The mysterious synergy of the writing life

from gettysburg stone sentinels pageMy last blog was about citing as you write.  And I’ve spent the last couple of weeks paying the piper, so to speak, for failure to do so.

I’m writing a book on local history, based on part of my family that lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

As I’m researching about the people and area, I’m finding that the people I’m writing about were impacted by the Civil War, even though I’m mostly focusing on the 1880s into the early 20th century.

The economic engine for the area back then was coal.  Many people I’ve researched so far worked for the coal mines, one way or another.  I didn’t realize that men were being drafted into the Union army in the small, remote coal towns where my people lived.  But they were.  So far, I’ve come across three families who had men serve in the war.  Two of them died while serving–one in Virginia in combat, the other of dysentery on Hilton Head.  I’ve never been drawn to the history of war.  It’s so sad to think of all the young lives lost, the horrible ways that they died, and the awful aftermath for their loved ones.

But here I am, being dragged into Civil War research because some of the men of the Pennsylvania 52nd and 81st regiments have connections to what I’m writing about.  Somewhat reluctantly, I’ve started researching battles, poring over muster rolls, and just starting to appreciate the breadth of the impacts of the Civil War in Pennsylvania and beyond.

My husband and I moved to the Northern Neck of Virginia this past September so that he could take a job with a local school system.  It’s been a learning curve, as moving always is, to become familiar with the locale.

I was recently researching the battles that the 81st were involved in.  As I scrolled down a list of their battles, I was startled to recognize locations that are near where I now live: Spotsylvania Court House, Chancellorsville and The Wilderness, to name a few.

My parents moved down here a few years ago and are much more familiar with the area.  We went for a drive right after the holidays because they wanted to show me a campground with year-round mini golf (they played there in the Fall and loved it).  It is called Wilderness Presidential Resort, and I’d idly wondered at the time about the name.

The Wilderness Civil War Battlefield is 4 miles past the campground.  My husband works in Spotsylvania County.  I was floored when I figured all of this out.  I’m researching people from the Eckley Miners Village area in Pennsylvania, and I’m finding that some of those men were fighting and dying right here.

I always thought I’d have to drive up to PA to visit places related to the people I’m writing about.  I never imagined I’d be able to drive a few miles from here and be able do to that.

My old desire to shy away from the history of war is a thing of the past.  I’m going to find the battlefields that our men fought and died on, and have a moment of silence to honor them.

Is synergy the right word to describe it?  I don’t know.  It could be purely coincidental, but I’m not so sure.  I feel that it’s an affirmation that this thing I’m doing is the thing I’m meant to do.

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