Once again, we meet on the Soul Mate Publishing blog. Welcome and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my post. In this new year, I’m uncertain of what would be of interest to you the reader. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.
In the past, we have discussed nearly every aspect of writing from scene setting to character development. So on to research, something vitally important to a good story. Incidents, contrived or merely related to the reader, make a story come to life.
Today, I want to share a little of my research that went into my last novel published by Soul Mate. Bittersweep is a historical romance set in the West. It is not a cowboys and Indians western, but tells about events taking place in Texas in the late 1800s. Some of the events are true if loosely based on one of my ancestor’s life.
Here is a short blurb about the book: Elizabeth never thought to return to Bittersweep. She never believed such bitterness could survive for fifteen long years. She never dreamed she would meet JP Honeycutt or fall in love with him. She never realized the secret of her past contained in her mother’s box would rise up to haunt her and ruin her chance of happiness.
Bank robbers, yes, cattle rustlers, yes, murder, yes—all present in the story. I researched a fort in Texas. Here is want I found. I will explain why I used the research in my story afterward.
The land that became Fort Clark was owned by Samuel A. Maverick at the time its potential for military development was recognized by William H.C. Whiting and William F. Smith in 1849. Whiting and Smith were actually engaged in surveying the path of the San Antonio-El Paso Road when they came upon the Las Moras Springs (“Mulberry Springs”) at the headwaters of Las Moras Creek. They told their superiors that they believed the high ground above the springs would be an appropriate placement for a fort. The fort was strategically located as anchor to the cordon of army posts that had been established along the southwest Texas border after the Mexican War. The fort’s purpose was to guard the Mexican border, to protect the military road to El Paso, and to defend against Indian depredations arising from either side of the Rio Grande.
On March 19, 1861, Captain Trevanion T. Teel, leader of 18 Confederate troops, accepted the surrender of the fort from then-Captain George Sykes, who was garrisoned there with four companies. The surrender took place without military engagement, but not without tension. The Union soldiers garrisoned at the base cut the halliard of the flag-pole after the Federal flag was removed in order to prevent the Confederate flag being raised. They then set fire to the barracks as they were withdrawing. Sykes took quick action to aid in extinguishing the fire to preserve the barracks and nearby buildings. In June 1861, after the outbreak of the Civil War, Fort Clark was garrisoned by companies C and H, Second Regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles, with Capt. H. A. Hamner as post commander. In August 1862 all Confederate troops were withdrawn from Fort Clark.
On December 12, 1866, U.S. troops from Company C of the Fourth Cavalry once again reoccupied the fort under the command of Capt. John E. Wilcox. Stone barracks, officer’s quarters, and headquarters plus a 200 foot long wooden stable were added in 1868 after Companies C and F, 41st Infantry, and Companies G and M, 9th Cavalry were stationed at the fort.
Additional barracks were added late in 1898.
If there were plans for new barracks and troops stationed there, money was needed. I placed a shipment of gold heading to the fort in the Bittersweep bank. Naturally, the establishment was robbed. Solving the mystery of the identity of the crooks is part of the story. Excerpt below.
Elizabeth’s annoyance with Valeria dissipated as an older man with a shiny badge pinned to his vest came hurling through the door. He wore a large, black leather belt around his thick middle matching his scuffed boots. He waved his arms and frowned at the crowd. The silence stretched as the fiddle twanged to a halt and the couples came to a standstill.
Almost too excited to go slowly, the deputy stuttered, “The bank. It’s been robbed. A bunch of owl-hoots rode into town and blew up the safe. Convenient-like, with the town mostly at the party. Let’s saddle up and chase after ‘em.”
The first few pages of the story:
After fifteen years, can I find my mother’s box? Can I remember exactly where she tucked the chest away? I was only five. Will her box still be there, hidden, or will it be destroyed?
Elizabeth Campbell peered out the window of the passenger car as the locomotive puffed into the station at Bittersweep, Texas, belching ash from the smokestack. The train came to a screeching halt beside the station. She folded the newspaper dated August 10, 1897, and positioned it under her arm slowly rising from her seat. Drawing a deep breath, she curled her fingers around the handle of her carpetbag. Tension bunched her neck and shoulder muscles as she stepped out onto the wooden platform.
The warm midday sun of late summer washed the scene in heat and vivid light but did nothing to lessen the dark apprehension or the pain in her heart. Perhaps I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I didn’t want to return, but I’m back. I need this teaching position, desperately.
She followed her shadow into the shade afforded by the overhang of the roof to the train station’s ticket office. At least I may have a chance to discover what really happened all those years ago.
For more information about my other books, historical romance, however not historical western romance, please go to my website.