Friday, January 31, 2020

Q is for Quantrill (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

Blogging Through the Alphabet; Q is for Quantrill; cannon clipart; horse clipart; A Mom's Quest to Teach logo

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The letter Q is one that is never easy when trying to complete a Blogging Through the Alphabet series. For this current series focusing upon the American Civil War, I looked in the indexes of several books to create a list of possible topics and for Q I came upon William Quantrill. Who was he? I did not recall ever studying about him and if I read about him, it must have been in passing. So I set about to learn more about this Confederate guerrilla leader as he is labeled by the National Park Service. (And there is a lot more to learn about him than I originally thought there would be.)


William Quantrill was born in Ohio on July 31, 1837. He became a farmer, teacher, and gambler all before he was accused of stealing cattle and killing several people. To escape arrest, he fled to Missouri which was where he was prior to the start of the American Civil War.

Battle of Wilson's Creek image from
 Battle of Wilson's Creek (image from

Beginning of the American Civil War

At the start of the American Civil War, Quantrill formed a band of guerrilla troops that began raiding Union sympathizers in both Kansas and Missouri. In 1862, the Confederate Army mustered his troop into service with Quantrill possessing the rank of Captain. It has even been stated that he was never actually given a commission in the Confederate Army. So his men may or may not have been part of the regular army, but they still operated somewhat independently.

Quantrill's militia took place in the Battle of Wilson's Creek which was the first major battle fought west of the Mississippi River on August 10, 1861. With the Confederates outnumbering the Union, the Union retreated thus giving the Confederates control over southwestern Missouri. Raids would continue throughout the Civil War by both pro-Union and pro-Confederate guerrilla troops.

Attack on Lawrence, Kansas

Prior to the American Civil War, there was much violence in this area of the United States as new states were in the process of being admitted like Kansas and Nebraska. Even during the Civil War, the area of Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri were a hotbed of agitation due to the pro- and anti-slavery feelings from prior to the war. There was great animosity between the individuals living in the area due to the actions of jayhawkers, guerilla troops, and border ruffians.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Q is for Quantrill (Blogging Through the Alphabet) – Known for his guerrilla warfare, William Quantrill was very active in the mid-West during the American Civil War. horse clipart; image of civil war soldier
Quantrill's band of about 450 men attacked most of the town of Lawrence's buildings on August 21, 1863. They killed anywhere from 150 to 190 civilians (some in cold blood). Quantrill and his men then went on to loot and burn the town. The band also had some famous members on this sad day including Frank James (Jesse James' brother).

Death of Quantrill

In the spring of 1865, Quantrill continued to raid towns in Kentucky. Quantrill was mortally wounded on May 6, 1865, during an ambush with Union soldiers in Kentucky. He succumbed to his wounds on June 6, 1865. Similar to other individuals during the American Civil War, like Pickett, much of what we know about Quantrill is part of myths and stories. And depending upon whether someone was sympathetic to the Confederate cause or a staunch Unionist, it also influenced the view and description of Quantrill. Was he an outlaw or a celebrity?

Interested in hearing an interview with William Quantrill? 

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Club: The Worst Jobs in History

Book Club: The Worst Job in History by Tony Robinson; Book Cover and A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo

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More than a few years ago, I remember watching a fascinating television series hosted by Tony Robinson on one of the history channels. Many may know Tony Robinson either the comedy series Blackadder or the historical series Time Team which focused upon archaeological investigations. The series that I really enjoyed and learned lots of interesting facts to share with my high school students was The Worst Jobs in History. A few years ago I found the book that relates to the television series and put it on my wishlist. Last year my husband surprised me with a copy and I set about to read it in 2019. As it turns out, it was on my list of books to read in 2019 but I never actually got to finish The Worst Jobs in History: Two Thousand Years of Miserable Employment so I read it as part of the mini-challenges for The AtoZ Reading Challenge 2020.

What is The Worst Jobs in History About? 

