People who’ve been reading this blog for years will know the score. Way, WAY back in 2009 (that’s, like, two generations ago in blog years), I started the first draft of my Civil War-era novel set down in Louisiana. And even though the story itself isn’t true, there were so many historical facts and regional details I didn’t want to mess up that I took some time out to do some research, and I got so involved in it that I wrote a whole series of blog posts on how to research for fiction.
But then I knocked out the draft and I set aside the research. Hurray for me!
Except that wasn’t nearly the end of things. Because I knew all along that when I finished that first draft, I would still need to do two things: one, I’d have to revise the hell of out it. And two, I’d need to visit Louisiana and walk around in the bayou and refresh my childhood memories of the place. And both endeavors would involve more research, just to cover my bases.
I tinkered with the book off and on over the years, but last summer, in 2012, I finally got around to revising the novel wholesale, and while I worked on it, I sat down to stacks and stacks of books. For my first draft, I was overseas, where the libraries didn’t have much on the American Civil War (why would they?), so I relied heavily on internet research and emails to librarians and other experts. But this time, I was in the States, and I finally had access to those holy tomes, the dusty old books in the stacks. And boy, did I read.
That research fleshed out what was missing in the novel, and the revision that resulted was more or less perfect. There were still a handful of what I considered minor details that I’d want to check against the actual region, and I wanted to hit the public library in Cameron, Louisiana to pick up any local material my own nearby libraries wouldn’t have. But that was about it — I mostly wanted to make my trip to Louisiana so I could walk in the world of my novel and make sure it all felt real.
And I did. And it was amazing. (I’ll write about that later this week.)
But in the library, I also wound up reading another dozen books or so, and I was finding such great material that I drove up to Lake Charles and hit the library there as well. In all, I made my way through 20 more books on local history, culture, language, folklore, weather, and so on.
(I showed the list to my students, who are writing research papers right now, because I wanted them to know I was down in the trenches with them, doing research of my own. They collectively gasped. One said, “Are you kidding me with that?” I said, “Nope. This is what you all should be doing. This is what your research should look like.”)
So, here, all compiled into one epic list, are the sources I looked at while writing, revising, and double-checking my novel, including both print and web resources. Looking back, these 70 or so sources seem like a hell of a lot of reading, and it was, but bear in mind that I started this three and a half years ago. Also bear in mind that when I was in high school, I was planning to get a history degree before I switched to English in college, and I still love reading this stuff. I know a lot of writers who hate doing research, and I get why, but no kidding, this is fun for me.
Anyway, here’s the giant list of stuff I read for the novel:
- “98 Recipes to Catch a Buzz in the Civil War.” Civil War Interactive. http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/CookbookBuzz1.htm.
- Advertiser, D. “American Felling Ax.” Brief History of the Ax. USDA Forest Service. http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/pdfpubs/pdf99232823/pdf99232823Pdpi72pt03.pdf.
- Allured, Janet, and Judith F. Gentry. Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times. University of Georgia Press, 2009.
- American Civil War Ladies Clothing: US (Union) and CS (Confederate), Hoop Dresses for the 1850s & 1860s. http://www.ushist.com/american_civil-war_ladies_clothing_f.shtml.
- Ancelet, Barry Jean. Cajun and Creole Folktales. University Press of Mississippi, 1994.
- Atchity, Kenneth Aguillard. Cajun Household Wisdom: You Know You Still Alive, If It’s Costin’ You Money! Longmeadow Press, 1995.
- Benton, Charles E. As Seen from the Ranks. BiblioLife, 2009.
- Bergeron, Arthur W., Jr. The Civil War in Louisiana: Part B: The Home Front. University of Louisiana, 2004.
- Bergeron, Arthur W., Jr. Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units 1861-1865. Louisiana State University Press, 1996.
- Block, W. T. “The Battle of Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana.” Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, TX), May 6, 1977. http://www.wtblock.com/wtblockjr/calcasie.htm.
- Block, W. T. “The Great Storm of 1886: A Day of Agony and Death at Sabine Pass, Texas.” Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, TX), January 9, 1977. http://www.wtblock.com/wtblockjr/great1.htm.
