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Tea Party Winners: Carla Gade's winner is Becky Dempsey, Andrea Boeshaar's winner Caryl Kane, Gina Welborn's winner Jasmine A., Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners book copy -- Lynda Edwards, teacup and saucer -- Wendy Shoults

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Historical Research - A Few Favorite Sources

by Elaine Marie Cooper

Although I write historical fiction, my book shelves are filled with non-fiction. They are the core tools for my research.

While my favorite sources are the original writings of those who lived long ago, I also love old volumes—now out-of-print—that offer special insights into Colonial America, the setting for my fictional tales. While these books are by no means my only sources (historians are some of my favorites!), here are a few of my most used and most treasured volumes that have permanent residency in my home:



This volume by Shirley Glubock is an edited compilation of the writings of Alice Morse Earle. I have to smile whenever I see this book. The first time I discovered it, it was sitting on the shelves of my local library. I checked it out. Then renewed it. Then renewed it again. After about my fifth time asking to renew, the library said I had to send it back. That's when I knew I needed to find a copy of my own. I searched on Amazon and managed to locate an old one. That made my day. :)


Any books by Eric Sloane are a gem for research. He includes information that I've not found anywhere else—human interest stories as well as drawings of buildings I've never even heard of before. I discovered the "Sabbaday House" in one of his works, which provided fodder for my book, The Legacy of Deer Run.


Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin is also a favorite and includes many incidents in the American Revolution that involved the women of the time. Berkin introduced me to Frederika Charlotte Riedesel, wife of the German Commander of the Brunswick troops at the Battle of Saratoga. I have admired that historical figure ever since.



A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier by Joseph Plum Martin is a first person account of a young man who began his life with the Continental Army at the age of 15 and continued with the military until the surrender at Yorktown. His personal recollections are indeed insightful as to speech used at the time as well as culture of the soldiers. Many describe this author as keeping a diary during the war. In fact, his written work was penned as an older man in his seventies. There are several versions of this book available.


This book by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is filled with excerpts from midwife Martha Ballard's diaries. Some of the commentary by the author was worth skipping over. Some of it added insight to the amazing life of this woman who lived long ago and, not only birthed babies, but often cared for the family's medical needs as well. Well worth keeping on a writer's book shelf!


British Soldiers, American War is one of my newer research books and contains actual diary excerpts from British soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. Fascinating, insightful, and also debunks the myth that most redcoats were prisoners. Most were young men seeking adventure. One was actually a potter by trade.


Don Troiani's Soldiers of the American Revolution is an OUTSTANDING coffee table book with gorgeous illustrations by Troiani himself. He creates artwork depicting soldiers from each country that participated in the war, with detail about their uniforms that I've not seen elsewhere. The book also contains photos of artifacts that have been discovered—items used by soldiers during battles. A five-star research volume!

This list is by no means complete and I'd love to hear about some of your favorite nonfiction books about the American Revolution and Colonial America.



Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Fields of the Fatherless and the Deer Run Saga. Her upcoming December  release (non-fiction) is entitled Bethany's Calendar


9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your resources, Elaine. They sound fascinating. I had a similar experience of continually checking out Alice Morse Earle's book from the library. One book I found useful was the Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, an Englishman who traveled through the colonies during the 1770's.

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    1. I think I've seen excerpts from Nicholas Cresswell but I need to track that journal down. That would be so interesting! Thanks for sharing, Janet, and for stopping by!

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  2. Great resources I hadn't seen before. Thanks so much, Elaine. I visit lots of REv War reenactments and have found several paperdoll books that have fantastic illustrations of Colonial period clothing.

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    1. Aren't reenactments awesome, Susan? I have to travel to see those but, when I do, they are well worth the trip! It must be awesome to live closer to the sites that hold them on a regular basis. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  3. Thank you so much for this list of resources. I'm saving the content of this post in my resources folder. Living so far from my novel's location, research has been a real bug-a-boo for me.

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    1. I understand, Judith. I have to travel a distance myself, which makes books a valuable help to me. Glad my list can help you!

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  4. Thanks for the peek into your reading list! I *love* Revolutionary Mothers! and the Baronness Riedesel is one of my favorite characters, too. She had some serious courage.

    Don Troiani and Don Hagist are also two favorites. Hagist's new one is a recent acquisition but I haven't had time to read much.

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    1. Isn't the baroness inspiring, Shannon? Even though her husband fought with the British, everyone seems to admire her courage and kindness. In Hagist's new book, there are a few sketches of soldiers done by Eric Schnitzer, the historian at Saratoga Battlefield. He is a great guy and has helped me so much with my current WIP. Thanks for stopping by, Shannon!

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  5. Wonderful resources, Elaine! I am such a devotee of Eric Sloane:) Great to see his fine work here. To be gifted as both artist and author as he was is really inspiring. I se a few more I'm adding to my list. Thanks so much!

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