September Tea Party winners: Angela Couch's winner is Beverly Duell-Moore, Shannon McNear's winner is Teri DiVincenzo, Carrie Fancett Pagels' winner is Janet Grunst's winner is Kailey Bechtel, Naomi Musch Rita Gerlach's winner is .Congratulations, all! Please private message your e-mail or mailing address to the authors.

Friday, October 23, 2020

History I Shouldn't Write - Vol. VI

I've been having a discussion on the History I Shouldn't Write - Vol IHistory I Shouldn't Write - Vol II, History I Shouldn't Write - Vol III, History I Shouldn't Write - Vol IV, and History I Shouldn't Write - Vol V. I've talked about how research unveils truths that may not be popular or palatable in our modern culture.
"So, Pegg, why do you hate Native Americans?"

D8 Lesson 6 Native Americans of the Northeast - YouTube

I can almost hear that question shouted from those who have followed this series to this, its final installment. Many of you are finding yourselves uncomfortable because it is an uncomfortable topic. It's hard to face what "everyone knows" about history and try to see it in a more balanced and realistic light. It's hard to let go of misconceptions that we've nourished for most of our lives.

I don't hate Native Americans. Not at all. There is much about their culture to admire. Historically, many of their people were as noble and good as people in any culture around the globe. Contemporarily, many of their people are adding to the advances and innovations that will keep our country moving forward into the next century.

But the presentation of "The Noble Redman" as some sort of a stereotypical victim of the European invaders is more fiction than truth. Were they treated badly by the British in the mid-1700s? It depends. The answer is too long for this blog post. Both sides did their share of wrong, and both sides had leaders who worked hard to bring the two cultures together. As with all of history, there are more shades of gray than black and white. It's not my job to defend or condemn either side.

So I'm not hating on, or picking on, or otherwise demeaning this people group. I am studying it for purposes of learning the truth and writing better books. What I don't like is history colored with a modern-day bias.

History is what it is.

It's not something you can change. It's not something you should try to justify or excuse or promote for any reason other than the truth. Our ancestors made a lot of mistakes - in every culture. We can either learn from those mistakes, or we can bury them and create a more palatable version of the "truth." If we do the latter, it leaves us with a "truth" we can't trust. A "truth" we can't learn from. And a "truth" that may cause us to repeat mistakes we should have learned from.

During this research journey, I've decided to pick my battles with the truth in my books carefully. While it's allowable - even expected - for the author to beat up on the Europeans when writing about this time period, I feel like it skews the history - and therefore the story - if the reader only sees the evil or the good of one side.

Some things I've written about in this series will get mentioned, or be known to have happened off-screen, even though they'll make some people uncomfortable. They have to be to strike the balance of truth. But I will not use such things in a gratuitous way to gin up controversy in the hopes of creating shock value for selling more books. For me, that would also be an abuse of history. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Historic Boston, part 3: the Old North Church

(This post will be a little photo heavy again. Please click individual images to zoom in and get more detail!)

This inscription reads, "The signal lanterns of Paul Revere displayed in the steeple of this church April 13 1775 warned the country of the march of the British troops to Lexington and Concord."

Last July, when in Boston for a family wedding, my girls and I just happened upon the Old North Church and decided to stop in for a tour. We were so glad that we did--and so, apparently, was the staff! The man giving the talk at the front of the church (at a plexiglas-shielded podium just below the pulpit) heartily thanked our small group and said they were newly reopened after 4 months of closing due to COVID-19. [I see on their website that they're closed once again.]

He explained how Paul Revere and others knew that the British planned to attack but didn't know whether they'd march the long way away around by land, or take the quicker but more dangerous crossing across the harbor, but Revere would be waiting for the signal--"one if by land, two if by sea"--before saddling his horse to ride out and warn the countryside.

The church buildings, the smaller housing the gift shop, and two of my daughters reading the signage.

A shot of the front right side of the church, with the one remaining original window (lower right).
The pulpit with the sounding board above--the answer to acoustic issues before the age of microphones!

