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Civil War History

Civil War Christmas Song: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day!

Wed, 2016-12-14 08:16 -- Jocelyn Green
Four years ago, I shared this  poignant Christmas song on the blog, in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But now in 2016, the words are just as meaningful as ever. It's been a long, hard year, hasn't it? And if there is anything that personal or national hardships teach us, it's the simple fact that we need a Savior. This Christmas, as we celebrate Jesus' birth, may we remember that Immanuel, God with us, is still here. The Christmas songs "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is a powerful reminder of that truth, with words by Henry Longfellow, and music by John Calkin. The lyrics were first penned in the midst of the horrors of our Civil War, a song which seems especially fitting this year. God is not dead, nor does he sleep... Take a moment to enjoy Casting Crowns rendition of this classic song below. Now let's scroll back in time and take a look at how this song was born. During the Civil War, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, that his oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow had left home to join the Union army--without Henry's blessing. The letter said, in part: "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good." By November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day, 1863. Henry's personal tragedy was wrapped in the national tragedy of the nation's civil war. The lyrics are below. The fourth and fifth verses you'll find here refer directly to the Civil War and are usually left out of the traditional Christmas song. I heard the bells on Christmas day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men. And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along the unbroken song Of peace on earth, good will to men. Till ringing, singing on its way The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime Of peace on earth, good will to men. Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.” The hope Longfellow found among crisis can still be ours today. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be uponhis shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness     from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this" (Isiaha 9:6-7). Merry Christmas!

Little Union Girl Touches the Heart of a Confederate at Gettysburg

Thu, 2015-07-16 07:02 -- Jocelyn Green
Edward McPherson Farm. Gettysburg farms like this one were used as field hospitals.
During my research for Widow of Gettysburg, I read everything I could related to the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and its aftermath. I read so many gory descriptions of the carnage that I started to glaze over them. But one day, a sweet letter from a soldier to a Sunday school girl brought tears to my eyes. I want to share it with you. First a little background: during the Civil War, the Christian Commission (born out of the YMCA) encouraged Sunday school classes in the North to put together "comfort bags" which were distributed by delegates of the Christian Commission to soldiers. These bags were small cloth kits which included thread, sewing needles, small scissors, and scraps of material. Each child also included a note with the bag to encourage the receiving soldier. At Gettysburg, a wounded Confederate received one of these comfort bags from a little girl in Massachusetts. He wrote back to her: My Dear Little Friend--I received your present, the comfort bag, and it is thrice welcome, although it was intended for Union defenders. It was given to me by a Christian woman, who lost her holy anger against Rebels--for such am I--in her bounteous sympathy with the unfortunate. My little friend can imagine my thankfulness for the favor, when I inform her that I have no friends this side of heaven--all gone, father, mother, sister and brother, and I am all alone.   The dear comfort-bag I shall always keep as a memento of true sympathy from a generous heart in the loyal State of Massachusetts. I hope you will not be disappointed by this, coming as it does from a Rebel; for I was forced into the ranks at the point of bayonet, for I would not go willingly to fight against the dear old flag, whose ample folds have always shielded the orphan and made glad the oppressed.   I have read your note very many times over, and have wished it could rightfully be mine. "Do they think of me at home?" Silence--all is silence! Not so with the Union soldier; a thousand tokens tell him yes.   I was wounded in the second day's fight and am now packing up my all to be exchanged or sent back a cripple for life. I am seventeen years old, and now am turned out with one arm to carve my way through the world; but my trust is in my heavenly Father, who will forgive and bless. Hoping that God may in mercy reunite us all again as brothers and sister. I am your unworthy friend.   E--A--Co--. Miss. Volunteers This touching letter appears in many documents and books, including Gettysburg and the Christian Commission by Daniel Hoisington. Following the battle of Gettysburg, the United States Christian Commission provided spiritual and physical care to thousands of wounded and dying soldiers of both armies. More than three hundred volunteers came to the battlefield, leaving a legacy of “a thousand little nameless acts.” The book includes important contemporary accounts of the battle’s aftermath, including the first complete publication of the diary of John Calhoun Chamberlain, one of the first delegates at Gettysburg and brother of the hero of Little Round Top. Jane Boswell Moore’s letters provide a glimpse of women’s work among the soldiers. Andrew Cross’ official report describes the carnage of battle as “a most fearful judgment of God upon a nation and people.” In a postwar story, George Peltz tells of a return to the Second Corps Hospital eight years later on a final mission of mercy. For more about the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War novels, visit the Web site.

