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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace

The characters and events featured in the four-part series Wiregrass Chronicles take place primarily in Southeast Alabama. The first book, Wiregrass Chronicles – Long Rows to Hoe, ranges from the Seminole Wars of the 1830s through the Great Depression one hundred years later. The second book, Wiregrass Chronicles – Bluebirds, Sharpshooters, and the Lure of Faraway places, begins in the post-Depression era and extends to the buildup to World War II. The final two books in the series, set in World War II and the post-war era, scheduled for publication next year, also have numerous Wiregrass scenes.

The Wiregrass refers to a geologic region where Aristida stricta, a stiff-textured grass, flourishes. While the Wiregrass series is set in Southeast Alabama, the Wiregrass, or Wiregrass country, is part of three states. It stretches from Macon, Georgia, west to Montgomery, Alabama; south to the Florida Panhandle; east to the Okefenokee Swamp; and back north to Macon.

While it has not garnered the attention of other parts of the country, the Wiregrass has been the setting for at least two classic books, published decades ago, which remain popular.

In 1934, a pre-Civil War novel set in the Georgia Wiregrass was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The author, Caroline Miller, was a 30-year-old Georgia native who spun the novel out of her family’s history in the rural South. Lamb in His Bosom details the life of a poor white woman growing up in the mid-1800s. The author memorably describes the daily struggles she and her family faced and incorporates the vernacular dialect and charm of her characters without glossing over their cultural bias. Lamb in His Bosom is as engrossing a read today as when it was fresh off the press.

Another Wiregrass classic is Jubilee, published in 1966. It is set in Georgia and the Alabama Wiregrass before, during, and after the Civil War. Margaret Walker was the author of this semi-fictional novel about the life of her mixed-race great-grandmother, Margaret Duggans Ware Brown. Calling her Vyry Brown, the author creates powerful, touching scenes depicting Vyry’s life from early childhood to adulthood. Vyry is a strong, compassionate woman, skilled as an herborist, a cook, a seamstress and a midwife. These skills helped her to survive the many hardships she faced, even after being freed from slavery.

Lamb in His Bosom and Jubilee are rewarding reading for anyone who not only appreciates southern fiction, but also enjoys exploring a seldom highlighted region of the country.

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I am directly descended from five Confederate soldiers (this included a father and son who went to war). Therefore, it came as a surprise bordering on shock when, back in 2000, I was browsing the internet for information about my Barbour County relatives and came across a title, “Born in Barbour County, Served with the Union.” When I clicked on the article, I saw those men listed alphabetically, and the very first one was Bass, Willis T. -- a great-great uncle of mine. But no one had ever told me that Uncle Willis served with the Union. That is not surprising. Anyone familiar with the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud on the West Virginia-Kentucky border probably knows that some surmise the feud started (and raged for many years) because a Hatfield murdered a McCoy -- only because that McCoy had served with the Union Army. So it’s understandable that a Union Army relation in southern Alabama would not have been fondly remembered.

Fascinated, I emailed the author of the site. Was my uncle an abolitionist (I hoped), fighting against slavery? What a relief that would be. The site author responded that, no, probably not -- these men were either quite old or very young (Uncle Willis had just turned 19 toward the end of the war) and joined the Union Army for $300 in cash, a new uniform, a horse, and little likelihood of being killed, as they were not sent into the thick of things in the upper South, but to Ft. Barrancas near Pensacola. And, he added, many were murdered on their return to Barbour County at war’s end “for their treachery.” I checked genealogical records and found that Willis was not among the murdered. He died in 1904 and was buried in a Union cemetery in Butler, Alabama, indicating that his allegiance to the Union was lifelong.

Willis’s story really engaged me. And that is how my Wiregrass Chronicles character Noble Coltayne was born. But while Noble both betrays the Confederate cause and deserts the Union Army, Willis T. Bass was honorably discharged from the Union in November 1865 after a “cooling-off” period deemed wise by the Union officials. Unfortunately for some, the cooling-off period was not long enough.

WIREGRASS CHRONICLES ~Your Road Map to the Wiregrass

Glenda Stroud-Peace, author of the Wiregrass Chronicles four-book series, is a former English teacher and a descendant of Alabama Wiregrass pioneers. In the first book in the series, Long Rows to Hoe, she highlights the role of Alabama’s Union soldiers.

Be sure to read Wiregrass Chronicles - Long Rows to Hoe to learn more about this often overlooked part of history and become acquainted with the diverse characters who inhabited the Alabama Wiregrass from the Creek Wars through World War I. Buy your copy today by clicking on the Buy Books button above!

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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Established by the federal government to assist freed slaves after the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau recruited an army of teachers and sent them into hostile territory. While I could find no historical record of a Freedmen’s Bureau teacher in the Wiregrass, the fact that 3,000 schools were set up throughout the South during Reconstruction – many, although not all, by the Bureau – led me to posit the existence of such a school in Southeast Alabama.

My Freedmen’s Bureau teacher, Miss Julia Tenpenny, who was born and bred in the fictional village of Little Turnbridge, Massachusetts, is dear to my heart for several reasons. First, she bears the last name of my seventh grade English teacher, a surname I have always considered musical and fanciful. (I do not recall that teacher’s first name and in that era would not have dared utter it if I did, for the custom of last-names-only for one’s elders lingered much longer in the South than elsewhere.) Second, like the original Miss Tenpenny, Julia is an excellent English teacher who encourages every youngster to express him- or herself in the best English, using impeccable grammar, punctuation, and spelling, while setting it all forth in beautiful penmanship.

But more than that, Julia is a compassionate, brave woman whose concern for others – whether a former slave learning to read, a farm boy itching to become a scholar, or a defeated Confederate soldier struggling to heal from psychological war wounds – overrides her northern family’s fears for her safety in the conquered South. Dowdy she may be, but Julia has a beautiful, determined soul. She will not be dissuaded from her urge to teach, to liberate through education, despite the Victorian restraints imposed in her time.

WIREGRASS CHRONICLES ~ Your Road Map to the Wiregrass

Glenda Stroud-Peace, a Floridian by birth, is a retired English teacher and a descendant of Alabama Wiregrass pioneers who continues to learn about and share her knowledge of this region through her blogs.


Wiregrass Chronicles - Long Rows to Hoe, is the first book in her four-book series primarily set in the Wiregrass. Be sure to read Long Rows to Hoe to learn more about a determined Yankee schoolteacher during Reconstruction following the Civil War. Rich in historical content, the book also focuses on the lives of indigenous people and Wiregrass settlers and their descendants from the Creek Wars through World War I. Buy your copy today by clicking on the Buy Books button above!

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