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By Rebecca Price Janney, May 2 2018 12:36PM

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, April 30-May 6, 1863, some 97,000 Union and 57,000 Confederate troops clashed in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Although the South triumphed over General Joseph Hooker and his men, the loss of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson came as a terrible blow to the South.

Five years ago, Scott and I took David for the 150th commemoration because Scott’s great great grandfather, James Alexander Black, fought in the Stonewall Brigade, and my relative, Israel Kocher, served with the PA 153rd Regiment. Unfortunately, Scott’s ancestor died in the battle. David asked us which color cap he should be wearing, blue or gray. We told him to honor both of his ancestors; when he’s south of the Mason-Dixon Line, wear gray, and when he’s north, wear blue.

When it comes to the Civil War, do you come from a “mixed marriage?”

By Rebecca Price Janney, Apr 27 2018 01:23PM

She had been a prolific writer of prose and poetry, married to one of the 19th century’s most accomplished men. However, she didn’t reach prominence until she wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Here’s how the song came about:

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Julia Ward Howe immersed herself into the Union cause. She organized many of Boston’s churchwomen into various groups, this one for rolling bandages, that one for making jams and jellies for the soldiers. She wrote plays for her daughters to perform at fundraisers.

Her husband, the illustrious Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, asked Julia to accompany him to Washington, D.C. to meet President Lincoln, and she readily agreed. Meeting the Chief Executive, however, proved not to be the trip’s highlight for her. As she attended a review of the troops, a minor skirmish between Union and Confederate forces interrupted the parade. The scuffle ended rather placidly, but a terrible traffic jam resulted.

To pass the time, Julia sang to the servicemen, who especially enjoyed her rendition of “John Brown’s Body Lies A-Mouldering in the Grave.” A lady friend said afterward, “Julia, that tune is so pretty, but the words are so base. Why don’t you write better ones to it?” Julia said she’d see what she could do.

That night in her hotel room, Julia awakened with the new words in her heart. As she often did at home while getting a night-time inspiration, she groped for a pencil and piece of paper on her night stand. In the darkness she scribbled the words, line after line.

When she awakened in the morning, Julia wondered whether she had dreamed the experience, yet on her table were the words to the “John Brown’s Body” tune. Back in Boston she carefully wrote them out, then sent them to Atlantic Monthly magazine. The editors entitled the piece “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” running the song on the front page of the February 1862 edition. Battle Hymn quickly became a national sensation. When President Lincoln first heard the song performed, he is said to have wept, then requested, “Sing that prayer again.”

There are five verses, which can be found on the Library of Congress website. I’d love to know if you have a favorite:

By Rebecca Price Janney, Apr 19 2018 04:02PM

Yesterday as I was driving in the Philadelphia suburbs and the Lehigh Valley, I kept seeing a billboard featuring a three-strand pearl necklace against a black backdrop. The second time I read, “Barbara Bush” and her dates. How fitting!

Of course, many other tributes are pouring in from around the country, and the world, expressing condolences over the passing of one of America’s favorite First Ladies. I think what stood out most about her was how “real” she was. One commentator said, “There was only one Barbara Bush. She wasn’t one way with one person and another way with someone else.”

She was fiercely loyal to her family and her country, and she spoke her mind with a quick wit, minus the sharp-tongue. She was a champion of literacy, volunteerism, patriotism, and family. People on both sides of the aisle adored her.

Two weeks ago at the Pennsylvania State Society of the DAR (Barbara Bush was a DAR), a woman came up to me smiling over something she’d read in my book, Great Women in American History about Abigail Adams. When I wrote this in 1996, Adams was the only woman to have had both a husband and a son in the White House. When George W. Bush was inaugurated in January 2001, Barbara Bush became the second woman in American history to hold that distinction.

She holds another record as well. She and her beloved husband, George H.W. Bush, were married the longest of any American President and First Lady at 73 years. Imagine!

In her 1994 memoir she said she considered herself and her husband, "the two luckiest people in the world, and when all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. We have been inordinately blessed, and we know that."

She most certainly blessed us, and we are profoundly grateful.

By Rebecca Price Janney, Apr 9 2018 01:29PM

Initially State Librarian Maggie Everly told me to plan for about 75 people for last Thursday’s Book Club event. Last week she emailed me—registration rose to 133! I knew we were in for an exciting evening at the Wyndham Gettysburg.

The hotel staff did a top-flight job setting up the room, including two tall chairs with a table in between for Maggie and me. At the back, DAR Pages proficiently managed the book table. In the front row, members of my Valley Forge Chapter waited expectantly with others occupying different parts of the room. I felt such warmth being surrounded by old friends and new, as well as the presence of my sixth cousin, another direct descendant of Peter Kichline, Miles Kachlein Dechant and his wife Betty.

Maggie and our enthusiastic State Regent, Cynthia Sweeney, brought such energy to the room. I couldn’t help but be jazzed, and then Maggie’s questions were so meaningful and fun: “Tell us about an Aha Moment during your research” and “How do you view the Revolution differently after writing this book?” Then the audience got to participate.

One of the things that touched me the most was how much they love Peter Kichline and Erin Miles. A few said they identified with these characters’ lives. The books I’ve treasured the most have had winsome characters whom I came to care about deeply. Many said they either had already read Easton in the Valley or couldn’t wait to read it, and how much they’re looking forward to book three, Easton at the Crossroads.

A really fun part was when I got to give a shout-out to a dear friend from my chapter who inspired the character of Sydney Stordahl, Christyn Olmstead, former Regent and current Registrar for the Valley Forge Chapter.

I’ve done many events over the years to promote my books, and this one will be right up there with my favorites. Thank you Pennsylvania Daughters for a magical evening!

Rebecca Price Janney with Maggie Everly
Rebecca Price Janney with Maggie Everly

By Rebecca Price Janney, Apr 3 2018 01:10PM

I'm very much looking forward to discussing EASTON AT THE FORKS at the annual Book Club for the Pennsylvania State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. The event is this Thursday night at the Wyndham in Gettysburg, and I hope to see many of you there.

Lately I've been meeting other descendants of Colonel Peter Kichline, one of two main characters in the novel. What a joy to get to know others who share this special connection!

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