Gettysburg Diaries: Georgeanna Woolsey's "Friendly Enemies"

Tue, 2015-07-07 08:58 -- Jocelyn Green
Today in 1863, Gettysburg began to experience a second invasion. The armies had withdrawn on July 4, and now it was time to pick up the pieces of shattered homes--and bodies. Last week I shared the perspectives of housewife Sarah Broadhead and of teenager Tillie Pierce. Today I'd like to share from the perspective of Sanitary Commission nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. The following is excerpted from my nonfiction book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: Friendly Enemies [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"671", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignright wp-image-216 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"124", "height":"179", "alt":"BB-homefront-cover_125"}}]]When the armies moved out, they left behind 21,000 wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. The town of Gettysburg, with its 2400 residents, was taxed beyond their limit to feed, clothe, house and otherwise care for the men. Waves of volunteers from the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission flooded the town to help, bringing storehouses of food, clothing, and hospital supplies, plus manpower to relieve the townspeople of their nonstop cooking and nursing. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1287", "attributes":{"class":"media-image size-medium wp-image-2890", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"279", "height":"300", "alt":"Georgeanna Woolsey"}}]] Georgeanna Woolsey   Among the Sanitary Commission volunteers was Georgeanna Woolsey, who distributed fresh food and drink to the men on ambulance trains. She recalled: I do not think that a man of the 16,000 who were transported during our stay, went from Gettysburg, without a good meal—rebels and Unionists together, they all had it, and were pleased and satisfied. “Have you any friends in the army, madam?” a rebel soldier, lying on the floor of the car, said to me, as I gave him some milk. “Yes, my brother is on -----‘s staff.” “I thought so, ma’am. You can always tell; when people are good to soldiers they are sure to have friends in the army.” “We are rebels, you know, ma’am,” another said; “Do you treat rebels so?” It was strange to see the good brotherly feeling come over the soldiers, our own and the rebels, when side by side they lay in our tents. “Hullo, boys! This is the pleasantest way to meet, isn’t it? We are better friends when we are as close as this, than a little farther off.” And then they would go over the battles together: “we were here,” and “you were there,” in the friendliest way. Many on both sides found it impossible to cling to demonizing rhetoric about the opposing army when they ate and talked together, and slept side by side. Resident Liberty Hollinger later said, “Many romances were developed during the stay of the soldiers. One of our most intimate friends (a northerner) married a southerner who her mother had nursed back to health.” As friendships and marriages bonded Yankees and Rebels together, the people hoped the country would soon be reunited as well. Prayer: Lord, help me tear down any division among my brothers and sisters in Christ. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” ~Psalm 133:1 ___________________________ Georgeanna Woolsey's pamphlet, entitled "Three Weeks at Gettysburg", can be read in its entirety online, and provided the inspiration for a few scenes in Widow of Gettysburg. Georgeanna herself was the inspiration for my first novel, Wedded to War, and she does come back to make an appearance as a nurse at Gettysburg in Widow of Gettysburg. The young woman named Liberty Hollinger, quoted in the excerpt above, inspired me to name my heroine of Gettysburg "Liberty." (Such a great name!) If you liked meeting Georgeanna Woolsey, Tillie Pierce, and Sarah Broadhead, you may also enjoy 3 Heroines of Gettysburg. View the live-action trailer below for a better glimpse into Wedded to War, my Civil War novel inspired by Georgeanna Woolsey: Wedded to War Trailer from River North Fiction on Vimeo.

