Month: August 2017

Author Pam Hillman Shares WHY The Natchez Trace: The Devil’s Backbone, Highwaymen, and Wayfaring Strangers

We are excited to welcome Pam Hillman to the blog to share some of her process for imaging her new historical romance, The Promise of Breeze Hill. Often times, authors stumble upon a fact or moment in history that sticks with them and will not let go. The rich history of the Natchez Trace would become the inspiration for Pam’s latest novels. Keep reading to discover why the Natchez Trace is the perfect location for a historical hero and heroine.

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The Promise of Breeze Hill is the first of my Natchez Trace novels. Setting my books in the 1790s is a bit of a departure for me, as most of my research has been in the late 1800s. However, this story was one I wanted to write, and for it to be historically accurate, it needed to be set before 1812 when the first steamboats started plying the Mississippi River.

Why, you ask?

The backdrop for this series is the old Natchez Trace, also known as the Devil’s Backbone. The old Natchez Trace is a centuries-old footpath that runs from Nashville to Natchez, over four hundred miles long.

Back in the 1700s and even before that, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez tribes hunted along trails all over these hills and hollows. Eventually, the easiest routes became the most common, and what we know as the old Natchez Trace was wrestled from the wilderness.

By 1733, the French mapped the trail from Natchez heading northeast. In the late 1700s, Ohio River Valley farmers began floating their crops down the rivers to Natchez and New Orleans. It was easy, and quite pleasant, to float down the river on flatboats, but going back up the river was nearly impossible given the current and ferocity of the river. Instead, travelers abandoned or sold their flatboats for lumber, returning home by way of the Natchez Trace, on foot or on horseback.

It did not take long for the trail to become a clearly marked road. By 1810, many years of travel had made the trace the most heavily traveled road in the South. Inns, also called “stands,” sprang into existence due to the needs of the weary travelers. By 1820, over twenty stands were in operation. Some provided basic food and shelter, with owners who might not be the most honest, and upstanding citizens. Other inns, like Mount Locust, were well known and owned by respectable, God-fearing folks who welcomed and treated visitors with hospitality, providing a safe place to stay overnight.

Pictured above: Mount Locust

Travel along the trace was not without its hazards, the least of which were swamps, floods, disease-carrying insects, and mosquitos. But worse than that were the bands of highwaymen who haunted the trace, attacking travelers who might be flush with cash from their recent transactions downriver.

The trail, surrounded by swamps and dark forests, attracted a seedy element leading the old Natchez Trace to gain its nickname: the Devil’s Backbone.

The Natchez District was a lawless frontier in the 1700s, and many a man lost his life traveling along the dark trail. It was not until the invention of the steamboat that wealthy planters, merchants, and their families could make the return trip up the river instead of along the trail. In January 1812, the steamer New Orleans arrived in Natchez. Soon steamboats from New Orleans and Natchez were calling regularly at St. Louis, Nashville, Louisville, and all points in between.

Travelers who could afford passage on the steamboats preferred the relative safety, comfort, and speed to the slow pace of trekking overland. Before long, the busy trace became a peaceful forest lane. The travelers with lots of money in their pockets were now on the riverboats, and the highwaymen soon sought greener pastures to line their pockets.

 

I chose this very stretch of road for my characters to travel upon, a road that struck fear into the hearts of many, because as I walked these banks the rustling in the forest inspired me to imagine what all had transpired on this long, lonely road more than two centuries ago. My curiosity and research breathed to life the idea for my new novel, The Promise of Breeze Hill.

 

The Promise of Breeze Hill
Natchez, MS; 1791

Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady.
The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage.
Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe?

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Thanks, Pam, for sharing a little behind the scenes on your writing process. It is always fascinating to know what germ of an idea lead to the novels we see on the shelves.

Visit Pam online for updates on her latest novels and to hear more about her research and writing.

Does The Promise of Breeze Hill sound like a #MustRead to you? Be sure to follow Crazy4Fiction on Facebook for opportunities to win this and many other great christian novels.

Thanks and happy reading!

Author Heidi Chiavaroli Shares Five Things You May Not Know About The Boston Massacre

Heidi Chiavaroli , author of Freedom’s Ring, would love to share five things you may not know about the Boston Massacre. What makes her debut novel unique is the dual time periods; Freedom’s Ring takes place during the aftermath of two pivotal times in Massachusetts history: The Boston Massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing. Hear from Heidi below as she shares her Boston knowledge!

