Being a Southern boy with Yankee cousins during Civil War

1-Mike Staton
Mike Staton is the author of this delightful piece of writing.

It’s time to pause a moment and take a look at how the Civil War novel is progressing.


As of 7 a.m. on Thursday, May 5, I’ve written 307 pages or more than 93,000 words. I figure I’m about 70 percent done with Blessed Shadows Dark And Deep, based on where I’m at in the detailed outline.

The outline has been extremely helpful. I’ve been able to use some of its dialogue with little or no change. When I begin the editing and revision process, I hope to put together a two-column chart that will include standard sayings like I’m not feeling good and their Southern idioms like I’m feelin’ under the weather or I’m feelin’ poorly. I did some googling a while back trying to find such a chart and came up empty. Hopefully I’ll be more successful this time around.

soldiers aboard train
Trains played a major role in the Civil War, transporting troops here and there. The Wilmington and Weldon RR plays a big role in my novel. It takes my main character Bill off to war, and when he’s wounded, returns him home to recuperate.

I’ve posted the first six chapters of the novel on an online writers’ workshop and am getting some useful reviews, maybe four to five reviews per chapter. The storyline has been well received, although many say they’re getting anxious to see my main character join up with the Confederate Army and march off to war. I’ve spent these first few chapters setting up the old-fashioned romance of my main character, Bill Stamford, with Becky Powell, his hometown sweetheart.


More than 94,000 words into the tale, I’ve returned Bill to his North Carolina hometown to recuperate after suffering a shell fragment wound in the back. He’s hoping to renew his courtship and romance with Becky. Except he’s met a Virginia girl, Franny Neale, who claimed his virginity. Bill’s a mixed-up, confused fellow. He can’t get Franny out of his mind, but knows she’ll never be his… she has gone to Tennessee to nurse her wounded fiancé.

Slaves repair RR
In one major change from my outline, I’ve decided to have one of my main family’s slaves commandeered by the government to do repair work on the Wilmington and Weldon RR. Slaves were forced to keep the war effort going in the South, repairing rails, working in mines, building fortifications.

Since beginning the novel, I’ve decided to make one major change … the relationship of Bill and his family with the institution of slavery. A longtime reviewer warned me that Bill and his father are way too talkative about their anti-slavery views and his father’s plans to free the family’s two slaves – a married couple – at the appropriate time.


So I’m going to do some tweaking by making the father and son much more circumspect in what they say. It was a volatile time, newspaper offices were being burned down for printing editorials some found offensive toward the Southern cause. While researching the novel, I read some period newspaper accounts that detailed various burnings. I intend to keep the divided loyalties of Bill’s family. His mother’s a Northerner, so Bill and his father have come to share many of her anti-slavery views. Bill’s buddy Charlie was born and raised in North Carolina’s mountains, a pro-Union region unhappy with the state’s decision to secede.

I see one major change coming. While Bill is encamped with the Army of Northern Virginia around Fredericksburg, his father Clarence will get a visit from the military authorities who commandeer one of his slaves – Winston – to help maintain railroad tracks. Slaves were used to fix tracks, work in the mines, and build breastworks and fortifications like the ones at Fort Fisher south of Wilmington. But I will need to get Winston back with the Stamford family in time for a Yankee raid on Bill’s hometown of Kenansville, North Carolina. It’s a real raid that took place in early July 1863. Union Cavalry burned a sword factory and later destroyed railroad track as they retreated to New Bern. The official reports of Yankee officers say hundreds of runaway slaves seeking freedom went with them. I’ve decided Winston and his wife Malinda will be two of them.


Owen Rand Kenan
Kenansville, North Carolina’s most illustrious man during the Civil War, Owen Rand Kenan, will help my main character’s father get his slave Winston returned to him. I’ve decided to have the father’s health failing and he needs the slave’s help keeping up the house.

