John A. Logan is best remembered as the foremost advocate for the establishment of Memorial Day. He began the war as one of Stephen A. Douglas' proteges. A Jacksonian Democrat and advocate of racist laws and policies. He ended the war as a staunch Lincoln-Republican; elected to the Senate three times and a candidate for Vice President in 1884. Frederick Douglass lauded him as the most trusted and powerful advocate for civil rights in the Federal Government.
Mary Ann Bickerdyke was the Clara Barton of the West. She was an early member of the US Sanitary Commission and a powerful advocate for clean hospitals, good food and the expert care of the sick and wounded. She worked beside John M. Brinton, who established the National Museum of Health and Medicine and John Irwin, who established the Army's first field-tent hospital at the Battel of Shiloh.
Fictionalized history is a doorway to insight and understanding. Through this story, readers meet people like themselves, but in different circumstances. Some of those people are still famous, some were famous and are all-but-forgotten, and most were like us: vigorous, passionate, creative and brave. But unsung. We can learn about ourselves from the lives of others.
Better Angels follows these remarkable people from their youth through the first years of the Civil War. John A. Logan came to New Mexico during the Mexican War and served in Santa Fe and Taos. He encountered the consequences of the Taos Revolt and the early transition of Santa Fe from a Mexican to an American city.
Mary Ann Bickerdyke lived amidst a transformation of American Education. At Oberlin College in the 1830s, she was also at Knox College in Galesville, IL, where she witnessed the Lincoln-Douglas debate and was friends with Harriet Beecher Stowe's family.
Better Angels also follows the 78th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry (VVI) Regiment from its formation in Eastern Ohio through its participation in the major actions of 1861-62. The 78th Ohio served alongside the 31st Illinois VVI: Logan's original regiment. These regiments participated in the entire Western Campaign. By the end of the war, Logan was the most senior politician-general in the Union Army and was chosen to lead the Army of the West in the Grand Review and Mary Ann Bickerdyke rode at his side.
Better Angels tells the stories of over 60 historical figures, from Logan's childhood friend Doff Ozburn to the 78th's first commander, Mortimer Leggett, to Generals Grant, McClernand, Wallace and others.
Mary Ann Bickerdyke was friends with abolitionists, suffragists and the leading military physicians of her time. Edward Beecher, Jonathan Blanchard, George Gale, Robert Ingersoll, Mary A.R. Livermore, Mary Allen West, John M. Brinton and Bernard JD Irwin are included in the places and roles they played as part of a broad fabric of transitioning Logan and the rest of the United States to a more liberal society.
The reader meets Mathan and Rachel: students from Heidelberg College in Ohio. Heidelberg was one of the first coeducational colleges in the United States and young lovers' journey takes the reader through the experiences of ordinary people amidst extraordinary change. Better Angels relates accurate history and is true to the letters, opinions and experiences of its characters. The reader will come away with insight into the events, people and places behind the history-book headings.
Better Angels is about John A Logan's transition. It's also about the transformation of our entire society. I hope the reader enjoys the story and comes away with an interest in learning more.