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Journey of a Thousand Steps (Or Words) Begins Here

Posted by on February 13, 2018

I don’t write historical novels, but I find history fascinating. Unfortunately, I’m generally not a detailed person, and if I letters from Civil Warwrote historicals, I’d always be afraid of missing some important fact.

But last summer, my husband and I started a historical journey that has led us down an interesting path. Each month, I’ll share a bit more about our travels and how they relate to the next book I’m working on.

How It All Started

Wayne’s great-grandfather, Robert Martin Hamilton (called Mart), left a family farm in Iowa to join the Union Army during the Civil War. His brother-in-law, Robert Dihel, joined him. Robert seems to have been well-educated, judging by the 250 letters he wrote home to his wife, detailing where they were and what was happening. He also demonstrates a strong Christian faith during a very difficult time. The letters were saved and, as each generation died off, the letters were divided up between family members for safekeeping. We were given several of the letters, but had no idea of their value until a distant cousin collected all of them, transcribed them and put them into a book.

The Journey Begins

possible site of Hamilton family farmWhile visiting with his cousins, Wayne commented that it would be interesting to follow the trail of their ancestors as they left Iowa and joined the army, visiting some of the battlegrounds that are mentioned in the letters. One cousin, Mike, jumped at the idea and last summer, we began our journey with Mike and his wife Ruth in Iowa.

They took us to the site of the family farm in Sunbeam, Iowa. It occupied land where two roads intersect, but Mike wasn’tchurch at Sunbeam, IA certain which corner comprised the Hamilton farmstead. A small country church with white siding and a tall steeple still stands on one corner, though it’s not the original building. Fires were a constant hazard back then.

Another stop at the county courthouse rewarded us with the names of both men on a plaque honoring local citizens and their military unit. We also found a record of Great-Grandpa Hamilton’s final pay when he mustered out.

Next Stop: Springfield, IL where the men were mustered in and trained.


Do you enjoy reading historical novels? If so, do you have a favorite time period?





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6 Responses to Journey of a Thousand Steps (Or Words) Begins Here

  1. Brenda Warden

    wow, how cool, Mary, that you have a personal avenue in which to explore our country’s history. I was Elementary Ed major w/specialization in History, so historical fiction is definitely a fav of mine. Anything before the Civil War interests all the way back to the 1500s. I will be watching for your upcoming installments with anticipation. 🙂

  2. debgarlandc7b353841eb0961e821385c0b76bdc7f

    It’s interesting to follow the footsteps of Wayne’s family. It brings history to life and how much more fun to visit those places with another relative. I enjoy reading and writing historical novels. I like Colonial America, the Civil War period, the Western Frontier, and the Alaska/Yukon gold rush time frames the best…the 19th century. I also find England’s history fascinating. I look forward to hearing more of your Hamilton adventure!

  3. Michelle Kaderly Welsh

    How interesting, Mary! What a treasure and what fun to explore and dig up such interesting facts about your family history. I look forward to hearing more about your adventure.

I welcome your thoughts on this.