Tuesday, May 28, 2013

John W. Jones, hero of Woodlawn National Cemetery

At the beginning of the year, I posted about John W. Jones, Elmira's equivalent of Harriet Tubman. You can read that post here. In addition to this escaped slave's heroic involvement in the Underground Railroad, he was also the sextant of three cemeteries in Elmira, First Baptist, Second Street CEmetery, and most famously Woodlawn National Cemetery. What makes him the hero of Woodlawn is his meticulous and caring interment of 3000 Confederate prisoners who died in Elmira's death camp.

From July 1864 through the end of the war in 1865, Elmira was the site of the infamous Camp Rathbun, more commonly known as "Helmira"--a prisoner of war camp for Confederates where 24% died of preventable disease, starvation, and exposure. Elmira is said to be Washington's retaliation for Andersonville, that terrible camp in Georgia where thousands of Union prisoners died of starvation during the Civil War. What makes Elmira so despised in the South is that whereas the Confederate government was all but bankrupt by the end of the war, the North had no excuse for the conditions inside its death camp, including a festering pond, rampant malaria, cholera, smallpox, pneumonia, and dysentery, plus inadequate food, clothing, and blankets, and half the population relegated to tents in a bitter New York winter. Elmira was a desolate place of suffering where locals could pay a nickel to look inside the stockade walls at their former countrymen and gloat. 

In the midst of this suffering and horror, one man's goodness stands out. 
John W. Jones used a portion of his own property to arrange burial for these southerners--men who had formerly held him and his people in bondage to slavery. Jones kept meticulous records of names, ranks, regiments, and dates of death with a unique number assigned to each grave. He not only placed a hand painted wood marker at each individual grave, (later replaced with marble headstones) but also kept the information with each body via a paper inside a corked bottle. The War Department commended his efforts with a payment of $2.50 per grave. In those days, that was considered a boon sum. In fact, for a man of color to own his own farm, work for the local church as caretaker, plus manage the care for three cemeteries, in those days was astounding. His industriousness and high quality of work earned him respect among Elmira's citizens in his day and with contemporary scholars and historians who seek to honor his memory.
Perhaps the most remarkable story about Jones' role in burying the Confederate prisoners involves one inmate in particular. John R. Rollins was a name Jones encountered as he supervised the burial of the Southern detainees from Camp Rathbun. This Rollins was reportedly from Virginia. Jones recalled a John Rollins from his past as a slave--the son of his former overseer on a plantation in Leesburg. When entrusted with Rollins' remains, Jones went out of his way to contact the family to verify that it was in fact the same man. Rollins had been listed as Missing in Action, and the family was relieved to have closure. Jones later had the body sent home to be buried in the Rollins family plot. 

The grounds at Woodlawn are meticulously kept to this day, and I had the honor to tour their peaceful, verdant acres yesterday on Memorial Day. 

Every year on Memorial Day, each of the graves is decorated with an American flag, and each of the thousands of flags is then removed by sunset. The Daughters of the Confederacy has a memorial at the southwest corner, festooned with red carnations. I noticed at least one licence plate from Maryland in the circular drive of the National Cemetery yesterday, perhaps one of the descendants of a prisoner buried here.

Jones' modest home was saved from demolition in 1997 and has been relocated across from the cemetery, facing Davis Street in Elmira. The property, part of Jones' original farm, is being restored for the future John W. Jones Museum. http://www.johnwjonesmuseum.org/  Efforts are underway to make this historic landmark an interactive learning experience and tourist destination.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jocelyn Green--meet and greet today

Jocelyn, it is soooo nice to have you here this week to celebrate your brand new release, Widow of Gettysburg, book two of your Civil War Series, Heroines Behind the Lines. We are doing a bit of a swap, with me at your blog and you at my blog. I feel like a debutante visiting an enchanted palace there, and like I'm entertaining Christian fiction royalty here. Welcome, welcome!

I visited Gettysburg years ago, and was overwhelmed with a sense of the sacredness of the grounds. It was all meticulously kept, and the acres spread with a quiet reverence and a lush green--a very fitting place to honor the sacrifices made for our republic there.

What was your impression of Gettysburg or some other historic landmark?

I'm sharing with my readers some of the photos from your research for your newest book, Widow of Gettysburg.

Lutheran Theological Seminary in background

Lee's Headquarters

 view book trailer here

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Widow of Gettysburg, and my new Civil War novella, Bachelor Buttons. Leave a comment below or HERE to enter

 This week only, Jocelyn will send you a personalized, signed bookplate (see here for example) if you leave a request in the comments!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review of Jocelyn Green's Widow of Gettysburg and two giveaways!