Gettysburg Diaries: Tillie Pierce's Field for Profound Thought

Thu, 2015-07-02 08:10 -- Jocelyn Green
Today in 1863, Gettysburg shuddered beneath its second day of battle. Yesterday, I shared housewife Sarah Broadhead's perspective of hiding in the cellar during the July 1 fighting. Today, it's teenaged Tillie Pierce's turn in the spotlight. The following is excerpted from my nonfiction book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: A Field for Profound Thought [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"677", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-228 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"124", "height":"179", "alt":"BB-homefront-cover_125"}}]] When fifteen-year-old Tillie Pierce fled to a neighbor’s farmhouse a few miles away, she thought she would be safe from the battle. Instead, she was right behind the Union lines on the eastern slopes of the Round Tops for the second and third days of the battle. She and her neighbors passed out water to the soldiers in blue as they proceeded into battle, and watched in horror as they came back wounded or dead. After tearing all the muslin and linen in the house into strips for bandages, Tillie finally looked up. I was looking out one of the windows facing the front yard. Near the basement door, and directly underneath the window I was at, stood one of these [amputating] benches. I saw them lifting the poor men upon it, then the surgeons sawing and cutting off arms and legs, then again probing and picking bullets from the flesh. Some of the soldiers fairly begged to be taken next, so great was their suffering, and so anxious were they to obtain relief . . . To the south of the house, and just outside of the yard, I noticed a pile of limbs higher than the fence. It was a ghastly sight! [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1285", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3305", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"300", "height":"316", "alt":"Tillie Pierce"}}]] Tillie Pierce   After the battle ended, Tillie and many other women in the town threw themselves into whatever they could do to bring comfort to these strangers, who by now felt more like family. They brought lemons, oranges, cakes, jellies and rolls. The women also spent hours reading to the wounded and participated in their religious services at the hospital. Though the Battle of Gettysburg certainly left a mark on Tillie, she chose to dwell not on the human suffering now forever linked with her hometown, but on God’s sovereignty. What in my girlhood was a teeming and attractive landscape spread out by the Omnipotent Hand to teach us of His goodness, has by His own direction, become a field for profound thought, where, through coming ages, will be taught lessons of loyalty, patriotism and sacrifice. . . . we cannot fail to learn that: “The God of battles” is ever present, that on those memorable days at Gettysburg “The hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy.” Prayer: Lord, help me focus on You and learn the lessons you have for me. “The hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy.” ~Ezra 8:31 ___________________________ [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"771", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-891 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"125", "height":"193", "alt":"Widow cover 3 125"}}]]Tillie's diary, At Gettysburg: Or What a Young Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle, is a wonderful eyewitness account, and one I used in my research for Widow of Gettysburg. It can be read online in its entirety for free at Google Books or purchased in paperback (or 99 cents for Kindle). Tillie's house is now the Tillie Pierce Inn, where you could lodge during your next visit to Gettysburg! (Also be sure to check out the home of Tillie's neighbor, Hettie Shriver. The Shriver House Museum is on my list of 9 Must-See Sites of Gettsyburg!) If you liked meeting Tillie Pierce and Sarah Broadhead, you may also enjoy 3 Heroines of Gettysburg. Learn more about Widow of Gettysburg here, or view the one-minute trailer below for a taste of the story.

