The shift from an emphasis on Colonial and Revolutionary War history to Civil War history has been culture shock for me.
I now live less than an hour from the prison camp where the Confederate prisoners were sent after Gettysburg. Fort Delaware is on an island in the Delaware River. It secured access to Philadelphia by water from the War of 1812 until it was decommissioned after WWII.
As a writer, I intended to walk in the footsteps of my protagonists: that included attending re-enactments and dressing like my protagonists whenever possible. On the ferry ride to the fort for Garrison Day years ago, I met a woman in a hoop skirt, trying to keep her hat in place with one hand while battling the bottom part of her attire with the other. That hoop skirt could have powered a small boat. I decided right then I would never wear such a garment.
I went home and made my first piece of period clothing from a fawn colored bed sheet, a Quaker farm wife’s dress. It may not be entirely accurate, but it has served me well for years.
Delaware was an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Freedom was on the other side of the Delaware State Line until the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. We were one of three slave holding states that remained loyal to the Union. Since the Emancipation Proclamation freed only slaves living in Confederate territory, the 1800 Delaware slaves had to wait for a constitutional amendment to free them.
Very little of my writing is set During the Civil War, but one unpublished YA novel bears witness to my fascination with Fort Delaware. Ruth meets an escaped prisoner, a Yankee guard, and learns her family secret, their involvement in the Underground Railroad.