Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 4/6/17

Speaking of research, most of it is quick. Sometimes I'm writing something and realize I don't know the answer to an important question. That leads to looking up things online. That might sound like procrastination, but I'm searching relevant information. Most of the time.

Some research takes a one second Google search, like what's on the corner of Sunset and Doheny.

I spent a full day looking into Mary and Molly Bell. They were Virginia farmers during the Civil War who dressed as men and joined the Confederate Army. The amazing thing is, they got away with it for a long time and were even promoted to sergeant and corporal. Sgt Bob Martin and Cpl Tom Parker, no relation to the colonel, served in some of the big battles, like Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, and were part of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign with General Jubal Early.

Eventually, their captain was captured and a new lieutenant ratted them out. They were sent to the notorious Castle Thunder prison in Richmond where they were interrogated and probably tortured. Castle Thunder also had a few other women who disguised as men to serve in the army. It's kind of an interesting subject on its own.

Their general wanted them charged as prostitutes, but no one could find any evidence against them. Instead, their fellow soldiers only said good things about their service, even after everyone knew they were really women. That says a lot. Even today, most men would be outraged and call them all kinds of horrible names. Imagine what it was like back then.

After they were released, they went back to their farm and then all information stops. No one seems to know what they did after the war.

This book isn't about the Civil War or Mary and Molly Bell, but in the course of the story there is a TV series about the Civil War. I've always known the basics, what they teach in history class and Ken Burns documentaries. While I was looking up details about Gettysburg, I ran into Mary and Molly Bell and I just kept looking. Their story fascinated me. I'd love to know more about them, but I've exhausted about all I can from the internet. After a few hours, every website just tells you the same things, and more than a few mix up which cousin is which. They're mentioned in several books, but as far as I know, there are no books specifically about them.

I'll be reading whatever books I can find that mention them in the near future, but for now, I don't need to know every detail about these women.

Possibly Mary or Molly Bell.
Or maybe not.

Pauline Cushman
A Union spy who dressed as a Confederate soldier.

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