As part of my research for my next book, I’ve been taking advantage of Civil War events around Northern Virginia. One was on Arlington and the Civil War, given by Ed Bearss (pronounced Bars). He’s the retired Chief Historian for the National Park Service. The lecture featured a chronology of the events of the Civil War from the perspective of the area I live in. One of the things that amazed me was that Mr. Bearss appeared not to have any notes — yet, he recited many, many dates throughout his lecture. Right down to the day and month.
The lecture format was a little difficult for me to work with — my learning style requires more hands on. But I was able to get an idea of what it must have been like for the people who lived here. At the time, Arlington county had 1,000 people living here; now it’s over 200,000. That’s quite a difference. Arlington was also the only county in what makes up the current state of Virginia that didn’t vote for succession. The other parts of Virginia that didn’t want to succeed broke off and became West Virginia.
There’s also a strip of land out by Culpepper where 100,000 people died during the war. To put this into perspective, the total people who died during the war was 600,000. That’s a lot of death on the doorstep of a potential character. One of the most interesting things that I came away with showed up at the end of the lecture. It’s not something I think I would have found in a book, so I’m glad I went — I think it might be a good thing to use in the story. It’s on what women did during the war. Did you know …
- That women worked at the Statement Department? Not sure what they did, but that’s something I can probably dig out.
- That women worked at the Treasury Department. They did facsimiles of the signatures that appeared on the bonds, and they were used because their penmanship was better.
- That women worked at the armory, loading cartridges? They had better dexterity. But it was dangerous work — the armory exploded at one point.
This is the kind of material I’m looking for as research for Masks/Spy Mage.