Despite a long time interest in Civil War history (and American history generally) I never had an overwhelming urge to write a book. Most of us think about it but I never thought “I have to publish.” That changed when a group of Civil War letters found in a cabin on a lake in Wisconsin came into my possession and became A Civil War Captain and His Lady: Love Courtship and Combat from Fort Donelson through the Vicksburg Campaign. The letters detail the relationship between Josiah Moore, a twenty seven year old Irish immigrant and captain of Company F of the 17th Illinois, and nineteen year old Jennie Lindsay, the daughter of one of Peoria’s leading citizens. Letters between a Civil War soldier and family on the home front are not common. Rarer is this correspondence that shows a Civil War courtship as it begins and continues through some of the war’s bloodiest campaigns of the Western theater.
I’ve heard many who have written books talk about the research being as energizing as the writing itself and I found that to be true. The process of discovering new information from forgotten manuscripts in libraries, in folders at the National Archives, and from family members of these two people was tremendously fulfilling. As writers we love talking about these discoveries-not to say “look what we know” but rather “look what we found” and announce that discovery to our readers and audience. I loved bringing the true story of Josiah and Jennie to print and will always be grateful to the folks at Savas for giving me that opportunity and working to push that story out to audiences. It has been gratifying to have descendants of Josiah and Jennie contact me to let me know how much they enjoyed learning about their ancestors.
Interestingly, I recently had my own family discovery. About eighteen months ago, I did the Ancestry DNA test. When it came back, it confirmed what some of my research already told me. It concluded I am 91% Irish, 7% British, and 2% Scandinavian which is likely from the Viking invasion. (No, not Ted’s favorite football team but the real Vikings who invaded more than a 1,000 years ago.)
Last month, I received an e-mail from a British TV company that was doing a program on celebrities in the UK similar to our “Who Do You Think You Are?” Their message informed me that I was related to a famous celebrity in their country. My wife and I traveled to Connecticut to meet this celebrity where we also met a number of people from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania who were also related to this person and me. While we are prohibited from publicizing who the person is until the fall, it was certainly an interesting way to meet some family members!