Our family vacation this summer was always planned to be a lakehouse retreat to the Land Between the Lakes Area on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky with a side research trip planned for a day at Fort Donelson.
Then COVID hit. Our vacations are pretty much socially distanced all the time anyway, so all that changed was the ability to visit historical museums. WHICH IS HUGE!!! After spending intense months researching books, I was ready to visit the actual location of one of my stories, speak with the park rangers, examine the artifacts in the museum, and buy some of the resources which can only be found on location. With the exception of touring the outside grounds, everything else was closed to me.
It was a disappointment, but I am very grateful that I still was able to spend several hours walking around, imagining my characters, taking pictures, recording details from the placards, and even recording some videos for research and future promotions. It was over 90 degrees with outrageous humidity, but this author was willing to endure hours of it to get all the details needed to create a realistic story.
Below are a few of my favorite historical tidbits and pictures taken from my phone. When going to write this post, I realized my new computer does not have an SD Card slot so my real camera pictures will have to wait until I find an adapter. 🙂
A Soldier’s Winter Home
While we often think of soldiers as living in tents, more permanent establishments like Forts or long-term camps built little cabins for soldiers to huddle close in and combat against the winter. The cabin below is an example of one such cabin. The door was locked but pulling away from the hinges, so I stuck my hand in with my phone to get an inside look. You can see the hay strewn on the floor and a small fireplace used to heat the space. The chink in the walls really displayed how much wind could pass through a building. Any light you see in the walls is coming from the outside. It had to be better than a tent, but that wind still must have been biting.
An Important, Often Overlooked Battle
Forts Henry and Donelson were important locations for the Union and Confederate armies. Whoever controlled those, controlled the rivers and the railroads west of the Appalachian Mountains. The above is a panoramic view of Confederate States of America’s River Batteries. The Battle of Fort Donelson was both a land and river battle. From this position, the United States of America sent a gunboat flotilla led by Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. The vessels which floated down this now peaceful river consisted of both timberclad and ironclad vessels. The timberclads were commercial river steamers converted to gunboats. My picture shows a hot, humid summer day, but the Battle of Fort Donelson was fought during frigid and wet conditions February 11 – 16, 1862.
Video Tour of a Scene I Plan
I can’t stand my own voice, but you can tell how really excited I was to be here. This was at the end of my tour, so my brain was a little wonky, but the ACTUAL date of the scene would be 1862 NOT 1863. 🙂 For those who don’t want to watch the video, this was a former Confederate camp taken over by Union soldiers. By February 15, the Confederate soldiers were wanting to retreat to Nashville but this encampment of Union soldiers stood in the way. So in the wee hours of the morning they attacked the Union camp. Union soldiers were hopping out of their tents pulling up their pants in order to fight. No one was ready, and it is a scene of chaos I look forward to writing.
Well that is all I’m going to share for now. With all the pictures and videos I have, I could write many more posts, but I think I’d rather focus on writing the actual story. 😉 Have a great week, y’all, and I hope you enjoyed what you read.
Welcome to the end of a crazy month (so crazy, I’m a day late on this post) with the prospect of one more left to go. It’s wild how much our world can change within a matter of weeks. I pray you are staying home, staying healthy, and if you are one of those essential workers getting out every day to serve the rest of us, THANK YOU SO MUCH. My prayers are with you no matter where you may be working.
I am back at editing my Secret Service story, so to shake things up a bit, I thought I’d share the inspiration for each of my Secret Service heroes.
Meet the Heroes of Counterfeit Love
Broderick works as an undercover Secret Service operative during the early 1880s. He is focused, loves puzzles, and sees his service to country as primary in his life. He pursues justice and truth with care so that no innocent person comes to harm and all who are guilty face a punishment befitting their crime.
His goal in Counterfeit Love: Ferret out the leaders of an elusive counterfeiting gang before they can get the new counterfeit twenties into circulation and damage an already fragile economy.
The Challenge: His former fiancée has somehow become entangled with the gang. She is innocent, but how can he prove it and protect her while doing his job?
