Celebrating friendships, stories and discoveries along the way

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writers' Blog Tour

My genealogy friend and colleague Liz Loveland invited me to take part in a Writers' Blog Tour to encourage sharing among writers about their current projects through their blog sites. Liz's Tour post is viewable at her blog site, My Adventures in Genealogy. Each Tour participant answers four questions about their writing, and then introduces other writers to continue the Tour.

What am I working on?

I am currently working on a story concerning my ancestor’s experience in the 27th Connecticut Infantry Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War. He was killed in his first battle on December 13, 1862 during the ill-fated attempts by the Union Army to seize Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg. The story of his experience is compelling because it is so tragic. A young man in the prime of his life is cut down by the ravages of war before he has the chance to experience all that life has to offer. The episode in which he was killed is even more heartbreaking when one recognizes that the repeated assaults on Marye’s Heights were intended as diversionary movements by the Union Army to draw Confederate forces away from Prospect Hill, the pivotal military objective for winning the battle.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not certain that my work does differ from other historical writing except, perhaps, for my perspectives on it. I am writing my ancestor’s story in two separate presentations: one as historical nonfiction and another as creative nonfiction. The creative presentation allows more freedom in my writing, as I can present his Civil War experience as a historical and spiritual journey through the lens of my head and heart. Unfortunately I have no actual letters or journals written by my ancestor, but I have come to know him by reading what his officers and comrades have written about him. I have visited Fredericksburg several times and have walked the ground where he fell. I have travelled to New Haven, Connecticut, where he was born and lived his entire life before military service. I have paid my respects at the family plot at Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven where his parents and siblings are buried and where a memorial gravestone was placed in his honor. My personal experiences in following in his footsteps have become intertwined with his journey. My hope is to create a compelling, inspirational story that others will want to read.

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I am passionate about history and genealogical research. The study of history reveals that the challenges that our ancestors faced are still very relevant on a human level today. Historical and genealogical research is endlessly fascinating, as there is always something new to learn about the past. History has always been captivating for me, as the story is inevitably influenced by the one who reports it. A report of a single event told by many authors always differs in a tantalizing way. Some aspect of the truth is present in every historical story, and many aspects of the story are colored by the perspectives of the author. The challenge for the reader is to discern between the truth and the bias.

In particular the Civil War era has been very compelling for me, as the experiences of the soldiers at the edge of warfare and their families on the home front are exposed to the full range of the human emotional experience. Love, sacrifice, tragedy, grief, anger, and fear are ever present in these stories.

I write regularly about my genealogical discoveries and experiences in my Journeys of a Constant Genealogist blog. I am also documenting three of my ancestor’s Civil War experiences in sesquicentennial tribute blogs to their regiments, posting blog entries on dates significant to the history of the regiment. I created these tribute blogs to honor the men who served in these regiments, but in return I have been honored. In the process I have learned so much about their experiences and the challenges they faced in battle. I am often in awe or in tears at what they endured.

How does my writing process work?

I generally begin with an outline to clarify my thoughts surrounding my project, but I must confess that my best inspirations come when I am very relaxed, either while sleeping at night or while driving to work. My current project concerning my Civil War ancestor has been beckoning to me especially at night while I sleep. I believe that this type of inspiration is very powerful, very spiritual, and not to be ignored.

Introducing the next Tour participant.

I have the pleasure of introducing the next participant on the Tour, who writes about social history. I hope to have at least one other participant to introduce shortly.

Lori Lyn Price is a genealogist, a professional speaker and a historical researcher. She writes about social history for genealogists at her BridgingThePast.com blog. She is using her 3rd great-grandfather as a case study and plans to use his life as a lens for a book about Mormon culture and history in the 1800s. She is working towards a Master's degree in history. Her thesis is based on medicinal recipes from the 1600s. Lori Lyn showcases her blog tour post on on her personal blog Drewmeister and discusses it on her social history blog Bridging the Past.

