Monday, June 10, 2013


Today I'm welcoming Kathleen Maher to my blog to share with us the historical background of her Civil War-era novella, Bachelor Buttons. Bachelor Buttons released on May 1 as part of a Civil War sesquicentennial collection by Helping Hands Press. Kathleen won the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest, and has finaled in several others since 2009. Represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, Kathleen blogs about New York State history.

She and her husband live in a 100-year-old farmhouse in upstate NY with their three children, two Newfoundland dogs and a tuxedo cat.

I asked Kathleen what inspired her to write Bachelor Buttons, and she wowed me with this fascinating background information.

"My novella Bachelor Buttons features the Irish in Manhattan at the time of the Civil War Draft Riots. Provoked by Lincoln's Enrollment Act, the immigrants took to the streets in violent protest. They felt singled out by an executive order that exempted the rich from compulsory service because they could purchase a stand-in to fight for them. The draft also exempted freed blacks because they weren’t yet citizens.
In response, the Irish set fire to the Provost Marshal's office where the draft was being conducted on July 13, and attacked homes and businesses throughout Manhattan in the next three days, including pro-Lincoln papers the Times, the Herald, and Horace Greeley's Tribune.
But why would the Irish feel so desperate that they would resort to violence? There is no excuse for hate crimes such as were committed during this riot, mostly against freedmen. There were a dozen lynchings and a black orphanage was razed. Nothing can justify the thug tactics of an inebriated mob. These are blights on history, and to the character of a struggling group of immigrant class Irish in particular. And while much atonement would be needed, it is also clear that not all Irish engaged in this villainous behavior.
 Some emerged as heroes, such as firefighters and policemen who were also mostly Irish, who struggled desperately to restore order. In at least one instance, a neighborhood rallied in defense of one of its black citizens to keep the mob from destruction and murder.
And yet, caught in the middle between savagery and heroism were a majority of disenfranchised Irish whose political leanings left them outraged at executive overreach and the trampling of the constitution. Copperheads loyal to the Union but opposed to the Lincoln administration, they cited the suspension of the Writ of Habeus Corpus as evidence that rights were eroding in their new country.
 Based on suspicion alone, a man could be held as a traitor or spy indefinitely, with no evidence to convict him. These wartime attacks on personal liberty left many in a state of panic and mistrust, desperate for an expression to voice their disagreement. In fact, Manhattan had a groundswell of support at the onset of the war for secession from the Union to preserve free trade with the South and its business interests. Jobs were at stake. Livelihoods already precarious were put in peril.
The makings of civil unrest had been laid. When the wick of Lincoln’s Enrollment Act had been lit, a powder keg of protest ensued in the draft riots of 1863."

Kathleen has graciously offered to host a drawing for a free ebook copy of her novella. Please leave a comment with your email address included for a chance to win this gripping story. The drawing will close at midnight on June 17th--one week from today.

Here's a photo of Bachelor Buttons' gorgeous cover, just to whet your appetite!


  1. I so enjoyed Bachelor Buttons. Love the setting and time period (I've been a sucker for Civil War stories since my teen years) and I loved what Kathleen did with a story from her own family, and a part of NYC history I knew little of.

    Thanks for the interview, ladies!

  2. Hey Ann and Kathy. Great history lesson. I hadn't heard much about the riots until I read Kathy's book, which I might add is a MUST READ. I really found it quite interesting and the way Kathy tied it into the stoy was so natural. Thanks for giving us a little more information on the riots, Kathy.

  3. I finally remembered to go buy it!

    The BBC America show Copper starts just after the draft riots. The lead is an Irish cop, Kevin Corcoran, who's just returned from fighting and goes back on the beat. Season one ended at Thanksgiving, 1864, and season two starts airing on the 23rd. I can't wait! So many layers and twists and a Confederate spy plot to finish playing out.

  4. Thanks for the great comments! I love fiction based on family history, and Kathleen's "backstory" really fascinated me.

  5. Rachel, I have got to watch this series. Sounds amazing. I'm also looking forward to the movie Copperhead coming out next month in theaters. Thanks for coming by!

  6. Ann, thank you so much for having me on your blog this week. What a blessing to share with your readers. Looking forward to interacting with them.

  7. Debra, and Debbie Lynne, thanks so much for coming by and your kind remarks about my story. God aligned all the elements for me on this story and it practically wrote itself. :)

  8. I love the name of the book "Bachelor Buttons" of my favorite flowers. I love Civil War history...I'm fortunate to live near Gettysburg, PA. I would love to win...thanks for the opportunity...Linda

  9. I love Kathleen's writing, and this sounds wonderful. I, too, enjoy reading about this period in history. My understanding is that there was a movement afoot for NYC to secede from the Union--just the city. What a tumultuous time!

    Write on!
    Because of Christ

  10. Don't enter me the drawing since I already own (and love) Bachelor Buttons--just wanted to say hello, and congrats again, Kathleen!

  11. Linda, thank you for coming by! How wonderful to live so close to one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. You probably are pretty excited about the sesquicentennial this July. I can only imagine what the fireworks show wiull be like on the 4th. :) And hopefully the bachelor buttons will be in full bloom.

  12. Sharon, thank you so much for coming by. I miss reading your work in our old Scribes group. You are absolutely right--NYC had designs to secede. A lot of Copperhead sentiment in the city at the time. Truth is stranger than fiction! Good luck on the contest.

  13. I love reading about authors I am getting to know, so enjoy this blog. Loved this novella so much.
    Linda Finn

  14. Ann, thank you so much for having me on your blog this week. I appreciate your graciousness as a hostess. I am so blessed by those who came by and left comments. And the winner of the novella is LINDA MCFARLAND! I will be contacting you shortly via email.