Monday, May 25, 2009

William Wirt Calkins, My Great-Great Uncle, Author of the History of the 104th Illinois

Some fun news. I had not realized until this very week of my own book tour (for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire), that my great-great-uncle, William Wirt Calkins (1842-1914), had written a highly regarded book. Calkins was married to my great-great aunt Louise Hossack, and though they never had children of their own, they took in as their foster daughter my great-grandmother Martha Hossack (later Pope). When I was little, I heard many stories about the sweet Aunt Louise who raised my great-grandmother Martha (whose father had been killed while traveling on business in the Midwest). My great grandmother died when I was still in school, but I remember her gardening and painting in her cottage in Frankfort, Michigan. Anyway, I gather she was not too impressed with literary endeavors because I do not recall hearing anything at all about William Wirt Calkins. It turns out that his History of 104th Illinois Volunteer Infantry is a major work on the U.S. Civil War. I just began leafing through it--- it's very vivid and charming and apparently, quite the Bible for Civil war Reenactors. He was also an avid amateur botanist and author of Catalogue of Living Illinois Mollusca (1872). P.S. Here's a bit more about those Hossacks. More anon.