Only those wealthy enough to afford patronage for pew boxes were seated on the main floor, while the second-story galleries provided seating for enslaved and lower-class free folk.
Not sure if this rendering of the Apostles' Creed is original to the church, but it provided a sweet touchpoint for me, after attending a slightly liturgical church myself these past few years.
A quick shot (or two) of the pew box with sample personalized furnishings--showing how people would outfit them according to their own needs and tastes.
Love the colors and fabrics!

A shot of the rear corner, where the sexton carrying the lanterns for the signal climbed the stairs, then accessed the steeple stairwell from right behind those organ pipes. Can you imagine that climb? (And another of my cute daughters, tucked into her own pew box behind us!)

A long view of the aisle and church front, from the back. (With, yes, one of my daughters!)

So beautiful. I am a sucker for historic churches! Back when my family and I all lived in Charleston, South Carolina, I did several posts on because, well, they are just too beautiful and special to miss--and this one was no exception! I found several similarities to churches I'd visited elsewhere, but also many unique features.

And an unexpected connection to North Dakota! Many of the pew boxes bore engraved plates with the names of patrons who'd used those spaces, and here we read that Theodore Roosevelt, who spent much time in North Dakota in his younger days, and was a strong supporter of the National Park system, had visited and attended services at the Old North Church.
Closeup of the stairs ... and yes, there's a matching staircase on the other side.
The original wood collection box, under plexiglas of course. (I'm such a geek about these sorts of details!)

It was a sweet, if too-short, visit. I wish we lived close enough to go back again soon!

For more about the architecture and history: Old North Church

(They also have THE most fabulous gift shop everrrr! Do visit if you ever have a chance.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

War of 1812 & Our Independence from Britain

Although this blog is mostly about Colonial times in America, we also address Early American history. A huge historical event in Early America's history was the War of 1812, which was also referred to as "The Second War for Independence."

The fight was felt bitterly along the eastern cost of young America where men and even boys were captured and impressed into service on British ships. And with the British coming on shore even (!) on land in our seaboard states, Virginia was not alone in its fear of what could happen if their army took over our fledgling country.

It was during this time when the terms "Hawks" and "Doves" in reference to building up a military might really came into usage. We had many politicians then, as now, who felt money was better spent in ways other than to enhance our military. This could have had grave consequences during the War of 1812.

Did you know that there is even a Society of the War of 1812 in Virginia? There were numerous sights in Virginia involved in the War of 1812 (Click to see map image). Virginia was a hotbed of democracy, with numerous prominent politicians living in the Commonwealth. In my Holt medallion finalist novella The Steeplechase, I include the Randolphs, Tylers, Carters, and Lees as well as a few more in a fictional version of the build-up to the war, set in 1810. In my new novel, Dogwood Plantation, I have a fictionalized account of an injured Navy veteran during the aftermath of the British having defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and how in 1814 and then into 1815 at the end of the War of 1812, some of the things that took place--such as the burning of our White House. As I wrote this novel, I wondered how it must have felt to know that invaders were so close to your own home and had sent your president fleeing. Madison, of course, was from Virginia. If you ever get a chance, visit his home Montpelier in Orange County.

But the War of 1812 also took place on the Great Lakes! Doesn't that seem strange that there would be battles that far inland? Even Mackinac Island, a place claiming my heart, was involved. My own theory about the Brits taking over Mackinac Island again is that they loved it so much they figured this was their chance to get it back! They invaded very early on in this war. Visit the fort on Mackinac Island to learn more about this history.

Question: Does it seem to you that this country hadn't really established its independence until after the War of 1812?

Friday, October 2, 2020

Running the Gauntlet -- One of History's Most Brutal Punishments

I've recently been listening to the audio book of Follow the River,  a novel by James Alexander Thom--which is not reading for the squeamish, I must say, yet it is rich in history. I came to the chapter where the Indians' captives were forced to prove themselves by running the gauntlet. It was a brutal scene, hard to let myself imagine.

Gauntlet Historic Reproduction by Steve White

Many years ago, I first read about the running of the gauntlet in Allan W. Eckert's Winning of America series. In his first tome, The Frontiersman, I learned about the famed frontiersman Simon Kenton who was captured by the Shawnee and forced to run over 500 rods--nearly half a mile--between two long lines of natives--from women and children wielding sticks to the more powerful men who pounded him with clubs as he ran. Notably, captives were often stripped naked before the gauntlet began, so runners didn't even have the protection of a thin layer of clothing or shoes to enable their progress. 