The real inspiration behind the character:
Andrew L. Drummond, Chief of the Secret Service between February 1891 and January 1894 – The initial inspiration for this story came from his book True Detective Stories. One of my favorite stories is where he was “arrested” and escaped jail with a counterfeiter in order to build the trust of an elusive gang. Where did his escapades lead him, but Cincinnati? The location of my story.
While Andrew Darlington may not seem the hero type, he is a man trying to overcome a secret past which could cost him his job as a Secret Service operative. Therefore, he strikes every case with a vengeance. Collateral damage don’t matter so long as the criminal is brought to justice and put behind bars.
His Goal in Counterfeit Love: Prove Theresa Plane is the real mastermind behind the elusive counterfeiting ring. No one knows better than him how corrupted and devilish a woman’s soul can be.
The Challenge: Broderick Cosgrove has been swindled by the woman and now he must work around a fellow operative to bring the truth to light.
The real inspiration behind the character:
William P. Wood, Chief of the Secret Service from January 1863 to May 1869
Chief Wood earned a reputation for rash aggressiveness. In the book Illegal Tender, David R. Johnson described Chief Wood as “prowl[ing] the boundaries between legitimate and deviant society” and “lacking scruples and good judgment.” This was the basis for my backstory for Darlington. He is a complex character which you only scratch the surface of in Counterfeit Love.
Poor Josiah Isaacs is an accidental play boy. He can’t help it that women take his friendliness to be flirtation, and bless his soul, he’s incapable of purposely breaking a woman’s heart. He’s been cornered into a proposal multiple times, and uses cases which take him away from home to convince the women he’s not a good for them so they break it off. He’s smart, caring, and understands Broderick’s position, but duty to their job must have the final say in the case.
His goal in Counterfeit Love: Allow Broderick–his partner and friend–the support and space he needs to prove whether or not Theresa Plane is guilty, but stand firm in revealing the truth should evidence prove otherwise.
The Challenge: Withholding information from their superiors could cost their job, and when the evidence continues to point toward Theresa Plane’s guilt, his friendship with Broderick becomes strained.
The real inspiration for the character:
There isn’t one particular Secret Service operative who stuck out to me to inspire Isaacs. He is sort of a meshing of many operative stories and characters. For me, I wanted a character who would play off the others and be fun to develop, and what more fun can I have than with a man who doesn’t mean to flirt and keeps getting engaged even when he never wants to marry? The story I have planned for him will be so much fun!
This week I am wrapping up my Secret Service series with a look at the other side, counterfeiting in the late 1800’s. While there is a lot more information to share, I just broke the counterfeiting scheme down to five basic steps with tidbits of extra information. Enjoy, and don’t get into too much trouble!
For unfamiliar terms, please visit last week’s post: Secret Service Dictionary and Fun Facts
The Process of a Counterfeiting Scheme:
Step One: Engrave plates for use on printing presses.
Engravers were particularly scarce; those who did succumb to thievery had to serve many masters and lived rather hectic lives.
Engravers earned between twenty to forty dollars a week and worked nearly a year to finish a set of plates.
There was a market for used plates. A good set of plates could be sold for between several hundred and two thousand dollars.
Step Two: Print the Money
Like the manufacturers of legal merchandise, criminals needed to consider opportunity, risk, demand, price, and quality before investing their capital, time, skills, and organizational talent in the business.
The effort, time, and money (several thousand dollars) needed to produce an issue put the manufacturing of counterfeit notes beyond the resources of a single individual.
Plates belonged to one partner – either because he had provided the money to have them made or because he took them as part of his share in the proceedings.
Manufacturers used areas where there were a large number of supply stores clustered in the area to sell paper, type, ink, and various kinds of presses, which were the raw materials of counterfeiting.
Knowledge and techniques were transmitted orally and perfected by practical experience in saloons. Counterfeiter’s reliance on an oral culture and on personal relationships effectively shielded them from the police.
A firm could print between ten thousand and twelve thousand dollars a month.
