Book Reviews from Newspapers and Magazine Journals.
The author seems to have done meticulous research about Mary Jane and the time period in which she lived. The information about photography and trains is quite interesting, as is the background on real hardships Union soldiers experienced during the Civil War. This book will find its place in our national memory.” Midwest Review.
For nearly 30 years, Wyatt operated a photography studio that she started in Illinois. After several years, she outfitted her own railroad car with a traveling studio to take portraits of people along the route of the Burlington Missouri River Railroad… She (Adam) also wanted to get the story of Wyatt’s husband. Andrew A. Wyatt was a Civil War veteran, an engineer for the Burlington Missouri River and sheriff of Phelps and Kearney Counties. ” Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Magazine Journal. Associated Press.
In 1859 at the age of 18, she was an unwed mother working as a housemaid in Ohio. By the time of her death in the 1910’s, Mary Jane Wyatt was a successful traveling photographer based in Holdrege where her husband had been sheriff.”Kearney Hub Newspaper, Kearney, Nebraska by Amy Schweitzer.
“The meat of “She Rode The Rails” deals with Mary Jane’s career as a photographer. After she married her husband, Andrew Wyatt, the two left their home state of Ohio and moved to Roseville.” Macomb Eagle Newspaper, Macomb, Illinois by Jonathan Mohr.
“The fictionalization of the story breathes life into cold facts, including the death of her three brothers in the war and the dangers associated with traveling on the railroads. She also incorporated history about Andrew Wyatt’s participation in the underground railroad, which helped free the slaves.” The Campbell Reporter Newspaper, Campbell, California by Carol Palinkas.
Chapter Seven: The Memorial Day Ball
The Veteran’s Hall had been gaily decorated with garlands of laurel and wildflowers strung across the walls. A large punch bowl, tea, cakes, and shortbreads were laid out for all to enjoy as refreshments. Hanging on two of the walls were the flags of the different regiments present. Charles’ uncles proudly showed him theirs. A few Confederate flags that had been captured during the war were displayed as trophies on the opposite side of the room.
The Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R. post, General John A. Logan, also known as “Black Jack”, was the leader of this association. Ephraim told Charles that this same general was a compassionate man and had saved the town of Raleigh, North Carolina, from being burned down by invading Union troops during the war.
The General introduced himself as their host when they entered the hall. Charles’ veteran uncles gave the officer’s aide de camp their calling cards, informing him of what regiments they had served under and of the G.A.R. association they belonged to back home in Ohio.
“You’re most welcome here, gentlemen, ma’am. We are observing our second annual Memorial Day,” said the commander. He proceeded to give them a tour of the hall. Stopping underneath the regimental flags of their one-time enemies, the Confederates.
Mary Jane turned to the general, her fan nervously waving. “Excuse me, General, are the rebel flags which your men captured going to be returned to their regiments one day?” She stared at one which looked to be made of silk. It showed the scaring of many battles. It was burnt, frayed, and pocked with noticeable bullet holes from gunfire.
Charles was surprised by his mother’s question. He thought of all the people in the world his mother would most likely to show disdain for surely the scesh, the rebel separatists who had killed three of her brothers, would top the list. Why would she ever show any kindness to those rebel villains? But then, Charles remembered how important the flags were to the regiments and he understood why she had asked the general about their being returned.
Uncle Ephraim had taken time to carefully explain to them that soldiers would rally around their regiment’s flag in the middle of battle. The flags had been hand sewn by the mothers, sisters, sweethearts, and wives of the soldiers in the men’s hometowns to wish them well. The flag bearers held the symbol of honor proudly in the middle of battle, sometimes after the last breath had been taken from them.
The flags were vivid displays of the valor and courage of those who had stood behind them. Shot through by artillery fire, these rectangular pieces of cotton and silk were symbols of the men who had fought. They had faced death beside these flags as they battled against the enemy. Now they were no more than lifeless war souvenirs draped on a foreign wall far from home.
“One day, ma’am, when the hurt is not so bad, I hope they will all be peaceably returned. I know that is what I’d wish if they had captured one of ours,” said the general, looking up at the Confederate flag.
Charles noticed his uncles nodded their heads in solemn agreement and joined the general in a toast. “To the Union and the President, gentlemen.”
“To the United States!” they replied.
A group of musicians set up in the front of the hall. After the national anthem was played and the regimental colors displayed with the stars and stripes, the ball officially began. The Commander-in-Chief gave a short speech welcoming all the regiments present. Other speeches had been heard earlier in the day. A memorial service had already been held for their fallen comrades at the local cemetery and a large wreath laid upon the soldiers’ monument. Smaller bouquet of flowers and flags had already been placed on individual graves.
The somber contemplation of loss that had preceded the evenings’ ball was set aside, and the time for comradeship and making new friends had now arrived. The uncles took turns swinging their sister about on the dance floor. Hearty Midwestern shouts were heard from all the men whooping it up.
“That’s it, swing her about there,” one veteran instructed Charles as he danced past.
“Show us how it’s done- boy!” another yelled out.
“Couples front and back,” the dance leader shouted with his fiddle in one hand, thumping his thigh in time with the horsehair bow. “Do yourself a little do see do boys and grab your gal again…”
Polished boots stomped against the floorboards and finely dressed ladies smiled at their partners as they danced past. Those watching heartily clapped along, while bachelor veterans happily jigged together. No one was left out. It was an evening to enjoy and celebrate the fact that you were still on earth, well, and truly alive.
The author is presently updating and re-editing the book and is open to serious offers to have it published by a brick and mortar publisher. (Please no POD publishers.)