Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fighting and Writing

Events such as Corbitt’s Charge in Westminster, Maryland help us understand the past. I’ve gone to these events for years, but this year I did more than walk around the Union and Confederate Encampments and watch the skirmishes.

On June 29, 1863, about 100 Union soldiers fought 6,000 of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. Although the Union troops lost, the Battle of Westminster delayed Stuart’s arrival at Gettysburg.

There were a variety of demonstrations throughout the weekend. From author Scott Mingus I learned about the history of the Northern Central Railroad (NCR) during the Civil War, (from the destruction of bridges and railroad cars after the bombardment of Fort Sumter. The railroad carried supplies and troops during the war and later Lincoln’s funeral train.

I enjoyed hearing General George G. Meade (portrayed by Joe Shafer) explain the importance of the Pipe Creek Line and his decisions during and after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Katie Carroll’s presentation about the work of the Daughters of Charity reminded me of the efforts of author Louisa May Alcott caring for the injured, until she became ill and almost died.

While at the Corbitt’s Charge event, I thought about writers involved in the Civil War A few years ago, I read Susan Cheever’s American Bloomsbury about literary giants whose lives intersected in Concord, Massachusetts during that time period. The main writers in her book were: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott and Herman Melville.

Remember Alcott's Little Women, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby Dick, and Thoreau’s WaldenFuller was the New York Times' first foreign correspondent in Europe, who also published a magazine, "The Dial," that featured many of these authors.

Although introduced to these famous authors in school, I didn’t realize how their lives were so connected. With Emerson’s encouragement and financial assistance, the lives of these writers and many others crossed.

Known as Transcendentalists, they challenged the norms of American society. They also were abolitionists, harboring and helping runaway slaves escape to Canada. Different in many ways, their love of intelligent conversation, public speaking and writing drew them together. They were idealists, but the Civil War had a profound effect on their lives.

After reading American Bloomsbury, I’ve read other books, both fiction and non-fiction, about famous people living during that time period. These include Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and Mrs Lincoln’s Rival (Mrs Jefferson Davis) by Jennifer Chiaverini, March by Geraldine Brooks, Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjaners, Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, The Fabulous Showman, P. T. Barnum by Irving Wallace and the Jeff Shaara’s Civil War series. It’s fun to view the same people through different eyes.

Did genius attracts genius and did their interactions bring out the best in their writing? The writing profession can be a lonely one, but spending time with others may enrich your writing and your life. What do you think?

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