Thursday, November 22, 2012

Colonial Quills Offering Holiday Gift!

Over on the Colonial Quills blog, we’re offering a holiday gift to our readers. Through mid January we have 9 authors contributing to a serial anthology of Christian historical fiction that’s free for our readers! Three of the chapters have already gone live: Carrie Fancett Pagels’s, Susan F. Craft’s and Carla Olson Gade’s contributions.

Click here for the schedule, then follow the links in the schedule to read each part of the serials that have already been posted. There is a giveaway associated with each serial post. Leave a comment on each one to be entered for a book by Laura Frantz, Susan Craft, and/or Carla Olson Gade.

Tomorrow, on Black Friday, we are having a Tea Party on Colonial Quills to celebrate publications by Kelly Long, Dina Sleiman, and Gina Welborn. We will be announcing the giveaways from the first three serials and also giving away 3 books: copies of a book by Kelly Long, Dina’s ebook, and a novella by Gina. We will also have a colonial gift basket for one winner who comes in character! So come on by Friday and join the fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Wind of the Spirit Cover!

We have the new Wind of the Spirit cover! And isn’t it gorgeous? I’m constantly amazed at what a great job Marisa does. She’s one of the people I’m truly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Since we didn’t have a painting by Don Troiani that worked for this part of the story, I decided to go with a painting titled “The Passage of the Delaware,” by Thomas Sully (1819), that portrays Washington and his army crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776, on their way to attack the Hessian outpost at Trenton, New Jersey. I hated to give up our Indian for the cover since so much of the story takes place among the Shawnee, but I couldn’t find a painting that was a good substitute for the photo we used on the original edition. However, if you’ve read the story, you know that Wind of the Spirit ends with the army gathering to make the crossing, and Carleton’s vision of God leading them in a pillar of fire and cloud. This image captures the feeling of those final scenes, and, of course, Crucible of War opens with the army reaching the New Jersey shore and preparing for battle, so it ties the two volumes together. And on the back cover of Wind of the Spirit, we’re going to have Don Troiani’s painting of a Shawnee warrior as a stand-in for the Native American thread.

The new, updated Heritage Edition will release in April 2013, and I’m hurrying to make the final updates to the text and the formatting in Quark so it’ll be entirely consistent with the new look of the series. And of course I’ll also update the ebook files in the spring. Lots to do so I can get this off my plate and get back to writing Valley of the Shadow. As always, there’s lots of action and romance coming up for Jonathan and Elizabeth!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, what are you the most thankful for this year? For me, it’s my family and friends. Since I moved back up here to Indiana, I’m really loving having my extended family so close. Last week I went with my aunt and two cousins to the viewing for a cousin who died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. In spite of the circumstances, his family shared a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness through his life. It’s times like this that we’re reminded of how short and fragile life can be, and how everything can turn around on a dime.

I was impressed again by how precious our loved ones are and how we need to hold them close while we’re blessed to have them. I hope and pray that you’re able to gather together with your family next week to share love and joy and laughter and reflect on God’s great goodness to us!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Revisiting Washington's Crossing

Washington Rallying Troops at Princeton, William T. Ranny
In the years following iconic turning points in history, legends often develop that are meant to make a great story “better,” but sometimes obscure the significance of what those involved really accomplished. Today I want to revisit the singular events that breathed new life into the faltering Revolution during the winter of 1776-1777 and subsequently suffered that kind of historical revision.

Two excellent resources I relied on heavily for my portrayal of the battles of Trenton and Princeton are David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing and Richard M. Ketchum’s The Winter Soldiers: The Battles for Trenton and Princeton. The picture they present differs from the traditional account, which maintains that the Americans caught the Hessians completely off guard, that because of the storm or simple laxity they had no patrols in place, and that they were still suffering from the effects of drunken Christmas parties when the Americans attacked the morning after Christmas. I’ve heard that often over the years and likely wouldn’t have questioned it if I hadn’t read Fischer and Ketchum, who justly laid it to rest.

Fischer particularly draws a vivid, extensively documented account of the rising of the Jersey militias against the Hessians, who had plundered and abused the inhabitants beyond endurance. By the end of December 1776 the militias’ harassment of the occupying force had become unrelenting. Colonel Rall, who commanded the Hessian garrison at Trenton, repeatedly demanded reinforcements, to the point that Major General James Grant, the British commander in New Jersey, considered him a crybaby. Not only that, but British spies posted at Washington’s headquarters relayed the news that a move was afoot almost as quickly as Washington made the decision to act. The Trenton garrison had every reason to be on high alert, and they were.

These were disciplined, highly professional soldiers, and on the night in question, Fischer states, “Colonel Rall had been thorough in his precautions. German outguards covered every major approach by land into Trenton, and other men were in place along the Delaware River. Behind the outposts were duty companies that could offer support. In the center of town, one Hessian regiment was always on alert in ‘alarm houses,’ and the others were ready to muster quickly” (Washington’s Crossing, p. 235). In fact, many of the soldiers had taken to retiring in their uniforms at night with weapons in hand because they were awakened so often by alarms.

Another oft-cited myth is that the Hessian soldiers were drunk after an excess of Christmas partying. Washington and his officers hoped that would be the case, but the reality was far different. Fischer states that “The German responses to the American attack were not those of intoxicated revelers.” He cites Boston fifer John Greenwood, who later wrote in his memoir: “I am willing to go upon oath, that I did not see even a solitary drunken soldier belonging to the enemy” (pp. 239-240).

General George Washington at Trenton, John Trumbull
It’s true that Rall had to be roused from his bed when the attack began because he had been up late at a party the night before, but that made little difference in the course of the battle. The Hessian commander knew that his seasoned troops would respond instantly to any attack, and they justified his confidence. The confusion that led to their ultimate defeat arose from the fact that they didn’t expect an attack by Washington’s full army through a storm that was by all accounts stupendous (who would?). At first the outposts assumed that the enemy force they dimly made out through waves of sleet, snow, rain, and hail was a small militia force like those that had been making their lives miserable for days. The delay in realizing what they were really up against and the violence of the storm caused their disarray. However, it was the brilliance of Washington’s battle strategy and tactics and the astounding fortitude of his men in the face of incredible obstacles and hardship that carried the day.

In spite of their initial confusion, the Hessians rallied to put up stout resistance, and Fischer gives a very affecting account of the true number of American casualties that resulted directly from the battle. The regiments Rall personally commanded fought their way to an apple orchard on the outskirts of town, only to be driven back into the town, where Rall was mortally wounded. Deprived of their commander and with the Americans rapidly gaining the upper hand, the remnants of Rall’s shattered regiments muscled their way back to the apple orchard in another effort to break through to the British garrison at Princeton, before they were finally surrounded and forced to surrender. On the other end of town, a Hessian detachment held the stone bridge over Assunpink Creek for most of the battle. It was via that route that between 400 and 500 Hessian soldiers and a few civilians escaped before the Americans finally captured the bridge.

What Washington’s ragged, poorly equipped, and ill-trained army accomplished in defeating an alert and formidable enemy by attacking through a raging nor’easter is a testimony to their tenacity and commitment to the Glorious Cause of liberty. The accurate account of what really happened makes it all that much more heroic. That they followed it up by returning over the frozen Delaware only to recross it a few days later to fight a second battle at Trenton against a formidable British force before attacking Princeton is truly astounding.