Civil War Naval Quarantines

History Behind the Story #3: Naval Quarantines

THE HISTORY: If you have read Northern Fire, you know that my historical male lead, John Thomas, makes the decision to quarantine his ship when Typhoid breaks out.  When I first wrote Northern Fire, I never imagined a quarantine in modern times.  Then when I did the first read-through edit, the quarantine scene felt eerily familiar to me.  I realized that this is an instance in which history could be very useful to us.  Our ancestors have experienced something that we never have.  I encourage you to look at historical pandemics to see what it was like for those in the past.

Naval quarantines have a long history.  Do any of you watch Outlander? Claire and Jamie are forced to contend with a quarantine on their way from Scotland to America, if you would like to see an example in film.  Of course, there were diseases in the Civil War which led to this necessity, too. 

Even though we’re fond of saying that the Germ Theory had not been accepted during the war, we too often leave it at that and imagine that people were without any sense that there was a possibility that diseases were transmittable from person to person.  This simply is not true.  There would have been no historical quarantines if it were.  People had witnessed too many epidemic diseases and the toll they took to be completely unaware that there were forces that they could not see at play.  You can find examples very far back in history of people being afraid they would “catch” something from someone else.  They just didn’t always know how. 

A lot of diseases were thought to be caused by inflammation (this was why bloodletting was popular, although it was going out of fashion by the Civil War).  There was also a Miasmas Theory which hypothesized that “bad air” caused illness.  Not always untrue, but wrong, of course, in relation to what we now know about viruses and bacteria.  But if you think about it, the Miasmas Theory, while primitive, may actually have been useful for preventing the spread of disease during the Civil War.  A lot of illnesses are airborne, so not breathing air near a sick person was not a bad idea anyway.

Unfortunately, a lot of times, being cautious of the air didn’t hit at the actual cause of disease.  For instance, in Northern Fire, the illnesses at play are Typhoid and Yellow Fever.  The first was caused by bacteria in drinking water, the second, by mosquitos.  For Typhoid, there was actually an American scientist during the Civil War which put forward the “unclean food and water” theory, but it hadn’t gained much traction, as you can see during John Thomas’s conversation with the doctor, who writes it off as a bunch of nonsense.

Okay, so let’s move on to actual Civil War quarantines themselves.  There’s not a lot out there on this subject.  I think Civil War quarantines have slipped through the cracks for a lot of historians.  I have found few to no mentions even in my books solely devoted to Naval history, so this is a subject where you have to piece together scraps from letters and use a little imagination. 

A lot of sources seem to indicate that Civil War Naval quarantines were used most commonly and effectively for Yellow Fever.  Robert F. Reilly says, rather boldly, that quarantines “virtually eliminated” Yellow Fever during the war.[1]  So let’s dig into why that might be. 

First of all, Yellow Fever really hit Union soldiers in the Mississippi Delta hard since they were newcomers who hadn’t built up an immunity to the disease.  As an example of contrast, Jefferson Davis had Yellow Fever as a young man, which would have given him lifelong immunity.  Therefore, the Union had a real problem on its hands and dealt with it swiftly.  The following is an extract from the Baylor University Medical Journal which explains what happened.

Outbreaks would often occur after a ship arrived from a Caribbean port. It could be prevented by quarantining newly arrived ships in most cases. Attempts at its prevention by Benjamin Butler in New Orleans may have been the first example of a medical incentive plan. Butler, with urging from his superior officer Rear Admiral David Farragut, told Dr. Jonathan M. Foltz: “In this matter your orders shall be absolute. Order off all you may think proper [ships to quarantine], and so long as you keep yellow fever away from New Orleans your salary shall be one thousand dollars per month. When yellow fever appears in this city your pay shall cease.” Dr. Foltz quarantined all ships for 40 days 70 miles below the city, and this virtually eliminated yellow fever in New Orleans.

Reilly, Robert F., “Medical and Surgical Care during the American Civil War, 1861-1865.”

Yellow Fever is not transmissible from human to human except to the extent that mosquitos transmit it between them.  Mosquitos become infected by biting humans or monkeys which are infected and then pass it to other humans, and so the cycle goes.  That would be why this method of keeping people out of New Orleans was effective, even though mosquitos, and not humans, technically spread the disease.  New Orleans mosquitos didn’t have the chance to become infected as long as infected ships stayed quarantined.

A specific example of a quarantine was the USS Albatross (featured in the cover photo), which had a Yellow Fever outbreak while in service in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.  It was ordered to Pensacola, Florida, where it went into quarantine until the crew was healthy again.  The same thing happened the next year, and it was back to Pensacola for another quarantine.

What did a quarantine look like onboard a ship?  Total shutdown, out at sea, trapped in a ship.  During the Black Death in the fourteenth century, Venice established formal quarantines that lasted for forty days.  Forty days seems to have been pretty standard until more modern times when we were able to tailor quarantines to incubation periods for specific illnesses.

So for the Mississippi River, which is where John Thomas was, the situation was a little different.  You had huge Naval vessels in a river, not on the open sea.  They were closer to land and closer to other people.  The information is scant on how quarantines were carried out on the river.  There was a pre-war quarantine station south of New Orleans where river ships and boats would be stopped and kept in quarantine if there were disease on board.  The station was recaptured by the Union. However, at the point Typhoid and Yellow Fever break out in Northern Fire, the Union Army and Navy are still driving south toward Vicksburg by way of the Mississippi River.  There would have been no way to get the ship south of New Orleans.

Therefore, I used a little imagination and a little history of Army quarantines and had John Thomas actually order his men to be removed from the ship and taken high up on a hill to quarantine tents.

PERSONAL SPOTLIGHT: Speaking of Army quarantines, there was a botched attempt at smallpox inoculation which led to an outbreak among the 20th Maine, of the Army of the Potomac.  A surgeon named Nahum P. Monroe grew really concerned at the possibility of an outbreak among the whole army, especially since they were on the eve of the Chancellorsville Campaign in the spring of 1863.  He said there was no telling where it would end if it ever got started.  He had to use persuasion to get anyone to listen. He pointed out that all a smallpox outbreak would accomplish would be to give aid and comfort to the Confederate Army.  He was effective: the regiment, sick and healthy, were quarantined away from the rest of the army on a hill.  Signs were posted around camp warning of danger if you got too close.  The 20th Maine, therefore, did not fight in the Chancellorsville campaign.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If you do a search for “Civil War quarantines,” you can find all sorts of primary source references to many different types of quarantines (just not Naval!).  Some involve armies, while others involve civilian refugees.  There were outbreaks in certain cities.  Sometimes people would flee for that cause, while sometimes they would be displaced by the war.  In any event, there are reports of hotels quarantining against people coming from infected cities.  Quarantine seems to have been a common word, a common experience and way of life, then.  Do you find that thought comforting regarding our current pandemic?  Does it make you grateful most infectious diseases in America have become more manageable?