- Block, W. T. “October 12, 1886: The Night That Johnson’s Bayou, Louisiana Died.” Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, TX), October 10, 1979. http://www.wtblock.com/wtblockjr/johnsons.htm.
- Brasseaux, Carl A., and Philip Gould. Acadiana: Louisiana’s Historic Cajun Country. Louisiana State University Press, 2011.
- “Cameron’s History.” http://user.camtel.net/cameron/public/history.html.
- Civil War. http://www.civilwar.com.
- The Civil War. http://www.sonofthesouth.net.
- The Civil War. Directed by Ken Burns. 1990. Alexandria, VA: PBS Home Video, 1997. VHS.
- “Civil War Guns.” Military Factory. http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/civil-war-guns.asp.
- Confederate Receipt Book: A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Richmond: West and Johnston, 1863. http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/receipt/receipt.html.
- Cormier, Adley. “A Timeline History of Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana.” Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society. http://www.calcasieupreservation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3.
- Daigle, Jules O. Dictionary of the Cajun Language. Swallow Publications, 1984.
- Dozier, Hallie, and Robert H. Mills. Leaf Key to Common Trees in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 2005. http://www.lsuagcenter.com/NR/rdonlyres/AF8A63B6-A7C5-411D-B637-C2641275BEFE/18437/pub1669LeafKey.pdf.
- Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
- Goellnitz, Jenny. “How a Civil War Amputation Was Performed.” Stonewall’s Surgeon. http://www.huntermcguire.goellnitz.org/amputation.html.
- Gomez, Gay M. The Louisiana Coast: Guide to an American Wetland. Texas A&M University Press, 2008.*
- Gomez, Gay M. A Wetland Biography: Seasons on Louisiana’s Chenier Plain. University of Texas Press, 1998.*
- Heitmann, John Alfred. The Modernization of the Louisiana Sugar Industry, 1830-1910. Louisiana State University Press, 1987.
- Higdon, Cynthia. “Cajun Terms.” LA Fest. http://www.premier.net/~lafest/cajunterm.htm.
- Home of the American Civil War. http://www.civilwarhome.com.
- “Hooks, Handsaws and Forceps: The Grisly Photos That Show How Soldiers Gritted Their Teeth for Surgery in the American Civil War.” Daily Mail, August 1, 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2021188/Civil-war-surgery-The-grisly-photos-wounded-soldiers-treated.html.
- Hurricane Research Division. “Documentation of Atlantic Tropical Cyclones Changes in HURDAT.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June 4, 2011. http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/metadata_master.html.
- “Images of the Civil War: Civilian Life.” The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns. http://www.pbs.org/civilwar/cwimages/civilian/index.html.
- Jacobs, Howard, and James Rice. Cajun Night Before Christmas. Pelican, 1992.
- Jones, Michael Dan. “Niblett’s Bluff in the War Between the States.” Calcasieu Parish, LA: Sons of Confederate Veterans, 2005. http://ereserves.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/FTBooks/jones-niblett’s%20bluff.htm.
- Jones, T. M. Visual Generic Grasses of Louisiana. LSU Herbarium Keys. http://www.herbarium2.lsu.edu/grass2.
- Kadzis, Peter. Blood: Stories of Life and Death from the Civil War. Da Capo Press, 2000.
- Laudin, Tika. “Plantation Portraits: Women of the Louisiana Cane Fields.” Southern Changes 6, no. 6, (1984): 4-6. http://beck.library.emory.edu/southernchanges/article.php?id=sc06-6_003.
- Lindsey, Bill. “Liquor/Spirits Bottles.” Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes. http://www.sha.org/bottle/liquor.htm.
- Louisiana Digital Map Library. US GenWeb Archives. http://usgwarchives.org/maps/louisiana.
- Lugibihl, Jaime. “He Creeps, He Crawls, He Conquers: The Rougarou—a Louisiana Folklore Legend.” Nicholl’s Worth. April 26, 2001. http://www.thenichollsworth.com/lagniappe/he-creeps-he-crawls-he-conquers-1.2076148#.UWUHwFvF2hs
- Manley, Roger, Mark Moran, and Mark Sceurman. Weird Louisiana: Your Travel Guide to Louisiana’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2010.
