I’m currently working on my first novel, a historical thriller/horror romp set at the end of the American Civil War. Although the plot and characters have a variety of inspirations the main gist of why I chose to set it during the tale end of Civil War was because I’ve had a strong interest in American history, especially during the 1860-80’s. In particular the Civil War and the so-called Wild West. I’m by no means an expert, but thought I had a decent working knowledge of the time period. In preparation, as well as during the writing process, I’ve done a decent amount of the research into the Civil War era, and it is surprising how much went on that I didn’t learn back in “social studies” class in high school.
One of the biggest surprises I discovered during my research was what’s known as Andrew’s Raid, or the Great Locomotive Chase. In a nutshell it was a mission involving Union soldiers posing as Confederate civilians and sneaking behind enemy lines in an attempt to hijack a Confederate locomotive and then proceed to disrupt the Confederate railway as much as possible. The reason being they wanted to hamper the supply chain which came from Atlanta Georgia to the other parts of the Confederacy. Had the Union been successful in the mission it would have greatly shortened the length of the war. You can get more information about the raid through this link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Locomotive_Chase
When I was growing up in the Northeast the primary focus on the Civil War was based on the Eastern Front, and the only mention of the war West of the Mississippi was a few muttered words that there was some sorta fighting going on but wasn’t significant. I was always left wondering what happened, and why. Ironically, twenty some years later I find myself now living out West. Over the course of my road trips and hiking day trips I’ve been able to go to places like Fort Garlandhttp://www.museumtrail.org/FortGarlandMuseum.asp as well as learn about the significance of events like the Battle of Glorietta Pass http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Glorieta_Pass
The Confederacy’s attempt to invade New Mexico and Colorado and then overtake the silver and gold mines in order to fund the war effort is an event that definitely sparked my interest. Although it failed, it would have had a huge impact on the outcome of the war if it had succeeded. It’s definitely material that sparks the intellect and imagination.
There are other events and people of the Civil War era that are ‘hidden’ that I’ve come across and most likely will continue to do so. It’s interesting and exciting to come across previously unknown historical events in what seem like well-known events. It makes me wonder why I never learned about some these events, especially something like The Battle of Glorietta Pass that was known as the Gettysburg of the West. The material I have come across has not only increased my interest in the history of the Civil War era but also spawned a lot of creative potential for my fictional writing as well.