefs of the period and is well worth the read.

On Cue by Bettie Boswell

Elementary school teacher Ginny Cline has written a musical set in her city and hopes to raise money for the local historical museum.

Professor Scott Hallmark’s experience in the theater makes him the perfect person to help Ginny with this massive undertaking, but she can’t trust him. James, her college sweetheart, had broken her heart by betraying her and she’d learned she can’t trust men. She won’t give Scott a chance to repeat the past.

In this light-hearted novel, the two of them overcome their differences for the good of the play … and the romance that’s growing.

The characters were likeable. The action sometimes dragged a bit, but I still enjoyed this inspirational story.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Amazon

Mom’s Yellow Cake

by Sandra Merville Hart

My mom has been gone for several years. I always miss her but I find myself thinking of my parents more often during the holidays.

After I got married, I loved being invited to dinner at their house—especially when there was no specific reason. “Come to supper on Thursday,” she’d call me to say. “No need to bring anything since you’ll be working all day. I’ll make a cake.”

What a precious invitation! No need to worry about supper. My mom was cooking. And she’d make dessert. She often made yellow cake because the ingredients were readily available. I got nostalgic for that cake and recently made it.

Here’s her recipe:

(Makes 2 9-inch layers)

2 ½ cups sifted cake flour

1 tsp. salt

3 ½ tsp. double-acting baking powder

1 2/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup shortening (I use butter)

¾ cup milk

Blend all these ingredients thoroughly by hand or mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add:

½ cup milk

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Blend by hand or mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spray cake pans with cooking spray and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes or until lightly browned. If using self-rising flour omit baking powder and salt. Cool and frost.

Just reading the recipe took me back in time to my mom’s kitchen where she blended everything together in her stand mixer. We’d get a spoon of leftover batter from the bowl. Yum!

Hint: I didn’t have cake flour but this is easily remedied. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of all-purpose flour and replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

This makes a nice, creamy batter. Remember to sift the flour—it removes any clumps and lightens the batter.

We usually ate unfrosted cakes because we didn’t have confectioners powdered sugar to make the icing. When my mom did make icing, it was either vanilla or chocolate. I no longer have her icing recipe. I made chocolate buttercream frosting.

Delicious! It’s a basic yellow cake yet the flavor took me back to my childhood when desserts were a rare treat. It was my mom’s “go-to” cake when guests arrived unexpectedly.

I hope you enjoy the cake!

Sources

“Chocolate Buttercream Frosting,” Live Well Bake Often, 2020/12/13

https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/chocolate-buttercream-frosting/.

Euphemia Goldsborough, Confederate Nurse at Gettysburg

Ambulance outside Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

by Sandra Merville Hart

Euphemia Goldsborough learned of the terrible battle at Gettysburg that took place July 1-3, 1863, and wanted to help nurse the wounded.

She lived in Baltimore, Maryland, and it wasn’t an easy place for a Southern sympathizer to live in 1863. Citizens leaving the city were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Union before a pass would be issued.

General Robert E. Schenck, who commanded the Middle Department and VIII Corps in Baltimore, declared martial law in Baltimore on June 29, 1863. The next day he made it mandatory for anyone leaving the city to have a pass signed by the provost marshal.

Union and Confederate wounded were brought to Baltimore after the battle. Anyone visiting the hospitals had to be completely loyal to the Union. Another order, passed on July 10th, stated that no Confederate soldiers could be entertained in homes or any place other than his assigned hospital.

Under those circumstances, Euphemia’s devotion to the South didn’t allow her to nurse wounded soldiers in Baltimore. She decided to go to Gettysburg.

It’s unclear how she and dozens of other women accomplished leaving Baltimore because the railroads had suspended travel. She also needed a pass—after taking an oath of allegiance—to leave by boat on the Patuxent, Potomac, or West River. Perhaps she disguised herself or hid with the supply wagons headed to the battlefield.

