Announcing Byway to Danger eBook sale!

by Sandra Merville Hart

BookBub has selected Byway to Danger, Book 3 in the “Spies of the Civil War” series, for a Featured Deal!

This means that the eBook for Byway to Danger will be available on all retailers from September 19 – 22 at 99 cents—a great deal!

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?

Buy your copy today!

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and Books 2 Read.

An Afternoon in Ripley, Ohio

by Sandra Merville Hart

My husband and I recently joined a group of author friends for a fun day of learning about the Underground Railroad in Ripley, Ohio.

We started out with lunch at the Cohearts Riverhouse. This restaurant is on Front Street, which borders the Ohio River. Friendly staff, a cozy atmosphere, and good food made for a wonderful experience.

Next, we went about a half mile to John Rankin House. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, built his home high on a hill. He kept a lantern lit in his front home where it was visible across the Ohio River to the slave state of Kentucky.

Rankin, his wife, and his children helped hundreds of escaped slaves, escorting them on their way to that next station on the Underground Railroad. Although there were many times when sheriffs and slave catchers sneaked onto the Rankin homestead in the middle of the night, accompanied by gunfire, in pursuit of fugitives, no one was ever caught. None of the family members were killed and all of the fugitives made it safely to the next station.

We were all impressed by the success and sacrifices of the entire Rankin family as we traveled less than half a mile to the Parker House, a man equally as inspiring.

John P. Parker was born into slavery and was sold away from his mother. He ended up at a doctor’s home where the doctor’s sons taught him how to read. John ran away repeatedly but was always caught. Eventually he was sold to a woman who agreed to allow him to buy his freedom for $1,800. He accomplished this and bought his freedom in less than 2 years.

He eventually ended up in Ripley, Ohio. John’s hatred of slavery spurred him to take many trips into Kentucky at night to help fugitives to freedom—journeys filled with danger for, if caught, John would have been hung.

Docent Dewey Scott made the story come alive in his presentation.

We learned a lot that afternoon at both museums. The Rankin and Parker families are an inspiration.

I found this whole afternoon especially inspiring because 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

“John P. Parker House,” National Park Service, 2022/08/08

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/oh2.htm.

“John Rankin House,” Ohio History Connection, 2022/08/08 https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/browse-historical-sites/john-rankin-house/.

Henry “Box” Brown

by Sandra Merville Hart

Henry “Box” Brown earned his unusual nickname in a surprising way. Wishing to escape slavery in a Richmond tobacco factory, Brown mailed himself to Philadelphia.

Brown’s wife, Nancy, was also enslaved by Samuel Cottrell and lived with their children on an adjacent plantation. Brown developed skills at the factory that enabled him to earn money. Cottrell charged Brown $50 a year to not sell his family. Brown paid it but Cottrell sold his pregnant wife and three children anyway in 1848.

His grief spurred him to escape. Brown, a Christian, sang in the choir at the First African Baptist Church. He prayed for guidance about his escape and the answer came to get in a box and mail himself.

Brown turned to James Caesar Anthony Smith, a free black choir friend, for help. James knew a white sympathizer, Samuel Alexander Smith, who agreed to help for a price. Samuel arranged for Henry to be shipped via Adams Express Company to James Miller McKim of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society who also participated in the Underground Railroad.

On March 23, 1849, Henry traveled in a 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 ½ feet deep wooden box labeled “Dry Goods” and “This Side Up.” The box was lined with coarse wool cloth. With one air hole cut into the box, a few biscuits and water, Henry traveled by train on the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad to a steamboat on the Potomac River.

His box was turned upside down and Henry felt like he wasn’t going to survive the trip. Then two men who needed a seat turned his box the right way to sit on it, possibly saving Henry’s life.

When he finally arrived 26-27 hours later, four men opened his box. Henry recited a psalm about waiting patiently on the Lord. Then he sang the psalm, which touched the men who helped him.

Instead of keeping his escape methods to himself, as Frederick Douglass suggested, Henry began speaking to audiences about his experiences two months later. He also performed for them the psalm he had sung. The Narrative of Henry Box Brown written by Charles Stearns was published in 1849, and Brown and Stearns sold them at lectures.

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 Henry feared he’d be captured and taken back to Richmond. He fled to England with Smith.

Henry lived there for 25 years. During those years he performed for audiences as a mesmerist. When he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter, he also performed as a magician.

Henry “Box” Brown is remembered for the creative way he escaped to the North, inspired by the prayers of a man of faith.

Brown and others inspired me in my writing. 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#.

“Henry Box Brown,” Encyclopedia Virginia, 2022/06/20 https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/brown-henry-box-1815-or-1816-1897/.

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

Walls, Dr. Bryan. “Freedom Marker: Courage and Creativity,” PBS.org, 2022/06/22 https://www.pbs.org/black-culture/shows/list/underground-railroad/stories-freedom/henry-box-brown/.

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, arrive 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.

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!

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?

