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Friday, June 25, 2010

Patrick Ferguson

In what some call "the first civil war", there was only one Englishman on the battle field of King's Mountain, Major Patrick Ferguson.
He was a man of honor, someone to look up to, even though he fought for the king during the Revolutionary war, you wish for men like him on your side.
A brilliant strategist, he started his military career at the age of 15. At 17, he became ill and his leg was crippled. This setback didn't keep him from rising in the ranks or creating the Ferguson rifle. A gun easily loaded without a ramrod.

In 1777, Ferguson had an American general in his sights, the sharp shooter could have easily take down this target, but Ferguson did not fire. The man had a noble bearing, and the idea of shooting such a man in the back disgusted Ferguson.
The man was George Washington.

Later Ferguson was shot just above the right elbow, after eight surgeries, he recovered though his arm would never be healed. He learend to use a sword with his left hand.
His never say die attitude earned him a commission with Cornwallis. The southern colonies were England's last chance to break the stalemate against the rebels. Certain his troops' superior training would triumph over peasants and farmers, Ferguson didn't bother to put up additional protection around his camp on King's Pinnacle.

He was surrounded on all sides. The battle lasted one hour, it was here he fell.
Known as a gentleman, Ferguson was well liked by those who knew him.

In the camp were two ladies Virginia Sal and Virginia Paul, sharing his tent. Some say they were government employees hired to launder his clothes and cook. Others say they sought protection from the Major and shared his lodgings in order to be safe.
His men joked about it mattering not who's ear he whispered sweet nothings, he would never use the wrong name.

Virginia Sal was a red head like Ferguson, she died on King's Mountain and is buried with the Major. Some believe she was shot in a case of mistaken identity, from a distance, fighters mistook her for Ferguson. Others maintain, upon being surrounded, Virginia took up arms in a desperate act of self defense.

Virginia Paul rode off the battle field and escaped. Some say she was stopped by a rebel and told him who Ferguson was. He wore a checkered shirt, had an arm in a sling, and blew a silver whistle. Others say she didn't need to tell, most knew who the man on the white horse was.
It is rumored she went back to England.

The fun of writing history is playing detective. Facts and psychology combine to give characters life. When there is little written about a figure, supposition is half the fun.
Did these ladies love Ferguson?
Was Ferguson really charming enough to have two lovers...
Is any man that charming?
Would Virginia, after escaping, go to England or would she stay in America?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Macaroni! And I Don't Mean Pasta

Every era has its extremes of dress. The Sixties had micro-minis. The Roaring Twenties had flapper dresses. Georgian England had macaronis.

Although today most fashion is geared toward women, the macaronis were men. "Macaroni" or "maccaroni", from the Italian word, maccherone, which literally means a boorish fool, described the height, and often the extremes, of male fashion in the mid 1700's.

Brought from the continent by idle young men on their Grand Tour, macaroni dress took the standard male wardrobe of wig, coat, waistcoat, breeches, stockings and shoes to absurd lengths. The express purpose was to shock people. And shock they did. Coats were tight. Huge buttons decorated short waistcoats. Narrow, dainty shoes sported buckles almost larger than they were. And copious amounts of lace, ribbon, ruffles and whatever other outrageous decoration took the wearer's fancy trimmed the outfits, with everything in gaudy colors and showy fabrics like silks and satins.

Perhaps the most obvious feature of macaroni fashion was the wig. As in these pictures, macaroni wigs were excessively elaborate and tall, and, by contrast, crowned with a tiny hat that literally could be removed only with the point of a sword.

Macaroni clothing was never mainstream. While the fashion provided a wealth of fodder for caricatures, most people laughed it off as the blatant posturing of immature males.

The word remains in the vocabulary, although today its definition has constricted to pasta. But several vestiges of its original meaning linger to confound us.

