That’s what I gathered from the Battle of Nashville stuff. All the women were crocheting. As you may remember, I’m on a quest to try to understand why Nashville doesn’t have a sheep-eating culture, even though we seem to happily eat anything else., since nm pointed it out to me.
So, yesterday, I talked to a Civil War reenactor who raises sheep for wool out in Wilson County and she has a theory I think may be the correct one. Almost all sheep in Middle Tennessee were, first and foremost, for wool. People out in the country who raise sheep, even wool sheep, do eat lamb at Easter. Even now. But it’s got to be a special occasion that you’d be willing to eat something that’s going to make you money for the rest of its life.
If you were eating the sheep from your herd regularly, it meant something had gone really wrong for you–that you were so desperate to eat that you couldn’t wait for wool to sell. So, she thinks that eating sheep, except at Easter, may have become associated with deprivation and hard times, here. And that may be why there’s not a lot of sheep eating here. It had for a long time, the connotation of hard times, and, even when it didn’t have those connotations anymore, we didn’t have the years of recipes and traditions about eating it.
I don’t know. But it seems plausible.
It went really well. A ton of people came and I was really delighted to just see face after face of people I know. It was also cool to see a bunch of people I didn’t know. There was mingling and talking and then I read some from the book and then they showed the book trailer. People bought copies of “Allendale,” which pleased me. And it was just really exciting to see people excited about the book.
Plus, Tom Wood, who so generously agreed to be the last werewolf in the book (I guess spoiler alert!), or to at least have it insinuated that he was, came with fangs! And offered to bite everyone. You know, just in case you wanted to be a werewolf. It made me so happy that he is enthusiastic about his part and willing to play along.
The leather-bound edition looks amazing. It just looks so much like an artifact, like something you might carry around in your pocket, an ancient thing for consulting.
So, that was cool. People high-fived me multiple times, which made me happy. I mean, people liked it (score) and they clearly felt invested in it (double score) so that makes me really happy.
It also clarifies for me that, as much as I like being recognized as a good writer, that’s not really what I want. I want to write good things. I want those things to be of value to people because they love them, not because they love me. Don’t get me wrong. It means a lot to me that my friends like what I do. But I really want my stories to have a life beyond me, to be entertaining to people without me.
I want my friends to love it and tell me I did good, too, don’t get me wrong. I just want that and for the stories to find a life without me. And shouldn’t I have it? Shouldn’t I have it? Shouldn’t I have all of this and passionate kisses. Woo-ooh-ooo.
Ha ha ha.
Anyway, here is the awesome book trailer.
“I mingled with them, and distinctly remember hearing one lady say she had a good-bye kiss from the General, and she should not wash it off for a month. Oh! what a noise there was! A parrot, which had been brought up a democrat, was hurraing for Jackson, and the clapping, shouting, and waving of handkerchiefs have seldom been equaled.”–Life of Andrew Jackson by James Parton
On Arrow, the news is all the time breaking in with coverage of whatever Oliver Queen is doing. “Local billionaire, Oliver Queen, goes to a party.” Just mundane shit. But it got me wishing that our news covered our local billionaires like that. “Local billionaire, Bill Frist, gets coffee.”
Anyone in Belle Meade could be a superhero and we’d never know, because our news sucks.
This means Project X has to happen, right?
Okay, so we’re having a pre-order party for The Wolf’s Bane on November 8th from 6 to 8 p.m. at East Side Story. I think I’ll be reading promptly at 7, but you can come hang out earlier, eat some treats, look at some stuff, and buy a copy of Allendale, which will be for sale there for either $4 or $5 depending on what my costs to print it end up being (which I guess I should check on). There will also be some other cool take-home things, I think. And there’s going to be a book trailer!
Last night, I went over to the East Side Storytelling which was Sara Harvey reading and Bill Davis performing. Sara, though sick, was great, as always. Bill Davis was a hoot and his music was fun and his voice was lovely. He’s got a cool Halloween song, which he played acoustically, but which you can hear in it’s full, silly, wonderful glory here.
The venue is another story. Everyone’s food was not good and they basically abandoned our server to handle thirty people who all sat at once. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad for a server. And there were few people inside. They could have sent another server outside to help keep order.
The weirdest thing, though, is that it smelled like a horse barn. Like horse poop and hay. Which seems like a weird smell for a restaurant.
That place is in a good spot and I know people go there and love it and never have any problems. But every time I go there I end up wishing they could get their acts together so that I could go there more often.
On Saturday, I took the Lipscomb Civil War tour. It was incredible and they gave us a shit-ton of flyers and maps and a book. They could easily get $25 to $30 a head for that and it was free! I learned a ton.
