American Civil War

April 3, 1865: Richmond Falls, and John Surratt Departs

One hundred and fifty years ago today, on April 3, 1865, Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, fell to the Union. The day before, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had fled the city, having authorized the burning of warehouses and supplies that might prove useful to the approaching Union army. Winds spread the fire,

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The Carte de Visite and the Lincoln Assassination

Lately, I’ve developed a weakness for cartes de visite—the small photographs that were prized during the last half of the nineteenth century—and have amassed a tiny collection of them, including one of my favorites here of an unidentified lady. As noted by the American Museum of Photography, cartes de visite (CDVs, as they are commonly

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Guest Post by Jeffrey Stayton, Author of This Side of the River

Today I’m happy to be hosting Jeffrey Stayton, who’s written a novel set in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War called This Side of the River. Over to Jeffrey! Nostalgia One of the most difficult aspects of writing historical fiction, especially about the Civil War, is the fact that too often the language

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Dear Cousin: John Surratt’s Letters to Bell Seaman

On at least five occasions, John Surratt, the youngest son of Mary Surratt, put pen to paper to write to his second cousin, Isabel (“Bell”) Seaman, who lived with her family in Washington, Pennsylvania. The first three letters (the second has no year) were written by John from his family’s tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland, where

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Merry Christmas, and An Excerpt!

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! I’ve been busy revising my forthcoming novel, Hanging Mary, for the publisher. Here’s a seasonal excerpt for you, set at Mary Surratt’s boardinghouse 150 years ago on Christmas Eve, 1864: The men had gone out the previous night, Mr. Weichmann to buy some presents for his sisters and

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