The Macaroni Penguin, a large crested penguin native to Antarctica and the southern tip of South America, owes its name to the Georgian macaronis. English mariners in the Falkland Islands, off the coast of Chile, named the bird. With its flamboyant, colored head feathers, the penguin reminded the sailors of the macaronis back home.

And Yankee Doodle "stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni".

Next time, Yankee Doodle and macaronis.

Thank you all,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Regency Travel by Coach

Most Regency Romance novels are about the very wealthy, because, let's face it, most of us read as a form of escape. And what could be a better escape than vicariously living the lifestyles of the rich?

The very wealthy traveled by private coach, which came in all different shapes and sizes. The carriage pictured here is called a Scotland State Coach, circa 1830. Lovely, isn't it? Sigh. However, everyone else had to hire a coach.

In London, one hired a hackney which was like a cab with a driver, horse and some kind of used carriage. To travel a long distance, other arrangements had to be made.

The cheapest way to travel was on mail coach, pictured here. Travel was fast but very uncomfortable.

The next best way to go was by stage coach but it was crowded, and some passengers ended up riding on top in all kinds of weather. Unpleasant, to say the least.

A nice way to travel was to hire a carriage called a Post Chaise pictured here circa 1795. A post chaise could pick up passengers and drop them off anywhere specified, so a passenger could go from door to door, but usually passengers traveled from one posting inn to the next where the carriage and the horses were changed. The teams of horses always came with a postillion, a rider who rode on the back of one of the lead horses and controlled their travel. Generally it only had room for one seat, which seated two, but it also had an outside, rear facing seat for servants and a platform in front for luggage. Two teams could travel faster than a single team. The postillions changed every time horses were changed.

To figure how long it took to travel, here’s a good rule of thumb for figuring travel by horse: walking = 5 mph, trotting = 8-10 mph, cantering = 15 mph. All depends on the terrain. Naturally, horses would have to be changed on a regular basis and the faster one goes, the more frequently horses had to be changed.

Stage coach and mail coach horses were changed about every twenty miles. They had a fast and efficient routine to get the teams exchanged in less than 5 minutes. It would take longer for a private individual who had to wait for available horses, unless they were ridiculously wealthy and boarded horses at various posting inns along their most frequently traveled routes.

One thing that slowed travel was the existence of toll roads. Though the mail coach traveled free, other commercial vehicles made arrangements with the toll authorities. Private carriages had to stop and pay the toll which included the number of horses and the distance to be traveled.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Battle of Kings Mountain

It was 1780 when Cornwallis gave the command to take the southern colonies. He appointed a handsome soldier by the name of Patrick Ferguson to march across Virginia toward North Carolina and meet him in Charlotte.

Ferguson was confident most settlers were loyalists anxious for peace to be restored to their chaotic towns. Some refer to this as the first civil war because politics began to divide the people so intensely that violence broke out on both sides, breaking up friends and families.

Loyalists wanted to keep England in power, while patriots wanted to break from the mother country, about a third of the populace really didn't care, they just wanted to be left alone. The British cause was hurt by the means some officers took to quell rebellion Resistance was met with brute force and no quarter was given, the patriots were hanged. Despite the stories of oppression, Ferguson was certain loyalists would flock under his banner as he made his way toward the small town of Kings Mountain.

While some loyalists followed him, resistors, called mountain men followed with the intent of attack. Ferguson sent a threat to the settlers of North Carolina to either sign an oath of allegiance to the crown or their land and homes would be laid to waste, while their leaders were hanged.

This did not promote loyalty.

As Ferguson made camp on the top of King's pinnacle, the towns people promised to bring him down and reclaim what was theirs. While it was assumed the mountain top would give an advantage in battle, the gun fire sailed over the heads of patriots charging the hill. The mountain men used "Indian tactics" instead of fighting out in the open, they hid behind trees and rocks, advancing the whole time.

Said George Hanger of Ferguson's Provincial Corps:
"This distinguished race of men are more savage than the Indians, and posses every one of the vices, but none of the virtues. I have known these fellows to travel 200 miles through the woods never keeping any road or path, guided by the sun by day, and stars by night, to kill a particular person of the opposite party."

