Because Of The Horses is fiction. All the characters and situations experienced by the Marsh family and their acquaintances are imaginary.
The setting for the story is rural East Tennessee in the summer of 1863, an area well-known for the strong independent thinking and self-reliance of its citizens. In addition, some were active in the abolitionist movement and a few with the Underground Railroad. They fiercely supported the Union. Others were staunch supporters of the Confederacy and strongly agreed with the formation of a new country. This split in allegiance among the residents resulted in divided families and pitted neighbors against each other, inevitably introducing uneasy and often explosive situations into daily living.
Two small pieces of family history, handed down to me by my mother many years ago, have been nagging me to create this story. One was about a house which had once belonged to her first cousin’s family in the early 1900’s. It was a big two story house surrounded by farmland and woods, located off the old country road to Jonesborough, Tennessee. Unforgettable to me was that she said the house had once been part of the Underground Railroad and that as young girls, she and her cousin used to spend hours playing in the two tunnels which still existed. One led from the cellar into the woods and creek at the back of the house and the other to a small shallow cave. I can remember wishing that I could play in those tunnels, and although the terms “cool” and “Who knew?” weren’t trendy then, they certainly applied to my impression then and now.
Years went by and then unexpectedly the second little family tidbit, and certainly the most significant, was revealed the day she dug into her desk and pulled out a tattered little black book which she said was a diary kept by my great-great grandfather during the Civil War. The faintly penciled pages documented his activities and ledger entries, not as a soldier, but as a horse trader to both the Union and Confederate armies. Here, in his faded handwriting, was my relative describing his efforts to eke out a living to support his family by slipping back and forth between enemy camps. Sadly, the diary has disappeared, but my imagination has kept the intrigue of his dangerous dealings and the mystery of how he managed it alive and well.
Because Of The Horses is not meant to be historical by any means. It is a story, very loosely based on family lore, about a microcosm of society and events separate from, but being played out within, a much bigger social upheaval.