How will I get Winston back with the Stamford family? A family powerful in political circles lived in Kenansville in the 19th century – the Owen Rand Kenan family. A wealthy planter, Kenan represented North Carolina in the Confederate Congress in Richmond from 1862 to 1864. My plan is to have Clarence make a successful appeal to Owen Kenan, who will intervene to have Winston returned to the Stamford family in time for the Yankee cavalry raid. As you can see, I’m using real history that is requiring me to mesh the lives of my fictional characters with historical events and historical people like Owen Kenan.


# ##

Want to learn more about me? I’m the author of a fantasy genre trilogy, Larenia’s Shadow. The three novels of the series are The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. Want to buy the series? They’re available for purchase on the websites of Amazon and Barnes And Noble.



23 thoughts on “Being a Southern boy with Yankee cousins during Civil War

  1. Brilliant progress, Mike. Your detailed plans are really impressive to someone like me who is more of a pantser! Your knowledge and topic research is coming together very well, methinks. It looks like making those connections that you want won’t be too difficult a process and all will be well ‘joined up’ at the end of the first writing phase. Happy writing to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After years of writing fantasy genre novels, this Civil War novel was something I wanted to try. In order to make it appealing to more than folks obsessed with the Civil War and the South, I added two romances and a fantasy overlay (the chief character unpredictably sees halos around people about to die).


  2. Very impressive and also that you are flexible with your plot as the story kind of takes off on its own in some places it seems. Being a pantser that is pretty usual for me, but I am inspired to do more outlining when I read your efforts and progress. Sounds like a really good story!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Using history to frame a story is one of my favorite things. Not only do I get to read a great story, but history, even fictionalized, brings events to life. I congratulate you on the progress and look forward to the end product. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on your progress, Mike. I admire your perseverance–research, writing, research, writing–I assume that’s the pattern. It must be particularly challenging to make your characters’ stories mesh with those of historical figures. Lots of work and creativity. I look forward to reading the result.


    1. I love it that so many of my Writing Wranglers friends are interested in reading the book. I’ve discovered that this kind of fiction holds greater interest to people than fantasy genre novels.


  5. Wow, Mike! You inspire me – I’ve only got a little research done on my WIP but I do have several chapters written. It’s so funny that we both are writing about North Carolina during the Civil War, but of course, my book is all about how to hide an elephant from the confederates! (lol). Really, I am finding circus research during the time to be quite difficult, but I’ll persevere. Good luck – your novel sounds so interesting – I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m definitely going to have to buy your book, Linda. Where in North Carolina are most of your scenes taking place? If I had to guess, I’d think the North Carolina mountains where there were lots of Union men more than willing to hide an elephant from Confederates.


      1. Yes, my book takes place in the Appalachian Mountains of NC, where there was unrest with the Confederacy and more people leaned toward the Union side. The area where my protagonist grew up is fictional, so I have to do research on an actual place that fits the book in time and place. Have you read “When Protagonists were Kings?” I think it’s by Stephen Best. My brother (who is a Civil War Re-enactor) told me about it and it’s full of information that I’m taking notes on. It’s actually about a Wisconsin Regiment, but also includes a part of the family who lives in Texas in an area loyal to the Confederacy. Even though I’m going slow, I’m enjoying the research!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, you’ve set yourself quite a task there. If you’re only 70% at 93K words, how long do you expect your book to be? Or will you cut a lot when you revise? Good luck with it and have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, it’s tiring just reading about all your research! That’s not something I could do. Although if it’s a topic I’m interested in – like cigarette smuggling or nut cargo thefts – then I’ll research all day long. So I guess it depends on the subject matter. I’m not one to read historical fiction so makes sense I would struggle to research something like the Civil War. Good luck, Mike, but it sounds like you’re doing beautifully so far. Congrats on the progress and positive responses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What? Don’t like history. What’s wrong with you? Just kidding. The world would be boring if everybody thought in lockjaw patterns — never basking in being difference.


  8. Mike, I commend you — BRAVO!! You’re doing great work, and I look forward to your to your book. I greatly enjoy American history, including the Civil War period. I’m sure I’ll love your end product. A lot of work, a lot of love, is going into this project and I believe you will do well with this epic work!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s