The book provides a brief historical look at over 50 jobs from early times to the Victorian Era with a focus upon the United Kingdom. Whether you are familiar with the history of the time periods discussed or not, you will be sure to learn many new things. Some of which you can share over the dinner table. Others are best saved for a time when no one is eating. 

Facts About the Time Periods 

400 Years of Roman Rule in Britain

Book Review; A Mom's Quest to Teach; book cover of The Worst Jobs in HistoryJulius Caesar invaded Britain in 55-54 BC and – for the first 100 years or so – Roman involvement in Britain was hands-off and diplomacy was used. With Claudius coming to power, things changed greatly and invasion and conquest were the names of the day. The Romans created permanent settlements, developed a network of roads, and divided up the countryside to rule it more effectively.

As Robinson states in Worst Jobs in History, "one of the main reasons the Romans invaded Britain was to get their hands on our metals and minerals." The Romans needed lead (for water pipes and making into pewter), silver (for coins and tableware), and gold (ornaments). Gold mining was one of the worst jobs because of the dangers of working underground and backbreaking labor. 

The Middle Ages 

The Middle Ages is a time period where the name doesn't really suit the time period anymore. It was originally called that because it was between the 'Dark Ages' and the 'Modern Era' that was brought in by the Renaissance. So it really isn't in the Middle Ages anymore.

Some of the more recognizable worst jobs in history from the Middle Ages are those of the Arming Squire who would dress a knight for battle and tournaments, the wise woman who has been depicted in numerous television series and movies like Blackadder, and the Leech Collector - haven't we all heard about how doctors of the Middle Ages used leeches for everything?

Tudor Times

The Tudors started with a bang when Henry VII was victorious at the Battle of Bosworth Field. His successors, including his son Henry VIII, would usher in a new era of British history and be remembered into the present day with books, movies, television series, and more. Henry VIII would break from the Roman Catholic Church and his daughter Elizabeth I would bring about the Golden Age for her nation.

The first worst job of the Tudor time that Robinson discusses is that of Executioner. This makes total sense as one of the reasons why Henry VIII is so well-known is due to the fact that he had wives, political enemies, and others imprisoned and executed at the Tower of London. And his daughter Mary I also executed a great number of people when she tried to change the nation back to Catholicism. 

painting of Oliver Cromwell from
Oliver Cromwell (image from

Stuarts Rule England

The Stuart time period in English history started when James VI of Scotland succeeded to become James I of England – joining the two countries together under one royal family. The Stuart family would rule until 1714. This was also a time when the people rose up against the monarch (Charles I) and started a republic for a brief period with Oliver Cromwell in charge. Some have even suggested the execution of Charles I was the starting point that led to the American Revolution.

Personally, I think the worst jobs listed by Robinson are those relating to that of the Black Death. The Great Plague arrived in Britain in 1665 and a great number of tasks needed to be completed in relation to it – including those who were searchers of the dead, plague buriers, and dog and cat killers (these animals were thought to spread the plague).

Georgian Times

The next time period in British history was ruled over by the Hanoverian kings starting with George I. This was another period of immense change in history with the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and colonization and expansion.

While reading about the Georgian Worst Jobs, I found quite a number that were interesting such as the Bath Guide. I had no idea that their skin would be turned orange due to the high iron content in the water nor that they would be working in mucky waters as people with skin diseases soaked in the waters. I also learned where so many phrases come from such as "learning the ropes" and "loose cannon" when reading about the worst jobs in the Navy. 
painting of Queen Victoria from
Queen Victoria (image from

Victorian Era

The Victorian era began when Queen Victoria started her reign in 1837 and ended with her death in 1901. She ruled for over 60 years and, under her reign, the nation grew and expanded but also faced many more changes, too. 

So many of the worst jobs of the Victorian Era are familiar thanks to authors like Charles Dickens. We have heard of chimney sweeps, rat catchers, dustmen, and those working in the workhouses or poorhouses.