Then that night we went over to the Madison train station and took their living history tour. I basically learned that Jane Addams is literally my old boss and that my dad and mom have hobo stories.
Then yesterday, we went over to Bledsoe’s Station and Mom and I wandered around the inside of the fort, while Dad and the Butcher yelled facts to us from the observation deck. Then we tried to drive over to where the Renfroe massacre had been, but you can’t get that close. It’s weird, though, how close that was to Clarksville but the remnants of the Renfroe party were driven down into Cooperstown (or what is now, anyway) and a bunch more of them killed at what is now Battle Creek (hence the name). Why didn’t they run to Clarksville?
All I can figure is that they must have been being attacked from the north and driven south, intentionally herded away from Clarksville.
But we know that eventually Mrs. Refroe and Black Bobb at the least ended up in Nashville.
I need to remember this for my next chapter–the thought I had when I woke up this morning. The kind of history that I’m trying to write for Nashville is, in some parts, a history of holes–where you look at the people we do have information about and try to figure out what that would mean for the person we don’t.
Today at Pith, I talk about Mary Overton–a woman with two prominent husbands, a really significantly historical father, and a prominent family. You look at everything you know about the people you know about and see if you can discern from all that the life of the woman central to all of them.
And, of course, it’s hard. It’s deliberately hard. The people whose histories are so hard to come by–women, minorities–their lives are hard to come by on purpose. Names left out, chances to write their own stories denied.
Anyway. It’s sad and frustrating.
I have a post on the thing I found in Ron Ramsey’s office. I will have a post on our chances of digging up Timothy Demonbreun. And, you guys! I spent all afternoon at Traveller’s Rest, sitting in the office where the old kitchen used to be, talking about history and Overtons and I got to ask if everyone was given an Overton upon their arrival at Nashville and they laughed.
And more importantly, even though I did not get to buy one–Traveller’s Rest has pie birds! In the gift shop.
Plus, I got to introduce Traveller’s Rest to Ben & Sue Allen’s The Thing, which, you may recall, from my incessant babbling about it, has many Overton connections–from Ben’s cousins to the Baxters’ friendship/enemyship with Dickinson.
And the other cool thing–Okay, I’ll just be honest that I learned many cool things–that I learned was that Mrs. Overton’s first husband was Andrew Jackson’s personal physician (a job with real security), hence how she ended up with a kid named Andrew Jackson May.
Plus, plus, I’m going to the TSLA at the end of the month to read to them about the fictional feud they fictionally had with the state museum over The Wolf’s Bane. I am so tickled.
I do feel a little bad for insisting the Butcher walk the dog this morning, because he was being so obnoxious yesterday after a week of very little getting-out-and-walking-around, and now it’s raining.
But pie birds!
Whew, what a weekend. The Southern Festival of Books will teach you things about relative time you never knew–like how long, oh, so long, the hour of 5-6 on Saturday is and how quickly 12-5 on Sunday passes. They seem like equal amounts of time.
It rained, a great deal, but I still had a wonderful time and got to see a bunch of people and learned a lot.
I am super tired, though. But also, feeling happy.
My car’s battery was dead this morning, so I spent a great deal of it–this morning–at Autozone, where the men all smell like mechanics. You’d think a mechanic would taste sweet, based on the smell, but my experience is that they either just taste dirty or exceptionally clean. The smell lingers even when the dirt is gone. I love honestly dirty fingernails, the way oil or grease or even field dirt, makes tall, narrow Us at the ends of fingers, how it gets into the knuckles of your skin and makes your hands look like a map full of tributaries.
Your body is a map to your life.
Anyway, the dude who smelled like dead leaves and dinosaurs changed my battery and got me on my way.
This is the busiest week of the year for me–leading up to Southern Festival of Books. Last night was the Best of Nashville shin-dig. The Butcher went with me. We got cornered by a local prominent attorney who, when told I blog, informed me he doesn’t read blogs. He negged me! I mean, it’s bad enough to be negged in a romantic context, but just because that’s how some dude goes through life? Ha ha ha.
And I have this friend who’s really pretty in a very approachable way who dude kept trying to impress with stories about how he shot a dude! But the thing that cracked me up about it is that my friend could rock the Faye Dunaway “Bonnie & Clyde” look, but, if you knew her at all, you’d never try to impress her with “I could be your badass” stories. She’s just not the gangster moll. She’d be the gangster.
Tonight I have a meeting about Project X.
Tomorrow is the most important day of my professional life. So, no pressure or anything.
And there’s some stuff happening after that, but who can focus?
