Books I’ve Known and Loved (2)

She looks happy, right?

She looks happy, right?

Just because you’re nice doesn’t mean you’re going to be popular. This is what General Ben Grierson must have said to console himself. A hero of the Civil War, Grierson commanded the Buffalo Soldiers out West against Victorio and his Apache warriors after the war, but do you think that would have gotten him some respect and a few honors? No.

His wife Alice was pretty pissed about it and said so in letters. She said a lot in letters that might make a Victorian pretend to blush. At one point she left poor Ben to spend time in Chicago admitting after he begged her to come back to him that she knew they would have sex again (which she greatly enjoyed), and didn’t want to have any more children (I think they had 7 at that point). She felt contraception was a sin against God, loved her husband, but was afraid with her depressive tendencies that she’d end like her mother did–a used up mental case.

General Ben was such a decent guy and openly affectionate, devoted and supportive when Alice spoke about women’s rights and the stuff she’d read in The Revolution (I must admit, though I’d hate to be judged by my private letters and emails, that I found Alice’s constant complaining a bit annoying–I don’t think Ben deserved that. He just wanted her by his side. Sigh).

Ben was no  slouch in the warrior department, but . . . and this is my opinion–one shared by General Sherman at the time–he was a bit too lenient with the Indians who used his kindness to screw him over (we don’t like to admit that being a doormat you get walked on but it’s true). He had kind words for his black soldiers though most people thought black recruits were less capable of the mental tasks of military life at the time, but again he may have in his easy-going way not pushed them quite hard enough–so says one of my characters in The House on Tenafly Road.

Anyway there’s much to think about–sex, war, mental health, relationships, Indians, military politics in these two companion volumes. You get the historian’s version and then the wife’s version and that’s fun.

Real life people--flaws and all.

Real life people–flaws and all.

7 thoughts on “Books I’ve Known and Loved (2)

    • Okay, you made me think. Yeah, I am kind of hard on her, but she complains SO much and I ended up feeling bad for her husband who was pretty great. I just feel like maybe once he should have said, “You married a military guy, what were you expecting? So you don’t like having to entertain. Okay, well, I have to get back to putting my life on the line . . .” haha.

      By the way, I’m a big complainer and my husband is ex-military so . . .I don’t always practice what I preach!

      Thanks for the comment, Audrey. It made me laugh.

    • That’s what intrigues me. I’m contrarian by nature and always suspected all this talk about the prim Victorians was overstated–especially in America. I have a vague memory of a statistic that showed out-of-wedlock pregnancies were high enough back then though I don’t remember exactly.

      Of course relatives or maybe the people themselves wanted to control their images so burning letters etc was probably common but there’s definitely enough evidence of healthy sex lives and affairs, venereal diseases, etc. Even the paragon of NY society Mrs. Astor stood by her daughter when she got a divorce. All so fascinating.

  1. I have read “Buffalo Soldiers,” really read a lot of Civil War books. I also liked Revolutionary War books, during a different time in my life. I now read more for pleasure, although I write about some historic characters and stories, too. This was a great list of suggested reading!

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