Monday, December 23, 2013

The Andersonville Survivors Trek to Vicksburg To Be Paroled



I am writing the later chapters of Hiram's Hope and have needed an historical account detailing the experiences of Andersonville survivors leaving the prison in late March 1865 on their way to Vicksburg for parole and freedom. I found some first hand accounts (such as the very good account by Chester Berry and a diary by Smith) and a useful book entitled TRANSPORT TO DISASTER by James W. Elliott (published in 1962). Written by a descendent of an Andersonville survivor, the book provides a very readable account of the ordeals of prisoners from Cahaba and Andersonville as they make their way by rail and steamboat across Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, eventually winding up in Vicksburg only to board the ill-fated Sultana that exploded north of Memphis killing most of those aboard.  These are challenging chapters to write as I try to imagine the sights, sounds, thoughts, and conversations that occurred. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

12 Years A Slave Movie and Book

Illustration from 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (published 1853)

I went to see the movie "12 Years A Slave" in hopes of learning more about slavery from the perspective of a slave.  I may incorporate a former slave as a charaacter in the sequel to Hiram's Honor.  I was so taken by the story that I looked up the original book published in 1853. I read the first person account with images from the movie in my mind. For the most part the movie follows the book. The written account has much more detail and is thus more valuable to understanding the author and thus building a character for my story.  I was amazed at how Solomon Northup, an educated free black man kidnapped into slavery, was able to experience the trials of being a slave and yet retain hope for returning to freedom.  The injustice of the story overwhelms you but in the end you rejoice with Northup as he rejoins his family after 12 years in the most brutal of circumstances. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reunion and reconciliation

In my search for ideas on how Private Hiraqm Terman might have dealt with his Civil War battle and prisoner of war experiences, I read Caroline Janney's new book REMEMBERING THE CIVIL WAR.  I found the book to be well researched and written in a way that held my attention.  The theme of the book centers on the difference between reunion and reconciliation and explores the perspectives of Union and Confederaate men and women. As I write the sequel to Hiram's Honor, I hope that the things I learned in this fine book will show up in the story.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Did Hiram Cope?

I came across a book entitled MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Holocaust survivor and psychologist Victor Frankl. In this fascinating book (it has sold over 10 million copies) Frankl describes how he was able to survive the test of the German concentration camps by looking on his suffering as an opportunity to find his identity and give meaning to his life. I read his emotional but reasonable descriptions hoping to find some ideas on how to write about how my ancestor might have coped with being an Andersonville survivor.  We will see what comes out when I write about Private Terman after Andersonville.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

HIRAM'S HOPE--the sequel to Hiram's Honor

The Sultana, an overcrowded boat carrying already wretched and suffering Union prisoners of war from Andersonville and other prisons, unbelievably explodes and either burns them alive or casts them into the cold Mississippi River to die of exposure to the cold waters.  One 82nd Ohio soldier is recorded as being on the Sultana and it is this prisoner that I have identified as Isaiah, Hiram's friend left at Andersonville as Hiram and his ambulatory friends leave for Savannah and later Millen where they were eventually exchanged.  According to my story (which is fiction based on actual accounts of Sultana survivors) Isaiah is blown from the boat into the dark waters of the Mississippi.  Following is the opening "hook" to Hiram's Hope:

             A flash of light, his body spinning in the darkness, a glimpse of the rainy night sky followed by the stinging slap of the water’s surface and the numbing grip of coldness. 
            Oh, Lord, I am in the water, sinking! I can’t breathe—must get to the surface!  Isaiah stretched his neck, his stunned arms and legs slow to move in the icy cold waters of the Mississippi River.  His lungs screamed for air, demanding his legs to kick.  A thumping, crackling sound permeated the swirling cold darkness as Isaiah moved to the surface.  He coughed as if he were expelling his insides; water ejected out from his nose and ears.  He gasped the cold night air as if it were life itself. He sank again, rising, spitting, and wiping the muddy water from his eyes.
            Off in the distance the Sultana, the over-crowded paddle wheeled steamer loaded with Union prisoners from Andersonville and Cahaba and other Southern Civil War prisons, blazed like a fireball in the darkness.  The waves of the cold Mississippi River, swollen by torrential rains and a massive snowmelt upstream, stretched endlessly into the distance, its brushy, tree-lined shorelines covered by the highest water levels in a decade. 
            Consciousness flowed fully back into Isaiah’s mind.  He looked around and realized that he had been blown off the boat by an explosion.
The officer’s coffin on which he had been forced to sleep on the crowded deck was bobbing off to his right, its hinged lid opened by the impact with the water.  The corpse’s head and arms draped over the side and the dead man’s embalmed face stared at him as if asking-- “Did we make it alright?” 
            As Isaiah watched, the coffin sank below the surface, dragging the officer, recently killed in a guerilla attack outside Vicksburg, to his final, if unplanned, watery grave.  Air bubbles escaping from the coffin burst to the surface. They were his final benediction.
            Isaiah wiped his throbbing eyes, trying to push the blurriness aside to focus on the disaster about two hundred feet away.  The fire grew in size, its blazing light revealed people jumping off the sides, others screamed as the fire demanded they jump or burn.  In the water around the dying boat, heads bobbed like hundreds of apples in a huge tub.  Above the hissing and crackling of the flames, Isaiah could hear screams—cries from men, women, and yes, children.  Oh God, what other glimpses of hell are you going to give me?  First the war, then prison, and now this? No more, Lord, no more….
            Isaiah closed his eyes and began to sink. Calmness came over him as he said a final prayer. Images of home came into view. His angelic mother surrounded by a halo of light, went to the door, and opened it. Hiram Terman stood there, his skeletal thin frame holding the Bible Isaiah gave him before Hiram and his friends left the dying Isaiah at Andersonville.  As Hiram handed the Bible to his mother, she turned, looked to her right. There stood Janie. Immediately the warm light departed and was replaced by the cold water of the Mississippi. His arm thrust to the surface.  His hand felt the rough bark of a floating log.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coldwater, Michign Daily Reporter article on Hiram's Honor

