The Tale of Katie Malloy

When I write, I use the close third person point-of-view (POV) to tell the stories in The Shiloh Trilogy. I actually have three POV characters.  First, is Jamie Harper, an officer in the Union army and nominally the lead protagonist in all three books – he is the title character, after all: Harper’s Donelson, Harper’s Rescue, and Harper’s Shiloh. Next is Gustav Magnusson, a corporal in Harper’s regiment and the oldest child and only son of the Friend Leader in a Quaker Meeting at Salem, Iowa.  Lastly is Katherine Malloy, known as Katie, who first appears in the story as a saloon girl and high-priced prostitute.   This month, I want to talk a bit about Katie and how she came to have such a prominent role in these three books.

Katie appears in the first chapter after the prolog in Harper’s Donelson.  It seems that Lieutenant Harper arrives in Paducah Kentucky on the afternoon before his two-month convalescent leave expires and rather than report early to the First Iowa’s duty office he has decided to spend the night in the comfortable feather-bed of the most expensive “soiled-dove” in Paducah. Lafitte’s Hideout is an above-average saloon run by Franklin Bosley, his wife Loreena, and her friend Eleanor. The saloon gets its name from the Louisiana heritage of the two ladies.

When the story opens, we find Harper and Katie in her bed slightly before sunrise, with Harper checking to ensure that none of his valuables were stolen and thinking about his future with the First Iowa while Katie chatters in the way that teen-aged girls sometimes do.

When I first wrote this chapter, it was to meet a class homework assignment: Write an Interest-Grabbing First Chapter. At that time, I was taking creative writing courses at the Extension University of U.C. San Diego and this particular class numbered twenty students: fifteen women, five men, and a lady professor.

The expectation was that the students would offer critiques of each other’s work and given the composition of the class, I expected the worst when it came time to discuss the chapter.  In my turn, I stood and passed copies of the five pages to the instructor and the other students. While I read the work-in-progress, I avoided eye-contact with the people in the room by reading directly from the pages.  Eventually, I reached the end of the piece and sat down to a silent room.

The three Fates smiled on that day. When I looked at the other students, they were busy leafing through the pages and not staring at me as if I had just pooped in the punchbowl. The questions began and I waited with anticipation to collect feedback on their impressions of Jamie Harper.

“Was I really going to use this in a story?”

“Why did you choose to make Katie just fifteen?”

“How did Katie come to be working in the saloon at such a young age?”

“Was indentured prostitution a real thing?”

Etc., etc., etc.

A stream of questions about Katie’s back story and how did she play into the plot of Harper’s Donelson. Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear just how well I had revealed Jamie Harper’s background as former marshal, a loner, and a man without feelings for the people around him, an anti-hero. So I asked, “What did you think about the Harper character?”

The answers were pretty much: “Yeah, yeah. We get it: The Lone Stranger, Man-with-No-Name, Josey Wales, etc. Got that, but where does Katie go in your story?”

My answer: “Well, she’s a throw-away character. This is her last chapter.”

“Oh no you don’t!” This was the unanimous decision of the class and the professor. “She has to stay!” The women in the class were Katie’s greatest supporters.

So, she stayed and I had to figure out how to get my 67-year-old male engineers’ brain inside the head of a fifteen-year-old girl of the mid-nineteenth century and after that, decide where her character arc would take her across a novel which was already too large to be published. It is largely because of adding the story of Katie and the other inhabitants of Lafitte’s Hideout that the over-sized novel: Harper’s Shiloh became The Shiloh Trilogy.

If I continued to write in close third-person, what do I do with a fifteen-year-old prostitute in the middle of a story about soldiers and fighting and spitting and other guy stuff?  I knew that Katie should exist in the stories as realistically as possible. I also knew that if she survived into Book 3, I would need to find a logical reason why she should become part of Harper’s posse. I found a partial answer from an authors’ group on Facebook when I learned about a website called TV Tropes. It was while visiting TV Tropes that ideas for Katie’s character arc flew off of the page – too many to put into one book. The result of melding several of these tropes is a relatively complex character who adds an entire new dimension to The Shiloh Trilogy.

