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Of Richmond and Gray Days

Posted on: January 10th, 2012 by Hannah Beasley 4 Comments

I spent the greater part of today researching and writing for my novel, With a War Between Them. I’m constantly telling myself to not research while I write, because if I do, I either get sidetracked or want to be so accurate in my writing that I kind of forget that it is historical fiction. But after I finished writing for the day, I started doing some reading, and was so amazed at what I discovered.

I’ve known for quite a few years now that the Civil War was fought not over the issue of slavery, but over the issue of states’ rights. However, I had no clue about the details…until today. I was reading R. L. Dabney’s book, Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant General Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson, and discovered that the political situation in 1859-1860 was remarkably similar to what it is today. The “Black Republicans” (Lincoln’s party) were in favor of a very powerful government, and were ever in favor of undermining and decreasing the authority and power of the states. The Democrats (the party of most Southerners, including Jackson), were in favor of increasing states’ rights. The problems of that too-strong federal government were becoming terribly apparent, to the point that (for example) a bounty on fisheries was granted, which was totally for the advantage of New England. Hundreds of millions of dollars was then given to New England for the next eighty years from the other states. Check out this quote from the book…

Secession, then, was no dishonest after-thought, suggested by a growing sectional ambition, but the ancient, righteous remedy, to which the Southern States were reluctantly driven, by a long course of treachery and oppression. Ever since 1820, they had seen with grief that the true balance of the Constitution was overthrown, the Government centralized, and the rights of the States engrossed by the Federal Congress. It was equally clear that the practical advantages of these usurpations were all inuring to the North against the South…

A system of partial taxation by tariffs was also commenced, for a motive glaringly unconstitutional, namely, to foster local enterprises for home manufactures, seated almost exclusively in the Northern and Middle States. [These tariffs] were throwing millions of unequal burden annually upon the South; and never for one moment were they removed…

– Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant General Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson, page 137-138

So I realized that the North had been pitted against the South by the Federal government for years before the Civil War came about. Incredible. And it turns out that Virginia was amazingly loathe to leave the Union – that’s why they waited so long to secede. Truly, secession was “no dishonest after-thought,” but a last resort that Virginia and all the Southern States were “reluctantly driven” to. The people of that state were so desirous to have all their differences with the government ended peacefully that petitions for Christians to pray for peace went out all over the place, and Stonewall himself asked his pastor if he would ask Christians in that area to pray that war would not come.

So this issue was not dealt with casually. Virginia finally seceded on April 17th, and immediately began raising an army under General Lee for the defense of itself. (It existed independently until it joined the Confederacy in June of 1861) Now my book comes in. I have actually gotten rid of Kady Bowen, and have replaced her with Elizabeth Bowen. Kady was becoming the center of the family and was just too independent. I think I’ve finally hit upon the perfect personality for my main character in Elizabeth. Anyway, as she’s seventeen, she would be in her last year of finishing school. I decided I’d put her in the Southern Female Institute in Richmond. It turned out to be perfect. Two other Fredericksburg girls actually attended that very school at that very time, girls that can be friends with her, and Richmond will be the perfect place for her to see everything happening, until she is sent home in late spring for fear of war.

So that’s what’s been on my mind lately. I’m excited to work more on accurately portraying a Southern girl, from her speech to her thoughts, and to have a fresh angle from which to begin the book. I’m hoping to publish it on December 13th, 2012, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. But we’ll see, won’t we?

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4 Responses

  1. Joy says:

    Oh, researching for a historical novel is something I love to do and helps HEAPS (but lately I’ve slacked off on that a bit). I love putting in historical events and characters into the fictional story… it makes it all the more authentic and exciting.

    Hmm, this thing of the American Civil War and the cause of it issue sounds really fascinating. I used to think that the cause of the Civil War was because of the issue of slavery, but recently I’ve read some blog posts going against that. Maybe I should make a wider study of that.

    Aw, I’m so glad you’re going to put more historical context in “With A War Between Them”! And to be honest, I love the name Elizabeth a whole heap better than Kady :).
    P.S. those photos are lovely, did you take them yourself?

    In His love,

  2. Hannah says:

    Isn’t it great? =D Are you writing a book, too, then? That’s so cool!

    Yeah, it’s really interesting! I didn’t know much about the Civil War until we moved to NC – but once we got here, we started to learn a lot more. As it turns out, General Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and JEB Stuart were all solid believers – something we hadn’t known.

    Actually, in the book I referenced, Dabney was talking about how the North would be able to change the facts of the war in order to justify their own actions. What’s so amazing is that they have – most people in America have no clue about the truths of the Civil War. It’s pretty sad.

    (I like the name Elizabeth best, too – it fits my character way better…even though it was hard to let go of Kady. =D)

    Yes, I did take those photos! Thank you! =D

  3. Emily says:

    I absolutely can’t wait to read your book! I love historical fiction, especially when it’s in the Civil War era. My book takes place in the Civil War, too, and it’s so fun to research.

    I know exactly what you mean. The Civil War was a lot like what is happening now. The North wanted Government control, and the South wanted States rights. Haha, writing teaches the writer soooo much!

  4. Hannah says:

    Yeah, no kidding Emily! I never knew how much learning you do when you start writing a book! =D

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