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Lettuce… again?

Previously On The Civil War Story: Kate’s marriage has just started and she and Joseph are not totally used to each other yet. 

It was March and it was cold. It was snowing lightly. It was thick, heavy snow, that never seemed to accumulate more than dust would.

Kate walked down Main Street with a home spun cloack wrapped around her shoulders and head. She ducked into the shop as quickly as possible carrying a basket of fresh greens. There were two patrons mingling quietly at the front of the store and as Kate walked toward the back she noticed Joseph’s face fell a bit as he spied her take for the day. She felt the same way. Lettuce was hardly filling and on a cold day like today they always hoped for something a bit more hearty.

She had been feeling sick the past few days, but this morning that sickness had turned to intense hunger. She was by no stretch of the imagination starving. They owned a shop, they did well for themselves. But both she and Joseph strove for something fresh. They were tired of rice and brans and potatoes. They enjoyed cauliflower and broccoli, and spinach was surprisingly hearty, but today she only managed lettuce from the local gardener, and that was better or warmer weather, not when you were trying to keep warm. These random cold days were more a mental battle than physical one.

Once the shop closed she started dinner. Downstairs she could hear Jospeh and his sister going through the days inventory, double-checking the purchase information and credit accounts. Joseph came upstairs and Kate asked if his sister didn’t want to stay for dinner. He insisted he’d asked her and she’d refused. Besides, that meant more for them, right? He didn’t eat any of the leftovers though. So Kate, not wanting to waste, polished off the excess serving, and she did so easily.

“Joseph?” she called to the sitting room where he was reading the newspaper.

He turned around waiting for her inquiry. Kate put down the dishes she was cleaning and walked over to the chair he was sitting in. She squatted down so she was slightly below his eye line.

“I’m pregnant.”

Joseph’s expression remained neutral for a moment and Kate feared she’d announced it all wrong. But before she could react to his reaction he smiled at her and grabbed her face and kissed her gently. She smiled back, as if asking if he was happy. The looked he returned suggested as much and he kissed her again, and returned to his newspaper. She was happy that he seemed happy, though she was admittedly hoping he would have said something.

She stood, still looking at him, somewhat expectantly, somewhat curiously, wanting to know what he was thinking. It was expected that once they marry they begin a family, but as her partner she wished he’d at least said something.

She shrugged it off to exhaustion and returned to the dirty dishes. Joseph gave a great sigh.


Next on The Civil War Story: Peter and Mr. Windt arrive in the deep South and Peter gets a glimpse of what his life is going to be like for the next few years. 

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Dual Follow-Up (Spoiler post for CWS)

So I was just thinking about that dream I had last night that I posted about earlier and how it might possibly apply to my Civil War Story (CWS). All you readers out there don’t even know it yet, but **SPOILER ALERT** Peter and Kate get together in the end.

So here’s what I’m thinking: That idea that two people are so well suited for one another, and even though they try to stay apart for no good reason, there is an equally no good reason for them to stay that way. Kate’s hesitance comes from her husband leaving her. If she protects herself she can get by just fine. If she were to open herself up to someone and let down her guard, she could get hurt all over again and she doesn’t want that.

Peter is a little more clueless on the matter of love. He’s sort of a stereotypical guy who doesn’t realize until the last minute that maybe his feelings are romantic in nature, rather than just friendly. They have a brief, maybe, day of happiness, imagining themselves being together, but then Peter heads off to war, not unlike Kate’s husband. Ohhhhhhhhh brother this does not sit well with Kate. History has repeated itself in her eyes. So she disengages from the relationship. She isn’t so much mad at Peter, though she admittedly peeved, but the way she sees it, she’s protecting herself. She made a mistake but it’s not irreversible, so detach now and forever hold your piece.

So when Peter comes back from the war, finally, he basically is ready to get back together. He does realize Kate’s thought process and that she’s just trying to protect herself, but he also feels like that’s not a good enough reason to not be together. He admits to his folly, but he doesn’t apologize for it. And when two people are so at ease with one another, as they are, and the only reason they are not together is because they don’t want to get hurt, why, that’s no reason at all. Everyone would be so much happier if they just submitted to themselves.

“Do you really, honestly, believe that I would abandon you?” Peter might ask Kate. Admittedly, perhaps not, she thinks. And despite herself she wants to be with Peter. She can’t think of a good reason not to be with him. Rationally speaking, she says it’s because she doesn’t want to get hurt again, but she and Peter are like magnets. Even after he returns and the war is over and they try to remain acquaintances they somehow always end up in the same place at the same time. And they have a good time.