Amazon

Announcing Audio Story “Someone on the Inside”

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’m thrilled to announce a project that I’ve been working on with several others this spring. Mark Prasek of PJNET.tv is currently creating a collection of audio stories and I’m so happy my story “Someone on the Inside” is now in his library.

My eleven-minute story is based on my book Avenue of Betrayal, Book 1 in the “Spies of the Civil War” series. The first scene gives background to the story not found in the book. The second scene comes from the book yet is told from another character’s perspective, providing fresh insights.

Here’s a bit about story:

When Lieutenant Christopher Farmer enlists the help of a loyal Irish officer to spy on the wealthy Hiram Swanson at his weekly parties where secrets are passed to Confederate spies, he has no idea the dilemma the Irish man faces.

Mark Prasek is the narrator and the story’s producer. He told me he hasn’t had a day off in years and I believe him! Here’s the goal of PJNET.tv: Our mission is to provide a platform for everyday Christians to share their walk with Christ.

I selected Kevin E. Spencer, Eddie Jones, and Tim Jones (no relation) for my other voice parts.

Kevin Spencer is the author of North Carolina Expatriates, an enlightening and insightful daily look at North Carolina’s history, found here. He’s also a huge Civil War buff. We met at a writers conference where our love for Civil War history made us instant friends. He and his lovely wife, Charlotte, and grandson, Caleb, took my husband and me on a tour of Franklin, Tennessee, and the surroundings, as part of my research of the Battle of Franklin for my novel, A Musket in My Hands. I thought of Kevin immediately for the part of General Winfield Scott. He graciously consented. Thanks, Kevin, for adding your Southern voice to this story!

Eddie Jones was another natural choice for this reading. This publisher at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (currently Iron Stream Media) accepted my first Civil War book, A Stranger on My Land. He’s interested in this era of American history, but it hasn’t captured his imagination like the pirates he writes of in his teen novels. He also writes mysteries specifically geared for middle grade/teen boys. Check them out! Thanks for portraying Sergeant-Major John Finn, Eddie!

I’ve been friends with Tim Jones for years. He’s a gifted actor locally in Ohio. I’ve been privileged to participate in church dramas with him, and I’ve marveled that he can redo a scene several times in succession and still put the same emotion and facial expressions to bring the words to life. Thank you, Tim, for sharing your talent with us!

Click on this link to hear the story!

My Next Historical Romance Series Coming Soon!

by Sandra Merville Hart

Although Book 3, Byway to Danger, of my current “Spies of the Civil War” series doesn’t release until July 19, 2022, I wanted to share with you what’s coming next!

I’ve just learned from my publisher, Wild Heart Books, A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 of “Second Chances” series, will release on November 8, 2022!

Preorder your copy today at these retailers: Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Book 2 Read.

That will be my fourth book release for the year and I’ve been excited about every book!

Here’s a bit about the book:

A spinster teacher…a grieving widower…a marriage of convenience and a second chance with the man she’s always loved.

When Samuel Walker proposes a marriage of convenience to Rose Hatfield so soon after the death of his wife, she knows he doesn’t love her. She’s loved him since their school days. Those long-suppressed feelings spring to life as she marries him. She must sell her childhood home, quit her teaching job, and move to a new city.

Marrying Rose is harder than Samuel expected, especially with the shadow of his deceased wife everywhere in his life. And he has two young children to consider. Peter and Emma need a mother’s love, but they also need to hold close the memories of their real mother as they grieve her loss.

Life as Samuel’s wife is nothing like Rose hoped, and even the townspeople, who loved his first wife, make Rose feel like an outsider. The work of the farm draws the two of them closer, giving hope that they might one day become a happy family. Until the dream shatters, and the life Rose craves tumbles down around them. Only God can put these pieces back together, but the outcome may not look anything like she planned.

Chimborazo Hospital-Largest Civil War Hospital in the South

by Sandra Merville Hart

Wounded Civil War soldiers often went to temporary hospitals set up in tents, homes, churches, public buildings, and barns during and immediately after battles. Many ended up on trains headed to the capital cities—Washington DC in the North and Richmond, Virginia, in the South.

In Richmond, barracks originally intended to be comfortable winter quarters for up to 10,000 Southern soldiers were converted into Chimborazo Hospital in the fall of 1861. One-story wooden building covered a plateau at the eastern end of Broad Street and overlooked the scenic James River. A deep gulch called Bloody Run separated Chimborazo Hill from the affluent Church Hill neighborhood.

Samuel P. Moore, chief surgeon at Chimborazo Hospital, appointed James B. McCaw as physician. The hospital’s 150 one-story, white washed buildings became patient wards and were arranged in rows. A wide avenue separated each row to provide plenty of fresh air. Each building could care for 40 – 60 patients each. In addition to the one-story buildings, patients were also housed in 100 tents. At Chimborazo, wounded soldiers were housed with others from their state, such as Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Under McCaw’s management, the hospital was a well-organized one. It owned hundreds of goats and milk cows that grazed nearby. Canal boats brought fresh produce from the country. There was also a large garden on a nearby farm. The hospital had its own kitchens, bake houses, 5 ice houses, guard house, bathhouse, chapel, and a large stable. Blacksmith, carpenter, and apothecary shops were also located on the 40-acre plateau.  

