Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What I've been researching, part 2

I finished Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and found it completely delightful! (And yes, I saw the twist coming a mile away, but it was still fun.)

Now, where was I . . . oh, yes. What I’ve been researching.

It’s been three years since the Rev War reenactment that sparked my interest in campfollowing wives and family. I did a bit of preliminary research—enough to find out that the story about widows having to attach themselves to a man or be left behind was a common reenacting myth. Officially, women whose husbands died in battle were sent back to England—or they could remarry if they chose, and often did. Hm, I thought. That sort of takes the edge off of the crisis . . .

Or does it? What if the newly-widowed girl had strong motivation to NOT return to England?

What if, what if . . .

Another year passed before the story would fully bloom to life in my head. I signed my older children up for an archaeological field trip at a local historic site, Old Fort Dorchester, the site of an important 18th century trading town with the remains of the original church tower, a 200-year old cemetery, and the walls of a fort that was alternately occupied by the British and Americans during the Revolutionary War. (We’d had our family photos taken at the state park there, so I was curious to find out more of the site’s history.) While there, the kids helped with an archaeological dig and found all kinds of artifacts from nails to porcelain shards to buckles to clay pipe stems. The park staff showed us some of the other artifacts that had been found, and one piece in particular caught me: a German-made pottery tankard, missing its handle, but with a still-intact “Georgius Rex” seal in beautiful detail, from the Revolutionary period. The volunteer in charge of showing the artifacts was kind enough to let me actually hold it—and I felt absolutely transported.

During this field trip, two characters stepped into my head: a young, newly-widowed girl, wife of a British regular; and a Loyalist colonial militiaman. Slowly, over the next several weeks, their story began to take shape.

To be continued ...

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