ANALYSIS OF PHOTOGRAPH: This is a portrait (not a photograph, sorry!) of Quarantine Station near Port St. Phillip below New Orleans.  Any Louisianans out there?  Tell us what you know!  This is a very interesting piece of American history that seems to have been lost.  It was built some time before the war, presumably to prevent the spread of disease as vessels entered from the Gulf and could potentially spread diseases all the way up the Mississippi River into Canada.  There were several buildings on site, including a hospital, a storehouse, and a house where the Union high command once had headquarters.  Some sources report that vessels were pulled into quarantine here during the war.

Photo Credit: Civil War Rx.

SOURCES:

“Civil War Rx: Quarantine,” http://civilwarrx.blogspot.com/2013/09/quarantine.html.

Lossing, Benson J., “Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America,” David McKay: 1866.

Reilly, Robert F., “Medical and Surgical Care during the American Civil War, 1861-1865,” Proc (Bal Univ Med Cent) 2016, Apr; 29(2): 138-142, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790547/.

“The 20th Maine’s Quarantine Experience with Smallpox,” National Museum of Civil War Medicine, https://www.civilwarmed.org/quarantine/.

“Transmission of Yellow Fever Virus,” https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/transmission/index.html.

Photo Credit for Feature Photo: USS Albatross: Public Domain.


[1] Reilly, Robert F., “Medical and Surgical Care during the American Civil War, 1861-1865.”

Welcome!

Welcome! Put on the kettle while you get acquainted with Tea & Rebellion…

You’ll find tidbits about my books, reviews, history, travel musings, and tea.  Sit back and enjoy a bit of rebellion while you sip.

-Tara

TARA COWAN has been writing novels since she was seventeen. She is the author of the Torn Asunder Series, including Southern Rain and Northern Fire. A huge lover of all things history, she loves to travel, watch British dramas, read good fiction, and spend time with her family. An attorney, Tara lives in Tennessee and is busy writing her next novel.

TARA holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science, with minors in English and History, from Tennessee Tech University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

TO CONNECT with Tara, follow her on Instagram @teaandrebellion_, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

The Roper Hospital in Charleston

History Behind the Story #2: The Roper Hospital in Charleston

THE HISTORY: It all started with a bequest.  Colonel Thomas Roper, a former mayor of Charleston, left the Medical Society of South Carolina $30,000, which, along with other donations and city funds, was ultimately used  in 1852 to build the Roper Hospital.  The building was located on the corner of Queen and Logan Streets.  It proclaimed the following mission: “to treat all sick and injured people ‘without regard to complexion, religion, or nation.’”[1] I probably don’t have to tell you that this mission was pretty progressive for its time.  The Roper Hospital was intended to be charitable from its foundation.  In fact, it was specifically intended to benefit “paupers,” the word in that day for financially disadvantaged people.

Hospitals were a little different from today.  In the Victorian Era, those who could afford it were traditionally treated at home.  Therefore, any hospital was first and foremost a chartable institution, whatever else they might also do.  And the Roper Hospital did a lot!

There was a Medical College in Charleston, and Roper served as the teaching hospital for the new doctors/trainees.  The hospital was adjacent to the College, so that made it easy for students to go back and forth. This is quite a modern system, kind of like the university hospitals we see today. 

The hospital didn’t start out soft—its beginning constituted more of a baptism by fire.  Roper was forced to contend fairly quickly with various epidemics, including Smallpox, Cholera, Yellow Fever, and Typhoid. There was also the Great Charleston Fire of 1861, which was covered in the last History Behind the Story article.  The Charleston fire doesn’t seem to have touched the hospital building, but it seems almost certain that the injured and burned were brought to the hospital.

And of course, there was the Civil War. Trustees are required to try to carry out the purposes for which the organization they serve (in this case, the hospital) was founded.[2]  Therefore, when he Civil War started, the Roper Hospital trustees were concerned about there not being enough room for its mentally ill and poor patients if thousands of Confederate wounded were allowed to be treated at the hospital.

You see, the Confederacy had a hospital problem.  While the Union was able to form a very cohesive medical system with hospitals specifically designated as military hospitals, the Confederacy had nothing really of the sort.  It had a system cobbled together from private donors and hospitals that were willing to open their doors.  I won’t say there was no effort to create a medical system that functioned cohesively, but there were never enough funds.

Therefore, it was really up to the Roper Hospital as to whether they would open their doors to wounded and sick soldiers.  But Roper did become an unofficial military treating hospital.  I can find no documentation as to why this happened over the objection of the trustees, but if I was guessing, I would say it was probably the pressure of public opinion.

Let me place the Roper Hospital in its place in history at the outbreak of the Civil War.  I tend to think of the leaders in the American medical field being located in Philadelphia or New York during the Victorian Era.  But Charleston was the largest and wealthiest city south of Philadelphia, so it was able to compete in the profession.

Roper Hospital was a teaching hospital, which means it was on the cusp of the latest innovations in medicine.  It also was only five years old at the outbreak of the Civil War, which means it was well-equipped and state-of-the art.  One source says, “Very modern for its day, it contained a library, a large amphitheater for clinical lectures, and living quarters for physicians.” So this was a pretty large operation.

There is not a lot in the way of comprehensive online records for Roper Hospital, so I had to be a bit of a sleuth, scrapping together mentions here and there of the hospital’s war years.  For Northern Fire, I had to base Shannon’s experience as a nurse largely off of the experience of other Civil War nurses, both Union and Confederate because I could find nothing on the actual experience of nurses for Roper specifically.

But here were a few things I was able to find about the war years.  One article says that “the hospital…served as a Confederate Hospital and prison for Union soldiers during the Civil War.” [3]  I did a double take when I saw the word “prison.” But I’m assuming that what is meant is that is, if there were wounded Union soldiers who fell into Confederate hands, they were treated at the hospital under a technical status of prisoner.  After they recovered, they would have been dealt with as would any other prisoner, which means they would have been paroled or sent to a Confederate prison.

We do know that women were instrumental in keeping the hospitals supplied.  The Soldiers’ Relief Association distributed supplies to the various hospitals in Charleston, including Roper.  There seem to have been at least nine hospitals in Charleston during the Civil War, and the Association provided supplies to them all.  Supplies would have included food, wine, clothing, bedding, and the all-important mosquito nets.  The number of hospitals would have caused, I imagine, competition for supplies as the blockade tightened over the war years.

