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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Confessions of a History Geek

So I've been putting Halcyon House on the back burner for the next few weeks, since I have a 2000-3000 word research project to churn out for my history class. I've chosen to do mine on the Civil War, so I've been up to my eyeballs in history books all this week. I have a stack of them on my desk in my bedroom. Since there was a variety of ways I could've done the project, I decided to do it in historical fiction format, which is my home turf. But now I've run up against a burning question: Was General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson present at the Battle of Antietam???

Because if he wasn't, that kind of blows my whole project out of  the water. I'll have to make the switch from Stonewall to Robert E. Lee, and while both men were incredibly cool, I think I prefer Stonewall.

Why, you might ask? Well, Stonewall Jackson was odd, first and foremost. He wasn't perfect. He was shy, a hypochondriac, completely befuddled by the stirrings of romance, and tended to be a bit of a slob in his dress. But--he was an excellent soldier. There was no one to his equal on the battlefield. His men adored and worshiped him. Stonewall and Lee were also both devoted Christian men, especially Stonewall. He was known to give prayer services among his staff when on the march. Lee was almost a little too perfect, if you ask me. It gets to the point where a little boy once asked his mother, "Mother, I'm confused. Was General Lee in the Old or New Testament?" Stonewall proves to be the more interesting personality-wise, though both men were legendarily humble (if that's not a contradiction in terms).

While I was studying up on my Civil War Confederate generals, I also stumbled upon another book of Civil War history: Chasing Lincoln's Killer: The Twelve Day Hunt for John Wilkes Booth, by James L. Swanson, which is an adaptation of his book Manhunt: the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer for younger readers. This is going to make me into a A-level history geek, but I love that kind of stuff. I love the depth, the nitty-gritty details, what people said or thought or acted during that time period. I love the idea of fully understanding why Booth wanted to kill Lincoln, who helped him, the aftermath of the assassination, and the frantic chase across the Eastern Seaboard. It's one of my goals in travel to visit Ford Theater and the boarding house where Lincoln breathed his last breath, and the Smithsonian Museum, where they keep the very bullets that the physicians dug out of Lincoln's brain and the tools they used. I love that kind of stuff. I really do, I can't say why. Maybe because it's history in its purest form, as opposed to reading about it in textbook.

I really am a history geek, now that I think of it. Favorite period to study about are World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and as previously mentioned, the Civil War. Top favorite is World War II. I think it's the writer and story-teller in me, because that time period specifically makes for such a terrific story. You have your villains, the worst of the worst in history's hall of rogues, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini. You have the kind of heroes that make one be proud solely for being human--Oskar Schindler, the Bielski partisans, Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower, the thousands soldiers who stormed Normandy Beach on D-Day. You have the unimaginable tragedy and loss of six million lives, and those who survived.

It's a great story. One of the greatest in history. So now you all know why I love it learning about.

Getting off my soapbox, I am Over & Out,

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