Thursday, April 17, 2014

Patriots' Day marks release of Revolutionary War novella

Historical Fiction author Jessica James' Revolutionary War novella
Revolutionary War novella
By Jessica James
"The spark from a single candle
can light a sacred flame."

I'm sure most of you remember the poem that starts:

"On the 18th of April in '75,
Hardly a man is still alive
That remembers that famous day and year."

Yes, it's called "Paul Revere's Ride," and it's quite long. (Still, there was a time when I could recite the entire thing).

If you dig back in your memory, you may also remember that on the next day, the Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought, marking the opening salvos of the American Revolution. In Massachusetts and Maine, they continue to commemorate this day as a holiday called Patriots' Day.

I am pleased to announce that my new novella, Liberty and Destiny will be released on Saturday, April 19 -- fittingly on Patriots' Day.

Set during the American Revolution, the novella tells the tale of two Patriots who show their devotion to freedom as they struggle to survive in a war-torn country full of deceivers and spies.

Liberty and Destiny will only be released as an ebook, and I will put the links up as soon as they become available for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.

As you go about your business on Saturday, don't forget to think about that historic day -- April 19, 1775 -- and the sacrifices that were made during the entire Revolution. We are so blessed to live in this country. Don't take it for granted.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The miracle of Spring

Spring with historical fiction author jessica james
A lone daffodil blooms among the rocks.
I have always thought that autumn was my favorite season, but this year, I've changed my mind. After a winter that seemed like it would never end, I am seeing Spring as I have never seen it before.

After being cooped up all winter, the weather has finally warmed up enough to get outside and start cleaning up the effects of Old Man Winter. This means picking up sticks in the yard, burning downed limbs and brush, raking out garden beds, turning over the soil in the garden, and numerous other chores.

Usually I don't look forward to tackling them, but this year is different. It seems like forever since I've felt the warm sun on my back or smelled the scent of fresh-cut grass. And there is nothing like finding tiny shoots of green hiding under a pile of dead leaves to help you appreciate the miracle of nature.

Daffodils along the road near Gettysburg.
According to my journal, we are usually eating asparagus out of the garden by now. This year, we're still waiting for the slightest sprig of green to show us signs of life.

I have no doubt the asparagus will come--just like the hyacinths that are just starting to break through the ground with their vibrant colors and fragrant scents.

In fact, the landscape seems to be turning greener by the minute. Every time I look out, the patches of brown and gray have receded a little further into the woods, like giant shadows in the late afternoon sun.

Just like the ebb and flow of the tide at the ocean, Spring has its own cycle and rhythm, arriving when she's ready and departing when she must. This year, I hope she sticks around a little. I've never enjoyed a Spring so much!

Note: I checked the asparagus before starting this blog yesterday and there was nothing there. This afternoon, it's up four inches! Mother Nature's Magic Trick.
 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Landmark Civil War museum holding auction

Jessica James visits Wax Museum Civil War auction
The Lincoln-Douglas Debate display.
If anyone is going to be near Gettysburg, Pa., on Saturday, you might want to stop by the American Civil War Wax Museum on Steinwehr Avenue, where they will be auctioning off old wax figures along with other items that made up their displays.

After 52 years of business and more than eight million visitors, the museum has changed hands, and will change its vision and purpose.

The Wax Museum is such an institution in Gettysburg, that it is really sad to see it change. But I toured the museum today, including the off limits part that is undergoing major renovations, and can't wait until they officially open. They have great things planned for the future, with a concentration on civilian life in the town of Gettysburg, rather than the battle itself.


Jessica James visits Civil War Wax Museum
Auction Item 121: John S. Mosby.
I also browsed around the things that will go up for auction, and guess what? John Mosby will be sold. For those who are not aware, Confederate cavalry commander John Mosby is the real-life soldier that my main character in Noble Cause and Shades of Gray is based.

( I am renovating a room in my home and think this wax figure would make a wonderful addition).

The items for sale include approximately 95 Civil War figures dressed in period clothing, two monumental oil paintings, antique furniture, antique lighting, small antiques, flags, wall hangings, props and displays.

One of the two oil paintings for sale is a portrait of George Washington in a gold frame that is eight feet tall. Absolutely beautiful.

The auction is pretty much a Civil War buff's (or historical fiction author's) dream. I walked through and marked down a number of items I would love to have, including vintage books, furniture, and of course, John Mosby.

Msc. body parts for sale.
If you're not a Mosby fan, there are plenty of other notable Civil War figures to bid on--like  Abe Lincoln or George Custer, JEB Stuart or Bedford Forrest. There are also likenesses of Jefferson Davis, John Brown, Dred Scott, Eli Whitney, AP Hill, Jenny Wade, Ulysses S. Grant, George Meade, Sherman, Sheridan, Burnside, McClellan, and Hooker, to name a few.