Since my main character, Shannon, would have been of high social standing, let’s focus on the history of women in her position.  It has long been known that ladies provided help to hospitals in the form of letter writing and bringing baskets of food and the like to the soldiers.  However, necessity meant that their work was actually a little grittier than that.  They often became full-fledged nurses, which meant they had to contend with gangrene, lice, body lice, various contagious diseases, gruesome surgeries, and any other issue a patient might be facing.  In other words, they got their hands dirty, too.

It was fairly common for a female relative of an injured soldier to go and act as nurse to their family member, so I think it is likely that the Roper Hospital had family members in and out all the time, likely even staying on its premises wherever they could fit.

I won’t go into detail about all that women did as nurses and hospital staff during the war because that could take up several books.  But I will add that often it was enslaved or Free Black women who kept the hospitals running by cooking, cleaning, and providing support staff.  I can find no evidence in the Roper Hospital records available of who provided such services, but I think it is likely that Roper was no different from the norm.

When Charleston fell, Roper Hospital was taken over by Union forces.  Later, it was able to continue its operations.  The original Roper Hospital was damaged in a tornado in 1885 and destroyed in an earthquake in 1886 (geez, so many disasters in Charleston!). But the hospital was rebuilt and is still in operation today. 

PERSONAL SPOTLIGHT: Since records were a little difficult to find on Roper Hospital, I thought we would do the Personal Spotlight on my fictional character, Phoebe.  If you’ve read the Series so far, you know that Phoebe was enslaved by the Ravenel family at one time.  However, Shannon’s husband insisted that she be freed if she went to the North with them as Shannon’s servant.  Therefore, Shannon’s father freed Phoebe around the time of Shannon’s marriage. 

As a condition of allowing Shannon to work at the hospital as a nurse, Shannon’s father insists that Phoebe accompany her.  Phoebe does so, where she works and encounters several instances of discrimination.  Phoebe was in a bit of an interesting role as a “Free Black” in Charleston during the war.  However, there had always been a fairly significant Free Black population in Charleston, and I don’t think it is stretching reality at all to think that women like Phoebe would have played a significant role in hospitals in the Confederacy during the war.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Have you ever imagined yourself as a nurse during the Civil War?  What must it have been like for elegant ladies to have to make that transition?  We tend to think favorably of those who acted as nurses and scoff at those who hesitated.  But have you pictured yourself, if you are like me and are not trained in medicine, leaving your parlor, assisting in multiple amputations per day, tending gangrenous wounds, and dealing with the lice and smells?  It had to have been a difficult adjustment!

ANALYSIS OF PHOTOGRAPH: Look at this beauty! 

The Roper Hospital in 1865

Photo Credit: University of Notre Dame Archives

Italianate architecture was very much in vogue in the 1850’s.  You see it all over the South.  Notice how piazzas grace all three of its stories. There are also six towers, one at every corner and two at the main entrance.  I could definitely see Shannon (if forced to work) gracing such an establishment.

Stop by next time for some neat history on Naval Quarantines – something to which we can all, unfortunately, now relate!

SOURCES:

Brown, Jane McCutchen, “Roper Hospital,” South Carolina Encyclopedia, http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/roper-hospital/, June 20, 2016.

Daughters of the Confederacy, “South Carolina Women in the Confederacy,” Big Byte Books, 2016.

“History,” https://www.rsfh.com/about/history/.

“Online Exhibits, Civil War Photographs by George Barnard,” http://archives.nd.edu/research/exhibits/barnard/39.html.

“Records of the Commissioners of the City Hospital, 1879-1907,” Charleston County Public Library.

“Roper Hospital,” Waring Historical Library, http://waring.library.musc.edu/exhibits/earthquake/Roper.php.

“Roper Hospital Records,” MSS 300, Waring Historical Library, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, http://waring.library.musc.edu/finding-aids/pdf/mss-0300.pdf.

Photo Credit for Feature Photo: South Carolina Encyclopedia


[1] “History,” https://www.rsfh.com/about/history/.

[2] The Medical Society of South Carolina was the trustee, which makes sense since the Society was initially left the bequest.

[3] “Roper Hospital.”

The Charleston Fire of 1861

Welcome back to the History Behind the Story Series!  This is a series of articles in which I give you the background on the events that happened in my books or the historical choices I made when writing the book.  There were ten articles in total for Southern Rain, and the following is the first of the five articles that dig into the history of Northern Fire.  There are some fun new features to the series, including different sections called “The History,” “Personal Spotlight,” “Food for Thought,” and “Analysis of Photograph.”  Ready?  Here we go!

History Behind the Story #1: The Charleston Fire of 1861

THE HISTORY: One thing that has always been difficult to remember when I am writing about the Civil War is the fact that other life carried on at the same time that the Civil War was in progress.  I know that the war was all-consuming and that its progress was probably one of the only topics in the conversation of the entire country for four years.  I once read a happy-go-lucky romance set in Tennessee during the Civil War that felt a bit off-base.  There was no real normalcy during the Civil War. 

But there was a certain business-as-usual aspect to certain facets of life that doesn’t initially occur to you.  Seasons changed, there were weddings, mothers still died in childbirth, ordinary people still came down with tuberculosis and typhoid, mental institutions still had to function, city governments still operated unless it was impossible, and, apparently, there were still accidental fires which wiped out huge portions of cities.

I was surprised when I learned about the fire.  There was already a blockade, the constant threat of bombardments and battle, and just add a destructive fire into the mix!  It must have felt like the Apocalypse!  Or maybe not.  I once read a first-hand account of a woman reflecting on the feelings of her enslaved butler as things got really bad in Charleston.  She said he sat by the door as serenely as though nothing had happened.  Maybe from his perspective it felt like deliverance!

In any event, things got pretty rough in Charleston before they got better.  The city was in a unique situation where it was protected by forts, and it didn’t fall until the last days of the war.  All of this will be covered in a later post dealing with the fall of Charleston.  But for now, just to set the stage for the fire, Charleston was carrying on in as business-as-usual fashion as possible.  There were no Union troops occupying the city.  Certain islands had fallen near the city, Union troops were on South Carolina soil, and naval vessels were angling toward its outlying forts, but there was no extremely substantial threat of Union troops getting truly near the city yet since it was so heavily protected. 

This was early in the war, so there was hardship but not the extreme poverty the later war years would see.  There was still something of a social season in the winter because there were many forts nearby, and people wanted to entertain all of the officers.  So we’re right in the middle of all of that on December 11 when a cold front moves in during the night.

I should note that the origins of the fire are unknown.  However, there are some theories.  One is that there were enslaved people who were refugees who started a fire for warmth or to cook, and the fire got out of bounds.  I am a little skeptical of this theory because we know that the fire started at the corner of East Bay and Hassell Streets, which seems to have been a business district.  I think it’s more likely that one of the other theories is true: that the fire began in one of the businesses in the area—either Russel & Co.’s Sash and Blind Factory or Cameron & Co.’s Immense Machine Shops. 