Gettysburg Diaries: Sarah Broadhead's Suspense in the Cellar

Wed, 2015-07-01 06:00 -- Jocelyn Green
On this day in 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, shed its small town tranquility as the most famous battle in the entire Civil War began. For three days, war would rage in fields and orchards, with farmers and townspeople alike caught in the crosshairs. Today I'd like to share with you one woman's perspective. The following is excerpted from my nonfiction book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: Suspense in the Cellar [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"677", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-228 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"124", "height":"179", "alt":"BB-homefront-cover_125"}}]]While Sarah Broadhead’s husband stayed in their Gettysburg home to protect it, Sarah and her child fled to a friend’s cellar in a “safer” part of town to ride out the fighting on the first day. There they remained huddled together all day, only emerging when the firing ceased. She recorded in her diary at the end of July 1: How changed the town looked when we came to the light. The street was strewn over with clothes, blankets, knapsacks, cartridge-boxes, dead horses, and the bodies of a few men, but not so many of these last as I expected to see. . . We started home, and found things all right. As I write all is quiet, but O! how I dread tomorrow. The next two days of battle, the Broadheads stayed together in their own cellar. Staying in the dark for hours at a time while the battle raged, the suspense was nearly unbearable. On July 3, Sarah wrote: Nearly all the afternoon it seemed as if the heavens and earth were crashing together. The time that we sat in the cellar seemed long, listening to the terrific sound of strife; more terrible never greeted human ears. We knew that with every explosion, and the scream of each shell, human beings were hurried, through excruciating pain, into another world, and that many more were torn, and mangled, and lying in torment worse than death, and no one able to extend relief. . . Who is victorious, or with whom the advantage rests, no one here can tell. It would ease the horror if we knew our arms were successful. As Christians, we are in spiritual battles of our own, and we see the physical evidence of sin in every corner of the globe. Man’s inhumanity to man is often incomprehensible, and natural disasters from floods to fires cause tremendous heartache and destruction. But unlike the Gettysburg citizens hiding in their cellars, we don’t have to live in suspense about who holds the ultimate victory. Jesus had victory on the cross, and He is victorious in the end. When you feel attacked, remember that you are fighting on the winning side! Prayer: Lord, I praise You that You are victorious—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, Almighty God! “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” ~Revelation 19:6 ___________________________ [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"771", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft wp-image-891 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"125", "height":"193", "alt":"Widow cover 3 125"}}]]Sarah survived the battle and offered her nursing help to the wounded soldiers being cared for at the Lutheran Seminary building. Her diary of the weeks during and after the battle has proven to be one of our most valuable eyewitness accounts of the civilian experience. Stories like Sarah's inspired me to bring these women's voices to life with my novel, Widow of Gettysburg, in which Sarah plays a small but important role. I am so pleased to report that just last month, a marker was dedicated at Sarah Broadhead's grave to honor her contributions. If you liked meeting Sarah, you may also enjoy 3 Heroines of Gettysburg. Learn more about Widow of Gettysburg here, or view the one-minute trailer below for a taste of the story.