Also, if you're in the market for Halloween items, there are plenty of arms, legs, heads and torsos.

I'm looking forward to the auction on Saturday. Maybe I'll see you there!

Jessica James 







Friday, February 14, 2014

A reluctant romance after the Civil War

Happy Valentine's Day! This is my fifth post on love stories and letters from the Civil War.
 
SARAH MORGAN and FRANCIS DAWSON


historical fiction author civil war love letters
Sarah Morgan
The romance between Francis Warrington Dawson and Sarah Morgan was an affair of the heart that took place after the Civil War, but that epic period was, in some ways, the reason the two met.

Francis was the handsome 32-year-old editor of the Charleston News. An Englishman by birth, he had immigrated to the States to fight for the Confederacy and, after the war, became a reporter for newspapers in Richmond, Va.

In 1873, bereft after his wife’s death from tuberculosis, Frank left for Columbia, S.C., to visit James Morgan, a friend from the war. Sarah, a former New Orleans debutante, was living at her brother’s home near Columbia. She, too, was in mourning, as the Morgans had suffered much during the war. After moving to South Carolina, the 30-year-old was determined to overcome her fears and embrace self-reliance, vowing to die rather than be dependent on someone else. She went on to become a journalist and penned the book The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman.

Following is a love letter that Dawson penned to Morgan after she agreed to marry him, but postponed the date indefinitely.

Charleston SC Aug. 5, 1873

 ...[My] lips refuse to be sealed, and can no more refrain from telling their love for you and to you than they can cease to breathe the fragrant breath of life. The one will end with the other.

 I do consider, however much either of us may try to ignore it, the certainty is that sooner or later you must decide whether you can bear with me for always, and when, if you desert me, I must learn whether I can live without you. I think I may say that I have proved that my affection for you is not a mere fancy of a day, or a month, but the deep undying and ever increasing love of a lifetime. I have proved to you that I understand you and that the greatest intimacy leads to no jarring between us. I have proved to you that even confirmed ill health, which you dread, will only increase and intensify my tender care of you. I have proved to you that your people are my people and that they can love me as warmly as I love them. These are things which very few men can say to any woman whom they ask in marriage, but I can say them to you because you know this truth. I do not press you for any decision. There is time enough for that. I only wish, on this day of all days, to remind you of what time has done, and to repeat to you, solemnly, my vows of constant and unselfish love. And it makes me glad to know that, whether it be requited or not, you never doubt now the truth of my love for you. My one aim in life is to win your hand; that gained, I have gained all I wish for, more to me, indeed, than riches or public fame or the honors most men crave.

 Yours always

F.W. Dawson

This letter, and others, can be found in my book From the Heart: Love Stories and Letters from the Civil War.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Another great Civil War love story


This is the fourth installment of my Civil War love letter series for Valentine's Day, and it's a great love story.

Historical fiction author jessica james Civil War love stories
La Salle Pickett
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. I found that out many times in doing research for my historical fiction novels. Here is an unusual story about a well known Confederate general—George Edward Pickett—who of course gained fame for Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Most people probably don’t know about Pickett’s tragic life off the battlefield or the fact that he was married three times (four times if you count being married in two different ceremonies to the same woman). His life also involved a poignant love story that continued after his death.

Pickett met his first wife, Sally Harrison Ming, while at West Point, and eventually married her after coming back from serving in the war with Mexico. Said to be madly in love, Pickett was excited to find that Sally was pregnant—but he was devastated when both Sally and the child died during the birth. Pickett stayed in Virginia for six months before returning to the Army where he requested a post on the frontier.

It was during this short time in Virginia that he met La Salle Corbell, daughter of Dr John Corbell. Pickett was 23 years her senior (She was only eight when first they met). But as La Salle would later write in her memoirs, she fell instantly in love and swore she would never love another man.

When Pickett was posted on peacekeeping duties between the Americans and the Indians, he met and fell in love with an Indian Princess. Here is where he was married twice to the same woman, first in the traditional Indian ceremony, and later in a ceremony in the home of a local businessman.

His Indian wife bore him a son, James Tilton Pickett, but the young mother never fully recovered from a difficult delivery and died shortly after. Needless to say, Pickett was inconsolable with grief. Reassigned to the West, he gave up the care of the child to his Indian grandmother.

George had been corresponding with La Salle Corbell, and finally married the 16-year-old during the Civil War. George and La Salle had two sons, George Junior and Corbell, however, Corbell died at age 7 during the measles epidemic.

In a letter in April 1863, Pickett pleads with Sally to come marry him in camp, despite the social improprieties of a woman doing so.

