Last Day for Byway to Danger eBook Sale!

by Sandra Merville Hart

This is the final day for BookBub’s Featured Deal sale for Byway to Danger, Book 3 in the “Spies of the Civil War” series!

This means that Byway to Danger eBook version will only be available for 99 cents one more day!

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!

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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.

Amazon

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!

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!

Civil War Songs Stirred Patriotic Feelings

by Sandra Merville Hart

The American Civil War (1861—1865) inspired many songs. In fact, “The First Gun is Fired! May God Protect the Right!” was published three days after the firing on Fort Sumter, the official beginning of the war. George F. Root composed that song and over thirty others about the war.

Not all the songs popular during the war were written in that turbulent period. Also, different words were often written for the same tune. For example, the tune for “Maryland, My Maryland!” was the same as the Christmas song “O Tannenbaum.”

War songs often dealt with topics on the minds of soldiers, such as home, sweethearts, family, battles, battlefield deaths, faith, survival, and heroes. “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh,” “Just Before the Battle, Mother,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” and “Comrades, I Am Dying!” are examples of these.

Songs that particularly struck a chord with citizens dealt with patriotic themes, missing a family member, and grief for those who weren’t coming home, of which “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The Vacant Chair (or We Shall Meet but We Shall Miss Him)” are poignant examples.

“God Save the South,” “Dixie,” “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight,” and “Maryland, My Maryland!” were sung in the South.

“Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “The Grant Pill,” and “The Children of the Battle Field” were among those sung in the North.

Union and Confederate armies heard each other’s bands playing on the eve of the Battle of Stones River. A musical rivalry ensued where Union and Confederate bands took turns playing songs that supported their own side. When bands played “Home! Sweet Home!”, both sides sang together. One can only imagine how mutual yearning for their families swelled their voices into the night sky.  

This song bound both sides together for an unforgettable moment.

Some of these tunes are examples of what the characters in my novel, Avenue of Betrayal, Book 1 of my “Spies of the Civil War” series, enjoyed at regimental band concerts in the story. My hope is that these scenes transport readers back when such concerts were an oasis during those turbulent war days, as well as show that not everyone in the city was loyal to the Union.  

Sources

(Introduction by) Crawford, Richard. The Civil War Songbook, Dover Publications, Inc., 1977.

“Music of the American Civil War,” Wikipedia, 2022/02/01 ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_the_American_Civil_War.

Announcing an Upcoming Civil War Book Release!

I’m thrilled to announce that Avenue of Betrayal, Book 1 of my new “Spies of the Civil War” series will release February 8, 2022! Not only that, it’s already on preorder!

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

Avenue of Betrayal is set in Washington City (Washington DC) in 1861, where a surprising number of Confederate sympathizers and spies live.

Here’s a bit about the book:

Betrayed by her brother and the man she loves …

whom can she trust when tragedy strikes?

Soldiers are pouring into Washington City every day and have begun drilling in preparation for a battle with the Confederacy. Annie Swanson worries for her brother, whom she’s just discovered is a Confederate officer in his new home state of North Carolina. Even as Annie battles feelings of betrayal toward the big brother she’s always adored, her wealthy banker father swears her and her sister to secrecy about her brother’s actions. How could he forsake their mother’s abolitionist teachings?

Sergeant-Major John Finn camps within a mile of the Swansons’ mansion where his West Point pal once lived. Sweet Annie captured his heart at Will’s wedding last year and he looks forward to reestablishing their relationship—until he’s asked to spy on her father.

To prove her father’s loyalty to the Union, John agrees to spy on the Swanson family, though Annie must never know. Then the war strikes a blow that threatens to destroy them all—including the love that’s grown between them against all odds.

Preorder your copy today on Amazon and other retailers.

Civil War Hospital Trains

by Sandra Merville Hart

Civil War soldiers wounded on the battlefield were first treated at tent hospitals or in local buildings. With a combined total dead and wounded at Gettysburg for both armies at over 40,000, wounded soldiers filled the courthouse, churches, homes, barns, and every available public building.

The overworked, exhausted surgeons at Gettysburg couldn’t keep up with the demand. As soon as a patient was able to survive a trip, he traveled by hospital train to a city hospital.

A typical Civil War era hospital train contained between 5 to 10 hospital cars and a passenger car for wounded soldiers able to sit. Additionally, there was a surgeon’s car for the medical staff, a kitchen car for the nourishing food provided to wounded, and a box car for supplies.

The outside car panels had “U.S. Hospital Train” painted in large letters. A yellow flag flew on the slow-moving engine. Three red lanterns hung under the engine headlight at night. Ten-car trains carried up to 200 patients.

Injured soldiers were carried on stretchers to a hospital car. Four India rubber rings hooked onto wooden posts to support the stretcher. There were 3 tiers of stretchers stacked in a 50-foot hospital car. A nice period sketch of these cars may be found at http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/february/hospital-train.htm.