So yeah. Isn’t it kind of lovely? Nothing like another dream to help put a long-developing story into perspective and add some depth and understanding to character motivations.


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Biscuits and Gravy

Previously on The Civil War Story: Kate Phillips just married Jospeh Vernon. 

“Oh, sorry,” he muttered as they shuffled around each other coming out of the bedroom. They were still getting used to living with one another. They had only been married for a few days and were still getting used to sharing a space as husband and wife.

Kate smiled shyly and they went about their morning preparations. She was in the kitchen making breakfast and he was getting dressed for work at the general store. His father owned the shop, but his health had recently taken a turn so Joseph was reluctantly helping his mother and sister (Rachel Vernon – do she and Peter/Kate later share awkwardness?) run the shop. Though she never said as much, Kate suspected Joseph was less than enthused about the family business.

Because of the general store they didn’t have time for a honeymoon. Nonetheless they were still in the honeymoon phase of their marriage. They married relatively young compared to others. Joseph was very sweet toward Kate in their courtship and Kate fell head over heels. At their age, 17 and 18, respectively, they were quickly enamored. Some of the ladies in town were certain they’d rushed into marriage, but others said you couldn’t stop true love.

As for the couple themselves, well, they were too young to really understand what they’d gotten themselves into, but it didn’t stop them from jumping in head first. When Joseph proposed Kate didn’t even hesitate and they were married in a month. They had courted for a few months prior and it had been blissful. Now that they were married and living together however, some of the realities of married life became apparent.

Kate had obviously moved in with Joseph in a small apartment above the general store. Even in just a few days she felt like an invader. Joseph had everything set up and Kate had brought in her things and upset the balance. Joseph wasn’t overtly angry about his things being moved or missing but she could tell he was somewhat annoyed. She comforted herself by remembering there would be an adjustment period. And, of course, that they would grow to love each other more than they did now.

Kate made biscuits and gravy for breakfast but she hadn’t timed it right and Joseph went downstairs to work before they were done. She said she would bring some down later, albeit without withe gravy, and she did, but the general store was so busy, as was the usual, that Joseph barely had time to acknowledge her and she left them underneath the counter wrapped in clothe.

After she cleaned up breakfast Kate headed for the market stall to buy some fresh vegetables.  There she ran into Sam, her best friend, who had lost his father at a young age. She lost her mother around the same time and they had been best friends ever since. They both realized that many people had assumed they might one day marry but they simply had never felt that way about one another. It was a completely supportive and friendly relationship but completely platonic. They said a few words and then went on their way.

Kate was taught a variety of skills by her governess (or equivalent) and planned to do some odd jobs for family friends during the first part of their marriage; until they had children. She was a fairly accomplished cook, albeit with simple menus. She could sew and mend, and of course, she could clean, but most anybody could clean, and cleaning was work for maids and she hadn’t much desire to be a maid, even if it was a sporadic thing. She had offered to work at the general store but Joseph had insisted against it. He said it would be best if they “kept their options open for the future.” She wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but it sounded like he didn’t plan to stay in the family business forever.


“How were the biscuits? Not too bad without the gravy, I hope?” she asked when Joseph came up from work in the evening.  He shrugged and grunted in affirmation as he grabbed a plate and served himself the vegetable stew she had made. He seemed tired from the busy day so she didn’t read into it.

Some days later Joseph had forgotten his pocket watch downstairs and he seemed tired so Kate volunteered to fetch it for him. As she searched behind the counter for where he said he’d left it she noticed the clothe full of biscuits was still sitting underneath the counter. She thought it curious. Why didn’t he eat them? And why would he lie and say that he did? She realized there could be all sorts of reasons why he didn’t eat it, and perhaps he meant to spare her feelings by suggesting he’d eaten them, but she felt insecure nonetheless. They still hadn’t become completely comfortable with one another and she desperately wanted to please him. His personality was beginning to show, his real personality, not his courtship personality, and he could be a bit closed off.

She chalked it all up to stress, threw away the biscuits, grabbed the pocket watch from the adjacent shelf, and went upstairs to bed.


Next up: Months into their marriage Kate is not feeling so well… guess whaaat? No, it’s not chicken butt.

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A Lot Of Jogging

Previously on… The Civil War Story: After Peter has a blow out with his father he makes a spur of the moment decision to become a blacksmith’s apprentice and leaves Gettsyburg with Mr. Windt. 