Apparently, it was one of those quick fires that starts to spread rapidly almost before you even know it has ignited.  The weather conditions were perfect to give the fire speed.  Confederate troops as far as 14 miles away could see the flames—whoa!  Union troops 6 miles out to sea could see the flames, too.

Picture the historical moment…

The wind is especially high. The fire is just eating these massive mansions, and the city officials get concerned about the fact that the fire is heading toward the Marine and Roper Hospitals, the Medical College, and the Roman Catholic Orphanage House.  They realize the fire isn’t going to stop spreading without some drastic measures, so they blow up 14 houses on Queen Anne Street to create a fire block in order to save those vulnerable buildings.   I haven’t heard that the owners of those 14 houses kicked up much of a dust about their houses being blown up. I think we would say the same thing today: save the kids, save the hospitals, we’ll deal with the rest later.  (And it probably helped that the houses were in the fire’s path anyway!)

There are firefighters on the scene, many of whom were enslaved men.  There is a 19th century equivalent of a fire engine.  But it is dead low tide, and the workers are unable to pull enough water from the bay to handle this out-of-control situation.[1]

People are saving what they can from the houses and businesses.  Locals bust into St. Andrews Hall to save the full-length portrait of Queen Victoria (which just goes to show Americans have long been Royal Addicts; I would probably have saved Victoria, too![2]).

It isn’t until noon the next day that the fire clears the peninsula and dies out.  The casualty tolls were as follows: hundreds of acres burned, 575 homes burned, 5 churches burned, and numerous businesses destroyed.  There are no recorded lives lost, but it has been speculated that there must have been some deaths, possibly including enslaved people.[3]

Some interesting building casualties: The Circular Congregational Church. (I say interesting because there wasn’t a huge Congregational presence in the South, but my historical New Englander John Thomas is a Congregationalist.)  The church was rebuilt and claims with pride to be one of the oldest continuously worshipping congregations in the South.  It was founded in 1688.  You can see its ruins here in a period photograph.  The graveyard in the foreground is rather eerie.

Circular Congregational Church Ruins

Photo Credit: CircularChurch.org

Another notable building which burned was Institute Hall, where matters had really started to break down between the Democratic Party in 1860 and where South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession had been ratified.

Some of the buildings which had been lost were colonial structures, a real loss for lovers of architectural history.  The Charleston Mercury ran a series of obituaries to the mansions lost.  As someone who loves old buildings, I feel that!

Soup houses were set up to feed the homeless.  There were relief committees and lots of donors, and the Georgia Legislature generously voted to send $100,000 in relief aid to Charleston.  But even still, it was hard to dig out and rebuild with a war in progression, so a lot of the city just lay in ruins for the rest of the war and the years beyond. 

The fire was reported on across the country, including in Northern newspapers. (If you’ve read Northern Fire, you know this is how John Thomas finds out Shannon has made it to Charleston.)  If you have a membership, you can still find a New York Times article from December 29, 1861 here: https://www.nytimes.com/1861/12/29/archives/the-condition-of-charleston-ruins-of-the-great-fireold-landmarks.html.  You can also find a Harper’s Weekly article published in December of 1861 free here: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1861/december/charleston-fire.htm.[4]

Charleston, when it finally did fall, was not necessarily a good place to be.  Many in the North saw The Holy City as the main perpetrator of the beginning of the Civil War and wanted, ultimately, to make the city pay for the incredible expenditure of human blood.  And yet, “The vast majority of damage and destruction to Charleston during the Civil War was caused by The Great Fire of 1861, the worst in its history.”[5]  One source says, “…nature did what the Yankees only dreamed of doing.”[6]

PERSONAL SPOTLIGHT: Robert E. Lee was in Charleston on the night of the fire. He had not yet attained his ultimate fame or the position as the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Instead, he had been sent to organize coastal defenses in the Carolinas and Georgia.  He was staying at the Mills House Hotel, where he and some of his staff went up either onto the balcony or the roof to watch the progress of the fire.  It started to get too close to the hotel (see the picture below which shows just how close), and they were evacuated to Edmonston-Alston House (which is the house my fictional Ravenel House is based on) on East Battery Street.  These facts were what gave me the clue that Shannon and her family would certainly be coughing from the smoke nearby but that they would be thought to be in a fairly safe area of town.

The Mills House Hotel was reported to have been saved only by staff placing wet blankets on the walls and roof.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: It sounds like there were slave refugees in Charleston in December of 1861 if their presence was well-enough known that their actions became a principle/folk theory as to the source of the fire.  My question is: where had the refugees come from?  Some of the surrounding islands that had been invaded by the Union or abandoned by their owners?  From other abandoned towns of South Carolina?  And if the refugees had left abandoned or occupied properties, why do you think they would flee those places into the middle of a city that was still functioning as part of the Confederate government?  Wouldn’t they be afraid they would be captured and returned to their owners or sold at one of Charleston’s famous slave markets? 

What do you think motivated the slave refugees?  Do you think they were left alone by the authorities in Charleston?  If so, why?  I have some thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours!

ANALYSIS OF PHOTOGRAPH: Take a look at this photo showing the still-intact Mills House Hotel. 

Mills House Hotel in Background

Photo Credit: LowCountryWalkingTours.com

Several things strike me about this picture.  One is how close the Confederate officers were to the flames.  Do you see buildings that nearly touch it are totally destroyed?  You can see that the east side of the building is charred.  Another thing that strikes me is the man who is standing.  He appears to be an African American man.  He is carrying a number of items.  Can you identify any of them?  I’m not sure what some of them are.  What do you think his situation is?  Is he cleaning up the debris?  Just passing through?  I also notice the man who is sitting.  I believe he is in a Confederate uniform, but I’m not certain.  It might be a cadet’s uniform.  I think he has a gun in his right hand.  Does he strike you as rather forlorn?  Do you think he has some sort of connection to the building he is sitting on?

Stop by next time for a look at the Roper Hospital’s use as a military hospital in Charleston during the Civil War!

SOURCES:

Ferrara, Marie, Moses Henry Nathan and the Great Charleston Fire of 1861, The South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 4, (Oct., 2003).

Hicks, Brian, “Charleston at War: Charleston Beaten Down by Great Fire,” https://www.postandcourier.com/news/charleston-at-war-charleston-beaten-down-by-great-fire/article_4c54dce2-de2e-591f-b6c4-357e1ec599ab.html, January 29, 2011.

