Lois Leveen

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February 15, 2012

Upriver Was the Uptown of Civil War Encampments

Nothing says "America's great love of history" like a Civil War reenactment encampment. Complete with PortaPotty.
Civil War encampment

Squint and you can see it, there in the background.

How is this a fascinating fact? Um, what if I mention that during the Civil War there were no chemical toilets? So often they used streams/rivers near the encampment. But not always ones DOWNRIVER from the encampment.

Not the only reason there were so many disease-induced fatalities during the War, but perhaps the grossest one.
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February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day at the Pleasure Garden

Spend Valentine's Day at the Pleasure Garden! The antebellum Pleasure Garden, that is.

Today's Fascinating Fact from The Secrets of Mary Bowser is not about the Civil War, per se. It's about where Mary goes for a date when she is living in Philadelphia in the 1850s. Unlike me, Mary did not get to spend her teen years hanging out at the Multiplex. She got to hang out at the pleasure garden.

Less kinky than it might sound to modern ears, the pleasure garden was a feature of many 19th-century cities. Living in Philadelphia, Mary's pleasure garden of choice was Lemon Hill.

As you can see from this photograph (downloaded from the Lemon Hill website), there is no place kids would rather be. Well, maybe that is less true now that they have the Multiplex. Not to mention the Youtube. But for Mary, it really was a hot time in the city.
Bored kids on a field trip
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February 13, 2012

No Starbucks Neath the Stars and Bars

It's a fact: there were no Starbucks back in the days of the Stars and Bars. Which perhaps is why you never see a portrait in which Robert E. Lee is sipping a Triple Venti Sugar free, Non fat, No foam, extra caramel, with whip caramel macchiato (btw, I do not drink coffee; I had to google to get that description. I know the punctuation is off, but I'm scared to touch it, because I have no idea what any of it means).

In fact, coffee was one of the many items in short supply due to the Union blockade of the Confederacy. At least, real coffee (you know, the kind made from coffee beans) was in short supply. So desperate coffee drinkers turned to all sorts of ersatz alternatives. The most popular of which was parched corn coffee.

Which makes you wonder what the *unpopular* alternatives were.

And so concludes today's fascinating fact.

92 more days till publication! Only 92 more facts . . . oh it is so hard to choose. Lemme know if there's a fact you'd like to share or a question you'd like me to answer. Something that has something to do with my book, not with my fantastic fashion sense (answer to that is always LEOPARD).
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February 12, 2012

Plastered Presidents

Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis both got plastered. Or at least their walls did.

While I was researching my novel, I was fortunate to travel to Richmond, Virginia and visit the Museum of the Confederacy. It's located in the former White House of the Confederacy, which means I toured the actual rooms where Mary Bowser spied on Confederate leaders by posing as a slave.

At one point in the tour, the guide called our attention to the wallpaper in one of the rooms, which was patterned to look like wood paneling. The guide told us the same wallpaper was used in the White House in Washington, D.C.

It seems a nation can be torn apart by slavery and by war, and yet unite around household decor. Or maybe that's the other way around? Anyway, if you have a chance to visit the MOC, definitely check out the wallpaper.
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February 11, 2012

It’s Halftime in the Confederate States of America

Did you know that Clint Eastwood in the campiest film EVER made?

And that it happens to be about the Civil War?

Wounded prisoner, remote girls' boarding school.



How's that for today's fascinating Civil War "fact"?
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