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This post is an acknowledgment to Charles Pratt

          Over ten years ago I joined a writing group, at Ellsworth High School, that was lead by Charles (Chuck) Pratt.  One of the class assignments was to write a paragraph to bring to class.  Each offering was numbered and the numbers were put in a basket to be chosen randomly by a member of the group.  I was fortunate enough to choose Chuck's submission.

 

 It went something like this:

            "Cassie sat on a rock on the beach.  A gentle breeze swept her hair from her face as her mind returned again to the dream.  As a mist clouded her senses she heard them screaming.  There were many souls floundering in the waves grasping for any piece of wreckage being tossed in the raging waters like dry leaves in a gale, their clothing drew them down to certain death.  She could see men women, and children fighting for their lives.  She fought back the images."

 

          My class assignment was to finish the entry.  Once I began to write, I found that I could not stop.  The story that developed was my book, "Cassie's Dream".  I finished the book several years later and it sat on my computer for six more years until I finally was able to publish the story and to liberate the characters.

           It so happened that when I wrote the acknowledgments for the book, I could not remember Chuck's name.  Since then I have reconnected with him and very much want to let readers know that he was the inspiration for the novel.  

          You will have to read it to know how it blossomed from the original text.

 Thank you Charles Pratt.

Ghostly Shepherdstown or Why I wrote about the Civil War?

From Cassie's Dream

Chapter 23

The Letters

 

     When her chores were done, she found and lit a candle, climbed into the loft, and moved slowly to the attic door.  Being especially careful with the burning candle she unlatched the door.  She found the lantern just where she had left it, hanging on a nail.  Carefully removing the dusty chimney, she used the candle to light the wick. Putting the chimney back on to the lamp, she returned it to the nail and blew out the candle.

     Once again she found the trunk and lifted the lid.  The two boxes of letters, tied with black ribbons, were resting on top of the contents in the trunk.  With reverence, she lifted the letter boxes and placed them onto her lap as she sat cross-legged under the lantern.  She untied the ribbon and removed the letters from the first box and found they were from Samuel, addressed to Catherine.  With pangs of anxiety, she began reading the fragile parchments.

 

 October 1862

 Dear Catherine,

          I have survived to fight another day.  You cannot imagine what I have experienced and what I witnessed.  I relate these events because it is important for people to remember what happened here.  If I do not returrn from this conflict, I want Mary to know that I foungt admirably and she can be proud of her father and how he fought to save her country."

______________________________________

Now I will tell you why I had such a fascination with the Civil War.

 

     Back in 1965, less than two short years after joining the National Park Service, my husband, Tony Menzietti was assigned to be chief of maintence at the newly formed Job Corp Center in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.

     We had five small children, at the time, ranging in age from eight years to a few months.  We rented a house in Shepherdstown, WV.  As we drove into the area for the first time, driving along the Potomac River, I had a very strong feeling that something terrible had happened there. I was so overcome with anxiety that I insisted that Tony pull over and stop the car so that I could get out.  I could almost hear voices and crying and was overwhelmed with sorrow.

     Later on, I looked for the place on the map and discovered that there had been a battle there, early in the Civil War.

     From that time forward I became obsessed with studying about the conflict and, although, it was difficult to travel with small children, I took every opportunity to visit every single battle field within a days drive of our home.

     On every occasion, I could feel the pain and hear the cries.  I was immersed in the times.  We visited "Bloody Lane" at Antietam and Burnside Bridge.  We climbed Maryland Heights overlooking Harper's Ferry where there are two 9-inch naval guns and one 50-pounder gun and a stone wall, all that remains of a Union Fort.

     I was there with my children and I wept as we walked through a cemetery that was full of graves of whole families who had died of various deseases, sometimes as many as ten or twelve.  I hugged my kids and was thankful that we lived in a day with vaccinations and anti-biotics.  I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of grief I felt in that place.

    Shepherdstown itself was really spooky and that was before I knew that it was believed to be haunted.

     We only lived there for six months.  It was not a happy time.  I became very ill, perhaps because of the saddness I felt for what had happened there.

     After a short time, the family moved to Maine. The obsession vanished.  I only experienced a normal interest in the Civil War and that time. However,I will never forget how it felt to walk among the Ghosts of that era.

 

  

 

 

 

 

This was our house in Shepherdstown, WV

View from Maryland Heights, overlooking Harper's Ferry, WV

Bloody Lane at Antietam Battlefield

Antietam Battle Field

Not for themselves but for their countryAntietam Battlefield