The other day I was bumbling around and came across a notebook containing handwritten scenes for WALK BY FAITH, as well as this bunch of notes written on the inside of the notebook's front cover (see the image),
First off, please note that I am no mathematician and messed up either the number or the percentage of black people living in Gettysburg in 1863. I'm thinking the number actually might be around 200, which would make that group of people 8% of the total population, rather than 12.5%. I never was any good at that stuff! But it was important for me to know how many African Americans lived in the town because the Underground Railroad potentially would be present in an area that had a number of black citizens. It also was likely to be present if a town had a Methodist Church, which Gettysburg did. The same applied if a Society of Friends (Quaker) Meeting was nearby, and there was one about seven or eight miles north, We also know that the Underground Railroad operated both in Gettysburg and among the Quakers living to the north. Self-emanicipating people then found welcome in Gettysburg and were either directed or escorted to the next stop or stops, which were overseen by Quaker families.
The circle with the clock face and the lines is my representation of the location of the many roads that fed into Gettysburg. It had twelve roads PLUS a rail line over which goods and people could travel to and from the town. (Baltimore Pike becomes Baltimore Street when it reaches Gettysburg, so I'm counting this as one road, not two.) The impressive numbers of roads explains why the town was as prosperous as it was prior to the battle in 1863. Sadly, the battle's devastation left the town in poor economic condition, a state from which it never really recovered - until it discovered tourism, that is!
The information about the roads was also useful to me as I considered from what direction and over which roads the armies moved, as well as how the characters in the story would get to the farm owned by Eli's Quaker sister and brother-in-law.
Finally, to get my head around the politics in the town, I made note of the two main newspapers - one with a Republican orientation ("pro-Union" is my shorthand for those supportive of the war and against the existence of the Confederacy) and one with a Democratic orientation (which I labeled "pro-South," shorthand for "anti-war" and "wanting to recognize the South as a separate nation"). Lastly, I noted that Gettysburg was a "hotly divided pol(itical) environment." We tend to simplify the political stances of people in the North before and during the Civil War, but it is far from simple. People supportive of fighting to preserve the Union, of recognizing the Confederate States of American as a nation, and of every opinion in between (not to mention other tangential issues) can and did exist in the same towns in the North. The mixture of strong feelings and divisive attitudes echo today in our own highly-charged political environment, which is why I work with the Civil War era. I suspect I might be trying to figure out our current situation.
Okay! So I just broke down a series of scribbled notes on the inside cover of a notebook. This was only a small part of the work I had to do to write WALK BY FAITH. Research for a historical novel entails an enormous amount of time and effort, but since I'm a historian at heart, I usually find it fascinating and exciting.