Countdown to West Virginia Statehood
Most people believe that the reason western
Virginia split off from eastern Virginia in 1863 was due to the pro-Union
people disagreeing with Virginia's secession in 1861. But the fissure
between the two sections actually went back to the first state
constitution in 1776.
That document called for land ownership as a requirement for voting
rights. Many western Virginians were not eligible to vote all the way up
to the year 1850. The imbalance caused for much greater representation
from the eastern section of the commonwealth of Virginia, and an
overwhelming sense from "the mountaineers" that they were being
The Return of Catesby
The Return of Catesby is a sequel to “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War” published in 2008. In this account, Catesby, a former slave, becomes the first colored teacher at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, WV. Storer was one of the first schools in the country to be established for the purpose of educating former slaves.
Catesby, a real historical character, brings his experience as a blacksmith, a veteran of the Union Army, and his survival of the famed Andersonville Prison to his students. The historical fiction story is based on Catesby’s journals, papers and letters.
A House Divided Against Itself
It is often said about the American Civil War that “brothers fought
against brothers”. While they did fight on opposite sides, only in rare
instances did brothers actually face each other in battle.
“A House Divided Against Itself” follows two brothers, Wesley and
William Culp, who faced each other twice, at the battle of Falling Waters, and
at the battle of Second Winchester. And they met again in Gettysburg on the first
day of that battle.
This interesting tale is based on the regimental records of the two regiments
and 90 actual letters of actual instances in the war.
The Life of Abraham Lincoln as President
Imagine yourself in the early 21st century, finding an unpublished
book written by a friend of Abraham Lincoln. That is exactly what
happened to nationally recognized author, Bob O’Connor, a member of
the Berkeley County Historical Society.
O’Connor, who lives in Charles Town, West Virginia, found this rare
book in the Lamon papers at The Huntington Library in California in
As editor, O’Connor, transcribed the document and has added footnotes to
identify the characters and define the 19th century legal terms used by
Mr. Lamon, who was an attorney.
Ward Hill Lamon was born in Summit Point, VA (today WV) and grew up
in Mill Creek, VA (now Bunker Hill, WV). He moved to Illinois in 1846
and became an attorney on the 8th Judicial Circuit of Illinois.
No one had as much access to Abraham Lincoln during his presidency than
Ward Hill Lamon. Lamon spent many a night sleeping outside the Lincoln
bedroom on the floor to protect his friend from harm. But when the war
ended, Abraham Lincoln sent Lamon on assignment and went to the Ford’s
Theater against his bodyguard’s advice. The rest is history.
Lamon had known Mr. Lincoln since 1848. They were both attorneys on
the 8th circuit of Illinois and were law partners from 1852-1856.
Lamon was one of only three men Lincoln took to Washington with him
when he became President. The other two were his secretaries, John
Hay and John Nicolay.
Following Lincoln’s death, two books were published listing Ward Hill
Lamon as the author. The first, published in 1872, was called “The Life
of Abraham Lincoln: From his birth to his Inauguration as President.” An
original copy of that book resides in the collection of the Berkeley
County Historical Society. The second, originally published in 1895, was
called “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln.”
It is of interest to note that neither of those two publications was
actually written by Mr. Lamon. The first book was written by a ghost
writer, Chauncey Black, who was paid by Lamon to write a book based
on Lamon’s papers and papers Lamon purchased from William Herndon,
another of Lincoln’s law partners. The second book was put together
after Lamon’s death by his daughter Dollie from her father’s papers.
This book, in fact, is the only book ever written by Lincoln’s
Historians have tagged Lamon as a “braggart” yet those who read this book
will find that in every single instance that Lamon talks about himself (as
being the “friend who snuck Mr. Lincoln through Baltimore on his way to
the Inauguration because plots had been discovered against Lincoln’s life)
– Lamon never once identifies that he is talking about himself.
Lamon takes time in his book to talk about the time prior to the Civil War
when he says that in the hands of Congress “lay the means of life and the
means of death. They gave us one and withheld the other. They declined to
take the responsibility of allaying the tumult; but took the far greater
responsibility of allowing the nation to drift unconsciously and
unprepared into the most gigantic civil war that ever shook the earth…With
Congress rested the whole responsibility of peace or war and with them the
message was left…but Congress behaved like a body of men who thought that
the calamities of the nation were no special business of theirs….It is
certain that they did not think the Union in danger or else did not care
to preserve it…The nation was going to pieces and Congress left to its
fate. The vessel freighted with all the hopes and all the wealth of
30,000,000 people was drifting to her doom and they alone who had the
power to control her course refused to lay a finger on her helm.”
Ward Hill Lamon was with President Lincoln on a routine basis every single
He often entertained the President by singing to him and playing his
banjo. Those silly songs got Lamon in trouble along the way.
Mr. Lamon also traveled with President Lincoln to Sharpsburg in October
1862 and to Gettysburg in 1863. Lemon was asked by Judge Wills to
orchestrate the entire event. It was Lamon who was Marshal in Chief of
Dedication of the National at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. Lamon set
up the order of procession, invited guest from each of the Northern
states, borrowed the buggies and horses for the celebrities, was in charge
of security, and introduced Mr. Lincoln as he gave what we now know as
“The Gettysburg Address.” In fact, Lamon is the only identified person
besides President Lincoln in the one known photograph taken that day.
In this book, Mr. Lamon tells of Mr. Lincoln’s daily struggles in talking
to widows and women whose husbands were in civil war prisons. He
describes Lincoln’s views regarding his family, and especially his young
You might ask if there is anything new in this book? The answer is
yes. During the habeas corpus controversy between Roger B. Taney,
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and President Lincoln, there was a
question concerning Lincoln’s response. James F. Simon author of
“Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney” told O’Connor “I was aware of
reports that Lincoln authorized Taney’s arrest…but found no
documentation to back it up.”