During the Civil War, Richmond had 44 hospitals of various sizes. Winder Hospital, located at Richmond’s western border, was almost as large as Chimborazo.

Unfortunately, even all these weren’t always enough to care for the wounded that poured into the city after a battle. So many wounded came into the city in late June/early July of 1862 that Chimborazo erected tents for them. It wasn’t enough space, so the patients were laid around the tents.

Almost 78,000 Confederate soldiers were cared for at Chimborazo Hospital. Of these, between 6,500 – 8,000 died.

In Boulevard of Confusion, Book 2 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, two cousins volunteer at Chimborazo Hospital. The soldiers they care for are from Tennessee.

Sources

“Chimborazo Hospital,” Civil War Richmond, 2021/07/05 https://www.civilwarrichmond.com/hospitals/chimborazo-hospital.

“Chimborazo Hospital,” Encyclopedia Virginia, 2021/07/05 https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/chimborazo-hospital/.

“Chimborazo Hospital,” U.S. National Park Service, 2021/07/05 https://www.nps.gov/rich/learn/historyculture/chimborazo.htm.

Ferguson, Ernest B. Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

The Richmond Enquirer, 10/2/1861, p. 3, c. 3., 2021/07/05

https://www.civilwarrichmond.com/military-organizations/military-camps.

The Richmond Daily Whig, 11/01/1861, 2021/07/05 https://www.civilwarrichmond.com/military-organizations/military-camps.

Thomas, Emory M. The Confederate State of Richmond, Louisiana State University Press, 1998.

Author’s Inspiration for Boulevard of Confusion

by Sandra Merville Hart

In Boulevard of Confusion, Book 2 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, two people in love—one supporting the North, one supporting the South—struggle to rise above their differing loyalties.

In my book, the hero is a Virginian loyal to the South. Though Jay hates slavery, he cannot turn against his state. His job at Tredegar Ironworks supplies the Confederate army with artillery. They develop new weapons and technology, such as submarines, that must be kept secret even from Richmond residents.

Our heroine is from the North. Bea has Southern ties and her brother, a Confederate officer, was recently released from a prison camp. Bea’s understanding of both sides of the conflict tosses her into confusion, especially in light of her growing feelings for Jay.

Part of my research for this novel involved a trip to Richmond museums. One display in particular at the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar made me want to do a little dance. (If you followed me around on my museum visits, you’d witness my enthusiasm for historical people and events and how they impact my stories. Perhaps you share my love of history. 😊)

Anyway, this particular display was a painting of Julia Ann Mitchell, who lived in Richmond at the start of the Civil War. She was from a well-to-do family that traveled often. On one of these trips, she met and fell in love with Frederick Coggill, a New York City resident. Though they loved one another, the couple was divided in their loyalties. 

Sadly, Julia’s brother, who fought for the Confederacy, was killed in battle. This probably added to the conflict between Julia and Frederick.

I’m happy to say that the couple seemed to enjoy a happy ending, for they were married in 1863.

I didn’t yet know my characters when I read this display, for the stories ferment in my imagination as research reveals the history. I tucked it away in my mind and it later inspired me.

Boulevard of Confusion isn’t Julia’s and Frederick’s love story. Not at all. It’s simply that history’s record of them overcoming their differing loyalties to marry proves that it happened. That’s all I needed to know.

Avenue of Betrayal, Book 1,is set in the Union capital of Washington City (Washington DC) in 1861, where a surprising number of Confederate sympathizers and spies lived. Boulevard of Confusion is set in Richmond, the Confederate capital in 1862. Actual historical spies touch the lives of our fictional family.

Through both real and fictional characters, this series highlights activities spies were involved in and some of the motives behind their decisions.

I invite you to read both Avenue of Betrayal and Boulevard of Confusion. And please watch for Book 3, Byway to Danger, which will soon follow!

Back Cover Blurb for Boulevard of Confusion

In times of war, is anything as it seems?

Her aunt’s invitation to Richmond is just the change Beatrice Swanson needs after her brother’s release from a Union prison. Bea’s father agrees to the trip with a condition—one that tosses her emotions into swirling confusion.

Though Jay Nickson wants to serve his country as a Confederate soldier, his work is too important to the government. Bea’s interest in his job, which includes secrets that would benefit the Union, arouses his suspicions. Is she spying for the North? His growing feelings for her are hard to squelch.

Though she participates in activities to benefit Confederate soldiers, Bea struggles with her own loyalties and her father’s demands. Where does her cousin, Meg, go on her solitary errands? Bea’s own growing love for Jay, a Southerner, only adds to her confusion. Tensions escalate in Richmond as the Union army approaches, drawing her into more secrecy. Where does her allegiance lie? And how will she be forced to prove it?

Nothing in war is simple…especially when the heart becomes entangled.

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.