What Did I Think? 

This is definitely not a book to read while enjoying your favorite snack. Many of the worst jobs were ones that involved death, urine, rats, or other aspects of human life that are less than pleasant. But The Worst Jobs in History is an excellent book to read to learn more about the people of the past. Not every person held a fantastic job or was a person of wealth in the past. Too often books, movies, and television programs only share with us about the above-average lives or a stylized account of the past. It is always useful to read about those who held the worst jobs to see how far we have come or how far we will have to go.

If you are looking for courses on some of these time periods, check out

Drive Thru History: Ancient History images from

Before the Renaissance: Middle School World History image from

History Around the World image from

Friday, January 24, 2020

P is for Pickett (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

photo of Pickett from; logos for A Mom's Quest to Teach and Blogging Through the Alphabet

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General George E. Pickett of the Confederate Army is probably most known for his fateful Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. He is one of the many men who graduated from the class of 1846 at West Point. (He would graduate last in his class.) Pickett's military career was very similar to that of most of the men of the era, as he went to serve in the Mexican-American War and then eventually in the American Civil War.  What made the personality of Pickett so powerful that his widow would dedicate the remaining 56 years of her life to his memory?

Mexican-American War

Pickett missed the early battles of the Mexican-American War but arrived in time for the Battle of Monterrey (Sept 21-23 1846). As part of William Jenkins Worth's Division, he joined Winfield Scott's campaign against Mexico City. At the siege of Puebla in 1847, Pickett was promoted to second lieutenant but was reassigned to the Seventh Infantry. Pickett did not want to leave the Eighth Infantry so he found a way to work around this reassignment. A member of the Seventh Infantry was being reassigned to the Eighth so they worked out a deal with their superiors that they would each stay with their original regiment. It has been suggested that this was one of the first instances that proved to Pickett that rules and regulations could be bent to suit individual situations.

At the Battle of Chapultepec, Pickett picked up the colors (the flag) after it had been dropped by James Longstreet when he was injured at the start. Pickett then carried the flag into the castle as hand-to-hand combat continued and the Americans overwhelmed the Mexicans. One by one, regimental flags were being flown from the top of the castle as the American army won the battle. This would help cement Pickett in the memories of many.

Civil War Battles

The first action Pickett saw during the American Civil War was during the Peninsula Campaign where he led his brigade in several battles including the Battle of Gaines' Mill where he was injured in the shoulder. The next major battle he was present for was the Battle of Fredericksburg, but he and his men actually saw little combat.

photo of George E. Pickett; A Mom's Quest to Teach logo


His fame would come from the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. I love this description by James M. McPherson: "Pickett's charge represented the Confederate war effort in microcosm: matchless valor, apparent initial success, and ultimate disaster" (Battle Cry of Freedom, 662). The charge by the Confederate Army named for Pickett would lead to a great number of Confederate dead and wounded including about two-thirds of Pickett's own division. All thirteen of the colonels and the three brigadiers were killed or wounded from his division.

Pickett was confident that even with the strength of the Union line, that his men were ready. They had the support of the whole army led by Robert E. Lee. Before the charge, the goal was to soften the Union army with cannon fire. The cannons wounded and killed men and horses. Trees, rocks, fences, and the ground were torn apart. 200 cannons wreaked havoc leaving fire and smoke in their wake.

Time elapsed and eventually, Edward Porter Alexander messaged Pickett that he must go now or Alexander would not be able to support the charge. Pickett approached Longstreet asking "General, shall I advance?" twice. Longstreet bowed his head to which Pickett said, "Sir, I shall lead my division forward." Did Longstreet foresee the slaughter that was about to happen?

black and white drawing of Pickett's Charge from

Pickett ordered his men to their posts. The divisions of Pickett, Pettigrew, and Wilcox emerged out of the woods and were on the one ridge while the Union troops were across the valley. The men were met with heavy Union fire. Leader after leader was shot and knocked down. As the charge continued, Pickett had moved into a position where he could see the entire field. What he saw shocked him. His men met defeat. There was no support. Two-thirds of Pettigrew's division was already gone. Wilcox's men moved forward at Pickett's order and were met with fire from the Sixteenth Vermont. The charge soon ended as the Union reinforcements arrived and moved forward.