In the book Lamon provides that missing documentation, saying that “After
due consideration, the administration determined upon the arrest of the
chief justice. A warrant or order was issued for his arrest. Then arose
the question of service. Who would make the arrest and where should be his
imprisonment? It was finally determined to place the order of arrest in
the hands of the United States Marshal of the District of Columbia. This
was done by the president with instruction by him to use the marshal’s own
discretion about making the arrest unless he should receive further orders
from Mr. Lincoln.” (It was Lamon who was the U.S. Marshal of the District
Lamon’s friend J. P. Usher and others urged Ward Hill Lamon to write
this book. Usher told Mr. Lamon that “there are now but a few left
who were intimately acquainted with Mr. Lincoln. I do not call to
mind anyone who was so much with him as yourself.” It is not certain
why the book was never published until now.
O’Connor has also written a historical fiction account of the life of
Ward Hill Lamon, the only account ever written. It is called “The
Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln” and was published in 2007 by
Infinity Publishing. The book is also available as an unabridged
audio book. It has been named finalist in both the Best Book Awards
and The Indie Excellence Awards.
Lamon died in 1893 and is buried in the Gerrardstown (WV)
Presbyterian Church cemetery near where he grew up.
For more information see O'Connor's Lincoln's Bodyguard site.
Ranson, A Centennial History
This 233 page, hard
bound book follows the history of a West Virginia town that was the first planned
community in the region. The town's streets and plats were laid out in
1891 by the Charles Town Mining, Manufacturing and Improvement Company.
The company's office building still operates today as the Town Hall, seat
of the town's government. Along the way, the town has attracted more than
its fair share of heavy industry. Some of those buildings are in adaptive
reuse 120 years later. This non-fiction story is of the town, its people, and its
unique tales. Although probably like a lot of other small towns in
America, Ranson's place in history is unique.
The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison
The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison", unlike my other three
books, is non-fiction. It is the account of the 103 black soldiers at the
prison and a biography of each. It is a follow-up from my last book,
"Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War" as Catesby was in that prison and
kept records of the black soldiers in there with him.
This book includes a photograph of the grave marker for each USCT soldier
who died in the prison except one, as he has an unmarked grave.
Of the 179,000 black Union soldiers, only 776 ever made it into a
Confederate prison. We are even unsure of the accurracy of that number,
because several may have been counted more than once as they were moved
from one prison to another.
Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War
[Look Inside] [Buy]
Learn about the experiences of a real slave who was captured by John Brown during the famous raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. The book follows Catesby’s life after the raid and his determined quest to become a free black man.
During his journey, Catesby encounters abuse, terrible conflicts, trusted friendships and love, as the war seems to follow him from place to place. A skilled blacksmith and an educated man, Catesby becomes the “inside source” to describe events you could not even imagine. You will find his story unforgettable, but also very believable.
(Also available as an award
winning audio book)
The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln
[Look Inside] [Buy]
President Lincoln’s trusted friend, former law partner and heavily armed bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon, is the subject of this new historical novel. Lamon snuck Lincoln into Washington prior to the Inauguration when detective Allan Pinkerton uncovered a plot to assassinate Lincoln when his train passed through Baltimore.
Lamon was in charge of the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. Many nights he slept on the floor outside the Lincoln bedroom in the White House to protect the president.
But he was not at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865 when the president was shot.
See the Lincoln Bodyguard blog by Bob O'Connor for a peek into what Lamon might have had to say about his life with Lincoln.
And for more information see Bob's Lincoln's Bodyguard site.
The Perfect Steel Trap Harpers Ferry 1859
|The Author, Bob O'Connor, speaks about
The Perfect Steel Trap Harpers Ferry 1859
at the 2006 Virginia Festival of the Book
in this 2 minute video.
[Look Inside] [Buy]
The Perfect Steel Trap Harpers Ferry 1859 is a historical novel surrounding the John Brown raid, trial and execution in Harpers Ferry and Charlestown, Virginia in 1859. The four hundred-page book is narrated by Owen Brown, one of John Brown's sons, who escaped from Harpers Ferry and lived until 1889. He and another raider, Osborne Anderson, supposedly gathered the information for this book from participants in the events to get for themselves answers regarding what happened.
All characters in this book are real and were really at the scene. They provide about two dozen eyewitness accounts provided through their unedited reports. Photographs and drawings accompany the text. You will meet famous persons who were on the scene, like Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, Governor Henry Wise, and Thomas Jackson (later to be known as “Stonewall”). And you will meet just ordinary citizens like Margarette Brown and Christine Fouke.
Along the way you will be taken on the harrowing escape of seven of the raiders, along the ridge of South Mountain to points north, as they were pursued by men and their dogs. The large bounty placed on their heads being the prize everyone was seeking. Two were eventually recaptured, but five escaped and were never found.
You will learn about the raid, the trial and the execution, from accounts of A. J. Phelps the conductor of the B & O Railroad, Judge Parker the trial judge, and David Hunter Strother, Harpers Weekly journalist and artist. And you will meet highly unlikely participants, like J. B. Wilkes, an actor: Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor; and Josiah Perham, railroad entrepreneur.
The Perfect Steel Trap Harpers Ferry 1859 is based on fact. Newspaper accounts, telegrams and court documents included in the book will tell you what really happened during these exciting times. Frederick Douglass, who told John Brown that Harpers Ferry was “the perfect steel trap”, provides the title of this book. Douglass told him, once Brown and his men got in, the trap would close and all would be lost.