The trope which I enjoyed using the most was: The Plucky Girl, described thus:

“You might be able to pile life complications onto this young woman to the point where the readers would forgive her if she just refused to go on. She might even have a chapter or so where she does throw in the towel, because human beings can only take so much of what the universe is handing her. But The Plucky Girl always comes back. That’s the bravery part.
“The optimistic part is the rest of it. This character leans toward the sane version of The Pollyanna, blending the agency of the Action Girl with the sweetness and wise charm of the Spirited Young Lady, while exhibiting a strong sense of optimism and an unassailable spirit. You can beat her, but damned if she’ll let you break her.”

I had a lot of fun working within this trope in the first book. It allowed me to throw a series of outlandish mishaps at Katie to see how she would react and bounce back.  The description of The Plucky Girl includes a number of sub-tropes which also helped to frame her reactions.

Another trope which I found I needed to cultivate was the Moe (pronounced mo-eh) :

“The ability of a character to instill in the reader an irrational desire to adore them, hug them, protect them, comfort them, etc. To evoke a sort of Big Brother Instinct, in men and women.”

This was a magic combination. The only thing left to do was to observe modern teen-aged girls in their natural habitat and then speculate how they might respond to the challenges I planned for Katie if they were bound by elements of the two tropes I had chosen. This worked so well that soon, one of the more common comments from my reading group was a sad-faced: “Oh, Katie.”

In Harper’s Donelson, Katie’s fate is set by the circumstances of how she became a saloon-girl and how she responds to the trusted guidance of Eleanor and Loreena.

In Harper’s Rescue, she is forced to confront the degrading reality of life as a prostitute in an Army-town.

And how will the Fates treat her in Harper’s Shiloh? That story evolves still.

Here is an extract from Harper’s Rescue which illustrates Katie’s dilemma.

****

Alone in the darkness, despair began to tinge her thoughts and she fell into a full-on crying jag. She had been in The Box once before, right after she arrived in Paducah. Then, Loreena told her they must teach her what she would do to entertain the soldiers.

Tonight, she sat alone on the crude bed in the dark, dank cell awaiting her punishment. Eleanor wouldn’t learn what had happened until morning. However, even Eleanor might not be able to stop Loreena from keeping Katie locked here or allowing the workmen at her.

Katie shivered as much from the cold as from her fear. No sheets or blankets covered the bed – not even a mattress. She felt along the walls around the small space but couldn’t find any other objects on the dirt floor except the dry, empty honey bucket. Katie moved her hands along the walls to search for something she could use to keep warm. She found nothing there, only the ladder up to Mister Bosley’s office. The Army had taken everything.

Feeling had left her toes. They scuffed across the dirt floor. She paced the length of The Box several times to keep the blood moving before she sat on the bed to rub them hard and fast. After a minute or so, pain of the cold stabbed at them. Frustrated, Katie pulled her feet under her. She squeezed into the corner, propping herself into a tight ball while covering her feet with the pillow sack. Hoping she had found the daguerreotype of her mother, she pulled it from the sack along with the dagger next to it.

Katie gripped the picture and the knife to her chest. She wished her mother would come visit now, while she waited for her punishment to begin. She rummaged into the sack to find the bottle of opium extract. Her mother came to visit her when she last used the opium. She would come again if Katie used the opium now. Katie pulled the cork stopper to smell the concoction. No odor. She froze. Opium was more powerful than laudanum. If she took any, she might not be able to protect herself.

The noise from some creature scuttling across the floor startled her before she realized it was not a threat. Katie slumped into the corner of the cell. Her shoulders, back, and arms burned from the stings of the riding crop. She wore stinking clothes bought from a stable hand with everything she valued bundled into the sack made from a pillowcase. A single tear rolled along the side of her nose, onto her lips. They would be here in the morning, the way they had the last time she stayed in The Box.

This time, she had her dagger.

****

Sean Gabhann

Book 1 of the Shiloh Trilogy

Book 2 of the Shiloh Trilogy

The $15,000,000 Cotton Loan – a 7% Solution?

erlanger-cotton-bondThis month, I’d like to take another story from Statesmen of the Confederate Cause by Burton J. Hendrick to tell the tale of the $15,000,000 in Confederate bonds.

Having failed to gain English and French recognition in the first year of the American Civil War, the Confederate government found itself in possession of 450,000 bales of cotton which it had purchased and held in port in order to create cotton shortages in the mills of Lancashire and northern France, causing such economic turmoil that those nations would ally through necessity. Last month, we discussed why that did not come to pass.

