Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« September 2020 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics
Choices  «
Underground Railroad
DIGGING BENEATH THE ORDERS: Dee Ann Miller's blog for
June 16, 2015
How Much Do We Really Want to Learn from the Past?
Topic: Choices

Tis the season for having lots of fun. For me, that includes going to area festivals and historical sites, hoping to connect with crowds in regard to my latest writing venture. When it's festivals, I have hundreds of brief conversations with 1-3 people at a time.  My favorites, of course, are the older kids--old enough to put some things into perspective. And they do, sometimes better than their parents.

This past Sunday I was at Jesse James Farm and Museum in Kearney, MO, for an hour-long program. It had taken me days to prepare. I was hoping for 25-50, at least.  Instead I got a handful of travelers who just happened to be at the museum and were kind enough to stay and listen.  They knew even less about the Border Wars along the Missouri-Kansas border than local residents. It was fun and fulfilling. They learned a lot and were very receptive.

Disappointing, too, since the program was rather well publicized by the event coordinator.  Really disappointing since it was supposed to be for children with much of it about adult bullies (like James) in the 19th century who created terror with guns, oiled with religious extremist views. Even more disturbing, the facility has hosted several authors the last few Sundays:  all with the same sort of turn-out.

Raises the concern that few Americans seem to share:  How are we going to learn from the past in order to shape a better future if we don't see the need to do so?

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:49 AM CDT
Share This Post Share This Post
Post Comment | Permalink
January 11, 2015
Topic: Choices


If I’d known the story of Silas Soule when I was writing

“Just Following Orders,” I would have been sure to include

him among the remarkable true characters I included in

the historical fiction.  Since I didn’t until his story appeared

on the front page of the Lawrence Journal World (Lawrence, KS)

last month, all I can do now is tell you about the courage that

Silas showed, first as a teenager and later as a man in his


At 16, he came in 1854 with his family to Lawrence, Kansas,

where I now live.  As one of the courageous families who were

devoted to abolishing slavery, Silas soon found himself playing a

dangerous role, escorting runaway slaves and rescuing captured

abolitionists. Chances are when the massacre occurred here in

Lawrence, Silas was off fighting for the Union so that he escaped

being one of the victims.  Perhaps his heart was so touched by the

news of what happened at Lawrence, when 250 children were

left fatherless in the massacre, that he was extra sensitive to

another tragedy that occurred a year later, this time one that

he was “supposed” to be a part of.  I’m referring to the Sand

Creek Massacre, which you can read about in "Just Following

Orders."  This massacre, like Lawrence, was one of the bloodiest

in U. S. history.  The difference was that it wasn’t carried out by

Confederate sympathizers, but by Union soldiers, under the

command of a Methodist minister, no less!

At 26, Soule was a captain in the U. S. Cavalry when the order to

attack Sand Creek (in Colorado Territory, just across the Kansas

border) was issued.  Soule refused to  obey!  Yet his name isn’t

very well known in history, though it should be.  For what he did

was remarkable!  As a young man of courage and character, he

was willing to stand up against power greater than his own,

because he must have recognized full well that torturing and

killing people was something he could not be a part of, no

matter what the consequences.

On that awful day in late November of 1864, which we can only

pause to notice now and learn from, almost as many citizens of

Sand Creek were slaughtered as in Lawrence. The big difference: 

all of the Sand Creek victims were Native Americans and most

were women and children. 

Less than six months later, Soule was dead.  He was shot because

of his testimony during the hearings that followed when officials

in Washington, D. C. wisely opened an investigation. Despite the

military action being condemned, Chivington, that Methodist

minister,  was never prosecuted.  In fact, he was given a hero’s


Not sure what kind of burial Soule got.  Yet today his name and

honor have been preserved.  Thankfully, in December, 2014,

there was finally an apology issued to the victimized tribes along

with ceremonies to commemorate Soule’s act of courage.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 2:54 PM CST
Updated: January 11, 2015 3:22 PM CST
Share This Post Share This Post
Post Comment | Permalink
November 12, 2014
No Excuses
Topic: Choices

"It was PTSD."  That's what some folks in Missouri claim when anyone brings up guerrilla warfare during the Civil War.  As they see it, you can't blame people for their actions when they have experienced trauma. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Was that the problem that caused William Quantrill and his 400 followers to come through Lawrence, Kansas on August 21, 1863, leaving 250 children fatherless? Really? 

Even in 1863, when there were not therapeutic services as there are today, I believe that victims have choices.  PTSD definitely contributes to a much higher degree of stress than usual, and it can go on for many years, if not a lifetime.  I'm not minimizing the pain that some of the Confederate guerrillas on this raid may have had from violence and cruelty dished out by Jayhawkers and Union soldiers.

Yet the massacre in Lawrence, commonly referred to as Quantrill's Raid, was very carefully planned for weeks.  PTSD does not make pawns out of victims. Thinking that way insults the many sufferers of PTSD who manage to cope without harming others. There were lots of chances to make other choices in 1863, just as there are today.

Mature people, no matter what the age, are willing to do the difficult work of coping while resolving conflict while pursuing non-violent means. Violence, aggression, and fear of conflict are the factors that stop conversation. They are not means that lead to a lasting peace.

In 2014, those of us who are interested in the horrific tragedies of the Civil War, need to be talking about de-escalation as we process the past. Staying stuck in the eye-for-an-eye mentality so common in a gun culture runs as counter to "the American ideal" as slavery was.

If PTSD is justification for violence, then how can we possibly explain how the newly freed slaves were more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators?  What kept them from organizing, as slave masters feared they would, to perpetuate the hate?

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 3:51 PM CST
Updated: November 12, 2014 5:12 PM CST
Share This Post Share This Post
Post Comment | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older