True to the reputation, men flocked to unseat Ferguson's troops, coming from miles around. Some kept their horses a mile from the battle ground and walked toward the skirmish, gun in hand.

The mountain was surrounded, the battle raged for about an hour before the English tried to surrender. White flags were raised, but some ignored them, while others may not have understood its meaning. Most of the Loyalists were shot down.

Ferguson rode his horse issuing commands the whole time. He was shot nine times and fell from his horse. He is buried on the mountain to this day.
The battle was commemorated by Thomas Jefferson as the battle that turned the tide of war. In later years, a memorial stone was erected in Ferguson's memory. He was a man of honor and we remember those who fell. Glad to commemorate the battle and our lasting friendship with the British Empire. The monument was erected in 1930.

Guest Shana Galen: Pushing the Envelope in THE MAKING OF A DUCHESS

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Shana Galen and her latest Regency historical, The Making of a Duchess. Now, Duchess is not your ordinary Regency, and Shana will tell you why.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of The Making of a Duchess which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Shana will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

The winners are Miss Quoted and Lois. I've sent you both emails, so look for them. Lois, I have your address. If I do not hear from you by June 22, I will award your prize to an alternate.

Welcome Shana!

Thanks so much for having me at Historical Hussies. I’ve enjoyed the blog for quite some time, and it’s an honor to be here discussing my new novel, The Making of a Duchess. I love history, especially the Regency period, but when I began writing The Making of a Duchess I decided to push the envelope just a bit.

I think there are times in our lives when we have nothing to lose. I was between publishing contracts when I started Duchess and didn’t know if anyone but me would ever read the novel. So why not write something a bit unconventional?

Or maybe even a lot unconventional. I have a French hero, a heroine who’s a governess, and part of the book is set in France—not your typical Regency romance. But it’s my heroine Sarah Smith who pushed the envelope the most.

Sarah is a governess for the children of a powerful man in England’s Foreign Office. She’s perfectly content in her position. An orphan who was raised by one of the numerous benevolent societies of the time, Sarah is happy to have such an important position, and she doesn’t understand what her employer is about when he calls her to his library and asks her to spy on Julien Harcourt, the influential duc de Valére. The duc is suspected of treason and considered a very real threat to England’s sovereignty.

But Sarah’s not a spy. She’s a governess and doesn’t know the first thing about spying. And, she argues, she’s a terrible actress. There’s no way she can pretend to be a French comtesse. She’s a lowly governess!

But the Foreign Office won’t take no for an answer. The spy they intended to send has been wounded, and their only option is Sarah. Why Sarah? She has no family, no connections, she’s a virtual unknown. She works with children, which requires patience and tenacity. And she lives among the aristocracy, which means she knows how they behave. Why not Sarah?

One of my favorite themes is the fish-out-of-water. In my novel Pride and Petticoats, Charlotte, an American, tries to fit in with the British ton. In No Man’s Bride, shy, reclusive Catie must become a political wife and hostess. In The Making of a Duchess, I gave Sarah the biggest challenge of all—she must pretend to be a French comtesse. And while she plays the comtesse, she must also play the spy. A single misstep could expose her to one of the most dangerous traitors in all of England.

What’s your favorite romance novel theme? Marriage of convenience? Secret baby? Enemies who fall in love? Fish-out-of-water? I’ll be checking in later to read your answers.


A very dangerous attraction…
Julien Harcourt, duc de Valère, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she’s been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor…

And an even more dangerous secret…
Sarah Smith’s mission is to find out whether the Duc’s trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent…

Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions…

About the Author
Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She is a happily married wife and mother of one daughter and two spoiled cats. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Medieval People and Their Pets

Today I welcome my friend, historical and contemporary romance author, Lindsay Townsend. Lindsay writes in a variety of eras, from ancient Crete and Egypt, to Roman and medieval Britain and up to the present.