Schreadly, R.L., “The Great Fire of 1861 Took a Devastating Toll on Charleston,” https://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/commentary/the-great-fire-of-1861-took-a-devastating-toll-on-charleston/article_194f6588-3066-11e9-abee-a7ef909d7338.html, February 19, 2019.

“The Burning of Charleston,” Harper’s Weekly, December 28, 1861.

“The Great Charleston Fire of 1861,” https://lowcountrywalkingtours.com/charleston-stories/the-great-charleston-fire-of-1861/.

Photo Credit for Feature Photo: LowCountryWalkingTours.com


[1] Southern newspapers report that the efforts of the firefighters were really valiant, while at least one Northern newspaper reports that the enslaved men disabled two of the fire engines.  You can see in this split the ongoing debate about slavery during the war.  The Southern newspapers had an interest in showing that the slaves were happy enough with their lot to try to save the city, while the Northern newspapers had an interest in showing that slaves were deeply unhappy.  As a side-note, the Northern newspapers tend to tie what happened to slavery or to a retribution from Providence for secession.

[2] Do you think the portrait was special to the citizens of Charleston for a particular reason, or do you think this had something do to with the hopes that Great Britain would join the South as an ally?

[3] I wonder if there wasn’t a huge death toll because of the adequacy of the warning system within the city.  We hear that “the alarm rang out, calling the citizens to quell the fire.” (Schreadly.)  This is pure speculation, but I imagine that means that the bells from the steeples of Charleston’s many churches were pealed.

[4] This article references that the fire was started as part of a planned slave insurrection.  An interesting theory.  You hear rumors of that in several sources, but I could never determine whether they were fact or only speculation.

[5] “The Great Charleston Fire of 1861.”

[6] “Charleston at War: Charleston Beaten Down by Great Fire.”

Naming Our Characters

Naming characters is one of my favorite things to do when I’m starting a new book. It can also be a really difficult process, though, and I have author friends who get stuck in this phase and throw their hands up in frustration. I’ve been working on honing my naming skills over the past eleven years and thought I’d share some of my techniques!

The most important thing is that the name works for you. It has to wash with the character in your head, or it just doesn’t click. A closely related tip is that the name has to work for the character. Sometimes the name makes the character, and sometimes the character makes the name. Usually, I try to choose names that really suit the person, kind of like you would do if you were naming a pet. An example of this is Shannon’s cousin, Marie, from the Torn Asunder Series. The name just always suited her, so that was easy. An example of the character making the name would be if you had a really bold girl but decided to give her a soft, feminine name, just for the contrast. I’ve seen this work really well.

Using an obviously unsuited name can also work if you want to try out an unusual moniker. I’ve had characters in the past that I’ve done this for, and I think, “Wow, you really pulled that off!” On the flip side, not every name is made for every character. For instance, my historical male lead, John Thomas, was originally Cameron. This is a bit of a modern name, but I knew I could get away with it because it is a surname, and a lot of people gave their sons family surnames back in the day.  However, the name didn’t fit him. It was as though the name tried to make him something he wasn’t. His character even started to change a little from the way I had imagined it in my head. This is the power of naming.

You can also see by my experience with the John Thomas/Cameron debacle that naming can help you get to know your characters when their personalities are still fresh and undeveloped in your head. Through that process, I was able to learn that John Thomas was a little quieter and kinder than I had begun to draw him. The character begins to revolt against the wrong name, and it’s a really helpful tool to keep in your back pocket.

So how did I arrive at John Thomas? It’s hard to remember precisely after so many character names, but I’m pretty sure that John Thomas’s name was inspired by Stonewall Jackson’s. A lot of people don’t know that the famous General was actually Thomas Jonathan Jackson. I always thought the name had a rather nice ring to it. So I kind of flipped it and brushed it up for my character. Why the use of two names? People did this during the Civil War Era. Also, I could never think of one name that fully encapsulated his character.

A name is also a good opportunity to show that you’ve done your historical homework. You probably don’t want a Kayla in 1860. But it’s not always easy to think of good historical names or to know what names were common to your particular era. The best place to start is to pull up census records for the era you want to use. A lot of census records list ages, so you need to look for someone who would have been born in the same decade as your character. There is also a great website that compiles censuses by birth year and lists the most popular names of each decade. It can be found here:

https://www.galbithink.org/names/us200.htm.

I use that site all the time. Remember, if you’re writing a twenty-year-old character in 1850, you need to go back to 1830. Only think how much naming trends change in twenty years in the modern world!  They didn’t change as much, historically speaking, but you can definitely see certain fashion trends as you scroll through censuses. Another tip is to study real people from your era and look at what their children, their sisters, their uncles, etc. were named.

My books also include enslaved characters. For their names, the process is a little different. The censuses also included and counted the enslaved since slave states got a boost in representation in Congress based off the number of slaves held. Obviously, then, you can find historically accurate names for the enslaved from censuses. But you have to find a census from a slave state, and I have often found that historical records from Southern states are a little spottier and more difficult to locate for various reasons. Another good option is to get onto the websites of house museums where there was once an enslaved population. Museums will often do highlights on particular enslaved people or families. The one tough thing about that is that house museums tend to focus on a particular era. For instance, Virginia plantations most all tend to spotlight the Revolutionary Era. So, another thing you can do is read biographies or diaries of slaveowners. Typically, the names of the enslaved will come up. If you have a really hard time tracking down slave records, you can just fall back on the names from the general census from the appropriate era. The names didn’t tend to be too different. For instance, Thomas Jefferson’s rolls list an enslaved woman named Patsy at Monticello, and his daughter was also Patsy.

Okay, so let’s wrap up the conversation on first names with some of my choices from the Torn Asunder Series. Shannon was originally Mary until it struck me that “Shannon” really suited her. Therefore, she became Mary Shannon and is called “Shannon.” Historically, a lot of people gave even their girls family surnames as middle names, so I thought I could get away with that. Frederick’s name just always suited him. “Adeline” (my modern female lead) fit her. It was kind of sweet, kind of quirky, kind of old. Adrian (my modern male lead) kept trying to be “Aidan,” which would have worked for him, but I kept forcing him to be “Adrian” for reasons I can’t now remember!

Now, let’s talk surnames.

I think the most important thing in surnames is remembering that you’re dealing with people who have a family history. I recently read a book that featured a historical character from Tennessee, and he had a last name that was distinctly of Germanic origin. My initial reaction was, “No, he’s not from Tennessee.”  As I sat and wondered why that had thought popped in my head, it hit me that there just weren’t a lot of people of Germanic origins in Tennessee in the era the author had chosen. There were a few, though, and people can obviously move from their original state. I kept waiting for the book to explain the character’s family history, but it never did, and that was when it hit me.  I googled the author’s state, and most of the people there are of Germanic origins. Bingo. It was just an oversight or an assumption, which could happen to any of us. There’s just so much to get right when you’re writing, and it’s impossible to cover it all.