"Great God, where, oh where is my division!" General Pickett 

The entire support of the Confederate Army was not put into Pickett's charge. Only eleven of the infantry brigades were used while many of the remaining twenty-seven only watched the fight. So much of the history of the American Civil War has 'what if's'. What if Lee had ordered other divisions and brigades to participate in the charge? The result of July 3, 1863 may have been very different and perhaps Pickett would have had a division left.

drawing of Pickett's charge from

Battle of Five Forks

According to the American Battlefield Trust's biography of Pickett, the defeat of Pickett and his men at the Battle of Five Forks would lead to the eventual collapse and surrender of the Confederate Army. Lee even blamed Pickett for the army's defeat at Five Forks (while Pickett said Lee had his division massacred at Gettysburg). This battle took place at the end of the Siege of Petersburg where the Union goal was to cut supply lines to the Confederate capital of Richmond and eventually take the capital.

Five Forks needed to be defended because if it was taken by the Union they would be able to cut Confederate supply lines and retreat routes from Richmond. The Confederates began taking a defensive position at Five Forks but everything and everyone ended up being poorly placed.

In order to try and prevent the fall of Richmond, Lee sent Pickett and his two divisions to help the Confederate cavalry counter a move by the Union Army. The Union was temporarily stalled but at the road junction of Five Forks, they attacked Pickett's isolated forces. From the Union Army, Philip Henry Sheridan's men and Gouverneur K. Warren's 5th Corps won a Union victory against Pickett. His divisions collapsed and half of them surrendered to the Union soldiers.

Mrs. George E. Pickett

Lasalle Corbell Pickett had known her husband since she was only ten or twelve years old and according to her she had dreamed of being Mrs. Pickett her entire life. Pickett married her on September 15, 1863 in St. Paul's Cathedral in Petersburg making Lasalle his third wife. They only lived together as man and wife for about 12 years but she wore black to honor the death of her husband on July 30, 1875 until her own death (typical of the Victorian Era). She would travel the United States to present a romanticized biography of her husband.

Part of the stories that Lasalle told of her husband was that he was well-loved by the Indians that he stayed with after fighting in the Indian Wars and even 'married' an Indian woman. She also said that Pickett had Abraham Lincoln to thank for his attending West Point as Lincoln had urged Pickett's appointment. She might have even faked an entire wartime correspondence with her husband and Civil War historian Gary Gallagher has argued she plagiarized portions of her book, Pickett and His Men (1899).

The Myth

Like several other generals of the Confederate Army, Pickett was transformed into a hero to serve the purpose of the Lost Cause. But there are many facets to the life of Pickett. His wife, Lasalle, depicted him as a cad. In reality, he did rely on his charm (especially at West Point) but he wasn't quite the ladies' man. Some of the aforementioned correspondence that may have been invented by Lasalle was later used as source material for The Killer Angels (1974) which tells the story of Gettysburg and for Ken Burns' documentary, The Civil War.

In fact, George E. Pickett was an ordinary man who could never live up to the larger-than-life figure that his widow created. Even much of his own bravado and arrogance was just to mask his own insecurities. He wanted to be included in the inner circle of men like Lee, Davis, etc. but he was really on the outside. So this career soldier wore flamboyant clothing (usually ruffles), styled his hair long with ringlets falling over his shoulders, and wore strong scents. He was also known for his strong singing voice.

