“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card – Novelist and Essayist
The story of a lovestruck Civil War general came at me out of the pages of a book like a well aimed missile. I wouldn’t have learned of the story had it not been for a chance meeting with a remarkable man. His name is Edwin Bearrs. Mr. Bearss is considered America’s premier battlefield historian, especially about the battlefields of the Civil War. He is the historian emeritus of the National Park Service. He is also a prolific writer being the author of 13 books.
I met Edwin on a ferry boat carrying visitors to Fort Sumter where I serve as a docent for the Park Service. It was because of that volunteer position that I had a delightful conversation with him, trying to soak in as much of his knowledge about the War Between the States as I could.
The next day I went out and bought one of his ‘baker’s dozen’ collection of books. It is called Fields of Honor. It is an exhaustingly detailed examination of 14 most significant battles of that war. The Battle of Gettysburg is one of them. It was in that chapter that I first learned of Major General John Fulton Reynolds. The General, a highly respected Union officer, was shot and killed during the first hours of that fight. It turns out, Reynolds had been having a secret love affair with a woman sixteen years his junior.
Fields of Honor is 448 pages long. Bearss devoted only about two paragraphs to the relationship between Reynolds and Catherine ‘Kate’ Hewitt. But his clean, crisp style of writing, to my mind, hinted at a much deeper saga about two lovers coming together in the throes of a most terrible war tearing a country apart. It was a story I saw and wanted to write.
Edwin’s book led me to other reference material about Reynolds, Kate Hewitt and the war, its politics, its misery, its frustrations. A book of my own began to form. I visualized a novel of historical-fiction, based on the true events involving Reynolds and Hewitt. The research took me to Gettysburg where I stood on the spot where General Reynolds was gunned down by a Confederate soldier. It took me to the religious center in Emmitsburg, Maryland where Kate became a nun. The story was practically writing itself.
The result is ‘The General & The Lady: A True Story of Civil Love and War,’ the first book I have had accepted for publication. (I self-published an earlier book called ‘Naked Ambition,’ a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. It is available at Amazon.com, if you will pardon the little sales pitch.) The manuscript for The General & The Lady is undergoing the editorial review and book design phases at Page Publishing. We hope to have it ready for distribution by spring of 2020. You can read more about the story behind the story elsewhere on this website (jimhickey46.com)
Writing, it has been said, is a lonely task. Perhaps. But it is challenging, exhilarating and nerve wracking and pleasurable all at the same time. The beginning of this edition of the ‘On Cutting Edge’ quotes author Orson Scott Card. Another best selling writer, Wally Lamb, has also wise words about the art of writing. “If the book is true,” he said, “it will find an audience that is meant to read it.
The General & The Lady is a true story. I hope it finds its audience.