I felt like I came home from Gallatin with something clinging to me. A bad memory that wasn’t mine. All night long, I dreamed about lost little girls. Sometimes I had lost one, sometimes I was the lost girl.
Do you guys read this blog, That Devil History? Today he’s talking about the urban/rural divide. Here are the people mentioned in the text as articulating the rural, supposedly more moral, side of the debate: Thomas Jefferson, James Henry Hammond, the Agrarians, and Sarah Palin. Lumping the Agrarians all together as one and not looking into it/their lives, that’s 50% rapist.
The thing that’s interesting about Hammond–aside from all the gay sex he had–was that he raped his nieces.
In my Isaac Franklin section, I’m arguing that one of the reasons for the slave traders to invite all planters in an area to the “fancy girl” auctions, where the women were stripped and auctioned off in a sexualized way, was that it was both about bonding–that to be a rich, successful planter meant you could just buy your own whore and have her around instead of having to go to the brothel like a normal man, so you and the rest of your cohorts were celebrating that you all had so much money that you could “waste” it on a slaves whose primary labor was sexual–and about hierarchy–the most desirable women at these auctions had the lightest skin color (Franklin even calls one of them “white.”). So, obviously, they all knew they were buying and raping the daughters of other planters. Which meant that they were standing there, in a group, admitting that they desired to rape the daughters of other planters. That the only think keeping them from raping another planter’s daughter with his wife (his white unenslaved daughter, as opposed to his daughter that Franklin might describe as white, but who was enslaved) was the steep social cost.
But the fantasy had to be that the man with enough status could rape another man’s unenslaved daughters and get away with it.
Hammond had that kind of status. He raped his nieces and got away with it. Got elected to the Senate after the scandal blew over.
Their lives were ruined.
I think about Adelicia Acklen, surrounded in death by her children with Franklin, none of whom lived to adulthood. And I wonder what it must have been like to be married to a man like that. Did he stop raping women after he retired? Did he only rape women in Louisiana on those plantations when he was down there without her? Did she sit in her room, watching him walk down the path to the slave quarters, knowing what he was going there to do? Did he rape her?
I have this desire to read some kind of justice into the fact that none of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children–that he was such a blight on this world that his line ended with him, or that some old witch cursed the fuck out of him and this is that curse playing out–but that feels like a sick way to think about dead children. And it also feels like a convenient lie. We don’t know how many of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children. We don’t know how many men raped Franklin’s children like he raped their mothers.
But you can go play golf at one of the sites of Franklin’s atrocities. And I guess I don’t know what I’d want us to do instead. My fear is that we’d tear all these buildings down–because their history is so horrid–except a few we’d leave as museums and then we’d get to pretend the problem wasn’t that wide-spread.
So, last night I stumbled across information that some of the descendants of Jackson’s slaves believe they are also descended from Jackson himself–that he “had an affair” with his slave, Hannah, and that, at the least, her daughter, Charlotte, is his child. Hannah’s an interesting person in that she did a few interviews before she died and she seemed quite delighted with being Jackson’s slave (she was there when both Andrew and Rachel died). Of course, actions speak louder than words and she did escape during the chaos of the Civil War, so one gathers it wasn’t “being a slave” that was so great, but that, if she had to be a slave anywhere, being a slave under (um, no pun intended) Jackson was the best bad option.
I am, of course, curious as to whether this can be substantiated.
On the other hand, I have now read a lot of Nashville histories. And it’s like Nashville spent from 1850-1880 just making shit the fuck up about our history. “Oh, remember when Jackson wiped out the Chickamauga at Running Water?” “Oh, yes, right. All gone. Every last one of them. Terrible tragedy.” And then people study that story of how Jackson wiped out the whole village of Running Water and jot down the names of the people killed there. And it gets passed along–those names of the dead–without anyone checking to see if the source of those names isn’t full of shit.
Like I thought White Man Killer died at Buchanan’s Station because all the history books say so, but it turns out he was just injured and that the U.S. government kept close tabs on him until he disappeared into an Arkansas swamp where he then reappears in Arkansas history. He’s not a hard guy to follow through primary sources. He didn’t die at Buchanan’s Station. That’s a fact. We just went with the legend instead.
So, here’s part of what I want to get at. At first glance, I’m inclined to believe these descendants. It’s not just one person saying this. It appears to be a pretty wide-spread family story.
But true or not, the fact that a great number of people believe it to be true and yet it can’t gain any traction in the general public’s imagination when “Yep, Jackson wiped out Running Water” (when we know Jackson didn’t lead that campaign and that captives were taken at Running Water because they flat out said that among their captives were Richard Finnelson’s wife and son) still does, tells you a lot about whose myths get to become public legend.
