Lost Art of Letters and Diaries

The art of letter writing is becoming a talent of the past. Correspondences between family and friends is now replaced by emails and Skype and instant messaging. How will this impact future generations when they want to understand the world we live in today? Our world no longer values cursive writing or a man’s signature marking his word or contract. Our  younger generations do not know how to properly sign their names because they are not being taught cursive writing in school.  All of these skills are lost to the computer age.

Letters and diaries give researchers a first hand account about lives past. Personal ideas and reflections of life as one experiences it.  Thoughts and feelings scribbled onto now aged yellowed fragile paper.  As technology propels us forward, paper gives way to intangible clouds. Are we losing a valuable link to answer questions future generation will ask about us?

Letter writing and diary keeping is an art. It is a space where someone can record their thoughts and feelings about their lives, hopes and worries. Ideas written in personalized handwriting, printed or cursive.  The creative squiggles of cursive writing decorates the page with personality and wit. These personal accounts allow the reader to understand “life as usual” and intimate details about love and devotion. It is all about life as someone experiences it.

Sallie Myers

Salome Meyers

Tillie Pierce

Tillie Pierce

The diaries of Tillie Pierce Alleman and Salome Meyers Stewart discuss life before during and after the Civil war at Gettysburg. Learning intimate details about these women’s lives brought Gettysburg and its people to life.  These accounts helped me create characters who would have seamlessly fit into Gettysburg during that time. Letters from the southern point of view, from Richard Henry Watkins to his wife Mary revealed his devotion to his family and home. Richard wrote about the farm and business dealings before talking about personal issues to Mary. Through these first hand accounts, I understood how they saw the war. Richard treated the war as an inconvenience, while Tillie and Salome expressed fear and worry about how their lives may change. Reading their words helped me understand the events through their eyes.

Hand written letters are becoming a lost art. How will future researchers understand history through our eyes? Will these records exist for future researchers to understand our lives as we see it or will it be gone forever?

 

The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Meyer Stewart, 1854-1922

At Gettysburg or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle: A True Narrative by Tillie Pierce Alleman

Send Me an Old Pair of Boots & Kiss my Little Girls – The Civil War Letters of Richard and Mary Watkins 1861-1865 Jeff Toalson, editor 

 

Richard and Mary Watkins 1890

Richard and Mary Watkins 1890

 

A Tale of Two Book Signings

Every new job comes with a learning curve. Each new equally challenging as another. Learning from these experiences creates better outcomes for the next. The book is four weeks from its release date. I decided set out to pre-sell the book to gain experience through book signing events. I traveled to Gettysburg in June and Northern Wisconsin for July. Prior to the events, I studied several sites on How to Launch a Successful Book-Signing Event. I felt prepared and ready. Here is how that turned out.

The first shipment of books arrived, despite tornadoes around the publishing company weeks earlier. I felt the excitement tingle through me as I touched the “real” books I only dreamed about weeks before. These books were hard-won in my opinion. The first experience through this writing process is bumpy as hell and painstaking at times.

My debut signing scheduled for Heritage Hill during the Civil War event planned there. I chatted up the book throughout the park all day.  I strolled through the 90-degree weather fully dressed in 1860’s gown and bonnet. My PR person aka Mom came with me handing out push cards and telling everyone about the new author and her book. Before the signing event, I changed into my author clothes and set up the signing table. As the visitors trickled through the visitors’ center at the end of the day, I chatted about the book and met some interested readers. The best part about book signings is interacting with the readers. Not everyone was interested, but those who showed interest made the event pretty fantastic. This first event as a whole was a success in my book.

Off to Gettysburg. OH BOY!! Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary was the goal from the moment I started writing this book. I wanted to appear at the re-enactment sites, to get the book into the hands of re-enactors. The downfall to this excursion was a lack of early planning. This event week was too big to tackle alone. The arrangements I made washed away like the tide overtaking a sandcastle on the shore. I refused wash away with the sand. I sold some books and made contacts with bookstores for November. The key to Gettysburg is to plan months in advance, not weeks. I simply did not have enough time to get is done successfully. My son and I forged ahead and pre-planned November by meeting book store owners, leaving promo copies and adding to my list of contacts. I left with one signing and two potential signings scheduled.

Two weeks later, I landed in Northern Wisconsin. My PR person set up multiple library tours and a Strawberry Social event. This was my first set of speaking engagements. I prepared to talk about the book, and its important history. The week was exhausting. The Plum Lake event was a signing event with three local authors. We drew local readers excited to meet us. I practiced my one-minute book speech and enjoyed meeting the readers. I am thankful for the librarian’s efforts to advertise through flyers and press. It was exciting to see the events documented in the local newspapers. This was evident as people recognized my name when I introduced myself.

