As a writer of historical fiction, I have the unique opportunity to bring the past to life through my imagination. In this particular novel, I have created the location of “Oak Hall,” and have used general research to conjecture what might have happened to the widowed Mrs. Wright after the death of her husband.
While information abounds on the Reconstruction Era in the Deep South, such information is not readily available about the Border State of Maryland, which was never actually part of the Confederacy (despite a strong desire by many for her to secede). As a slave state within the Union, Maryland was occupied by Union forces, but was not abused in the same way as such states as South Carolina and Georgia. However, many of the same problems existed in Maryland after the emancipation of the slaves.
Still, for those whose livelihood depended on slave labor, their release created an immediate void in the labor force. Some tried to keep slavery alive through the “apprenticeship” system, which is mentioned in the beginning of this novel. Others turned to sharecropping as a solution, which gave the former slaves a measure of independence while also allowing the farmers to continue to cultivate their land. Despite these attempts, many of the original plantation and farm owners throughout Maryland and the South were not able to hold onto the land which had been in their families for generations.
“The Civil War,” as The War Between the States is usually referred, is a misnomer as this was not a contest over the same seat of government. The Confederacy did not wish to take control of the United States, but rather to separate from it and create its own sovereign nation. This, as interpreted by Lincoln, was not permissible on the basis of implied language within the Constitution, that “the Union of these states is perpetual.”
The echoes of this war, which resulted in the loss of over six hundred thousand lives, can still be heard today. The generation which survived this tragedy often suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was not understood at the time and often led to either alcoholism or institutionalization. The fabric of society was altered as families were dissolved and divorce became more prevalent. It was the beginning of the bane commonly known as the “income tax,” and it minimized the rights of the individual states while giving more power and authority to the Federal Government.
Furthermore, the stage was set for longstanding division between political parties and races. It is the hope of this author that through this fictional story, the reader can be reminded how essential it is to understand the way these divisions developed, and how crucial it is that we strive for unity, forgiveness, and love. Life is a precious gift. Let’s not waste it with hatred, revenge, or prejudice. Instead, let us choose to be instruments of change, making the world a better place for future generations.