The surviving members of the Pickett family feel that General George E. Pickett was not served well by General Lee. That Pickett's charge was a "suicide mission" according to a direct descendant of Pickett's brother. So even after historians have tried to overturn the myths and present the facts, there are still stories of as a knight of the Lost Cause.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Crafts: Superheroes & Villains: Batman Paper Bag Puppet

Batman paper bag and A Mom's Quest to Teach logo

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Like many children, our two youngest have become interested in superheroes in comics, cartoons, television shows, and movies. So much about superheroes and their villains has changed over the years. They have often become darker but it is still possible to share superheroes and their stories with our children.

We were fortunate enough to share the 1960s Television Series of Batman with our younger children. Most of the shows are lighthearted and in just two episodes, Batman and Robin get the villain. (Yes, the villains somehow escape and plan dastardly deeds again that Batman must thwart but it is all in good fun.)


Batman paper bag puppet


1. Collect materials. I pre-cut the pieces we would be gluing onto the paper bag and printed out the Batman logo for the belt.

Batman paper bag puppet supplies; scissors, glue, construction paper

2. Glue the cape onto the paper bag and then attach the top and pants. 

Attaching construction paper to lunch bag to create Batman

3. After the top and pants are attached, glue on the yellow belt and then the Batman logo.

Batman paper bag puppet with all pieces but mask attached

4. Next attach the Batman mask onto the top of the paper bag. 

Batman paper bag puppet almost complete; missing googly eyes

5. Glue on googly eyes or draw on eyes for your puppet. Then draw on a mouth for Batman and the puppet is finished! 

Completed Batman Paper Bag Puppet

There are a great number of toys, books, games, and more for your children if they are fans of superheroes and villains. Our son has a number of Batman Lego sets, an awesome floor puzzle that was picked up at a friendly local game store, and a plush Batman doll. If you are interested in sharing Batman cartoons or movies with your children, I would recommend viewing them beforehand to guarantee that you do not find anything that your family would find objectionable. 

If you want to make a Wonder Woman Paper Bag Puppet to fight alongside Batman or perhaps a Wonder Woman Shield, we have made those in our household, too! 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Club: Book Review of The Art of Friendship

background image of two hands outstretched with coffee mug; A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; book cover of The Art of Friendship

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of The Art of Friendship from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

When I look at the available books to read and review from Bethany House Publishers, I like to pick ones that will either be interesting or helpful to me. I hope that in choosing books in this manner I will also find books that my readers will find a joy to read or that will help them on their journey in life. Kim Wier wrote a very helpful book for women who are seeking to gain, grow, and develop friendships. The Art of Friendship: Creating and Keeping Relationships That Matter is grounded in the Bible to help readers follow the example of our best friends – God and Jesus.

The Art of Friendship

book cover of The Art of Friendship; Book Club: Book Review of The Art of Friendship; See how God is the original friendIn about 180 pages, Kim Wier shares with us a step-by-step path we can take in order to find more friends, develop friendships we already have, and evaluate all of our friendships to make them more meaningful. The information is divided into 16 easy-to-read chapters that I found to be both well-written and thought-provoking. Wier discusses why we don't need only one BFF, how digital connections and friendships don't necessarily mean we have tons and tons of friends, and how we can evaluate ourselves using the Fruit of the Spirit.

A Look into the Book

Throughout the sixteen chapters, readers are reminded that we have the perfect place to go to, in order to find examples for friendship. There are many examples in Scripture that shows how a friend:

  • "is loyal in every circumstance."
  • "fills the gaps of your weaknesses." 
  • "takes action when you need it most." 

"The entire Bible, from Adam to Jesus, spells out the ingredients, the techniques, and even the spiritual health benefits involved in creating meaningful, lasting, God-modeled relationships." (82) 

Wier takes a closer look at the friendship of David and Jonathan and the friends of Job and provides readers with a chart to provide examples of the stories of friends in the Bible and where to look them up in the Bible. For example, the friendship of Jesus and Peter being an example of "a friend who always settles differences with reconciliation" (107). There are also several chapters that discuss the different forms of agape love and relates it all to the fruit of the Spirit (patience, kindness, etc.).