These events are a warm up to the release of the book in September. The marketing learning curve will become easier with experience. Right now, I am enjoying the process. The editing is done, the book is complete. I am meeting new people, talking about the book and learning new things along the way. It’s just another day in the life of a writer.

 

Gettysburg 1860’s: The Little Town That Never Says Stop

Authors spend hours creating their novels. Time, place and character roles all play a significant part in how the story reads. Knowing the book’s goal was to have a strong female lead in the middle of a man’s war was an important key for this novel. I needed a place to easily fit my character and her family’s beliefs; support their culture and allow them to “fit in”. This is why Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the location of  The Cause: Love & War.

A famous real estate motto boasts Location, Location, and Location! This is exactly what Jacob Prescott was looking for when he made that fateful decision to relocate his family. Although he was not a self-proclaimed abolitionist, Jacob did not believe in the evils of slavery. He grew weary of running the plantation alone. It was time to move. Gettysburg was the perfect location for his family because in 1860, Gettysburg was the small town with all of the big city amenities.

Located seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Prescott’s were as far south in the north as they could get. Once a Southerner always a Southerner, Jacob understood his family would not change by a simple geographic marker like the Mason-Dixon Line. Family ties and traditions were very important to them.

Gettysburg a bustling town of 2,400 people, the cultural make up consisted of Scotch-Irish, German, African Americans, Native Americans and others. Gettysburg established its presence as a settlement, with quality of life improving for its citizens as early as 1840. Gettysburg progressed quickly from the years 1840 to 1860. The community had many progressive personalities that ensured the town’s growth and prosperity. Grounded in faith and surrounded by education the community proudly stayed a progressive small town. The community boasted eight churches, German-Lutheran, German Reformed, Catholic and Presbyterian. Gettysburg had two colleges, a consolidated public school and many private schools.

The area boasted a great balance of industry and agriculture. Fertile farms included crops and orchards of wheat, corn, rye and plums, apples and peaches. Many farmers, whose crops became consumed or destroyed as the result of the battle complained to the government. Most received little for their losses. Industry and businesses kept the population in Gettysburg growing. Tanneries, butcher shops, shoemakers, hotels, restaurants and several mercantile provided citizens choice in merchandise. Industry boomed with carriage factories and the steam foundry that produced cast iron products. The Carriage factories contracted many jobs such as wheelwright, lace makers and cabinet makers. The carriage factories were Gettysburg’s leading industry and export business up to the war. Gettysburg had plenty of occupations and jobs to support its increasing population.

Growth and development of Gettysburg boomed around 1858 when railroad service linked Gettysburg to Harrisburg and Baltimore. The town progressed forward with gaslights and water system in town. In 1857, Gettysburg consolidated their schools into one public Union School. The Union School opened classrooms to male and female students. Soon after the Union School progressed, David Wills, lawyer of Gettysburg, focused on training teachers to improve the schools. Public schools, private schools, colleges and a Theological Seminary prepared Gettysburg to become forward thinking community.

The political environment in Gettysburg was actively boisterous. Politics played out in the Gettysburg newspapers. Citizens could read varying opinions on all political subjects. The town was sharply divided Whig, Republican and Democrat. Debates and political meetings kept the towns patriotism alive. It was this patriotic sentiment that raised many honorable and brave troops at Lincoln’s request.

Gettysburg was not all work and no play. Social events were just as important to make this community strong. The local churches provided picnics and socials for entertainment. Gettysburg had several visits from traveling circus. Unfortunate situations like barn fires and other tragedies gathered the community together to care for each other. During the war years, many relief groups pulled together to support the Union. It was this sense of community and strength that pulled Gettysburg through the horrific months of battle aftermath.

Jacob Prescott could not have made a better decision than to move to Gettysburg. The family was still close enough to the South to stay in contact with family. It removed them from the up close and very uncomfortable issue of slavery. Gettysburg had a thriving community of free blacks. The community by no means a utopia, segregation and negative black opinion was still quietly prevalent. Yet this culture was making headway for its time.

The 1860 August 20 note in the Compiler stated Gettysburg’s sentiment towards their success as a town.

“Gettysburg now has her railroad, her water works, her gas works, her cemetery, her college, her seminary, her public school. What will come next? We cannot say, but our enterprising little town never says stop”

Good soil, occupations a plenty and education for the family, are ideal qualities for a good place to live. The Prescott family was excited to begin a new life. Would a town so deeply steeped in political opinion, change their opinion of the new family from the South?