Author Max Terman with newly published book.
Many of my wife's relatives live in or near Coldwater, Michigan so it was a pleasure to have an article on Hiram's Honor appear in the newspaper there.  Coldwater was an important supplier of Union soldiers for Michigan during the American Civil War and interest in the war runs deep there.  Even though my ancestor was from Ohio, telling his story helps showcase the experiences of all Civil War soldiers, including those from Michigan. Many thanks to the Daily Reporter. To read the article see

Monday, May 6, 2013

April 1865 by Jay Winik

As part of my research for the sequel to Hiram's Honor, I read Jay Winicks April 1865. This book focuses on the month, that among other happenings, saw the fall of Richmond, the surrender of Robert E. Lee to U. S. Grant at Appomattox, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the surrender of Joseph Johnson's army to General William Sherman. Since I wanted to get a feel for the deeper and personal meanings of the war at its end, this book proved very helpful. Winik put the war and the people into context using an engaging but factually rich style. The main point was that this conflict, unlike many others, ended without a prolonged and agonizing guerilla war, primarily due to the conciliatory policies of Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman and the insights and courage of Lee and other Confederate generals.  My only disappointment was that the explosion of the Sultana (that happened on April 27, 1865) was not mentioned. Ironically, the tragedy of the Sultana was also given limited coverage to the war weary public at the time as well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pages Books and Coffee Newton Ks book event

 I am pleased to report that Pages Books and Coffee in Newton, Kansas is now selling Hiram's Honor. On May 2, 2013 at a book event there, I discussed the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and other topics associated with Hiram's Honor. Many questions dealt with how fragile the United States was as a nation before and after the Civil War and how the wise and gracious actions of Abraham Lincoln, U. S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee saved the Union.

Also, it was pointed out how my ancestor Private Hiram Terman of the 82nd Ohio had a close, personal and inside look at the major events of the Civil War--that he did and I hope that I conveyed this in telling his story.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kauffman Museum Newton, Kansas now selling Hiram's Honor

I am pleased to announce that the Kauffman Museum in Newton, Kansas now has Hiram's Honor for sale in their gift shop. We went to this fine museum to view the exhibit Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War.  This was timely since I am researching the personality of Abraham Lincoln for a chapter dealing with the Lincoln Funeral Train in my sequel to Hiram's Honor.  It is about the experiences of Hiram and his friends after their release from Andersonville and in the post-Civil War years and is based on Hiram's Civil War pension files.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Met Abraham Lincoln in Florida

While in Florida I met Abraham Lincoln impersonator Chet Damron.  We talked about Lincoln's personality and the effect he had on soldiers.  My ancestor Private Hiram Terman saw President Lincoln in person on April 9, 1863 at a review of the army near Stafford Virginia just before the battle of Chancellorsville.  Many soldiers expressed how the review and seeing Abe Lincoln gave them new hope and confidence.  I put this in Hiram's Honor.  I felt a little of what my ancestor might have experienced as I talked to "old Abe" in person so to speak. For free chapters to explore in Hiram's Honor, see     Gettysburg   Andersonville Prison   Belle Island Prison

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Feeling for the Old South

A visit to Eden Gardens State Park near Panama City Florida brought feelings of the Old South to me as I walked the plantation-like grounds and took in the columned porches of the large house.  I was in the area for a book event at near Seaside Florida at Sundog Books.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Traveling Back in Time--New Book Review


I appreciate a new book review of Hiram's Honor by The Civil War Notebook blog.  It opens with "It is the dream of most genealogists to travel backwards in time and interview their ancestors.  I suspect Civil War reenactors share a like dream of traveling through time to experience the life of a Civil War soldier as it really happened.  In his novel, “Hiram’s Honor,” Dr. Terman, a retired zoology professor, relives the horrors of the Civil War through the eyes of his great uncle, Hiram Terman, a private in Company F of the 82nd Ohio Infantry."The complete review can be seen at