This was a monumental feat. A man or woman who didn't succeed in completing a gauntlet, but fell to the ground during the punishing ordeal, would be beaten until they managed to get to their feet again and continue, or simply be sent back to the beginning to start again. Naturally, some did not survive the attempt, others succumbed to broken bones and terrible lacerations. They might even have their skulls cracked. Strangely, those who finished were often then ministered to by the natives, and if they showed particular stamina or prowess, they might then be adopted into the tribe or forced into slavery. Others might be killed outright, burned at the stake, or killed in some other way.

Sad history, all of it. HOWEVER, the natives were not alone in their use of the gauntlet. Running the gauntlet as a form of military punishment has been used around the world for many hundreds of years, perhaps even as far back as the ancient Romans. The British Royal Navy is known to have made use of the gauntlet as a means of punishment for infractions such as failing to return from leave or leaving an unsanitary berth, and it might be used as a conclusion to a court martial.

It is said that General George Washington himself made use of the gauntlet to punish deserting soldiers, particularly during the bitter year of 1777, when no amount of cajoling, threats, or even the offer of rewards seemed to be able to keep his armies supplied with soldiers.

Here is a 6-minute film about the history of the gauntlet as it pertained mostly to use in the Swedish military in the 1600s, even for the purpose of execution in the Court of Pikes, and how its use continued through history and on many continents. 

While there have been times when punishment is a needed occasion, man's brutality to man certainly knows no bounds, and it is difficult to discover a civilization that has proven itself to be ethically above another.

Writing History,

Naomi Musch

Coming Soon! The re-release of The Love Coward a post-WWII romance of second chances. For updates and other news, please sign up for my monthly newsletter, and follow me on Bookbub, Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook

Friday, September 25, 2020

History I Shouldn't Write - Vol. V

I've been having a discussion on the History I Shouldn't Write - Vol IHistory I Shouldn't Write - Vol II, History I Shouldn't Write - Vol III, and History I Shouldn't Write - Vol IV. I've talked about how research unveils truths that may not be popular or palatable in our modern culture.

As I discussed in Vol. IV, the British stopped the practice of supplying the native tribes with all the guns, ammunition, and rum that they were accustomed to getting from the French. Why was that so infuriating to the Native Americans? They'd survived for thousands of years without such things, proof that they didn't really need them, right?

Pontiac's RebellionI thought that was a good question, so I went looking for answers.

What I found was more conjecture than solid fact, but it also made sense. Think of where the Native Americans were when the first Europeans landed on these shores. Their tools were stone, bone, clay, and maybe some soft metals that didn't need a forge. They had arrows, lances, clubs, and slings for weapons. Their clothing was almost all animal hides, although some had learned to spin and weave a bit of cloth from plants. For all intents and purposes, they were still in the stone age.

Along come the Europeans with metal cooking pots, steel knives, wool blankets, and guns. Guns! Can you imagine what those must have looked like to the first Native Americans who saw them fired? Like Alice through the looking glass, these things transported the native tribes into a whole new era. And make no mistake - they wanted it.

Pontiac wasn't about to let that go.

Who can blame him? Don't most of us want the latest technology? How many homes these days don't have a dishwasher? Or a microwave oven? Or even the new Instant Pot? Don't even get me started on the latest and greatest thousand-dollar smartphone. Or cars that drive themselves. See what I mean? It's human nature that was driving Pontiac and his followers. They didn't want to go backward.

Yet this once again falls short of the history "everybody knows." We haven't been taught that the Native Americans were the same as everyone else. That they wanted the new stuff of their era. That they liked cooking in metal pots and cutting meat with steel knives and wearing soft cloth. Or having the firepower of a gun that gave them the advantage over warring tribes as well as brought down a deer for supper.

The truth is - as I've hit upon throughout this series - that the Native Americans were just like people everywhere. That's neither good or bad ... it's just human nature. The challenge in writing about this era and these people is showing them in a balanced and historically accurate way.