The best thing to do is look at immigration patterns. For historical fiction, unless you’re doing it to make a certain point, it’s best not to stray too much from the area’s human ecology because you run the risk of straying from accuracy in naming. For instance, if you’re writing a book set in New Orleans, it’s best to use mostly French surnames, toss in a few Spanish, and add a dash of English. In Tennessee, immigration patterns show the bulk of the population was from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Always, there will be surnames that stray from the norm, and by all means, it’s great to show those. But do it with intention.

I would just like to make a note here that research should also be done if you have characters who were formerly or currently enslaved. You have a lot of options, including the following: having no surname while enslaved, having a family surname even while enslaved (if permitted), keeping an original African name, taking on an African surname after freedom, taking on a name that meant something special to the individual like “Freeman” or “Ransom,” and taking on the former owner’s surname. You can see the potential for so many wonderful stories and choices. To explore those stories through naming is a particularly profound opportunity.

Also, if your historical story includes a Native American character, similarly there needs to be some research on various naming methods. Sometimes Native Americans would choose to take on a European name either because they were fathered by a European American or as a measure of assimilation. Sometimes Native Americans would choose to keep traditional names.

Obviously, for modern storylines, some of this goes out the window because we live in a much more mobile and diverse society.  But I still think it can’t hurt to do a little research. Even your modern characters have a family story, and I think their backgrounds ring truest when you take a little time to research what that story might have been.

As for my surname choices? Charleston has a strong French Huguenot history, and Ravenel is a French Huguenot name I heard again and again on a nerdy historian’s tour of Charleston.  So I plucked it right from history.  My historical male lead is from New England. Obviously, there were a lot of people of English descent in Massachusetts in the nineteenth century, so I pulled a list of English surnames. “Haley” appealed to me because of Alex Haley’s powerful connection with the history of slavery in light of John Thomas’s abolitionist roots.  So names can also be symbolic or literary while still being historically accurate!  My modern male lead is also a Ravenel due to his family connection back to the historical portion of the series.  My modern female lead is a Miller.  A girl-next-door name, no?

How do you choose your character names? Any good tips? If you’re not a writer, how did you name your kids or pets?

Release Day: Northern Fire!

Happy Release Day to  Northern Fire!  This is Book 2 of the Torn Asunder Series.  The new release’s journey will take us all the way through the Civil War for the historical portion and through the next few months of our protagonists’ lives in the modern portion.  Order Northern Fire now exclusively from Amazon.com!

Click the link below to order, or scroll on down for the synopsis!

Blurb Image

New History Behind the Story Series Announced!

To celebrate the release of Northern Fire (Book 2 of the  Torn Asunder Series) I am launching a new series on the history behind the story for Northern Fire.  For Southern Rain, I ran a similar series that was really fun.  Readers got to learn all about the history upon which I built my storylines.  The topics I chose this time will give you the first glimpse into some of the events and subjects covered in Northern Fire!  If, after reading the book, you have any questions for me about the events in the book or the historical choices I made, let me know, and I am always happy to add an article!

Here are the planned articles:

  1. The Charleston Fire of 1861
  2. The Roper Hospital in Charleston
  3. Naval Quarantines
  4. Violence Against Women in the Civil War
  5. The Fall of Charleston

Character Pictures

I ran a poll on my Instagram story as to whether readers like to see the pictures or portraits which inspired characters or whether they instead like to imagine characters for themselves.  As of writing this post, the post is at 70% for seeing the pictures and 30% for imagining.

I have had experiences in which it was super fun to see the author’s inspirations.  I’ve also had experiences in which the author’s imagination and mine were so different that I was a little thrown off!  So my Instagram friend Tammi suggested that I post the pictures I used for my characters on my blog so that people who don’t want to see them don’t have to. I thought that was a great idea.

So just be forewarned… Pictures will follow for my character inspirations.  You can quit reading now if you want to, and I won’t be offended. 😉

One more a caveat: these pictures are really sketchy.  It’s been so long since I first saved them that I have no idea where they came from or who the people are.  One was pulled from an ad for a legal research site.  LOL!  So I credit the pictures to their owners, whoever they may be!

Okay, without further ado, here are my inspirations…

Shannon:

Shannon

John Thomas:

John Thomas.PNG

Frederick Ravenel:

Frederick

Marie Ravenel:

Marie

Where are the modern people, you might ask?  I actually left Adrian entirely to my imagination and didn’t base his appearance off of a picture.  Adeline was kind of the same way.   I also left most all of the side characters to my imagination, too.

Occasionally, though, I will see someone, either on TV or in real life who reminds me of a character, and that’s always fun.  There was a contestant from Season 2 of the Great American Baking Show of whom I remember thinking, “Oh, hey, she looks a lot like Adeline!”  Her name was Amanda Faber.  I remember that she was a great baker!  LOL!

If you are a writer, do you ever meet your characters in real life, either in appearance or personality?  If you are a reader, have you ever imagined someone totally differently from the author?  Do any of the pictures above represent my characters as you imagined?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Q & A: Northern Fire

Hello again, friends! My sister, Hannah, and I sat down for a Q&A about Northern Fire, and I have also included some questions from some wonderful readers. Some are about the book, some are about writing in general, and some are about me! (Just a word of caution, if you haven’t yet read Southern Rain, there might be a few spoilers for that one! However, there shouldn’t be any spoilers for Northern Fire, and I encourage you to read the Q&A before you read it.) Here we go!

Hannah: What was the inspiration for Northern Fire? Was it hard to narrow down your ideas?

Tara: It’s all very hazy now, but I think the inspiration for the Torn Asunder Series came to me while I was taking a walk during my two-month intense isolation/study time for the Bar Exam. I had this idea for this historical heroine who leaves her husband, an absolutely shocking thing for the Civil War Era, and I really wanted to know how that would play out. Hmm, could I pair it with this modern storyline about a preservationist that had been floating in my head? Yes, I could! It’s not usually hard to narrow down your ideas because something always comes to you passionately and has to get out.

Hannah: What kind of audience do you expect to read Northern Fire?

Tara: The tendency is to say women who love Historical Fiction/Romance, but several men have read and liked Southern Rain, too. I think, between the history, the modern romance, and the Women’s Fiction dimension, there is something for everybody. I will refer you to the Q&A for Southern Rain for information about young readers/parents’ discretion, which can be found in its own special tab on my blog at http://www.teaandrebellion.com. As always, you can contact me if you have any questions.

Hannah: What should the reader know going into Northern Fire?