Lindsay found me on the loops when we both had author days on the same day. That was when my first book came out, and I had no idea what I was doing. Lindsay has been very nice to newbie me, and I'm delighted to host her here.

And now for Lindsay's wonderful post.

In the Middle Ages women and men often doted on their pets. In York Minster, there is a portrait of the lap dog of Lady Margaret Roos, rendered in stained glass. The dog looks happy and sleek, with a belled collar. In the picture here of Tobias and Sara, a window of about 1520 from Cologne, the couple's pet dog is a sleepy symbol of wedded tranquillity.

In other drawings of medieval pets, the British Library has a manuscript showing a woman with a pet squirrel while the Luttrell Psalter shows a collared pet squirrel as a sign of status.

Birds were also popular. Jays and magpies - called 'pies' - were kept in cages and taught to copy speech. Larks and nightingales were kept for their sweet songs.

Red squirrel photograph by Pawel Ryszawa (Wikimedia Commons)Cats in the Middle Ages were kept mainly as mousers, and also, more grimly, for their fur and skins. Yet cats were also treasured. Exeter Cathedral lists in its accounts from 1305 to 1467 the sum of a penny a week to feed the cathedral cats if the animals did not catch many mice in the main church.

Dogs remained a favourite - so much so that nunneries tried and failed to ban the keeping of dogs as pets in various convents. Nuns were warned not to bring their pets into church and the pets included dogs, hunting dogs, rabbits, squirrels, birds and even monkeys.

Hunting dogs and hawks were not officially pets, being used to hunt and bring extra food for the table and to provide sport and entertainment to their lords and ladies. However, hawks were also massive status symbols, given as kingly gifts and well-known as signs of wealth and power. As such they were pampered and displayed - so much so that perches were even brought indoors to their owners could have their falcons with them. In 1368 the Abbot of Westminster, Nicholas de Litlington, bought a wax image of a falcon to offer at the altar to help a sick falcon recover. Lay men and women often brought their pets into church - the men with hawks on their wrists and women with lap-dogs.

From the Codex Manesse, Heidelberg, c.1304-1350Breeds of pets changed over time and some are unknown to us now. Medieval man in particular had a passion for hunting and bred horses and dogs for that activity. There were horses bred for stamina and long chases through woodland after quarry, sturdy beasts called coursers (chasers) And as a hunting dog, the big, deep-chested, long-legged alaunt was much prized.

The alaunt makes an appearance in my third knight book, A Knight's Enchantment, out on June 1. You can read an excerpt here.

Thank you, Historical Hussies, for having me as a guest!

Best wishes, Lindsay

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Research for Historicals

When crafting historical novels, a writer must first feel grounded in the period, and confidant with the setting and what the characters wear, eat, see, and how they live. That’s a tall order, and takes a lot of time.
In thinking about my upcoming workshop at RWA National in July, where I’ll be getting specific about Researching for Historicals, I realized it could have been a one-day workshop instead of only several minutes. In researching for my October release, The Tapestry Shop, I visited museums in France, where I found artifacts that enriched my novel, set in the thirteenth century. In a museum I saw some of the tools they used in the Middle Ages, as well as everyday items like a lady’s comb. What fascinated me about the comb was that the upper part, where the teeth were attached, was made of tin. This was their mirror. This same comb plays a part in my novel, when Catherine sees her mother’s face in the tin reflection.
Fine, you say. But I can’t make it to London to research my Regency! Not to worry. You can browse parts of the Smithsonian, even online. I keep a list of online sites, set down as to category and time period. When I’m in a hurry, I just throw them in my Favorites folder and sort them later.
Aside from the internet, SCA events, like reenactments, are great places to see what life was really like before modern times. Best of all, keep reading books written by authors who write in your time period. Chances are they have done their homework, and can save you a lot of time, but it never hurts to double-check the facts before sending your book out into the world.