The notion that he was on his own hit Peter fairly quickly. The adrenaline which carried him through the morning began to wane as he and Mr. Windt rolled out of town. A nagging voice in the back of his head felt guilty for not saying goodbye to his family, but he was well practiced at pushing such thoughts aside. It helped that Mr. Windt began talking as soon as they left the city limits, and didn’t stop until what felt like weeks.

They did indeed spend weeks on the road, heading south. And from the time Peter woke up in the morning to the time he or Mr. Windt fell asleep at night, it was a constant lesson in smithing. For days Mr. Windt talked about the hearth and proper heating and proper fuel sources (Peter never knew there was such a variety of coal to be found along any given path or stream, and they spent time searching for coal, finding it far less than Peter had patience for). Throughout their journey Mr. Windt had Peter build different types of fire every night, sometimes even in the middle of the day, sometimes leaving Peter without lunch.

After Mr. Windt was satisfied with Peter’s basic skills of fire building, he started on the tools and the anvil. Occasionally he’d pull out half a dozen tools that looked nearly identical and explain to Peter how each had a very specific purpose. Of course, none of these tools would work sufficiently if Peter wasn’t strong enough or precise enough to wield them properly. So Mr. Windt had Peter chopping down ridiculously large trees, pounding a bare anvil for an hour before dinner, and occasionally jogging alongside the wagon. Mr. Windt claimed the jogging would help his stamina, but it felt more like a punishment for nodding off or not remembering a detail when Mr. Windt quizzed him.

And Mr. Windt quizzed Peter constantly. This wore on Peter at first as he had not expected such a steep learning curve, and he spent a lot of time jogging alongside the wagon. But he learned to listen and repeat things in his head or out loud whenever Mr. Windt stopped talking for 30 seconds or walked away. It was exhausting but it distracted Peter from his lingering nerves about leaving home. Mr. Windt could be icy and stern but Peter felt relatively safe in his presence. He felt he had an ally and suspected loyalty was important to Mr. Windt.

While Mr. Windt spent most of the day and night talking about smithing, he did occasionally meander into other topics. One night the conversation turned toward Peter’s choice to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. Peter was feeling particularly thruthsome and admitted he hadn’t any particular calling to smithing, but he was simply looking for some vehicle to strike out on his own. He hadn’t expected to find himself on a cross country venture with a man he didn’t know.

Mr. Windt was an intuitive man and fancied himself a good judge of character. The fact that Peter hadn’t any romanticized preconceptions of smithing and was looking for a way to make a living was encouraging that he might not fall by the wayside like his previous apprentice. He also sensed some uncertainty in Peter. He worked around the subject and let Peter get to it on his own. Peter had a rocky relationship with his father, but he seemed to care about his younger sister, whom his uncertainty and guilt appeared to center around. He suggested Peter write her a letter, it might ease his conscience. Peter denied any desire to do so, but Mr. Windt casually left out a pencil and parchment by Peter’s blankets before he went to sleep. In the morning he found the pencil returned to its proper place in the wagon and caught a glimpse of folded parchment in Peter’s jacket pocket. It disappeared after passing through a small town with a post office.


Next Up: Kate’s marriage is just beginning and there are already signs that it might not be wedded bliss. Kate also learns she’s pregnant. That was quick. 

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Without Complaint or Conceit

Previously on… The Civil War Story: Peter and his father’s personal issues with one another boil over and he is determined to strike out on his own.

Peter approaches the town blacksmith, we’ll call him Mr. Martin. He and Mr. Martin have a pseudo father-son relationship, as much as two people can have with limited interaction outside of business transactions. But Peter respects Mr. Martin, and Mr. Martin has always taken a liking to Peter, regardless of his apparent behavioral issues since his mother died.

So when Peter approaches Mr. Martin at his forge no sooner than the sun has risen he can tell this is not a regular visit. It just so happens that a long time blacksmith friend of Mr. Martin’s, Mr. Windt, is passing through Gettysburg on the way to his next destination. Martin and Windt are chatting animatedly with one another while Peter stands politely out of the way, waiting for a break in the conversation.

As he’s waiting, Peter overhears Mr. Windt talking about how he just got rid of an absolutely horrid apprentice. Lazy, ungrateful, and a spoiled brat as Windt describes him. Mr. Martin notices Peter and indicates he’ll be just a moment. Martin takes Windt into his forge for a moment and they look at some small artistic pieces that Martin has made and they make a quick trade. Mr. Windt heads back to his cart across the way and Mr. Martin invites Peter over.