“You know that I love you with a devotion that absorbs all else—a devotion so divine that when in dreams I see you it is as something too pure and sacred for mortal touch.”

“If I am spared, my dear, all my life shall be devoted to making you happy, to keeping all that would hurt you far from you, to making all that is good come near you.”

Unfortunately, poor Pickett was destined for disappointment. Sally writes in a postscript to this letter in the book “The Heart of a Soldier” that she turned “her soldier” down.

“So, though my heart responded to the call, what could I do but adhere to the social laws, more formidable than were ever the majestic canons of the Ecclesiastes? My Soldier admitted that I was right, and we agreed to await a more favorable time.”

She did eventually relent and marry “her soldier” later on during the war. In July 1863, she received this note from the general.

 “…Now, I go; but remember always that I love you with all my heart and soul, with every fiber of my being; that now and forever I am yours—yours, my beloved. It is almost three o’clock. My soul reaches out to yours—my prayers. I’ll keep up a skookum tumtum [Chinook for strong heart] for Virginia and for you, my darling.”

- Your Soldier

July 3, 1863 Gettysburg

Note: You may recognize the date—the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the time—shortly before his ill-fated Pickett’s Charge. The artillery bombardment, the largest in North American history, began at 1 p.m. and was still taking place as he wrote. (And we say we are “too busy” to write love letters to our spouses today).

George Pickett died 10 years after the war at the age of 50, and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va. La Salle lived until 1931. It was her dying wish to be buried with her husband, but the authorities refused because Hollywood was a military cemetery. Consequently, her body was cremated and her ashes kept at the Arlington Mausoleum. It took another 123 years, but on March 21, 1998, La Salle’s ashes were laid to rest in Hollywood, beside her husband’s grave.

She finally joined the only man she ever loved.
 
This story and many other love stories can be found in my book From the Heart: Love Stories and Letters from the Civil War.

 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Civil War love letters from Stonewall Jackson

This is the third installment of my Civil War love letter series during Valentine's Day week.

General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

historical fiction author Jessica James' Civil War love stories
Young Stonewall Jackson
Over the years, the persona of Stonewall Jackson has attained almost mythical proportions. In life, they say he was almost impossible to know. In death, he became even more of an enigma because he was such a legendary leader. 

Anyone who has read anything about this mysterious, brave, bold, respected and feared commander will find these tenderhearted love letters incredible.

The following letters and reminiscences are taking from the book, Life and Letters of Stonewall Jackson, which was written by his wife, Mary Anna Jackson.

Sept. 25, 1862

Darling, my heart turns to you with a love so great that pain flows in its wake. You cannot understand this, my beautiful, bright-eyed, sunny-hearted princess. Your face is the sweetest face in all the world, mirroring, as it does, all that is pure and unselfish, and I must not cast a shadow over it by the fears that come to me, in spite of myself. No, a soldier should not know fear of any kind. I must fight and plan and hope, and you must pray. Pray for a realization of all our beautiful dreams, sitting beside our own hearthstone in our own home—you and I, you my goddess of devotion, and I your devoted slave. May God in his mercy spare my life and make it worthy of you!…

Your soldier

And here is an excerpt from another letter, written three months before the well known Battle of the Wilderness. In it he tells of denying a furlough to one of his men, while setting an example by staying at his post of duty—despite the hardships.

Feb. 3, 1863

In answer to the prayers of God’s people, I trust He will soon give us peace. I haven’t seen my wife for nearly a year—my home in nearly two years, and have never seen our darling little daughter; but it is important that I, and those at headquarters, should set an example of remaining at the post of duty.

 According to his wife, Jackson did finally get to see is daughter when she was five months old.

It was raining and he was afraid to take her in his arms with his wet overcoat, but upon arrival at the house, he speedily divested himself of his overcoat, and, taking his baby in his arms, he caressed her with the tenderest affection, and held her long and lovingly. During the whole of this short visit, when he was with us, he rarely had her out of his arms, waking her, and amusing her in every way that he could think of—sometimes holding her up before a mirror and saying, admiringly, “Now, Miss Jackson, look at yourself.” Then he would turn to an old lady of the family and say, “Isn’t she a little gem?” When she slept in the day, he would often kneel over her cradle, and gaze upon her little face with the most rapt admiration, and he said he felt almost as if she were an angel in her innocence and purity.

For those who are not aware, Jackson was accidentally shot by his own troops at the Wilderness on May 2, 1863. He lost his left arm, but it was thought that he would recover. However he died of complications eight days later, most likely from pneumonia.
 
The letter can also be found in my book From the Heart: Loves Stories and Letters from the Civil War.

 

And I quote...

"[L]et us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died."
--Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc, 1984