3 Heroines of Gettysburg

Mon, 2015-06-22 05:54 -- Jocelyn Green
[[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"771", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignright wp-image-891 size-full", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"125", "height":"193", "alt":"Widow cover 3 125"}}]]Both Hollywood and history books tell stories of valor from the battle of Gettysburg. But before the word "Gettysburg" was synonymous with battle, it was simply the name of a town where ordinary people lived—until extraordinary circumstances brought out strength and courage they did not know they possessed. These stories of resilience inspired me to write my novel Widow of Gettysburg, book 2 in the Heroines Behind the Lines series. Today I'd love to introduce you to just three real women of Gettysburg. Sallie Myers [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1278", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3260 size-medium", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"201", "height":"300", "alt":"Sallie Myers"}}]] Sallie Myers   Gettysburg school teacher Sallie Myers never could stand the sight of blood. But on the morning of July 2, 1863, the second day of battle, she could not ignore the desperate cries of the wounded lying in a church across the street. Kneeling by the first man inside the door of the church, Sallie asked what she could do for him. "Nothing," he replied. "I am going to die." Overcome with emotion, Sallie ran outside and wept. With great effort, she finally calmed herself and returned to the soldier, where she learned he was Sgt. Alexander Stewart of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. With the surgeon's permission, she then had Sgt. Stewart brought to her home where she could better care for him. Though a bullet narrowly missed her where she sat fanning her patient, she refused to leave him for the safety of the cellar. After Sgt. Alexander died on July 6, 1863, Sallie took in eleven more soldiers while continuing to work in the make-shift hospitals of the town for weeks after the battle ended. "The sight of blood never again affected me and I was among the wounded and dying men day and night," Sallie recalled. "While the battle lasted and the town was in possession of the rebels, I went back and forth between my home and the hospitals without fear." The next summer, Sgt. Alexander's widow and his brother Henry came to visit her. From that meeting, Sallie and Henry began a relationship which resulted in their marriage in 1867. Sadie Bushman Nine-year-old Sadie Bushman was running to her grandparents' house for safety when the battle roared into action. I don't have a picture of Sadie, but I do know what nine looks like. My own daughter is currently the same age Sadie was when the following story took place. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1279", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3258", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"400", "height":"270", "alt":"This is my 9-year-old daughter looking on as my 6-year-old is being treated for his broken arm. "}}]] This is my 9-year-old daughter looking on as my 6-year-old is being treated for his broken arm. Little Sadie had a much different experience, as the youngest nurse in the Civil War.   Sadie tells the story in her own words: "There came a screech and a shell brushed my skirt as it went by. I staggered from the concussion of it and almost fell, when I was grasped by the arm and a man said pleasantly, ‘That was a close call. Come with me and hurry,' he added in a tone so commanding that I meekly followed. [That man was Dr. Benjamin F. Lyford, a surgeon in the Union army]. He led me to . . .  an army corps hospital and then he put me to work. Wounded and dying men were then being carried to the place by the score. . . "As I reached the hospital tent a man with a leg shattered almost to a pulp was carried in. ‘Give him a drink of water while I cut off his leg' was the command I got. How I accomplished it I do not know but I stood there and assisted the surgeon all through the operation. I was in that field hospital all during the three days of the battle, climbing over heaps of bodies six and eight deep and always with the doctor helping him in his work. Then my father found me and took me home. Soon, the Christian and Sanitary Commissions set up a hospital on the scene of battle, and Sadie nursed there, too. "I was placed in charge of one of the wards and I was so small I had to climb up on the beds to attend to the sick and wounded men," she said. Having conquered her fear, Sadie served in that hospital nearly five months, though her father whipped her for nursing against his will. Elizabeth Thorn [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1280", "attributes":{"class":"media-image size-full wp-image-3259", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"260", "height":"357", "alt":"Peter and Elizabeth Thorn"}}]] Peter and Elizabeth Thorn   Elizabeth her husband Peter were caretakers of Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery, and lived in the cemetery gatehouse with Elizabeth's parents and her three small sons.  With Peter away as a soldier, Elizabeth tended the cemetery in his absence. She was six months pregnant in July 1863. Like most other Gettysburg women, she gave food and water to passing soldiers in both blue and grey before fleeing to safety during the battle. The Thorns returned to find their home severely damaged. But there was work to do. The cemetery president instructed her to bury the soldiers as fast as she could. The stench from the bloated corpses, both human and horse, was nauseating, but she and her father, aged 63, had little choice. The longer the bodies lay sweltering in the sun, the more of a health hazard they became. Elizabeth and her father buried 102 soldiers in Evergreen Cemetery. She was never compensated for her work in the aftermath of the battle, or for the damages to her home. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1281", "attributes":{"class":"media-image wp-image-3179", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"500", "height":"375", "alt":"Monument to Elizabeth Thorn, the pregnant gravedigger, in Evergreen Cemetery."}}]] Monument to Elizabeth Thorn, the pregnant gravedigger, in Evergreen Cemetery.   These women, and so many others (Sarah Broadhead, Tillie Pierce, Hettie Shriver, etc.), did not ask to be heroines, but when war demanded it of them, they quietly filled the role. Their courage, sacrifice, and ability to love their enemies inspired Widow of Gettysburg, and I hope the book, in turn, inspires you. *Visiting Gettysburg soon? Don't miss these 9 Must-See Sites (Plus 7 Spots for R&R)!