Early in the war, a surgeon noticed the agony that sick and wounded soldiers suffered from the locomotive jostling over tracks. He suggested the above design for hospital cars, greatly increasing patients’ comfort while traveling to the general hospitals in the cities.

A Rebel in My House Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

A promise to her sister becomes impossible to keep …

Amazon

Book Trailer

Sources

Compiled by the editors of Combined Books. The Civil War Book of Lists, Da Capo Press, 1994.

“Hospital Trains,” Son of the South, 2021/03/23 http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/february/hospital-train.htm.

Wilbur, M.D., C. Keith. Civil War Medicine 1861 – 1865, C. Keith Wilbur, 1998.

 

First Telegraphed Message from a Hot Air Balloon Happened During the Civil War

by Sandra Merville Hart

Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe’s test flight on April 19, 1861, from Cincinnati didn’t go as planned. Instead of landing in the Chesapeake Bay area, winds took his balloon south to South Carolina. He was arrested as a possible spy. He was released after being recognized by a local citizen. What started out as a catastrophe ended with Lowe and his balloon on a northbound train to Cincinnati.

Lowe was now determined that he and his balloons would serve the Union army. He took his balloon Enterprise to Washington D.C.

The Columbia Armory occupied the area where the National Air and Space Museum now stand. It was on this spot, in sight of the White House where President Abraham Lincoln lived, that Lowe launched the Enterprise with American Telegraph Company representatives on June 17, 1861.

They ascended to a height of 500 feet. Lowe telegraphed a message to President Lincoln from the air that he could see 50 miles from his position.

President Lincoln met with Lowe that evening in the White House. Though Lowe wasn’t the only aeronaut hoping to serve the army, he had convinced Lincoln that reconnaissance from the balloon would help his generals. Lowe became the chief aeronaut in the U.S. Army Balloon Corps.

Several Federal officers ascended in these balloons, including John Reynolds, Joe Hooker, George McClellan, Fitz John Porter, Baldy Smith, John Sedgwick, and George Custer.

Sources

“Civil War Ballooning,” American Battlefield Trust, 2021/02/05 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-ballooning.

“Civil War Ballooning,” Smithsonian National Space & Air Museum, 2021/02/05 https://airandspace.si.edu/learn/highlighted-topics-/flight/civil-war-ballooning.

Clifford, Command Sergeant Major James, USA-Ret. “Balloon Operations in the Peninsula Campaign,” The Army Historical Foundation, 2021/02/05 https://armyhistory.org/balloon-operations-in-the-peninsula-campaign/.

Fanton, Ben. “Gas Balloons: View from Above the Civil War Battlefield,” History.net, 2021/02/05 https://www.historynet.com/gas-balloons-view-from-above-the-civil-war-battlefield.htm.

Gould, Kevin. “Balloon Corps,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021/02/05 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Balloon-Corps.

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

“Thaddeus S.C. Lowe,” Wikipedia, 2021/02/05  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaddeus_S._C._Lowe.

Civil War Silk Dress Balloon

by Sandra Merville Hart

The U.S. Balloon Corps began in the summer of 1861. Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe and members of his corps made numerous balloon flights to discover Confederate troop movements from the air.

Confederate General James Longstreet wrote that their army longed for a balloon to use in observations but didn’t have the money.

Captain Langdon Cheves* bought silk in Savannah and Charleston in lengths of 40 feet. This fabric, normally used for women’s dresses, was sewn together and then varnished. Because various colors were used, the balloon made from the silk was beautiful. The balloon’s official name was Gazelle.

The “Silk Dress Balloon,” as it came to be called, was sent to Richmond. Confederates were unable to get pure hydrogen gas. Instead, ordinary illuminating gas from Richmond Gas Works—the same type that lit gas lamps—filled the balloon.

It was moved, full of air, to the battlefield by train. The colorful Silk Dress Balloon was first used by the Confederates at the Battle of Gaines Mill. General Edward Porter Alexander ascended several times to observe the fighting from two miles away. Actual troops were difficult to see yet rising smoke showed him where to direct Slocum’s Division to reinforce Porter’s troops. Night ascensions showed enemy campfires for estimates of troop numbers.

Inability to fill the balloon in the field hampered their efforts. Gas from the Gas Works limited flights to 6-7 hours. They didn’t use Lowe’s three captured portable gas generators.

Confederates were happy enough with the results to take the balloon onto the Teaser, an armed tug boat. When necessary, the balloon was sailed along the James River to Richmond for refilling. On July 3, 1862, the U.S.S. Maratanza captured the Teaser on the James River. The balloon went to Thaddeus Lowe, who cut the fabric for souvenirs.

Another balloon was made in Savannah by Charles Cevor, a balloonist. It was used for the next year in the Charleston and Savannah area until the Second Battle of Charleston Harbor, when it was lost in the summer of 1863.

The Confederates didn’t try again. By then, the U.S. Balloon Corps had dissolved.

