Monday, July 26, 2010

Treasured Connections

"A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable." --Thomas Jefferson

Adjutant General's Office...
Know Ye That the records of this office show that
Charles Gardner
Was enrolled as a private in Company D
95th Regiment Ohio Vol Inftry
on the 25th day of July 1862
...mustered out Aug. 14th 1865

The document showed up once in papers my dad gave me, and caught me by surprise. In all my research through the years, with multiple files, piles, books and clippings I've accumulated, nothing felt more like treasure than this--the discharge paper officially documenting my great-great grandfather's military service in the Civil War. I was amazed to find I had it in my possession.

Upon discovery, questions began to fly. Who was Charles Gardner? What was his life like? Under what circumstances did he live, fight, cope? What were his motives, opinions, the things that fueled his decisions and actions? What about his family, and the young woman--Josephine, my great-great grandmother--whom he would marry the same year as his discharge? What was his/their story? Oh, how I would have loved to have picked the brain of someone with whom he might have talked about his experiences, but I didn't know anything about him until it was too late.

I've been trying to organize my files lately as I continue moving back and forth from finished mss to queries to the first words of my next WIP, set in the 1860s. This document resurfaced in the process and now sits as a special friend nearby as I go forward--a treasure piece that, hopefully, serves to trigger the imagination.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming work. And I value the real-life, hands-on, hands-across-the-generations connection to that era in history--something quite special to me.

How about you? Do you have a personal treasure you hold dear, something that gives you a connection to your story-in-progress--or to your past?

"People tend to forget the word 'history' contains the word 'story'." --Ken Burns


  1. I love that you have that piece of history. I think it would help put me in the time. What I have for my story is I live nearby the town where it takes place. I need to take a ride out to the lake one day.

  2. How exciting! Glad you shared it with us.

  3. Wow, that is an amazing piece of history, and such a treasure!

  4. What a treasure! Definitely an inspiration for writing. Look forward to reading the results someday. :)

  5. I have some confederate money. Yes I know it's worthless but unique nonetheless!

  6. That is really cool, I did see it on your desk! History is sooo much more interesting in story form, I can see why historical fiction is so interesting to you. Nice post.