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  • Writer's pictureJae Hodges

Letters from the Past

The main protagonist in my second novel is a man named Martin Lovering. As it turns out, this man is my sixth cousin four times removed. Hardly a cogent ancestor, but no less fascinating from a genealogical point of view because he has a story to tell. The book will have one, albeit small, reference to the Civil War. Martin was too young to have fought, but, in researching for this reference and its relevance to his story, I stumbled on some letters from his brother, James, to their parents home in Massachusetts over the course of his two years of service. Through these letters I was able to find some great descriptions of the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry, James' unit, during the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia during May-June 1864 . . . a bitter loss for General Grant. History makes great fiction. My thanks to the U. S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Private Voices at, a website full of transcripts of letters preserved from the Civil War. Hidden deep in the bottom of some box, on the bottom of some shelf, preserved by the sheer lack of contact with destructive forces are the best first person, primary source, beginnings of my next great story.

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