I was already a fan of Jocelyn Green with her fiction debut last year, Wedded to War, book one of the Heroines Behind the Lines series, so I approached Widow of Gettysburg with a mix of delighted anticipation and worry. Part of me wondered if she could pull off the same detailed research and genuine feel for the time period. I braced myself for disappointment, thinking she couldn't possibly craft real and likeable characters with the same depth as Ruby O'Flannery and Charlotte Waverly. And I confess I worried that so much has been written about Gettysburg already, how could anyone write a fresh and original story?

I am delighted to say all of my worries were for naught. This novel exceeded all of my expectations, and my hopes were set pretty high. Civil War is a special interest of mine. I probably judge harder than most. But Ms. Green's meticulous attention to historical detail is a hallmark of her style. She has a compelling voice, and creates plots and characters that surprise, delight, challenge and ultimately inspire.

Liberty Halloway lost her husband early on in the war, and has been left to run her farm near Gettysburg with only the help of a hired freed woman and the companionship of a half blind and deaf Newfoundland dog. Dressed in "grave clothes", she greets a potential boarder who turns out to be a half starved young man begging a bit of bread—the most polite and enchanting beggar she's ever met, Silas. He challenges her to leave off her mourning, and also imparts a cryptic warning about finding another place to go for the near future as things are about to get intense.

Silas is more than meets the eye. Without giving away too much of the intricate and fascinating plot, both Libbie and Silas are on a journey of discovery and healing, navigating mutual attraction and impossible obstacles to their star crossed romance.

Again with this book as with the last, the secondary characters and subplots make Wedded to War a gripping read. Freedmen and women like Bella grace the story until a climactic moment brings them center stage. Also featured is the role of newsmen and military couriers and scouts from the Civil War.

Ms. Green does an exceptional job creating the sights, sounds, culture, and voice of the age. I was transported into a world of bucolic beauty and peace ravaged by the chaos of war and its aftermath. Though the journey has moments of great drama and depicts the stark reality of war, the destination delivers the reader to a satisfying and hopeful place. This novel is destined to become a classic for its broad view of America's greatest land battle, and its intimate portraits from several points of view from its diverse cast of characters. Libbie is sure to steal your heart and have you rooting for her all the way to the end, to find love, peace, and hope for a happily ever after.

To celebrate her May 1st release of Book 2 in the Heroines Behind the Lines series, I am offering a copy of Widow of Gettysburg to one lucky commenter, winner's choice of ebook or print. In addition, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Gettysburg and the battles of 1863, I am offering a copy of my novella Bachelor Buttons to one lucky commenter.
Giveaway ends Friday May 24 at 8PM Eastern. To earn extra entries, share this on facebook, twitter and google+, follow this blog, (top right corner of page) or Jocelyn's blog, or my giveaway blog.

Thank you for visiting, and good luck!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Oberlin College: A School Ahead of Its Time

Guest post by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Oberlin College, founded in 1833 in Northern Ohio, was a college ahead of its time in many ways. In 1835, it became the first college in the United States to regularly admit African Americans. It’s also the oldest co-educational college in the US. In 1837, it admitted four women, three of whom graduated and earned a college degree. Mary Jane Patterson, another Obeberlin graduate, became the first African American woman in 1862 to earn a Bachelor of Arts college degree.
One of Oberlin’s founders once bragged that “Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good”. Oberlin was peculiar in many ways in advancing the causes of the time. Charles Finney, the second president of the college, helped it earn it's controversial reputation. He was the founder of the Second Great Awakening, a Christian revivalist movement in the early and mid 1800s.
Oberlin College was the hotbed of abolitionist activity and a stop for the Underground Railroad
before the Civil War. It was once called “the town that started the Civil War” because of its participation in the Oberlin Wellington Rescue in 1858. Slave catchers came to Oberlin to capture an escaped slave and return him to Kentucky. Most of the town came to the slave’s aid and rescued him. For their trouble, over twenty were arrested and put on trial for violating the Fugitive Slave Act. During the raid on Harper’s Ferry by John Brown, three men from Oberlin participated.
Oberlin College was also well known for the women who graduated from the college and participated in the suffrage and prohibition movements. Lucy Stone, considered a pioneer for the women’s movement, graduated from Oberlin College in 1847.
Oberlin was also very well known in the missionary movement of the late 1800s. Between 1860 and 1900, 90% of missionaries sent overseas by the American Missionary Society were graduates of Oberlin College. Between 1899 and 1901, thirteen missionaries from Oberlin were martyred during the Boxer Rebellion of China. An arch in Tappan Square at the center of Oberlin pays honor to their sacrifices.
TAMERA LYNN KRAFT has always loved adventures. She loves to write Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many stories of adventure in American history. She is currently working on a series of three novels about women who graduated Oberlin College set shortly before, during, and soon after the Civil War. She has completed writing a young adult western and a Christmas novella about the Moravians in the late 18th century. She’s also co-writing a post-World War II novel. Her first Civil War Novella, Soldier’s Heart, will be released November 1, 2013.
Tamera was a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She is also a writer and has curriculum published including Kid Konnection 5: Kids Entering the Presence of God published by Pathway Press. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.
Soldier’s Heart: A Civil War Novella from the Cry of Freedom Anthology
To Be Released November 1, 2013
After returning home from the Civil War, will his soldier’s heart come between them!
Noah Andrew, a soldier with the Ohio Seventh Regiment can’t wait to get home now that his three year enlistment is coming to an end. He plans to start a new life with his young wife. Molly was only sixteen when she married her hero husband. She prayed every day for him to return home safe and take over the burden of running a farm.
But they can’t keep the war from following Noah home. Can they build a life together when his soldier’s heart comes between them?
Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com
Revival Fire For Kids Blog: http://revivalfire4kids.com
Adventures in American History: http://tameralynnkraft.blogspot.com