At first Peter isn’t sure what to say so he keeps things formal. But when Mr. Martin presses him, knowing something is awry, Peter hesitantly asks if he might have the opportunity to learn from Mr. Martin. He says he has decided it’s time him to get out of the house and learn a useful skill.

Mr. Martin is surprised. Considering Robert’s social status he wouldn’t have picked his son to pursue blacksmithing. However, Peter’s curious disposition sparks an idea in Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin calls Mr. Windt back over and introduces the two. When Peter looks into Mr. Windt’s eyes they are hard and critical but not unkind. Peter is intimidated. “If it would be agreeable to you both, I have a proposition. Mr. Windt here is in need of an apprentice.” Mr. Windt huffs slightly, as if he doesn’t really need an apprentice after his last failed attempt.  “Peter here is looking to learn something about blacksmithing. I don’t have the means to employ an apprentice at the moment, but I suspect Mr. Windt isn’t so put out by his last charge that he wouldn’t consider hiring a young man; for whom I can personally vouch as one of quality.”

Peter, Mr. Windt, and Mr. Martin all look at each other in consideration. Mr. Martin raises an eyebrow, and Mr. Windt nearly rolls his eyes, but Mr. Windt takes one more good look at Peter and says, “Well, son, I suppose I could spare the trouble to teach you. But I need assurance that you’re willing to do exactly as I say without complaint or conceit. And I’ll tell you right now, you’ll be sore and tired. All the time. I’ve been sore and tired for 30 years and I don’t complain. Do you think you can humble yourself to such a state?”

Peter musters all the gall he has not to tremble. He can’t kid himself, he is intimidated, he is even a little scared about placing his personal health and safety in this man’s hands who he doesn’t even know. For a fleeting moment he wishes his father were there to advise him, but he quickly forces the thought from his mind.

“Yes sir, I believe I can do those things. Without complaint or conceit,”  he says.

Mr. Windt laughs. “Ha! You’ve got a smooth tongue boy, but I don’t mind a smooth tongue so long as it’s directed at paying customers and not at trying to get out of hard work.” Mr. Windt and Mr. Martin shake hands. Peter indicates he had everything he’ll need with him and Mr. Windt motions for him to throw it in the cart. Peter quickly shakes hands with Mr. Martin, thanks him for his confidence, and as quickly as he met Mr. Windt he’s rolling down the road with him, out of Gettysburg, poised to experience life in a way he’d never imagined he would.

NEXT UP: Peter writes a letter home to Charlotte after Mr. Windt suggests he do so, and Kate’s marriage shows premature signs of trouble not long before she gets pregnant. 

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The Civil War: Drama Drama Drama

Here’s what I”m thinking:

Our story begins at Kate’s wedding to Joseph. Peter and Kate’s fathers are friends, thus why the Bramfields are invited. Peter, however, could care less and is still reeling from his and his father’s daily tiff. It’s really not for any good reason except that Peter and his father haven’t gotten along ever since his mother died.

See, Peter did not react well to the grief of losing his mother. He’s been stuck in an anger phase for about 5 years, and his anger is most often directed at his father. Robert reacted to his wife’s death very differently. His strategy was to just move on with life as if nothing had changed. Don’t talk about it and the grief will subside. Besides, as a single parent he now had more work to do. For the first year after his wife’s death he hired a local woman to do some chores and look after the children a few days a week, but Peter’s anger quickly derailed that plan. Charlotte was similarly aged to the neighbor’s children and they were nice enough to look after her and let her tag along. Peter, however, was largely left to his own devices (if he wasn’t grudgingly doing something with or for his father), and this fueled his anger. As Robert tried to teach his son important life lessons, Peter aimed his anger at his father and their relationship quickly deteriorated down a path of resentment and bitterness and miscommunication.

So naturally, after 5 years of this dynamic, tempers tend to boil over rather quickly, and being a teenager still, Peter’s emotions rage. Albeit it with a slight scowl on his face, Peter is polite enough not to explode at Kate and Joseph’s wedding, but as soon as they’re out the door he begins laying in to his father, completely ignoring his best friend Sam.