Step Three: Sell to a Wholesaler
The wholesaler was the key figure in the distribution process. If the wholesaler was a member of the production firm, he had direct access to the product without any additional costs beyond his original investments in the partnership.
The whole seller sold product to dealers/retailers.
Step Four: Sell to a Dealer/Retailer
There were two types of dealers: (1) Thieves who bought counterfeits to pass on unsuspecting merchants or (2) Merchants who were willing to cheat their customers by giving them counterfeit money in change.
Dealers created customer lists, which they jealously guarded from their competitors. Their customers regularly wrote to the retailers or left messages at the saloons that retailers visited.
Step Five: Shove the Money – (A.K.A. Put counterfeit notes into circulation.)
Shovers usually operated in small groups of two or three. One shover entered a shop, made a small purchase, and received genuine money in change. While the shover was transacting business, a companion remained outside to watch for the police and to make sure that the shover was not followed by the store keeper, who might have discovered the counterfeit.
After each transaction, they placed the proceeds in a separate pocket or envelope, so that their associates would be able to trace the precise amounts each shover collected.
Then the group returned to their meeting place and divided the proceeds.
The Price of Counterfeiting:
The price of counterfeit bills fluctuated based on their quality and lack of public awareness. New notes were easy to pass and thus sold for more money, generally between thirty and seventy cents. The better the counterfeit quality, the better the price.
As soon as a new counterfeit’s existence became widely known, dealers had to lower the prices to compensate their customers for the increased risk. Discounted notes sold for between eighteen and twenty-two cents on the dollar.
Just as any career has its own jargon, so did the counterfeiting world and the Secret Service. Below are a few of the most important terms to know. Below that are a few fun facts about the Secret Service.
Secret Service and Counterfeiting Dictionary
Boodle – notes bought from a production firmBoodle carrier – a courier who delivered counterfeit notes from the dealer to the shovers.
Chief Operative – first-class men assigned to the division’s major districts, each chief operative would have assistant operatives working under his direction, and would be responsible for all administrative and investigative activities within his district.
Dealers – people who bought the counterfeit notes from wholesalers and then used shovers to distribute the money into general circulation
Distribution – the spread of counterfeit money through an underground sales network
Engraver – the person who created the plates used to print money
Firm – the collective group of people used to print money
Issue – an edition of a set of counterfeit bills
Manufacturer – a person or group of people who printed counterfeit money
Network – the sum of one’s personal acquaintances (which included non-criminals).
Notes – another term for paper money
Operative – the official title of the Service’s employees
Plant – a term used to reference where counterfeiters made their money
Plates – metal pieces with copied images from the bill being counterfeited
Product – another name used for counterfeit money, generally used by the counterfeiters
Production Firm – the collective group of people used to print money
Queer – another term for counterfeit money
Retailer – another term for a dealer
Shover – a person who bought low priced items with a higher counterfeit bill to get real money back in change
Straw bail – a situation in which a false bondsman was contracted to swear they possessed sufficient property to pay the bond, and then the counterfeiter would subsequently fail to appear in court
Wholesalers – men or women who would buy counterfeit notes from manufacturers and then recruit potential customers through personal contacts or the mail to create a sales network
Fun Facts about the Secret Service
D.C. was the Service’s bureaucratic headquarters and the chief lived there
Between 1875 and 1910, the division never employed more than 47 men, and the average was only 25. 1878-1893, the average number of servicemen was well below that.
Chief operatives often had several cases under investigation at once and had testy battles with headquarters over conflicting demands for economy and results
Each chief operative maintained a retinue of assistants and informers
Each district contained a number of states and a single operative maintained a headquarter in a major city
There were field offices in 11 cities across the nation.
Operatives were paid once a month on a daily scale, an average of $7 per day.
Each work day ranged from 12 to 16 hours long.
There were no days off and any “vacation” time was unpaid.
Operatives were required to itemize all their expenses for everything from travel to personal needs.
Operatives were to maintain peak physical fitness, swear unquestioning obedience to chief’s directives
In 1881, all toy money was removed from shelves and industries.