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Interview with Debut author Debbie Mitchell and giveaway of ebook devotional Pearls from the Sea

Pearls from the Sea: Hoist all sails, weigh anchor, and come aboard the tall ship, Pilgrimage, for the voyage of a lifetime! Spend 180 with Jesus at the helm while you navigate dangerous shoals, climb the rigging to the top yards, enjoy breathtaking horizons, suffer through the doldrums, battle fierce pirates, and endure violent storms! And all the while, getting to know the captain of your ship (and your soul) and learning to lean on Him.

Who is the captain of the Pilgrimage? He is the Son of God, and He wants to take you on a journey that will change your life, your heart, and your outlook. He wants to teach you how to navigate your ship in the dark, how to keep your sails full of Holy Spirit wind, how to endure the storms of life by His side, how to battle the enemy, and finally how to reach those glorious eternal shores where you will find rest for your soul.

Welcome Chaplain Debbie! We are so happy to have you here this week, and that you have agreed to share a bit about yourself.

Q: First of all—fudge brownies, strawberry shortcake, or celery sticks?  J

No contest, fudge brownies! Chocolate rules!

Q: When did you first know you were a writer?

I'm still not convinced that I am a writer. My devotions come from my heart and God has given me the words to say. I am currently working on something, not a novel, more of a 'how to' for grandmothers. Hey, you write what you know, right?

Q: How does history play into your writing?

Well, since the devotional deals with the Bible, I'd say that there is a lot of history. Some of the devotions touch on some of my own personal history, but mainly on Biblical people.

Q: If you could sit down and interview any person, fictitious or real from any time, who would that be and what is the first question you would ask?

Job, from the Bible. I would ask him how he was able to withstand all that he went through. The Book of Job is my favorite book in the Bible. No matter how bad I think my life is going, all I have to remember is one quote: 'Have you considered my servant Job?' Makes my troubles seem smaller and more endurable.

Q: Who have been your mentors, and how did they help you most?

Joanne Chapman. She made house visits when I homeschooled my three kids. She quickly became a part of the family. Even though the last child graduated from High School six years ago, Joanne still comes to visit when she can. Joanne was a valuable asset when it came to my teaching success. She walked me through any problems I had and encouraged any fears. She is a sweet, Christian lady who has never let me down.
Pastor Jim Wellsand. Pastor Jim was my pastor years ago...and I truly wish he was still my pastor today. Pastor Jim is the reason that I have read through the Bible almost 13 times. His sermons were always inspirational and uplifting, yet brutally honest sometimes. While I attended his church, I truly felt God's presence. He was always there for his congregation and always seemed to have a smile on his face. He is now blessing the lucky state of Hawaii.
MaryLu Tyndall. MaryLu has been such an inspiration to me. She has lifted me up when I was hurting and she constantly prays for me and my family. She makes me laugh and being on her Motley Crew has been so much fun and so rewarding. Through her writing, I have learned so much about God's faithfulness and about redemption. I am so grateful that she agreed to do this devotional with me. God has truly blessed me by putting MaryLu in my life.

Q:  What do you hope your readers will take away from your books?

From the beginning, I have always believed that MaryLu's posts on her blog should be put into a devotional. When she asked me to do it with her, I was so excited. It is my prayer that anyone who reads these devotions will be uplifted and blessed. We all have troubles in this life and these devotions show that the reader is not alone in his/her journey. 

Q: Do you have a question you would like our blog readers to answer?

Yes. What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

Here is my blogsite: http://redemptiondrawsnear.blogspot.com/     

 I would be happy to give away a copy of the ebook to one of your readers. 

Debbi Mitchell Bio: 
Debbie Mitchell has taught Sunday school for over 20 years. She is a firm believer in reading through the Bible each year and is working on her 13th time through. Keeping in the Word and teaching Sunday School has helped her to recognize and face the enemy. She lives in California with her husband Jack and their two dogs. She has one son, two daughters, two sons-in-law and has been blessed with grandchildren that truly make her days.