"We are not called to make our friends over in our own image, but to love them for being image-bearers of God as He has created them to be." The Art of Friendship by Kim Wier quote; background image of two women

What Did I Think?

I must admit to spending some of the book crying as I was reading it. Making friends was always difficult for me. As a child, I could not really have friends over as my father was an alcoholic. So, home life was sometimes rocky and unpredictable. I got caught in the trap of needing to find a BFF. In fact, one of my favorite books by Judy Blume was about best friends. I wish that someone had told me that there are many different types of friendships.

There are points in The Art of Friendship where Wier asks the reader to list friends, pray over the list, and evaluate it based upon Biblical principles and examples. I like that while we are given a specific task, there is no place to write it down in the book. I often feel where authors leave space for reflections leaves me to think I have to answer the questions then and there with no time for actual reflection. I like that Wier brings us back to the list at the end of book – bringing readers full circle.

I would recommend The Art of Friendship by Kim Wier to Christian women seeking to form more meaningful relationships. With personal examples of friendships both inside and outside of her church provided, Wier gives readers hope that meaningful relationships are there for them to make with a little introspection. I think The Art of Friendship would also be a valuable tool for church leaders to help them provide advice and encouragement for the women of their church.

I am linking this review up with The AtoZ Reading Challenge

Friday, January 17, 2020

O is for Olmsted (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

Blogging Through the Alphabet: O is for Olmsted; image of a Civil War hospital from; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach & Blogging Through Alphabet

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Frederick Law Olmsted is recognized for "designing American landscape" according to the National Park Service but this was not his only contribution to America. During the American Civil War he was unable to serve due to a carriage accident but he was able to help his nation in another way. He became the General Secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission which helped provide relief for as many as 8,000 soldiers by the end of the Civil War.

Blogging Through the Alphabet: O is for Olmsted; Frederick Law Olmsted helped organize the United States Sanitary Commission during the American Civil War. image of Civil War ambulance from

Start of the United States Sanitary Commission 

During the Crimean War, there was seen a need to help provide better sanitation to help prevent disease and infections. (Florence Nightingale played a large part in the changes in regards to medicine.) During the American Civil War, there were many local aid relief societies throughout the North that attempted to help the soldiers but they weren't really working together. The Unitarian Minister, Reverend Henry Bellows, visualized an organization that would bring all these relief societies together. The Women's Central Association of Relief and Bellows' idea led to the establishment of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) by President Lincoln on June 13, 1861. Now they just needed someone to oversee the USSC. Who could that be? Frederick Law Olmsted was the man.

Why Choose a Designer of Parks? 

Olmsted earned a national reputation with his design of New York City's Central Park. This was an enormous public works project that not only required his skills as a landscape architect but also as an administrator. Can you imagine the amount of organization necessary to oversee this huge project? He learned through his work on Central Park how to encourage workers (even when they were refusing to work), continue even at the objection of superiors, and set in place procedures and protocols to make the organization run smoothly.

What did Olmsted do with the USSC? 

From the first Battle at Bull Run, the USSC questioned the soldiers about conditions before, during, and after the battle – and Olmsted presented these findings. While no one liked hearing about the poor distribution of rations and bad officers, the commission did spark the long journey to improve conditions for troops in the North. This was just the start of Olmsted's impact through the USSC.

I think one of the biggest impacts of Olmsted and the USSC was ensuring that goods and services were collected, stored, and distributed to the front lines where the troops needed them. Olmsted encouraged the public to send their donations of clothing and other necessities to the USSC so they could distribute them.

Olmsted, in addition to overseeing the organization of the distribution of goods, also personally treated soldiers who had been wounded. In the spring of 1862, Olmsted and about 30 medical staff (including surgeons, medical students, and nurses) set up a floating hospital where they treated soldiers wounded in the nearby Peninsula Campaign. During this tenure as the General of the USSC, there were also pamphlets and reports compiled regarding diseases, wound treatment, medicine, and more sent to the front to assist the doctors and staff in treating the soldiers.

