Sunday, October 17, 2010

Corn Silk Days, Iowa, 1862

IOWA, 1862

The dramatic story of two families, four generations, during a time when the United States is seriously divided by war, North against South, neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, son against father; slave against slave-owner—a distressful time of upheaval, tragedy, heartbreak, and death.

In the summer of 1862, Iowa farmer, Silas Storm, volunteers for the Union Army and his wife, Elizabeth Jane, pregnant with their second child, must maintain their farm and meet the many challenges the absence of her husband creates.

Four generations of Silas's family and extended family discover their lives changing drastically while facing adversity and challenges: family secrets, denials, fears, forbidden love, death, and grief. Like Silas Storm on the battlefield finding courage to dodge the next Rebel bullet, they, too, must deal with their fears and transform those fears into courage.
Will they be able to survive? Or will it be their defeat?

"Well Janie, when I heard of the death of Lincoln it appeared to me that I had lost one of my mightiest friends. He was the soldiers' best friend, but he had done enough in this world and the kind hand of Providence called him home to live in peace." ~Silas, May 1865

Silas I. Shearer

Although my book is a fictional account of life during the Civil War, I have woven actual letters written by my great-great-grandfather Silas I. Shearer into my story, staying true to the military facts presented in his letters home to his wife, my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Jane. It was his letters that inspired me to write Corn Silk Days. I hope you enjoy reading Corn Silk Days as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Letters home to Elizabeth Jane in Iowa

I now must tell you an anecdote that occurred between General Grant and Banks at Carrollton. When we were out on General Review Grant came down to see the 13th A C before he left and after review General Banks says to General Grant, "I don't like those men of yours. They have not got style enough about them."

Grant says, "Well, General, by God, if you do not like these men I will take them back. They were not drilled for style. They were drilled to fight and by God they will do it. They know how to fight." 

General Banks accepted the men and said nothing more about it.
Silas, December 1863 

The colonel wants the regiment to reenlist but how it will be is more than I can tell. I do not think it will be necessary for us to reenlist. Everything shows a speedy termination of the war. They may hold out until after the election but that is all nonsense to them to do so with the calculation they have in their heads for I think old Abe will be our next president. If he runs I shall give him a kiss.

Well Janie, the news came to Headquarters the other day that three States had come into the Union by a large majority and we will be on our road home by May but you need not look for me until you see me coming.
Silas, March 1864


"It was days like this one that gave Alexander pause and time for reflection-the days of May before the heat of summer bore down on the prairie land. The sky had begun to gather and build cumulus clouds shortly after breakfast and Alexander had sat on the porch watching the anvil shapes grow larger and more pronounced. It was the kind of day he often welcomed for a diversion from the farm work that at times seemed never ending. The thunderstorm had arrived in full force. Alexander knew it was coming before the clouds began to gather and he had not opened the Old Farmer's Almanac to have a clue as to the weather. He felt it in his bones. They ached as they always did when a storm was approaching. Only nowadays, it seemed the ache would always be more painful than it used to be. He was old and he didn't much like it. His body was slowing down. He was thankful his mind was still as sharp as ever. However long the good Lord would let him stay here, he hoped it would always be with a sharp and clear mind.

"The heavy rain, now wind-driven from the west, pounded on the porch roof. Alexander felt the splash of the rain on his pant legs and boots. He stood up and moved the chair back from the edge of the porch to the wall of the house. As he sat down, he wondered how many thunderstorms he had encountered in his lifetime. As a farmer, he had always welcomed them. A thorough ground soaking was always appreciated whether the crop was nearly knee-high as it was now or near harvest. The thunderstorms were most appreciated in the blistering July and August days of summer when the hot sun would burn the corn silk. The sweetest and most tender cobs of Iowa corn were produced when the golden corn silk was not burnt by the sun's unrelenting rays.

"Thinking of golden corn silk took him back many, many years ago to memories of his little girl. He seldom ever thought about her. She had been so very young when she died and it was now difficult to conjure up a clear picture of her in his mind. All he could recall was shining blue eyes and corn silk hair, a little girl so fair who loved to play with her doll.

"As the thunder rolled across the sky, Alexander remembered his little girl's words: Shh, Daddy. It's time for baby doll to sleep. He rubbed his long bony fingers across his chin and sighed deeply. Again her tiny voice: It's raining hard, Daddy. Baby doll can't go outside.

"The house door slammed as Denny came running out onto the porch. He had a frown on his face. Alexander welcomed the distraction from his bittersweet memories.

Alexander asked, 'What's wrong, Denny?'"

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“Linda Pendleton’s Corn Silk Days; Iowa 1862 gives her readers a unique look at the Civil War through the eyes of her great-great-grandfather, Silas Shearer. Included are letters to his wife, Linda’s great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Shearer. For the Civil War history buff, and even a novice to this history, Pendleton’s work provides a fine opportunity to glean rare details and personal thoughts regarding this horrific war directly from a man who was there.” ~Susan Klopfer, Civil Rights and Diversity Author, Speaker and Consultant