I am at that happy writer place where I've just completed a cleaned up first draft of a contemporary middle grade fantasy and starting a new Civil War-era middle grade historical fiction. In that place of limbo where I haven't started editing through the completed manuscript. You all know the feeling of editing, finding those glaring mistakes, watching my confidence being chopped in tiny bits, and doubting whether I have any ability to tell a story. The other starting-a-new-piece place is full of optimism; where the new, fresh story grows into something concrete solid out from a year of reading and research.
The new story is about three boys, from three different background, in the Memphis area at the end of the Civil War. The story is about their friendship and adventures around and leading up to the sinking of the steamship, Sultana, in the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865.
I had always assumed the end of a war, especially a horrible and tragic war like the Civil War, would be a celebratory time, full of hope and optimism. America had suffered through four nightmare years of war through a list of seemingly never-ending battles starting with Shiloh, Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville,
Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Cold Harbor and culminating with Sherman's March to
But in my research, I found out the end of the Civil War was filled with horrible things. Take the final month of the war, for instance, not much hope or optimism can be found in this brief chronological list of some major events of April 1865.
April 9, 1865
General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
April 10, 1865
Celebrations break out in Washington, D.C. A weary, worn to the bone President Lincoln sits for his final portrait photograph.
April 14, 1865
The United States flag is raised over Fort Sumter with great ceremony. Later that day, John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln in Ford's Theater.
April 15, 1865
President Lincoln dies at 7.22 AM.
April 18, 1865
Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to General Sherman at Durham, NC.
April 26, 1865
John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed.
April 27, 1865
The steamship, Sultana, overloaded with 2300 Union soldiers returning home after suffering in the Confederate Prison Camps of Andersonville and Cawhaba, sinks after a 2:00 AM boiler explosion in the ice cold water of the Mississippi River just north of Memphis. 1517 people are killed, (more than in the Titanic disaster.)
Talk about a historically terrible month...