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In 1861, the citizens of Mound City, Kansas, had a nuisance on their hands: a saloon that served its customers indiscriminately. According to William Mitchell’s Linn County, Kansas: A History, two inebriated soldiers had frozen to death while trying to …

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A couple of years ago, I acquired these two letters written by John Brown, Jr., to Franklin Sanborn in 1885 and 1895. John, Jr., was the oldest son of the abolitionist John Brown, and Sanborn had been one of the …

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In 1865, a widowed Washington, D.C., boardinghouse keeper named Mary found herself at the center of a conspiracy: to kidnap President Lincoln. When the conspiracy plot turned into an assassination plot, Mary Surratt paid with her life, being hanged on …

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A few days ago, my family and I stopped by Maryland’s own Washington Monument–the first such structure erected to honor George Washington. In 1859, John Brown’s son Owen, fleeing with others after the raid at Harpers Ferry, stopped by the …

Why Isabelle d’Angoulême is hard to love: Guest Post by Sharon Bennett Connolly

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I’m delighted to welcome Sharon Bennett Connolly back to my blog! I’ve known Sharon since her blogging days, and was delighted when she began to publish her biographies of historical women, including her brand-new one, Ladies of Magna Carta. Today’s …

 

The Sister Who Dated Lincoln First: Frances Todd Wallace

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In the 1830s, Miss Frances Todd, living with her married sister Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield, Illinois, went out once or twice with one of the town’s up-and-coming lawyers, but found him to be insufficiently social, so the relationship, if it …

 

The Other Henry and Clara

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(Originally published in The Surratt Courier, a publication of the Surratt Society) Among its other consequences, Abraham Lincoln’s assassination would upend the lives of not one, but two young couples named Henry and Clara. The first—Henry Rathbone and his stepsister/fiancée, …

 

Jason Brown’s “Honey Moon”

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As part of my research into my novel-in-progress, John Brown’s Women, I came across this delightful letter from Jason Brown, John Brown’s second son, to his sister Ruth Brown, in the Edwin Cotter Collection held by the State University of …

 

The First Lady and the Rebel: An Outtake

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Like most novels, The First Lady and the Rebel underwent revisions on its path to publication (look for it on October 1!). This is the epilogue in the first draft. It was replaced by one that I felt was more …

 

Life Goes On

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I bought this 1862 letter mainly because of the patriotic letterhead, which depicts Elmer E. Ellsworth, an early casualty of the Civil War, shot while he was exiting the Marshall House hotel in Alexandria after removing a Confederate flag from …