Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Remember When . . . Spies Abounded?

This past week, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about the Knights of the Golden Circle and Baltimore during the Civil War. It is, you see, time to dive into the third book in the Culper Ring Series. Yay! I'd read some overviews before, so I knew some of the far-flung basics about this group and their agenda.

The KGC is one of several groups called collectively "The Copperheads"--all Southern-sympathizing societies that, at the time of the Civil War, were bent on expanding slavery, putting a halt to what they termed the tyrannies of the North, and preserving the agriculture-based way of life that they felt was crucial to America. Most of them didn't seem to want war or succession per se--but they saw the election of Abraham Lincoln as a final straw, a slap in the face, an injury that couldn't go unanswered.

One of the best books I've found on the subject is the diary of John Surratt, called a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth. He tells a tale of plot upon plot, most of them foiled by incompetence (much to his frustration), but also because of spies everywhere they turn.

Roseanna is rubbing her hands together in delight. =)

As history goes, this is the stuff I just love to discover for the type of book I'm writing! No matter which side you're looking at, North or South, they're both telling the same story--one of spies among them, hindering plans and stealing goods, plotting destruction and betrayal.

And yet, it's such a sad story in reality, and that's something I also have to try to capture. My story will be set in Baltimore, which was a true house divided at the time. Maryland had always been considered a Southern state, but because of its proximity to Washington D.C., the Union held much of it in a state of Martial Law for most of the war, determined not to relinquish it. But so many of the politicians, police chiefs, judges, newspaper men were Confederate at heart. Surratt tells a tale of most of them belonging to the K.G.C. And every history book expounds on how violence regularly erupted in the city. So regularly, it was called "Mobtown."

I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be a part of all that turmoil at the time . . . but it's the perfect backdrop for my story of espionage and betrayal, of broken bonds of blood and the sacrifice of love. Because this is me, you can be sure there'll be a happy ending. But before they get there, my poor characters sure are going to have to run the gauntlet! (Mwa ha ha ha!)


  1. Wow, I didn't know such rings existed before you started posting about it. Thanks for keeping us informed. This is just one of the many fascinating parts of history. And it does indeed make for a great book setting! :D

  2. Fascinating! I think we had a similar thing happen during our Civil War - during the 1600s. It's not a time I'd want to experience for myself, but it's just so fabulous for characters and stories. Sometimes I feel bad (genuinely bad, I mean!) for what I put my characters through ... but then their happy endings are truly wonderful! :)