Tara: I think I always underestimated the series, in that, whether modern or historical, I thought it was going to be lighter than it was. There are some heavy topics, which may be difficult for some people. There are a couple of sad scenes and some overarching struggles that may be relatable for a lot of people, in both good and tough ways. I think the advantage of having a book that tends towards heaviness is that, wherever there is pain, there is also a lot of depth.

Hannah: How do you deal with difficult subjects? How do you strike the balance of far enough/too far?

Tara: It’s sometimes hard to know how much is too far. I have learned that a good rule of thumb for me is that if something makes me uncomfortable, I should probably take it a step further even from there and push the boundaries a little bit to experience the truth of the story. When a book does tend towards heaviness, the great balancer is always hope. Human life is so difficult, but there is such beauty in it, too. It’s important not to overlook either.

So many readers: Why don’t you just give Shannon and John Thomas a baby already?!

Tara: So sorry! This is probably the number one question I have gotten. It’s touching that everyone is so worried about their happiness. When I first started reading clean historical romance about twelve years ago, I found some truly talented authors, and many of those books have beloved spots on my shelves. But I noticed a recurring structure: boy meets girl, usual struggles ensue, they get together, happy ending equals healthy baby. That didn’t quite ring true to me. Historically speaking, a lot of couples struggled in conceiving (George and Martha Washington, James and Dolley Madison, Andrew and Rachel Jackson) or in carrying to term (Louisa Catherine Adams, Mary Church Terrell). Sometimes the mother died from something as simple as severe morning sickness during the pregnancy (Charlotte Brontë). If you could have a baby, the birth was an extreme ordeal for which you could thank God if both mother and child survived (Stonewall Jackson’s first wife died from a hemorrhage just after giving birth, and their child was stillborn). Lots of men had two families because the first wife died in “childbed” (Theodore Roosevelt). Many women made it through the birth only to linger and die from puerperal fever or physical complications (Thomas Jefferson’s wife) days, weeks, or months later. Of course, for those who did not have as many difficulties, families were often large due to lack of effective birth control methods, and I think that is perhaps where the idea that “everyone in history had eight kids” comes from. But even for those large families, it is difficult to think of a historical figure who did not lose a child to a childhood illness. All of that is a long way of saying that I’m not sure the notion, historically speaking, of a happy ending culminating in a modern-type birth where there are no worries quite passes muster. I kind of wanted to represent the full range of historical experiences in this story. Shannon struggles, while Marie has a whiplash-inducing honeymoon baby. And, while I won’t tell you here whether Shannon and John Thomas have a baby, or even whether they reunite (this is all just a matter of plot), I will tell you that their ultimate peace, if they find it, will be in acceptance of whatever situation in which God places them, of themselves just as they are, and of God just as He is, which is what I think we all must find before we can get down to the more trivial business of daily happiness.

Hannah: What do you think it takes to make a strong male character likeable, but also real? Do you think John Thomas and/or Adrian apply?

Tara: My sister and I (ahem) talk about this a lot. For me, a main male character (“MMC”) has to be loyal, and his love cannot waver. He also has to be gentle with the female character, physically speaking—there can be no love where there is any sort of fear. I don’t mind a good argument, but I don’t like a lot of yelling or any verbal abuse. I also like the MMC to be capable and to have a good grasp on his situation. I like to write male characters that you know are good ones, deep down. I don’t think that’s an unrealistic expectation at all (and if it is, we’re better off alone, girls!). Other than that, I think the sky is the limit! I love writing all different sorts of male characters. It’s totally okay for them to have their own struggles. They don’t have to be superheroes. Do John Thomas and Adrian apply to my criteria? Funnily enough, I’ve had several people tell me they don’t trust Adrian yet. So I hope this isn’t a spoiler when I say that: yes, they meet all of my main criteria. I will say that they both surprised me with the depth of their emotion by the end of the series, which I loved.

Hannah: Do you relate to Shannon or Adeline personally?

Tara: I always say that there is a little bit of me in all of my characters. I relate to Adeline’s love for history, desire to keep the peace, and awkwardness. I don’t relate to her laid-back personality, or her ability to not overthink things, unfortunately. I think every human being can relate to Shannon, since she kind of represents the human condition, that knot of tension that grows in all of us from childhood on, through numerous and varying causes. She also represents the choice we have of letting those dark forces overtake us or of overcoming them through the only way I know how—clinging to God.

Hannah: You put a lot of work into side characters. Do you ever wish the main plot had followed them instead of your MMC and MFC?

Tara: I know you’re asking this because you love Frederick and Marie. Sometimes, I wish I had made Frederick’s story on equal par with Shannon’s. However, sometimes, there is something enticing about a side-character only when the person is a side character, so I think it worked out fine.

Tammi: What other interests do you have, in addition to history and crafting stories?

Tara: That’s a great question! My day job is a lawyer, and I’m fortunate enough to work with my brother. I do a lot of property law, but my favorite thing to do is estate planning. I read a lot of historical fiction. I watch pretty much any historical drama that comes on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. I really enjoy Audible for books that I would love to read but don’t really have time to dig into, like historical biographies and religious/theological books. I have been studying Contemplative Prayer and have found a lot of meaning in learning to listen for God’s voice in new (to me) ways. I love antiquing, particularly buying old furniture. Of course, I absolutely love touring historic homes. I just bought an old house, so there is always something to keep me busy. The History Chicks Podcast and Ben Franklin’s World Podcast have become something I love to have on in the background while I’m cleaning or working in the house.   I like to listen to music and have several playlists on Spotify. I played piano in another life and would like to get back to that soon. I like Royal Watching and follow the “From Berkshire to Buckingham” Instagram page and blog for fun analysis. I love going to plays and am fortunate to have three excellent amateur theaters nearby. I’ve recently gotten back into shopping/fashion in an effort to step up my wardrobe. And I have been dieting for about four years now and in the course of that have picked up a lot of healthy eating habits, so I’m always looking for great vegetarian or organic options.

Josette: What is your favorite historical book?

Tara: I always have trouble narrowing this down because I love so many. For historical fiction, I’ll have to give you four, loosely in order of my preference: A Bride Most Begrudging, by Deeanne Gist, Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer, The Silent Governess, by Julie Klassen, and America’s First Daughter, by Laura Kamoie and Stephanie Dray. For books that were written in historical times, I would have to say: Persuasion, by Jane Austen, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë, and The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery.

But if I had to pick an absolute favorite, that would probably be A Bride Most Begrudging. I’ve read it so many times, expecting it to disappoint as I get older, but it never does.

Tammi: Do you listen to music while you write?