Civil War Births Memorial Day

Mon, 2015-05-25 06:05 -- Jocelyn Green
  Memorial Day, as we know it, began as Decoration Day shortly after the end of the Civil War. May 30, 1868, marked the first official national observance, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan. But the South refused to acknowledge the observance, and it's little wonder. If you read the text of General Logan's proclamation, you'll see that the day was really meant to honor the Union dead, not the Confederates. Add to this the fact that the Federal government offered little cooperation with the attempts to bring Confederate remains home to rest in the South. Last but not least, before Arlington was a cemetery, it was Gen. Robert E. Lee's home. The Lees, and most likely thousands of other Southerners, felt that turning their home into a burial grounds for the enemy (Union soldiers) was a desecration. As a result, the South honored their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead. Click the image to see the sheet music.   In fact, Southern women were decorating the graves of their fallen heroes before the national holiday was ever designated. In 1867, a hymn by Nella L.Sweet, Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping, was published with a telling dedication: "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead." One stanza reads: Kneel where our loves are sleeping, Dear ones loved in days gone by, here we bow in holy reverence, Our bosoms heave the heart-felt sigh. They fell like brave men, true as steel, And pour'd their blood like rain- We feel we owe them all we have, And can but kneel and weep again. Author Cilla McCain says it well in her Huffington Post article: Although there is much dispute as to the origins of Memorial Day, it is not difficult to imagine that women are the ones who inspired the tradition. After all, for the most part, it was women who were left to bury the dead. Grief stricken and with tears flowing, they had to find a way to connect with the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy. Maybe honoring them was a way to deal with not only the grief, but also the guilt we feel for surviving. Read her complete article here. Even those of us who won't be decorating a loved one's grave this Memorial Day can appreciate the sacrifices that were made for our freedoms. I leave you with this powerful video which brings it all much closer to home for our generation. I was crying by the end of it! So worth watching, and sharing.

The End of the Civil War

Sun, 2015-04-12 05:35 -- Jocelyn Green
On this day in 1865, three days after General Lee's surrender, and four years to the day after the war began in 1861 with the firing on Fort Sumter, Confederate troops formally surrendered to Union. The work of art above, "Salute of Honor" by Mort Kunstler, is so moving to me. But it's even more profound when we consider what was happening at this moment in history. Kunstler's Web site describes it so poignantly, I'm going to quote from it directly: They faced each other in two long straight lines - just as they had so many times before on so many bloody fields of fire. This time was different. Three days earlier, General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the skeletal remnants of his hard-fighting Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant in farmer Wilmer McLean's parlor. Now it was time for the Sons of the South to lay down their arms and give up their bloodied battle flags. As enemies, these men in blue and gray had faced each other at Petersburg and Cold Harbor, at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, at Fredericksburg and Antietam, at Second Manassas and Malvern Hill. Now they again stood in great ranks opposite each other - one now the victor, the other now the vanquished. Placed in command of receiving the Southern surrender was Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Northern war hero who bore four battle wounds inflicted by these men in gray and butternut now assembled before him. Absent in Chamberlain, however, was any animosity toward these former foes; present instead was a sense of respect for fellow countrymen who had given their all in the grip of war. At Chamberlain's order, there was no jeering. No beating of drums, no chorus of cheers nor other unseemly celebration in the face of a fallen foe. "Before us in proud humiliation," Chamberlain would later recall, "stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond. Was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?" At Chamberlain's command, the Northern troops receiving the surrender shifted their weapons to "carry arms" - a soldier's salute, delivered in respect to the defeated Southerners standing before them. Confederate General John B. Gordon, immediately recognized this remarkable, generous gesture offered by fellow Americans - and responded with a like salute. Honor answering honor. Then it was over. And a new day had begun - built on this salute of honor at Appomattox. Former foes both North and South - in mutual respect and mutual toleration - now faced the future together. As Americans all. That future-- the Reconstruction period-- was anything but smooth sailing. In fact, Reconstruction has even been called the Second Civil War due to the intense struggles Americans faced as they pieced their lives and their country back together. But on April 12, 1865, whether they were heartbroken or joyful, there must have been a shared feeling of sober relief that the carnage of the war was over. *If your fascination with the Civil War has not ended with the close of the 150th anniversary dates, I invite you to browse through thirty (and counting) posts I've written on Civil War history. Find them here.