The Sanitary Commission sent medicine, food, volunteer nurses, and bandages to the front. They supplied meals and clothing to soldiers at the front and on furlough. They also provided instruction on the placement of latrines to help with sanitation in the camps. 

drawing of men digging Civil War latrines from
Digging latrines (image from

Olmsted's Own Battles 

As I wrote from the very beginning Olmsted and the USSC were not necessarily making friends when they presented the findings from their questionnaire after the First Battle of Bull Run. The goal of the USSC was to help the soldiers at the front during the American Civil War and while this is a worthy cause there were problems. The Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, was not pleased with the USSC inferring in what he thought was not their concern or business. But even with the potential for obstruction, things slowly improved for the soldiers.

photograph of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (image from

The USSC Continues without Olmsted 

On September 1, 1863, Olmsted resigned as the General of the USSC. It was said he was physically and mentally exhausted but he shortly moved west to become the manager of the Rancho Las Mariposas-Mariposa gold mining estate in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mine was unsuccessful and Olmsted returned to New York. Olmsted would go on to form Olmsted, Vaux, & Co. with Calvert Vaux.

By the end of the war, the United States Sanitary Commission would conduct almost 1,500 camp inspections, treat 1,000 soldiers, bring over 280 local aid societies together, and advise medical staff. All these things greatly improved the lives of the American Civil War soldier in the North. Olmsted, even though he was only general from 1861-1863, was largely responsible for this success.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Book Club: Review of Graceling

Book cover of Graceling

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Sometimes I go to the library and wander along the Young Adult aisles to find a new series to read. Partly because they are easier books to read quickly and partly because I like to know what is readily available for teens to read. I picked up Graceling, a debut novel from Kristen Cashore, that was published in 2008.

"In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king."

Fantasy Novel Set in the Seven Kingdoms

The majority of the novel takes place in the Middluns, Monsea, and Lienid Kingdoms as we are introduced to numerous characters and learn all about Graces. We meet Katsa as she is taking out guards to help Giddon and Oll rescue the grandfather of the King of Lienid. This elderly, ill man is at the center of a mystery that Katsa and her new friend and comrade, Po (the youngest price of Lienid), must unravel.

Book cover of GracelingI found the idea of individuals born with special Graces that could aid them (or not) in their lives to be interesting. Some are born with more mundane Graces like being a good swimmer while others had Graces that would or could help their kingdoms like fighting, archery, and swordsmanship. Some of the kingdoms seem to make anyone born with a Grace become an automatic servant of the king. Those Graced are unable to hide themselves as their eyes would change once their Grace finalized. Each eye would be a different color. For example, Po had one silver eye and one golden eye.

My Thoughts 

While I found the novel to be fast paced through most of the story, I do not agree with all the choices of the author. This book is shelved in our library's Young Adult section but yet contains several graphic sections describing the sexual relationships between the characters. In fact, the characters make the decision to not marry but continue to carry on a physical relationship. Personally, I would rather my teen not be presented with a topic this weighty in a fantasy novel but that is the world of today, unfortunately.

In addition to the physical relationship between the characters, there is a lot of violence due to the nature of the story. Katsa works for a very harsh and cruel king who requires her to sometimes punish and torture people who disobey him. And even though Katsa has formed a council to combat the evils of the kingdoms, there was still much intrigue and destruction.

Would I recommend Graceling? With reservations, I would say that some might enjoy the novel. There are moments of death, pain, and torture that may upset many. I will continue to read the series to see where else Kristin Cashore takes the reader but I will not be sharing it with our teen.


Joining up with The AtoZ Reading Challenge for 2020 with this book review! 