Valley where Pickett led a charge, Gettysburg Battlefield

Regardless of how she got there, she was a nurse at the temporary hospital at Pennsylvania College Hospital by July 18th. Wounded soldiers, some missing limbs, lay on bare floors without pillows.

Colonel Waller T. Patton, 7th Virginia, was one of the wounded there. An artillery shell ripped part of his jaw away during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd. To aid his breathing, the unconscious man had to be propped up to have any chance to live. Unfortunately, there was no way to prop him.

Euphemia volunteered. She sat on the floor with her legs stretched out in front of her. Surgeons placed his back against hers. Fearing her slightest movement might cause the officer to suffocate, she fought the numbness that soon set in. All through the long night, she sat motionless in the candlelight.

Despite heroic efforts to save him, Colonel Waller T. Patton died on July 21st. His obituary in Richmond’s Daily Enquirer mentioned that he’d been tenderly nursed by a Baltimore woman. Perhaps the article was speaking of Euphemia. When she met the officer’s family in Richmond a few months later, they offered her the hospitality of their home while she was in their city. She thanked them but refused the gracious offer.

Civil War nurses made many sacrifices for their heroic patients. Gettysburg wounded were soon moved to Camp Letterman, a large tent hospital outside town where Euphemia had one hundred patients—fifty Union and fifty Confederate soldiers. She kept hospital books that were autographed by some of her patients. She also had letters and poems from them.

WWII General George S. Patton is a name many recognize. Colonel Waller T. Patton was his great-uncle.

Sources

Conklin, E.F. Exile to Sweet Dixie: The Story of Euphemia Goldsborough Confederate Nurse and Smuggler, Thomas Publications, 1998.

“Waller T. Patton,” Wikipedia, 2021/01/28 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waller_T._Patton.

Wilson, Laurel. “A Gun with a Story: Waller Patton’s Civil War Pistol,” Gettysburg Compiler, 2021/01/28 https://gettysburgcompiler.org/2017/05/10/a-gun-with-a-story-waller-pattons-civil-war-pistol/.

 

Widow’s Weeds and Weeping Veils, Revised, by Bernadette Loeffel-Atkins

An interesting book!

The author has included fascinating traditions about mourning the death of loved ones during the nineteenth century.

For instance, locks of hair from the deceased family member were often woven into pictures and paintings or used in needlework samplers. Birds, angels, flowers, and weeping willows were some of the symbolic images portrayed.

The book also shows that the traditional period of time to wear mourning clothes or “widow’s weeds” depended on one’s relationship to the deceased.

I also was fascinated to learn that images depicted on gravestones hold symbolic meaning. An image of dog meant courage, vigilance, and loyalty. Calla lilies were symbolic of marriage.

Definitely recommend for lovers of history and authors of historical novels!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Amazon

Marriage Conversations by Cathy Krafve

From Co-existing to Cherished

What a wonderful book about communicating in marriage relationships!

Krafve compassionately tackles tough topics in her book such as divorce, abortion, pornography, self-worth, and the definition of marriage. She writes specifically to women yet men will also benefit from reading the book.

Krafve ends each chapter with thought-provoking sections geared to shift readers’ focus to their own situation: Understanding your needs, Identifying your worth, and Envisioning your future. I was touched by the prayers she has written for her readers at the end of every chapter.

I love the honesty in which the author shares examples from her own family to illustrate her points. Gems of wisdom are sprinkled throughout the book. Insightful advice on how to make small changes to improve communication makes it a great learning book.

I highly recommend this book to married and engaged couples seeking to improve their communication skills.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Amazon

Cherry Cake

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and learning a lot about dishes that are new to me. Even more helpful is The Great British Baking Show Masterclass, where talented bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry demonstrate their own recipes.

Mary Berry demonstrated a recipe for cherry cake. I watched it a couple of times. It looked so delicious that I had to make it.