Tara: I make a playlist on Spotify for every book or series. Sometimes I listen, and sometimes I prefer silence. I always play a song which I’ve chosen as a kind of theme for the book when I write the last scene and just push replay over and over until the scene is finished. I really like music with choir or strings and piano. I love The Piano Guys, Scala & Kolacny Brothers, Paul Cardall, Helen Jane Long, and 2Cellos. I had never heard of a lot of them until I started listening to the Scala & Kolacny Brothers Pandora Station (after hearing their music for the Downton Abbey trailers), and now they’re some of my favorites!

Tammi: How much time do you spend writing each day?

Tara: I used to spend about an hour or two writing every day, even while I was in law school. Now, sometimes I’m not able to do that because of eye strain from said law school. So I usually end up writing on the weekends. I like to write in bulk and might write for eight hours one day and none for the next four days. If I’m really feeling inspired and am able, I usually write for about two hours per day.

Tammi: Where do you write?

Tara: In my living room. I like a room with lots of windows and light. I have a desk that I wrote three novels on in college and still sit there sometimes, but I often write on my couch now.

Tammi: How did you become interested in writing historical fiction?

Tara: My mom would bring me home Christian Historical Fiction books that she had bought on the sale shelf at our local Hastings bookstore. I absolutely devoured them (Deeanne Gist, Julie Klassen, Lynn Austin…) One day, I said, “I just love these!” And my mom said, “Why don’t you write one?”

Tammi: When did you start writing?

Tara: When I was seventeen, pretty much right after that conversation with my mom. 🙂 That’s been about eleven years now. My first manuscript was written in a composition notebook and was set in Nineteenth Century England. It was terrible. 🙂

Tammi: When did you develop your love for history?

Tara: My mom was a 5th and 6th grade Social Studies teacher during my childhood, and my dad likes history, too, so my siblings and I grew up in a very history-friendly household. My mom would tell us fascinating historical tidbits. My parents knew how to make history fun, taking us to Washington, D.C. and Charleston when we were little, with the emphasis always on history. I remember one Sunday, they took us (after wrangling us all to church and back, no less!) with the grandparents to Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. I remember when we walked through the door and the docent directed our attention to the ruby glass above the door. “Pretty,” she said, “but there to serve no other purpose than displaying the Harding family’s wealth.” Me: Oooh. My brother and I found that fascinating. Then came the time for the trip down to the mausoleum. (I should note that in Middle Tennessee, mourning customs were heavily followed and are always a huge part of most any tour.) I was petrified. I was not going down there. Luckily, my grandpa felt the same. Skirting the cooling pad (yes, where they laid out the bodies—it was just lying in the hall, for crying out loud!), he found a bench and said, “Sissy, I think I’m going to sit right here.” My response: “Me, too, Pa!” That trip is one of my fondest childhood memories.

Matthew M.: How did you get interested in the American Civil War?

Tara: I actually started out with an aversion to the Civil War. I always liked history, but I remember looking at pictures of the battles in my 5th grade textbook and feeling horrified. I kind of stayed away from the Civil War until I needed to fulfill my history credits at Tennessee Tech, and one of Tech’s history professors was teaching his nearly-famous course on the Civil War and Reconstruction. He really brought the Civil War alive for us. It was an intensive course, with multiple books, articles, papers, etc., and we were required to learn battle movements and plans for all of the major battles and recite them in narratives on our tests. We covered all aspects—the home front, the lives of the enslaved, theories that developed in the post-war era… After that, I wrote a series which follows several siblings in Civil War Era Virginia. I think setting a family drama in that era and researching minute details for so long is what finally tipped me over the edge for the Civil War. The opportunities for drama are boundless, the range of human emotions breath-taking. We see the best and worst of humanity, and, as an author, that’s exciting to explore. I realized that if I could get a little braver in dealing with a very tough time period, there was a wellspring of experiences to be discovered and retold!

Matthew M.: Do you use any primary source material for your novels?

Tara: Yes, I absolutely love getting my hands on a letter which gives special insight to the time period. You can find some great letters in online archives, and I have a book called War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars by Andrew Carroll, which has been great. I also find that docents are excellent to read you parts of letters when you tour historic homes. And touring historic homes is something I love to do to get a feel for the time period, and, if it’s close enough to my setting, the place. Seeing an antique from the time period can really ground you in the era, too. I also read diaries and recipes from the era, and I look at a lot of photos or portraits for the fashion.

Reaching out beyond that, I also look at scholarly works or biographies. For the Torn Asunder Series, some of the books I read in preparation were:

At the Precipice, by Shearer Davis Bowman
The Civil War at Sea, by Craig L. Symonds
An Antebellum Plantation Household, by Anne Sinkler Whaley LeClercq
Grant, by Ron Chernow

Hannah: Not all authors enjoy the subjects of their own books. Would you devour this one?

Tara: I would read it, yes, and I think I would enjoy it. I have written other books that are more to my taste. I think this one is geared more towards my sister’s taste (wink). But there is, I hope, always an element that I strive to put in my books that makes you want to keep reading or read the next one. Can I tell you a secret? There’s another cliffhanger in Northern Fire! Gotta run now before readers attack me!

Stop by the Southern Rain FAQ Page for some more questions answered about the series and my writing in general. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

Cover Reveal: Northern Fire

I’m so excited to share the cover for Northern Fire!  This is Book 2 of the Torn Asunder Series and follows Southern Rain.  The Kindle edition is available for pre-order now and will release to your device on May 25th.  The paperback will be available to order exclusively from Amazon.com on May 25th.

Here is the cover!  What do you think?

NorthernFire

{Charleston, Modern Day:

Adeline Miller’s life has taken a significant detour. Nothing has been quite as she imagined since coming to Charleston, and the worst of it is the uncertainty that leaves her wanting both to take a leap of faith and to protect her heart. Still, she is determined to restore the Ravenel-Thompson House and discover what secrets and mysteries lie beneath its hallowed walls.

Charleston, 1861:

Shannon Haley’s choice is made. Plunging into a war-torn land, she will risk everything to reach her family. Reconciliation is only a vague and distant hope, but what awaits her when she arrives in the South, she can only guess. Crushed by loss and despair, can she find a new life among the ruins of her home, her marriage, and her peace?}

This book has been a long time in the making, and I cannot wait to share it with you!

-Tara

Cover Design By: TeaBerryCreative.com

Northern Fire Synopsis

Hi friends!

I am so excited to share the synopsis of my new book, Northern Fire, which will release on May 25th.  The book covers the next few months in the lives of our modern characters and the rest of the Civil War for our historical characters.  There are some real ups and downs, but I think you will enjoy the ride!  Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more details, including the cover reveal on Monday and an Author’s Q & A later on.  Also, for the greatest insights on my books, you can follow me on Instagram @teaandrebellion_

And so, without further ado, the synopsis for Northern Fire, Book 2 Torn Asunder Series:

Blurb Image