It all started with the letters. Letters found in family records, written by a doomed young Civil War soldier to his wife. John Williamson was 22 years old, six months married, with a wife three months pregnant when he was mustered into military service as a sergeant in the Union Army in October 1861.
The letters led to questions. Who was he? Where was he from? And what about the people back home, the military men, and the places that he wrote about? This curiosity led to a massive amount of research, with answers always leading to yet more questions.
And what happened to the locations John wrote about? That question led to a summer road trip in our RV, following John’s path from Eckley, Pennsylvania down to Washington, D.C., on to Alexandria, Virginia and finally the Virginia Peninsula.
John Williamson was uncertain of his future: “…I’ll go home when the war is over, providing I am spared till that time…” but resolute about his duty: “…I hope it will never be said that I flinched when the hard pinch came…”
John’s baby daughter was born while he was serving his country. In his last letter, written a week before he was killed, the last thing he wrote was: “…And take good care of yourself, and give Matilda a kiss for me...”
John’s letters and the results of all the research and travels were brought together in the book You Dream Every Night That I am Home, the title a quote from one of John’s letters. It was published yesterday on Amazon.
My first book Coal Country Connections was also published on Amazon. And like You Dream Every Night That I am Home, Coal Country Connections is based on real-life records and people—an 1880s autograph album, signed by friends and family of a woman named Mary Boyd who lived in the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania. The book tells the story of each of the album signers, along with an image of their album page.
One of the signers of the album was Matilda Williamson, John’s daughter.