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The Boston Massacre, one of the major events that propelled our country toward seeking its independence from England, plays a major role in my novel, Freedom’s Ring. It occurred in Boston on the night of March 5, 1770. The conflict ended in the death of five colonists at the hands of the British Regulars, but because so many factors played into that night, and because so much was at stake for both the British and the Sons of Liberty from a political standpoint, fact and fiction have blended over the many years since the incident occurred. Here are some things you may not have known about the Boston Massacre.

 

1) The majority of British soldiers were miserable in Boston.

4,000 British troops came to Boston in October, 1768. They were charged with keeping order as the rebellious town of Boston (about 20,000) grumbled over the substantial taxation imposed upon it by the Townshend Acts.

The soldiers were not only despised by the locals, they were not paid well and were often forced to live in less than ideal circumstances. Many sought side jobs which further angered the colonists who were in need of the work themselves. Many of the soldiers were rude to the citizens and even engaged in street fights with boys of the town.

2) It wasn’t the first fatal incident in colonial Boston at the time of British occupation.

Not two weeks before the Massacre, a school boy of twelve years named Christopher Seider was killed in another dispute. He and some of his friends had been throwing rocks at the shop of a Loyalist merchant. Ebenezer Richardson, an unpopular Customs worker, came to the merchant’s defense. Richardson was hit in the head with a rock and ran to his home. The mob chased after him. Richardson shot his musket into the crowd from a second-story window, killing Seider.

Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty used Seider’s funeral as a display of political sentiment. Adams even called Seider “the first martyr to American liberty.” 5,000 Bostonians attended the memorial. The town was still reeling from this incident on the night of the Massacre.

3) The colonists started it.

The Massacre began when a young apprentice shouted out offensive comments to a sentry on duty at the Customs house on the night of March 5th. Words were exchanged before the sentry hit the boy with the end of his musket. The boy yelled for help and returned with a frenzied crowd of young men.

The sentry called for the main guard, led by Captain Thomas Preston. The crowd grew to 400 men who began throwing snow at the Regulars, pressing in on them with clubs, calling out lewd comments, and daring them to fire. Captain Preston’s trial account tells of a soldier getting hit with a stick, and then firing. Soon after, other soldiers followed suit, without having been given the order to do so.

4) Paul Revere’s Engraving Wasn’t Historically Accurate.

It might be hard to believe, but one of the most famous historical heroes of our country fudged his engraving of the event. In the most well-known image of the American Revolution, Paul Revere creates a piece of political propaganda that shows the most formidable army in the world being given orders to fire on an innocent crowd.

In the engraving, we don’t see the angry, working class colonists with their clubs. We see unarmed, well-dressed, gentlemen colonists on the ground, blood gushing from their wounds, a little puppy in the foreground for good measure.

Another notable fact is the absence of Crispus Attucks in the engraving. The first to fall that night, Attucks was a fugitive mulatto slave. Revere was clearly trying to gain the sympathies of his white, fellow peers across the thirteen colonies.

Not until 1856 (with the Civil War on the horizon) was a lithograph created showing Crispus Attucks at the center of the attack.

5) John Adams (yes, that John Adams) defended the British soldiers at trial.

While the second president of the United States and cousin to Patriot leader Samuel Adams empathized with the Patriots, he put his career and even his safety on the line to defend the Regular soldiers. One can only reflect on his motives, but many historians believe he chose to put the law above his own personal beliefs.

With John Adams and Josiah Quincy’s help, Captain Thomas Preston was found not guilty of murder.

Six of the remaining eight soldiers were also found not guilty of murder. The other two, Privates Kilroy and Montgomery were found guilty of manslaughter. Though the privates could have been sentenced to death for their crimes, they pleaded the “benefit of the clergy” and were spared. Originally used by clergymen, this ordinance allowed a religious member to claim they were outside the authority of the secular courts. It was eventually extended to first-time offenders. Both Privates Kilroy and Montgomery were granted the benefit, and branded with a letter “M” for “manslaughter” with a hot iron on their thumbs. Since offenders could only use the “benefit of the clergy” once, this would ensure they couldn’t claim it again.

So though five colonists lay dead as a result of the Boston Massacre, no real punishment was given to any of the Regulars. This fueled the fires of rebellion that would eventually lead to the Revolutionary War. It’s in these pages of history that the characters in my novel, Freedom’s Ring, find themselves.

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From the Boston Marathon bombing to the American Revolution and the Boston Massacre, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny. Freedom’s Ring is available in stores and online August 2018. Visit us on the Crazy4Fiction Facebook page for updates and giveaways coming up this month!

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