Susan Fletcher
Dadblamed, Union Army Cow
Dadblamed, Union Army Cow
ISBN: 978-0763622633
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Dadblamed, Union Army Cow
About the Book
"She just won’t git!" A Union army soldier can’t shake his dadblamed cow in this uplifting tale based on a true story.
"That dadblamed cow!" She follows her owner into the Union army and then straight on south to fight in the war. She needs unstomped grass to eat, she gets stuck in the mud, and she’s just plain dangerous in battle. But this peculiar cow also gives the weary soldiers some surprising comforts. Based on stories and newspaper reports from the Civil War and full of lively illustrations, this is a heartwarming tale of one wonderfully dadblamed persistent cow.
A Note from the Author
Original cow
 

The actual cow that inspired
the book


(Click on the photo to enlarge.)

One day, at a school visit in Camas, Washington, I heard a great story. Linda Thompson, the school librarian, told me about a cow that marched (clopped?) in the Civil War with the Fifty-Ninth Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, giving milk to the soldiers. The cow was in the Vicksburg and Atlanta campaigns; she traveled through the Carolinas and Virginia to Washington City, where she passed in review with the army. She is said to have traveled many hundreds of miles and witnessed a hundred engagements and skirmishes.

How did Linda know about this cow? Turns out, one of her ancestors, Jesse Lee, was captain of the cow’s regiment. And at the end of the war, the cow went to live on a farm owned by Jesse’s brother, George.

Jesse Lee

(Click on the photo to enlarge.)
 
Linda showed me photographs, newspaper articles, and a broadside, to back up the tale. She also shared letters from Jesse’s daughter, in which I learned that the cow may have saved the soldiers’ lives. Often the supply train couldn’t keep up with them, and they were forced to live on not-quite-enough hard tack and wormy bacon. At the end of the war, Jesse, who was six foot two inches tall, weighed only 110 pounds.

Wow. That sounded like a picture book to me! Only problem was, I’m a novelist. I’d never had any luck with picture books.

“Are you sure you don’t want to give this story to someone else?” I asked Linda.

She thought about it, then said, “No. I want you to have it.”

Thank you, Linda!

I didn’t know exactly how to start, so I put all that information in the back of my mind to cook. Then one day, while I was driving my car, I heard this voice in my head telling the story. It didn’t sound like my voice at all. I pulled over to the side of the road and took it down.

I have to say, writing this story was a blast. You’d think that a Civil War story should be grim, but this one just tickled me, somehow. Even in terrible times, there can be little bits of light. And that dadblamed old cow was surely one.

How close is the plot line of Dadblamed, Union Army Cow to what really happened? Well, let’s just say that I’m a fiction writer. Can’t help myself. Though it’s basically true, I did change some stuff. But I put the real story in a note at the end of the book.

I’m so lucky that Candlewick chose Kimberly Bulcken Root to illustrate the book. As practice, she painted a high school-age neighbor’s prize steer, and he displayed the painting along with the cow at the agriculture fair. The cow took first place! Then, Kim practiced on another neighbor’s cow, one she saw “skipping” up a hill. This cow, Kim says, seemed to have the personality to follow her master off to battle.

Two of Kim’s great-great grandfathers fought in the Civil War; she drew them as she had imagined them when she was a child. And her visits to Gettysburg gave her a special appreciation of the war: the sense of honor and duty on the one hand; the sense of horror and deep sadness on the other.

Thank you, Kim!

(Click here to see more photos.)
Copyright 2011 - , Susan Fletcher. All rights reserved.