A rumor has survived from the war. In 1886, General Longstreet wrote in an article published in Century magazine. He said that a request was made that the ladies donate their silk dresses to make the balloon. It paints a lovely picture of sacrifice that Southern women made throughout the war—and they did sacrifice abundantly—but this particular one doesn’t appear to be factual. Articles that mention Longstreet’s quote also write about the forty-foot lengths of silk purchased by Cheves to make the balloon.

*One source gives the name of Dr. Edward Cheves instead of Langdon Cheves.

 

Sources

“Civil War Ballooning,” American Battlefield Trust, 2021/02/05 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-ballooning.

Clifford, Command Sergeant Major James, USA-Ret. “Balloon Operations in the Peninsula Campaign,” The Army Historical Foundation, 2021/02/05 https://armyhistory.org/balloon-operations-in-the-peninsula-campaign/.

 

Fanton, Ben. “Gas Balloons: View from Above the Civil War Battlefield,” History.net, 2021/02/05 https://www.historynet.com/gas-balloons-view-from-above-the-civil-war-battlefield.htm.

Paone, Thomas. “The Most Fashionable Balloon of the Civil War,” Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2021/02/08 https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/most-fashionable-balloon-civil-war.

Civil War U.S. Balloon Corps

by Sandra Merville Hart

On June 17, 1861, Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe’s balloon flight from the Columbia Armory (current location of the National Air and Space Museum) snagged the attention of President Abraham Lincoln when he received a telegraphed message from Lowe—from the balloon in flight at a height of 500 feet!

Lowe’s balloon was tethered to the White House lawn that evening while the two met. Lincoln supported the use of balloons in surveilling Confederate troops from the air.

Lowe became the chief aeronaut in the U.S. Army Balloon Corps. The War Department built military balloons for the corps. The first one was ready in August.

Union and Intrepid could carry 5 people and were the largest balloons used by the Union army. United States and Constitution held 3 people. A couple, Eagle and Excelsior, were manned by one person. The larger balloons had room for telegraphers, an important advantage.

Lowe became a member of Major General George B. McClellan’s staff. In September of 1861, Lowe directed artillery fire from his balloon at Falls Church, Virginia.

The U.S. Balloon Corps had several members: Corporal James Starkweather, Privates William A. Hodges, Albert Trunbull, W.H. Welch, Francis Barrington, Robert Wardell, James F. Case, George W. Fisher, John H. Hall, and Lawrence M. Chickey. Civilians also worked in the corps. Among these were Aeronauts James Allen, John La Mountain, and John Wise, who was considered the “Father of American Aeronautics.” Lowe also hired his father Clovis.

Balloons were used at Washington D.C., Seven Days’ Battle, the Peninsular Campaign, Battle of Seven Pines, and Fort Monroe in Virginia, to name a few.

Also, La Mountain made a tethered balloon ascent on August 3, 1861. It is significant to history because it was launched from the steam-powered gunboat Fanny. There are scholars who believe this first flight to be a precursor of the aircraft carrier.

Confederates shot at the ascended balloons. Fortunately, none were shot down. Their height usually kept them out of range. That didn’t prevent the Southerners from shooting. In fact, Lowe earned the dubious title of “the most shot-at man in the war.”

Several Federal officers ascended in these balloons, including John Reynolds, Joe Hooker, George McClellan, Fitz John Porter, Baldy Smith, John Sedgwick, and George Custer.

Unfortunately, problems with aeronauts receiving pay from the army led to resignations. Conservative generals preferred intelligence from spies, scouts, prisoners, and deserters. Vague reports from aeronauts frustrated field commanders. To top it off, Lowe didn’t get along with his staff supervisor Captain Cyrus B. Comstock and resigned on May 7, 1863.

James and Ezra Allen were then the last members of the U.S. Balloon Corps. They reported Confederate movement from Fredericksburg toward the Blue Ridge Mountains as they marched toward Gettysburg in June. The Balloon Corps ceased to exist in the summer of 1863.

Sources

“Civil War Ballooning,” American Battlefield Trust, 2021/02/05 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-ballooning.

“Civil War Ballooning,” Smithsonian National Space & Air Museum, 2021/02/05 https://airandspace.si.edu/learn/highlighted-topics-/flight/civil-war-ballooning.

Clifford, Command Sergeant Major James, USA-Ret. “Balloon Operations in the Peninsula Campaign,” The Army Historical Foundation, 2021/02/05 https://armyhistory.org/balloon-operations-in-the-peninsula-campaign/.

Fanton, Ben. “Gas Balloons: View from Above the Civil War Battlefield,” History.net, 2021/02/05 https://www.historynet.com/gas-balloons-view-from-above-the-civil-war-battlefield.htm.

Gould, Kevin. “Balloon Corps,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021/02/05 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Balloon-Corps.

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

“Thaddeus S.C. Lowe,” Wikipedia, 2021/02/05  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaddeus_S._C._Lowe.