When they arrive home things only get worse. Everyone knows this one is going to be a bad one. Robert trivializes Peter’s anger which only makes Peter lash out harder. The argument gets so out of hand Peter blames Robert for his mother’s death, as if Robert’s negligence cause her consumption, and at this point, Robert tells Peter to leave. He won’t stand for the haneous disrespect Peter has shown him over the years. “Your mother died 5 years ago! You can get over it or you can leave! It’s your choice.” – is more or less what Robert conveys to his son.

Peter storms out of the room to his bedroom where he attempts to cool down for the rest of the night. Before she goes to bed, Charlotte comes in to talk to Peter. She’s 11 years old, he’s 18. She’s clearly saddened and maybe a bit scared by the argument that took place at dinner. Peter loves his sister very much. She is the brightness in his life. She is innocent and sweet and he is very protective of her. Peter apologizes for her having to witness them fighting and of course she is understanding. She asks Peter if things will always be this way? Peter hopes not. Charlotte sighs sadly. “Are you going to leave?” she asks. Peter thinks about it for a minute and then considers Charlotte. “I don’t know. Maybe it would be better if I didn’t live here. It would be better for you not to have to see us fight.” Tears formed in Charlotte’s eyes. “I don’t want you to go. Why do you so angry with one another?” Peter takes her hands and looks her in the eye and evades her question, “It’s time for you to go to bed. Don’t worry about father and I. We’ll be OK.” At that moment Robert pokes his head in the door and tells Charlotte it’s time for bed. Peter kisses her on the forehead and they say goodnight.

Peter lays awake a little while longer, considering for the first time the consequences of the family dynamic on Charlotte. It’s clear to him that it’s not good for her to be around the fighting. And he’s grateful that she has friends and support outside the family. It doesn’t take him long though to realize that not only would it be good for Charlotte if Peter left home, but it would be good for Peter too. He’s old enough to live on his own and he could use a break from the constant tension.

At that point he makes the decision to leave. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go or what he’s going to do, but he would rather not have to confront his father about it in the morning so he packs some basics and around midnight heads over to Sam’s house. He throws a pebble at Sam’s window and when Sam comes to the kitchen door at the back of the house Peter asks if he can stay the night in the barn. Sam, being the best best friend ever, says of course, and sets him up in the guest cabin, but at Peter’s insistence with only a blanket, as he doesn’t intend on staying more than one night and doesn’t want them to have to make the bed after him.

Peter leaves early in the morning, around dawn, leaving the blanket neatly by the door and heads to the market to search out opportunities. Maybe it’s fate, but he’s subconsciously pulled toward his favorite blacksmith. This particular blacksmith (name TBD) has been good to the Bramfields over the years and he’s someone with whom Peter has developed a friendship.

NEXT UP: Peter becomes a blacksmith’s apprentice and heads south! duhn duhn DUUUHHHN!!

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Civil War Story Tidbits

Peter Bramfield lives in Gettysburg, PA circa the American Civil War. His mother died when he was 12 or 13. He has a younger sister, Charlotte. Their father is Robert Bramfield. Peter and Robert clash regularly and their issues with one another stem largely from Peter’s mother’s death.

Kate Vernon (née Phillips) is about the same age as Peter. She is longtime friends with Sam Wills, (who also happens to be Peter’s best friend). They both lost parents as children and relate on those grounds…

[Now that I think about it, wouldn’t Peter fit into this “gang” of single parent children? Perhaps Kate and Sam had much healthier grieving processes, thus Peter doesn’t feel he gets anything out of being part of the gang. Peter doesn’t feel his experience with losing a parent relates to Kate and Sam’s.]

…Kate marries Jospeh Vernon at 17 or 18 and immediately gets pregnant with twins – Angela and Miles. However, as soon as Jospeh catches the scent of war and adventure, he unceremoniously deserts Kate and the twins to join the army, with no promise of return or future involvement.

Sam Wills is Peter’s and Kate’s best friend. His family is prominent in Gettysburg. His elder brother David Wills will eventually organize the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery after the famous 3 day Battle at Gettysburg in 1863. David has always carried a torch for Kate, though he’s not a scoundrel! He doesn’t try and steal her away from her husband! Sam is a well respected figure in town and works with David to organize the cemetery dedication. Sam never marries because he’s totally secret-Dumbledore-gay. BOOSH! But that’s only for me to know.

I THIIIIIINK that’s all I’m gonna reveal right now.

[Note: I do work around some historical events. For instance, David Wills really DID help purchase the land and subsequently organize the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, including inviting and housing Abraham Lincoln before he delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. But some personal details have been tweaked to fit in with the fictional aspects of the story.]

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