- Menard, Donald. The Untold Story of Hurricane Audrey. Acadiana Publishers, 2007.
- Nihart, Janis. The Cajun Language. http://louisianacajunslang.com/language.html.
- NPR Staff. “’How Soldiers Die’: A History Of Combat Deaths.” Podcast audio. Talk of the Nation. May 29, 2012. MP3, 30:17. http://www.npr.org/2012/05/29/153927746/how-soldiers-die-a-history-of-combat-deaths.
- Ouchley, Kelby. Bayou-Diversity. http://bayou-diversity.com.
- Ouchley, Kelby. Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country. Louisiana State University Press, 2011.
- Ouchley, Kelby. Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: An Environmental Reference Guide. Louisiana State University Press, 2010.
- Paris, Joe. “Sugar Cane Field – Louisiana.” Digital video. 1:21. Oct 15, 2008. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWLP_5e3r3I.
- Partagás, José Fernández. “Year 1865.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2003. http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/Partagas/1865-1870/1865.pdf.
- Perrin, William Henry. “Chapter VI” (Cameron Parish history, Louisiana). Southwest Louisiana Biographical and Historical. Gulf Publishing Company, 1891. USGenWeb Archives. http://files.usgwarchives.net/la/cameron/history/camhist.txt.
- “Phases of the Moon: 1801 to 1900.” NASA Eclipse Website. http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/phase/phases1801.html.
- Post, Cathy C. Hurricane Audrey: The Deadly Storm of 1957. Pelican, 2007.
- Raphael, Morris. The Battle in the Bayou Country. Detroit: Harlo, 1975.
- Raphael, Morris, George Rodrigue. The Loup-Garou of Côte Gelée. Morris Raphael, 1990.
- Reynolds, Claudia. “The Louisiana Legend of the Rougarou.” Helium. http://www.helium.com/items/2311180-the-rougarou-louisianas-cajun-werewolf.
- Ross, Nola Mae. The Devastation of Hurricane Rita: A Pictorial Log of Hurricane Rita’s Path of Destruction Through Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes. N.M. Ross, 2006.
- Ross, Nola Mae Wittler. Hurricane Audrey. Wise Publications, 1996.
- Ross, Nola Mae Wittler. Louisiana’s Acadian Homes and Their History. N.M. Ross, 1999.
- Roth, David. “Louisiana Hurricane History,” National Weather Service. April 8, 2010. http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/research/lahur.pdf.
- Roth, David. “Texas Hurricane History.” National Weather Service. February 4, 2010. http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/research/txhur.pdf.
- Saxon, Lyle, Edward Dreyer, and Robert Tallant. Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales. Pelican, 1987.
- Schmidt, Jim. Civil War Medicine (and Writing): A Blog on Civil War-Era Medicine and My Own Research and Writing. http://civilwarmed.blogspot.com.
- Sears, Stephen W. The Civil War: The Second Year Told By Those Who Lived It (Library of America #221). Library of America, 2012.
- Simpson, Brooks D., Stephen W. Sears, and Aaron Sheehan-Dean. The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It (Library of America #212). Library of America, 2011.
- Smith, Gene. Lee and Grant. BBS Publishing, 1992.
- Soniak, Matt. “Why Some Civil War Soldiers Glowed in the Dark.” Mental Floss. http://mentalfloss.com/article/30380/why-some-civil-war-soldiers-glowed-dark.
- Sullivan, Walter. The War The Women Lived: Female Voices From The Confederate South. J. S. Sanders, 1995.
- Taylor, Joe Gray. Louisiana, a History. Norton, 1984.
- Thibodeaux, Ron. Hell or High Water: How Cajun Fortitude Withstood Hurricanes Rita and Ike. University of Louisiana, 2012.
* I haven’t actually read Gay Gomez’s two books yet, though I browsed one of them in the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center. But I met Gomez at that visitor center, where she was volunteering, and we talked about her books and the region for a while. They’re on this list because it’s a working bibliography, because I do plan to read them soon, and because I got to meet the author, who was generous and friendly.
- Louisiana research trip: the beginning (snoekbrown.com)
- Louisiana research trip: the photos (snoekbrown.com)
- Louisiana research trip: the people (snoekbrown.com)