Remembering the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg - 150 Years Later

Today marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of the Crater, a Civil War episode during the ten-month Siege of Petersburg, Virginia that began in June 1864 and ended in April 1865. A plan to dig tunnels under the Confederate position at Petersburg was implemented during the month of July 1864, and at 4:40 A.M. on July 30, 1864, a mine exploded underneath the Confederate position, leaving a wide crater. The Ninth Corps of the Union Army charged into the thirty-foot deep crater to overtake the Confederates, with the Eighteenth Corps remaining along the front lines in support. The attack ended in devastating failure for the Union, as the Confederates charged to the defense of their men by lining along the rim of the gaping hole and firing into the men of the Ninth Corps inside the crater. Massive losses from death or capture for the Ninth Corps were the tragic result of the catastrophic episode. Casualties mounted to nearly 5,000 for the Union and 1,000 for the Confederacy.

These modern-day pictures of the remnants of the Crater illustrate that time and exposure to the elements have eroded the destruction wrought by the mine explosion.

This plaque near the Crater at Petersburg reads:

Crater of Mine
Evacuated By
The 48th Regt. Penn. Vet. Vol. Inf.
Burnside's 9th Corps.
July 30, 1864

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Great-Grandmother's Quilt

Recently while vacationing in Vermont my husband and I had the pleasure to stop by the Shelburne Museum to view a quilt crafted by my great-grandmother Martha Kimberly (1860 - 1929) when she was fourteen years old. She constructed the quilt with her eleven-year old sister Augusta (1862 - 1952) as a wedding gift for their older sister Eleanor, known as Ellen May (1850 - 1927), pictured below, in 1873.1 The Kimberlys were a farming family from the Nepaug village of New Hartford, Connecticut. For additional information about the Kimberly family please see my Kimberly Family Tree information.

The tile quilt, named "Streets of Boston," is a patchwork similar to a "crazy quilt" design.


I learned about the quilt from a book entitled Tile Quilt Revival: Reinventing a Forgotten Form on Google Books shortly after the book was published in 2010. The book mentions that the quilt was on display in Japan in 1997 as part of the Shelburne Museum collection and that some of the symbols on the quilt represent locations in Boston, namely, that the center block is Boston Common, the star at the top is Fort Independence, and the double circle is the Bunker Hill Monument. The book indicates further that these symbols were common on nineteenth-century maps to mark historic sites. 3

The quilt was donated to the Shelburne Museum by Eleanor Pedersen Craig (1911 - 2011), Ellen's granddaughter, in 1982. Along with the quilt Eleanor donated several family photographs that I have posted to the Photos page of my Kimberly Family Genealogy blog site. Eleanor also photocopied pages from the Baldwin-Kimberly Family Bible that I have transcribed and posted to the Family Bible page of the Kimberly blog site.

Eleanor P. Craig is pictured below with her mother, Grace (Chantrell) Pedersen (1882 - 1974), with Grace on the left and Eleanor on the right. This picture was taken during the 1940s.

I wish to thank Barbara Rathburn, Registrar at the Shelburne Museum, for her cooperation and assistance in viewing these family treasures and for her permission in posting the photos. I also wish to extend my gratitude to Eleanor P. Craig for her generosity and thoughtfulness in sharing the quilt and photos in her donation to the Shelburne Museum.

1Martha and Augusta Kimberly, "Streets of Boston," quilt, 1873, item 1982-2, quilt no. 10-601, Quilt Collection, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont. Martha and Augusta Kimberly, age 14 and 11 respectfully, made the quilt as a wedding gift for their older sister Ellen May (1850-1927), who was affectionately called Nellie.
2Martha and Augusta Kimberly, "Streets of Boston," quilt photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 3 July 2014.
3Carol Gilham Jones and Bobby Finley, Tile Quilt Revival: Reinventing a Forgotten Form (Concord, Calif.: C&T Publishing Inc., 2010), 6.