While time-consuming, the work was not particularly dangerous (no Service employee was seriously hurt in the line of duty until the murder of an operative in 1908).
The Secret Service history dates back to the Civil War when they were informally created to detect, investigate, and arrest counterfeiters. The early days were fraught with detectives who had less than ethical standards and tactics that disregarded the rights of a citizen. In less than ten years after its establishment, a reformation was demanded and a whole new breed of Secret Service Operative came into existence.
Who was this new breed of operative?
Operatives tended to have military, police, or detective experience and come from a law-abiding middle-class background. These men were successful in life prior to being appointed and often had a job history that indicated an ambition to do more.
Unlike their predecessors, they adapted their behavior to bureaucratic routine, followed orders, and obeyed rules. They were talented detectives, highly tolerant of paperwork, and committed to organizational goals.
They were a tough, capable, and honorable breed, with high standards of personal integrity, who felt it their duty to interact with criminals for the greater good of society.
“Employees will be judged by the character they sustain, by the results they accomplish, and by the manner in which they accomplish them.” – Elmer Washburn, Chief of the Secret Service 1874-1876
The Do’s and Don’ts of Being an Operative in the 1880s
Avoid “any appearance of impropriety or disgraceful behavior.”
Criminals are not personal acquaintances; they are enemies of the social order.
Submit weekly reports to the director. They must include accounts of your actions and expenses every hour of every day.
Do not accept gifts or gratuities to perform or forgo official duties.
Do not deliver or give permission to use counterfeit money to any unauthorized person.
All arrests must be in strict conformity to civil law and with the cooperation of the local policing institution.
All financial transactions must be reported, even those with criminals.
Report all criminal transactions: what was paid for counterfeit money, from whom it was purchased, where they deal was made, the kind of bogus money purchased, and how much counterfeit was obtained.
Record “all charges for information and assistance,” including names and residences of each person receiving these sums.
Purchasing counterfeit money must be done for the smallest, practical amount.
“Authority must be had from this Office before any bargain is made for information or assistance, unless the operative can clearly make it appear that the interest of the service would have suffered materially by the delay necessary, in order to obtain such authority.”
“Operatives will neither promise, either by word or implication, immunity from punishment, nor anything in mitigation of sentence, to any person for any offense he may have committed.”
Suspects must be warned about their rights – everything they said will be documented and used against them in court. Suspects needn’t answer any questions until a lawyer is obtained. (This was long before the Miranda Rights became required in 1966.)
Fashion through the ages can be quite interesting, especially when examining women’s fashions. You have the simple beauty of the Empire-waist dresses during the Regency era; the elegant, wide sweeping gowns of the Civil War Era; and the form-accentuating narrow skirts and bustles of the Victorian Era.
I love to peruse the internet for beautiful dresses to include in my stories and fantasize about wearing, but sometimes the practical side of me pokes its little head up and asks some great questions.
If you hate spending more than fifteen minutes getting ready in the morning, why one earth would you want to spend hours getting ready in one of those ridiculous dresses? And can you imagine going to the bathroom in one of those dresses?
Those two questions were my only hesitations in buying and wearing my Civil War gown for the ACFW genre dinner. I would only have 30 minutes between the last session and the genre dinner to get to the room, change clothes, and do my hair. I might be able to avoid the bathroom issue, as long as I didn’t drink too much water, but I knew myself better than that.
Praise the Lord for placing me in the information age and YouTube. Someone posted on Facebook a wonderful post about Civil War fashion, which led me to these wonderful videos from PriorAttire. I learned so much just from watching them.
Debunking the Myth: It Took Hours to Get Dressed
The Bathroom: How on earth did they do it?
What did you think of these videos? I know they helped me. Although, split drawers were not an option for me and the bathroom stalls were very narrow, even compared to modern standards, so the bathroom was still an interesting feat at ACFW.
What are your thoughts? Are there any reenactment people out there who would like to share their experiences and insights?
If you could go back and wear any era dress, what would be your preference?
Share your answers below. In the meantime, here is a sneak peak of a couple of the dresses which inspired what my heroine wears in my current Work In Progress.