Phantom Limb Pain and the Civil War

Thu, 2015-04-09 09:47 -- Jocelyn Green
    Though the phenomenon of phantom limb pain had been recorded long before the Civil War, it was Silas Weir Mitchell (pictured at left), a Philadelphia physician specializing in nerve injuries during the Civil War, who coined the term. Phantom limb pain, or PLP, occurs when a patient feels pain in an arm or leg that has been amputated. Mitchell studied PLP (or sensory hallucinations, as he also called them) in depth at the Turner’s Lane hospital in Philadelphia, dubbed the Stump Hospital because it focused on caring for amputees. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1199", "attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"194", "height":"300", "alt":"Widow cover 3 hi res"}}]]Since one of my characters in Widow of Gettysburg became an amputee, the following helped inform my story and character development. What Mitchell Found Almost every amputee at Turner’s Lane Hospital experienced PLP. Most of them came out of anesthesia feeling the presence of the amputated limb. Those who did not immediately feel PLP usually felt it within three weeks. Usually, the patients felt the missing hand/foot but not the section of limb directly beyond the stump. Mitchell wrote: “The patients describe themselves as knowing that they have a hand which is connected to a stump, and feel able to move it, but of the rest of the limb they are unconscious, and the subjective sensations which are so common are always referred to the hand or foot, and rarely to the continuity of the member.” In about one-third of the leg cases, and in one-half of the arm amputations, the patient felt that the foot or hand is nearer to the trunk than the extremity of the limb. The type of pain could be burning, itching, stabbing, or cramping. Missing legs usually felt as though they are hanging straight down, while missing arms felt as though they were bent at the elbow or locked in the last position they were in prior to the operation. Treatment of water dressings on the stump helped with burning sensations in some cases, but most efforts to relieve PLP were ineffectual. Amputee veterans wrote to Mitchell decades after their operations and shared that in their dreams, they had all their limbs perfectly whole. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1200", "attributes":{"class":"media-image size-full wp-image-2953", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"529", "height":"640", "alt":"Amputees like this one would have dealt with phantom limb pain (PLP)."}}]] Amputees like this one would have dealt with phantom limb pain (PLP).   What We Know Today The study of PLP continues with today’s generation of amputee veterans. Most contemporary studies confirm what Mitchell found, but add to it some new information. Most recent studies report PLP at rates of 50% to 80%. A few of these are in constant pain, but for most, the episodes can last a few seconds or one to two hours. Since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan more than 1000 amputees have been treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Almost all experience PLP, either within the first 24 hours of amputation, or within two weeks. The following insight comes from an article in a 2010 issue of The Neurologist: “As part of routine treatment efforts, the patients are asked to describe their experience with phantom sensation and phantom pain. There have been a plethora of responses regarding the onset, duration, description, and location of phantom sensations and phantom pains from those queried. Furthermore, some explain they have volitional control over their phantom, and can move their phantom at will, while others report their phantoms being fixed in a specific position. Some even report the inability to make movements with the phantom, despite the presence of a strong sensation or pain emanating from their residual limb. For example, one service member reported that his phantom hand was in a distinct position: he felt he was pulling the trigger on his rifle with his index finger, and was unable to move his hand to a different position. He also felt cramping pains in his hand muscles. Another service member, a bilateral, above knee amputee, described the feeling of heavy legs, asserting that the feeling was similar to weights attached to his calf muscles. He also described that it felt as though his combat boots were on too tightly.” There are multiple theories as to the cause of PLP, all of which can be read in this online article. The most successful treatments have been with opioids and mirror therapy, the latter considered the most promising treatment plan. In this treatment, the patient views the reflection of their intact limb moving in a mirror placed between the arms or legs while simultaneously moving the phantom hand or foot in a manner similar to what they are observing. The virtual limb in the mirror appears to be the missing limb. Patients have reported a relief of cramping and “frozen limb” phantom pains as a result of even one session with the mirror. In one study in which patients used mirror therapy for 15 minutes each weekday for four weeks, significant decreases in pain were reported. More about mirror therapy can also be found in the online article hyperlinked above. For further reading: Mitchell, Silas Weir. The Case of George Dedlow. (fictional account of quad amputee) New York: The Century Co., 1900. Read it online at Google Books here, and begin on page 115. Gunshot Wounds and other Injuries of Nerves. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, & Co., 1864. Read it online at Google Books here:

The Civil War and Prosthetic Limbs

Tue, 2015-04-07 16:07 -- Jocelyn Green
“It is not two years since the sight of a person who had lost one of his lower limbs was an infrequent occurrence. Now, alas! There are few of us who have not a cripple among our friends, if not in our own families. A mechanical art which provided for an occasional and exceptional want has become a great and active branch of industry. War unmakes legs, and human skill must supply their places as it best may.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, M.D., “The Human Wheel, Its Spokes and Felloes”  If necessity is the mother of invention, it should come as no surprise that the Civil War, which produced some 45,000 amputee veterans, also prompted major progress in the development and production of artificial limbs. One of the characters in my novel Widow of Gettysburg is the recipient of one of these limbs. Let’s take a closer look at what was involved in this rehabilitation of amputee veterans. (You can see more on amputations in a previous blog post, here.) Once the stump was healed after amputation and the patient able to do without dressings, the surgeons' work was finished, and the patient was left to shift for himself in securing the best apparatus. But not everyone was a good candidate for a prosthetic. If the limb was taken off at the joint, such as the hip or shoulder, there was no stump to which an artificial limb could be attached. The surgeon may have performed the operation too high or too low on the limb for a good fit to be possible. Also, if the stump was prone to frequent infection, it would have been too painful to attach an artificial limb to it. For those who could pursue a prosthetic, in the North, the most popular artificial leg was a “Palmer” leg, named for Benjamin Franklin Palmer, who patented the design. A previous design by James Potts was made of wood, leather, and cat-gut tendons hinging the knee and ankle joints, and dubbed “The Clapper” for the clicking sound of its motion. Palmer improved upon this design with a heel spring in 1846, and his “American leg” was produced continuously through World War 1. Palmer’s leg cost about $150, a prohibitive amount for the average private, whose pay was about $13 per month. Add to that the cost of travel and lodging expenses to see a specialist, and the number of amputees who could afford it went down even further. The cost of an artificial limb for Confederate veterans was between $300-$500, due to the soaring inflation. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1196", "attributes":{"class":"media-image size-full wp-image-2943", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"496", "height":"600", "alt":"Wooden leg"}}]] Wooden leg   Since the majority of veterans had been farmers, planters, or skilled laborers before the war, the need for artificial limbs was, indeed, a crippling problem. To help address it, the U.S. government appropriated $15,000 in 1862 to pay for limbs for maimed soldiers and sailors. In January 1864, a civilian association in Richmond was established to pay for artificial limbs for Confederate amputees. After the war in 1866, North Carolina became the first state to start a program for thousands of amputees to receive artificial limbs. The program offered veterans free accommodations and transportation by rail; 1,550 veterans contacted the program by mail. During the same year, the State of Mississippi spent more than half its yearly budget providing veterans with artificial limbs. Many entrepreneurs who developed artificial limbs were Civil War veteran amputees themselves. In fact, one of the most successful pioneers in prosthetics was Confederate veteran James Edward Hanger, whose amputation in West Virginia was the first recorded amputation of the Civil War. He was 18 years old at the time. Union surgeons discovered him wounded and performed the amputation, giving him a standard issue replacement leg: a solid piece of wood that made walking clunky and difficult. Hanger’s adjustments included better hinging and flexing abilities using rust-proof levers and rubber pads. He also used whittled barrel staves to make the limb lighter-weight. He won the Confederate contract to produce limbs, and by 1890, had moved his headquarters to Washington, D.C., and opened satellite offices in four other cities. The company he founded – Hanger, Inc. – remains a key player in prosthetics and orthotics today. [[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"1197", "attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter wp-image-2942", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"550", "height":"398", "alt":"hange-decker"}}]] The Civil War-era commitment to support veterans continues today through programs of the VA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to ensure ongoing progress in prosthetics design. The war set the prosthetics industry on a course that would ultimately lead to today’s quasi-bionic limbs that look like the real thing and can often perform some tasks even better. To see just how far we’ve come in the realm of prosthetic limbs, I invite you to take a look at the video below. This is a brief look at the story of Taylor Morris, the fifth quad amputee veteran in the U.S. Army. You will see Taylor, who is from my hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, go from the hospital bed shortly after his surgeries, to dancing with his girlfriend again at the end of the video. (Have a Kleenex handy!) For further reading: Hasegawa, Guy R. Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.


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