Saturday, October 10, 2015

Researching the Civil War

I'm currently at work on the next Gallagher book while the upcoming An Angel Called Gallagher is in edits. I'm also working on another Crooked Creek short story that will be released next month. 

Set in post-Civil War Montana, the Crooked Creek series is more complex than other series I've written. While they've each required a good deal of research, this new series will stretch my love for researching to the brink . . . and I love every minute. I've always enjoyed learning about the years leading up to, during, and after the Civil War. I read novels, the occasional non-fiction title, watched plenty of movies, but none of them compare to what really happened. Of course, if we wrote all the gory, mundane, and unpleasant details of the war into fiction, people wouldn't want to read the books. However, that doesn't make the research any less important. 

Preparation for Winter. Army of Cumberland going into Winter Quarters, Dec. 1863

A few questions I've been asking myself as I write the short stories and prepare to work on the full-length novels are these: 

1) What was the world's reaction to our Civil War? Did they pay attention or were they too involved in their own issues? 

2) Did the men who fought and returned home suffer the same psychological problems many of our soldiers face today? 

3) What did the men do when they weren't fighting? I've always been interested in reading personal accounts, though these aren't easy to come by. 

4) Did people in the west really pay attention to the war or were they too busy living their own lives? 

5) How many men and women in the west headed east to fight and help with the war efforts? 

I could go on and one with my list of questions. Suffice it to say, I haven't answered each one to my satisfaction . . . yet. I find the research portion of historical writing to be one of the most fascinating. I believe that the more we know the time and the people, the better we'll know our own characters and their stories. 

Do you have a favorite time period in history? If so, tell us which one and why. 

Image source: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Preparation for Winter. Army of Cumberland going into Winter Quarters, Dec. 1863" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1863.


  1. I happen to love the US Civil War era, even now that I'm older and much more conscious of the fact that war is never a nobel or galant undertaking. I just can't help falling for that romantic idea of a fight for a idealistic future, which the years have turned it into.
    I never cease to be fascinated by this conflict which is considered to be standing on that invisible line where we separate the classic napoleonic war from modern wars.

    Wouldn't want to spend a day there, to be honest, but experienced from the safety of my chair, separated from it by more than a century, I think it's a fantasy one can be allowed to indulge in without feeling guilty over it.

    1. What a wonderful way to describe it, "a romantic idea of fight for an idealistic future." I feel that way, too. Thank you for your words and thoughts; I've enjoyed them.