I think the thing that bothers me most about Isaac Franklin, which is both why I want him in my book and why I’m finding it really unsettling to have to ponder him as a human being, is that, as far as I can tell, he was “one of the good ones.” By the standards of his time, he was a respected businessman who, while occasionally upsetting the people of Natchez by leaving dead enslaved people all around the outskirts of town, was a lot of people’s preferred trader to do business with.
The other successful slave traders who were at Franklin & Armfield’s level–or at least who could reasonably aspire to be–had some really shady business practices that people at the time found shadier than Franklin & Armfield’s, a fact Franklin & Armfield regularly used to their advantage to increase their own sales.
In their own context, these were good businessmen and good people (which is why the University of the South took Armfield’s money) who, yes, had the distasteful job of slave trading, but aside from that. In other words, they had reputations similar to how we view used car salesmen. People kind of thought the job was icky and involved a level of them trying to pull one over on you, but success spoke for itself.
When white people in the South say that their slave-owning ancestors were good people, here’s the rub–if they’re telling the truth (and let’s not doubt that they are), a good person in the early 1800s would have, if he needed to, bought his slaves from Franklin & Armfield. That would have been the “ethical” choice.
And they seemed to have raped a lot of the female slaves that passed through their business. If you bought a woman from them, you likely bought their victim from them. The scale of their rape cult is just mind-boggling (can you have a three-person cult? I don’t know what other word to use here.) Franklin & Armfield sold about 1200 people a year. If half of them were women and they “only” raped half of those women, that’s still almost a rape for every day of the year. The very least you can say is that, if you fell into the clutches of Franklin & Armfield, you were going to witness a rape.
One place I read said that Franklin & Armfield controlled about 5% of the U.S. economy. A nickle of every dollar passed through their hands.
I don’t know.. I don’t know what I want to say, exactly, except for that we, here in Nashville, talk about slavery like the worst of it happened someplace else. And yet, if you want to see those Franklin & Armfield nickles up-close and personal, you can stroll around Belmont or drive to Suwanee.
Chapter Three is divided into three parts–the Harpes, John Murrell, and Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. Basically, if you ever cut open someone’s belly and dumped them in a creek, I have room for you in this chapter.
But Franklin is just such a sick fuck it’s kind of ruining the fun of the chapter for me. The research is just grueling. UNC has some of Franklin’s letters scanned in so that you can read them yourself without having to travel to North Carolina and, good god damn, it’s just so fucking… Like I was relieved when I couldn’t make things out, because his handwriting is so crappy.
And, on a more minor note, I swear, there’s no way to do even a tiny bit of research into John Murrell before you start to suspect he was framed. Not very well, but framed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he was a “thief of horses and negroes,” but to the extent people claimed he was? No, that was a frame-up job by a guy I think was a great deal scarier in his own way. No one can put a body count on Murrell, but his “biographer” leaves a trail.
I spent the afternoon cleaning the house and rereading the two chapters–“Chapter 1: We Arrived and were Promptly Kidnapped” and “Chapter 2: The Battle of Buchanan’s Station or The Night We Unexpectedly Weren’t All Slaughtered in Our Beds”–and I’m pleased. It did mean spending a little more time rifling through the war papers devoted to the Indians. And I realized that I had fundamentally misunderstood something. I thought Richard Finnelson and Joseph Deraque were interviewed together here and that information was sent on to Governor Blount. Thus the stories that Finnelson and Deraque weren’t believed about the attack and offered to throw themselves in jail and that they then might have even fought at the battle.
But in rereading yesterday, I realized Governor Blount personally took Finnelson’s testimony. In Knoxville. And then he sent Finnelson to Philadelphia to talk to the War Secretary. I repeat, he sent Finnelson, an Indian, to the Capitol. Before the battle. Then they send Demonbreun after the battle with further updates.
So, in order of “Who can we trust with these papers and important testimony?” It went 1. Richard Finnelson and 2. Timothy Demonbreun. Trailing far behind appears to be our friend, Joseph Deraque. Granted, he did just spend all summer as a Spanish agent, but still.
The next chapter is about land pirates–the Harpes, Tom Mason, John Murrell and the Mystic Clan (and did I tell you this appears to be mostly made up?! Which is perfect for the book)–and Isaac Motherfucking Rape Cult Franklin, who resented being compared to land pirates, but when you’re slicing people along the belly, filling them full of rocks, and then throwing them in the swamp, what the hell kind of comparison do you expect people to make?
And yes, yesterday morning, I couldn’t even stand the thought of looking at it. I’m on a rollercoaster of emotions. And I’m ready to just be back to my normal self.