I didn’t find red glace cherries as suggested by Mary’s recipe so I bought maraschino cherries instead. I found a   recipe to make these candied for use in the cake. This took about an hour.

Once the candied fruit was cool, I sliced about a cup of them into quarters. This took a few minutes. I rinsed the quartered fruit, dried them with a paper towel, and then set them aside.

I had extra cherry juice left over from the maraschino cherries so I added ¼ cup of it to the batter. Otherwise, I followed the  recipe.

Unfortunately, my cake stuck to the Bundt pan even though I had buttered it well. Not well enough, apparently. Also, I think the cake needed to cool a few minutes longer so I’ll give it an extra half hour next time before turning it out.

The lemon icing was delicious with the cherry cake. Everyone who tried it enjoyed the flavor of the candied fruit that didn’t overpower the cake.

A very nice cake! I will bake it again.

I’m so glad I tried it. Let me know what you think if you make it.

Sources

“Cherry Cake,” PBS.org, 2020/11/243 https://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/cherry-cake/.

DIY Candied Cherries, King Arthur Baking Company, 2020/11/24

https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/diy-candied-cherries-recipe.

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

by Sandra Merville Hart

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week is February 1-7 in 2021. It’s an annual event held in the first week of February.

Authors and illustrators of children’s books from Children’s Authors Network (CAN!) tell stories and teach writing workshops at schools, libraries, and children’s shelters.

They hope to instill a love of books in the young readers.

As a novelist myself, I love this idea! I remember the first time I entered a library with my third-grade class. It thrilled me to see all those bookshelves lined with books in my elementary school’s library. Then I learned that students could check out two books to read and return them in two weeks—what a privilege! I didn’t know where to start. Thankfully, the librarian had suggestions.

If you have a young reader in your life and don’t know where to turn for wholesome, fun stories for them, here are a few suggestions:

Junie B. Jones Series by Barbara Park

Berenstain Bears Series by Jan Berenstain and Mike Berenstain

Otis the Tractor Series by Loren Long

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. Long

Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis

Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Trixie Beldon Series by Julie Campbell

Taxi Dog by Debra Barracca

My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

My Friend Bear by Jez Alborough

 Over the River by Derek Anderson

 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Donna Diamond

The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain and Andrew Glass

 Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy

 

Authors of children’s books:

Tasha Tudor

Max Lucado

Jill Roman Lord

Beverly Lewis

Dandi Daley Mackall

Michelle Medlock Adams

Kathie Lee Gifford

Burton Cole

Eddie Jones (geared to middle-grade boys)

Clyde Robert Bulla

Graeme Base

Roald Dahl

Parents, it’s a good idea to keep a watchful eye on what your children are reading. There may be inappropriate language or topics in books, even those found in the children’s section of the library.

I hope you find some gems for your child!

Sources

“Celebrate Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week,” Read Write Think, 2020/12/14, http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/celebrate-children-authors-illustrators-20675.htmlC.

 

“Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week,” childrensauthorsnetwork!, 2020/12/14, https://www.childrensauthorsnetwork.com/childrens-authors-and-illustrators-week.html.

 

A Rifle by the Door by Dan L. Fuller

What a great book!

Twelve-year-old Dave Foster is proud of the way his pa stands up to the men threatening him when he refuses to sell their ranch. Then his pa is shot in the back, leaving him and his older sister, Jenny, to face the future alone. They know nothing about surviving Colorado’s brutal winters. Jenny worries they’ll starve.

Help arrives when John Beck, an old friend of their father’s, comes to the ranch. Jenny isn’t certain they can trust the tough man who knows how to fight and handle a gun, but Dave figures they need him.

I love the characters in this book. John is complex, courageous, and keeps to himself. He’s as believable as the brave boy who finds himself in an impossible situation. Jenny is a Christian, and is as spunky as she is beautiful.

Told from the boy’s perspective, this story is filled with one adventure after another … as well as tragedy.

If you love Westerns, you will enjoy this story.

Definitely recommend! I will look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas