Friday, February 28, 2020


I’m sure I’m not the only historical author who has found herself in this position.

I’m writing another book for the Lockets and Lace series. My earlier books have dealt with the Atwell family that (mostly) settled in Salina, Kansas. They have dealt with Fort Riley and the Kaw, or Kansa, Indians, as well as suffered some excitement because of the hostile native tribes. Although I have researched quite a bit about these topics, my current book is set in the second half of the 1860s, which means several more forts were built in Kansas, especially as the American Civil War drew to an end.

In 1858, gold was discovered at Cherry Creek in Denver and started the Pike’s Peak gold rush, thus turning the Indian trail that followed the Smoky Hill River into a prospectors’ and freighters’ trail. In 1862, several bills were signed into law by President Lincoln, including the Homestead Act. That act opened the floodgates of those Americans choosing to move west to claim land. Many chose to homestead on the buffalo hunting grounds of the Cheyenne, Kaw, Arapaho, and several other tribes. After Butterfield lost his contract to use the Southern route, he established his new route to Denver through Kansas.
Frank C McCarthy- The Run to the Way Station
While the white Americans were fighting each other in their civil war, several native tribes took advantage of the situation and raised havoc with the whites who settled on or crossed their land. This continued through the late a860s and 1870s until all the hostile Plains tribes were subdued, forced to sign treaties, and confined to reservations.

These forts were not established for long-term use like Ft. Leavenworth or Ft. Riley. The following is from Marvin H. Garfield who wrote The Frontier Defenses of Kansas:
"THE name “fort” is perhaps a misnomer when applied to the military posts of the western frontier during the sixties. No huge, grim structure of defense which usually is associated with the name fort was ever erected on the western border. Nor did the western fort usually possess a stockade or blockhouse for defensive purposes. Officers' quarters, soldiers' barracks, stables, military storehouses and headquarters buildings, grouped around a trim parade ground, constituted the frontier fort. While no doubt a disappointment to many of its critics the military post of the Middle West admirably fulfilled the purposes for which it was constructed, i. e., the keeping open of lines of travel and communication and the protection of outlying settlements."
Fort Larned 1867
Here is a tidbit about Fort Larned that explains the purpose for the existence of most of the Kansas frontier forts of the 1860s and 1870s:

     Fort Larned came into existence on October 22, 1859, in response to the need to protect the constantly increasing traffic and the recently established stage stations on the Trail from the resistance of the Plains Indians. The post was first called "Camp on Pawnee Fork." On February 1, 1860, orders were issued changing the name to "Camp Alert" because the small garrison of about 50 men had to remain constantly alert for Indians. 

Back to my research. I have my heroine interested in two Army officers she meets at Fort Riley. However, with the building of the frontier forts to the west, and Fort Riley having been established as the primary supply fort for many other forts she must deal with them being sent where needed.

I found some great information about the Kansas forts. The Kansapedia Kansas Historical Society and Legions of America sites are wonderful sources for information. However, I’m a charts and graphs girl. I needed the big VISUAL picture.

Author's chart of Kansas frontier forts (partial)

First, I searched for information about the Kansas forts, the part of the state each fort served, and its primary purposes. I put together a excel spreadsheet that probably only makes sense to me. However, it did allow me to understand three things: 

  *  Most of the newer forts (camps, cantonments) were built along one of two trails: Santa Fe Trail or the Smoky Hill Trail. In fact, Fort Leavenworth that was first established in 1827 as Cantonment Leavenworth had as one of its missions the protection of the Santa Fe Trail.
  *  Most of the newer frontier forts in Kansas were built specifically to deal with protecting white American interests from the hostile Native American tribes. Once their purpose was served, they were discontinued.
  *  Civilian towns grew up around several of the forts. Once the forts in those locations were abandoned, all that remained were the towns.

Why am I so late posting today? I’ve been making a map. Why did I not use one already available? I was unable to find one in the public domain. However, I did find a public domain Kansas river map, and little ol’ mapmaker me put this together. It does the job. It also convinced me I need to invest in one of those pens that goes with my photo-editing program. The mouse and I don't get along well when it comes to freehand drawing.
Author's towns, forts, and trails map - not drawn to scale

Based on this information, I have decided my Jake Burdock in Hannah’s Handkerchief will be sent to head up a freight train escort from Fort Riley to Fort Harker. After, he will be assigned farther west to help deal with the hostilities. My Hannah falls in love with Andrew Call at Fort Riley. he also is involved in supplying the forts on both the trails. Seeing the map, and knowing the years the forts were built, helped me put it all together--important since my story starts in 1865, and some of the forts were established a year or two later.

Now I have the big picture before me, it is time to finish the fine details in my writing and get the book out to my readers.

Hannah’sHandkerchief just has its cover reveal earlier this week. It is now on preorder. It will be available March 27th. You may read the book description by CLICKING HERE.

Here is a snippet:

         Finally, he stood before her and asked her for the next dance, which happened to be a waltz. She noticed he was not more than three inches taller than she was. Although compactly built, his broad shoulders and narrow waist filled out his uniform well. His dark brown eyes appeared to dance with a light that came from a different source than those that lit the ballroom.
         “May I introduce myself. I’m Lieutenant Burdock.”
         “Pleased to meet you, lieutenant. I’m Miss Atwell.” Much to Hannah’s chagrin, Mrs. Prescott had earlier coached both her and Kizzie not to offer their first names.
         “Ah. I have already had the pleasure of meeting another Miss Atwell this night.”
         Hannah had to force herself to keep from grimacing. She did not want Lieutenant Burdock to be overly impressed with Kizzie. Instead, she smiled. “Yes. That would be my cousin.”

If you think I went to all this work for one book, think again. I will be writing two short novellas—just the right size for quick summer reads—and will use this same research for their plots. Mail Order Roslyn and Mail Order Penelope, both part of the Widows, Brides & Secret Babies series, do not have preorder links yet. I just barely shared their covers. Here are three things I can tell you about this pair of stories:
  *  Although written as stand-alone books, this pair of novellas will be a duet—a series within a series.
  *  Roslyn and Penelope are cousins.
  *  Both stories involve stagecoaches (along the new Butterfield Overland Despatch trail that follows the Smoky Hill Trail protected by above-discussed Kansas frontier forts.)


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