Friday, January 10, 2020

N is for the Navy During the American Civil War (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

A Mom's Quest to Teach: N is for Navy During the American Civil War (Blogging Through the Alphabet); A Mom's Ques to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet Logo; image of CSS Georgia from

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One of the often-overlooked aspects of fighting and influences during the American Civil War is the use of the Navy by both the Union and the Confederacy. In fact, the US Navy had a rather large part in defeating the Confederacy.

graph showing increase from 10000 to 60000 sailors at start and end of Civil War

graph showing increase from about 70 to 700 ships before and after Civil War in the North

If you take a look at the two charts above, you can see that there was an incredible increase in the number of men serving in the United States Navy by 1865 as well as quite a significant increase in the number of vessels outfitted by the US Navy. These vessels included the new ironclad ships. The North was able to build the vessels and arm them due to their industrial ability. By the end of 1865, the US Navy would have more vessels than even the British Royal Navy. However, in both the North and the South, the Civil War "spurred technological change and experimentation on a wide scale in ordinance, naval architecture, and propulsion," according to Professor Gary W. Gallagher, who has written several books on the American Civil War.

Changes in the US Navy 

The Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles (who was nicknamed "Father Neptune"), would set forth a plan to not only expand the US Navy (as I have shared) but also to make organizational changes to the bureaucracy and introducing innovations like the ironclad. Part of the changes to the naval bureaucracy included the retiring of many older officers as well as setting up nine ranks for the line officers.

drawing of the Cumberland rammed by the Merrimack from
The Cumberland rammed by Merrimack

The Part of the US Navy 

The navy played a part in the Anaconda Plan of General Winfield Scott as well as in the attempt to gain control of the Mississippi River. There were also a number of joint Army-Navy operations, the safeguarding of the Northern communication lines, and providing fire power when possible for Union landing forces.

A Mom's Quest to Teach: N is for Navy During the American Civil War (Blogging Through the Alphabet); image of Merricmack & Monitor from; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach; "One of the often overlooked aspects of the American Civil War was that of the Navies." On April 19, 1861, President Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of all Confederate ports. With 3,500 miles of coastline to patrol, the blockade of the Confederacy was a very daunting task. But they were quite successful at limiting the munitions, arms, clothing, medicine, and food going in and out of the Confederacy. The Union captured or destroyed 1,500 blockade runners during the American Civil War.  It may sound exciting but in fact the real enemy of those on blockade duty was boredom. The crews might have gone weeks without seeing any ships as they patrolled. So why did they do it? What kept the men going? Fortune! "Only the chance to strike it rich kept blockade sailors sane and alert," James McPherson shares in the Battle Cry of Freedom. The crew would get to split half of what was seized while the United States government would get the other half. Even though the Union was not able to completely block all the ports, they did have 500 Union vessels blockading the Confederate ports by 1864.

drawing of the Monitor and the Merrimack from
The Monitor and the Merrimack

Confederate Navy 

At the start of the American Civil War, the Confederacy had no navy. There were very few men who resigned their position in the US Navy (only 237 resigned and left the Union). And joining the Navy was never a tradition in the south. The South also lacked shipyards but they did inherit the United States Naval facilities at New Orleans, Pensacola, and Norfolk as well as captured the U.S.S. Merrimack which they renamed the C.S.S. Virginia and turned it into an ironclad. And even though they had access to the Naval facilities, they soon were recaptured by the North by 1862.

Even though there was little Naval tradition in the South, they set about to build ironclads and worked on other innovations. They built naval "torpedoes" or mines to protect the Confederate harbors and rivers. They also built the first successful submarine – the Hunley. On February 17, 1864, the third crew of the Hunley targeted the U.S.S. Housatonic and sank the steam sloop. Unfortunately, the Hunley sunk on this voyage.

photography of a replica of the Hunley outside the Charleston Museum

Many Roles in the American Civil War 

In addition to these details about both the Union and the Confederacy Navies, one could read about Union successes at Ship Island and Port Royal, the fight between the Merrimack (C.S.S. Virginia) and the Monitor, the taking of New Orleans, and Admiral David Farragut at Mobile Bay. The Union Navy played an integral part in the Union war effort.

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