Accordingly, as winter came to an end in 1862, the Jefferson government held possession of what should have been an extremely lucrative product if it could be moved to Europe. The increasing effectiveness of the Federal blockade did prevent its shipment overseas, particularly after April 1862 when Farragut captured New Orleans. Nevertheless, the cotton did present the potential for future wealth which proved too tempting for European speculators.

Erlanger,_Frederic_Emile

Baron Emile Erlanger

The banker who rose to the challenge was a certain Emile Erlanger, of Erlanger et Cie in Paris. Erlanger offered to raise $25,000,000 in gold in exchange for Confederate bonds guaranteed by the cotton bales then sitting in Confederate warehouses. The success of this arrangement depended of course on Confederate victory. In September 1862, this seemed the likely outcome following the Confederate victories of the previous summer and the predisposition of European elites towards an eventual dissolution of the United States, a country ruled as a democracy by rabble-rousing, venal politicians instead of a titled elite.

After negotiations in which Judah P. Benjamin, then Secretary of State, led the Confederate side, the resulting terms required the Confederate government to redeem the bonds at face value. The bonds could be purchased for gold at 77% of face value. They would carry 7% per annum interest until redeemed. Unlike the majority of loans to stable governments, the Erlanger loan demanded the Confederacy redeem these bonds at full value for Mississippi Valley cotton at the rate of twelve cents per pound not less than six months following the ratification of a treaty of peace between the United States and the Confederacy.

Such was the sense among European investors that, following the paucity of cotton for the duration of the American war, they would control the European cotton market and thus reap an eight-to-ten-fold bounty on their investment.

Erlanger had underwritten the entire loan at 77% of face value; however, when the bonds became available for sale on March 18, 1863, demands  for subscriptions reached $80,000,000 in the first week of sale, although only $15,000,000 had been put on sale. Erlanger offered the bonds to the public at 90%, yielding an immediate profit for Erlanger et Cie of $1,950,000, not including sales commissions. The value of shares peaked shortly afterwards at 95.5%. Subscribers were required to pay 15% of their pledge upon initial sale and installments thereafter.

The furor continued into early April 1863. However, values began a period of downward fluctuations by mid-April. The causes for this downward trend have not been fully documented. Certainly Federal successes in the Western theater, such as Union victories at Fort Donelson and Donelson, Nashville, Shiloh, and New Orleans had some effect, but that probably news of these victories was off-set by Lee’s victories in Virginia, the more widely-reported front.

A more plausible explanation is the efforts of the Federal ministers to France and England, Charles F. Adams and John Bigelow. Little documentation exists to identify specifically how the Federals worked to devalue the shares in the loan but what does exist implies that Wiulliam Seward, Federal Secretary of State issued instructions not only to paint Jefferson Davis as a “Repudiator” who had defended the default on Mississippi’s state debt while a senator from that state; but also, to purchase as many shares as possible in the loan and then resell those shares at the lowest possible prices. Their counter-schemes worked so successfully that concerns arose within Erlanger et Cie that the investors would abandon their subscriptions altogether, even forfeiting sums already paid.

These fluctuations continued through the Spring and into Summer. Faced with the possibility of huge losses, Erlanger et Cie went to work. In order to shore up the value of the shares, the company embarked on a massive buying campaign. However, as bankers are want to do, their plan did not involve using their own resources. By employing coercive tactics on the Confederate representatives, they used the sums already deposited by investors in the Confederate loan to buy-back shares of the same loan. Ultimately they used about $6,000,000 in the buy-back campaign.

The fluctuations continued until the European public realized the impact of the trio of defeats at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson in late July 1863. Thereafter, the value of shares plummeted.

Having squandered $6,000,000 of the Confederate government’s receipts, can you guess who were the greatest beneficiaries of the Confederate bond offering? Confederate Treasury obtained over $5,500,000 to purchase European arms, ammunition, medicines, and other military supplies and to outfit Confederate raiders. However, it was the bankers who saw the greatest returns. Not only did they collect $3,000,000 of the above amount from the Confederate government in the form of bankers’ commissions and other contract requirements, but the majority of the $6,000,000 used to buy-back shares went into the private accounts of the officers of Erlanger et Cie, since they were the first owners offered the opportunity to sell their shares back to the Confederate government!

We can see a number of interesting outcomes from the scandal of the Confederate Loan. First, the beneficiary of the loan, the Confederate government actually paid more in banking fees than they received from the bond issue. Second, the Confederate Minister to France, James Slidell developed a closer relationship to the Erlanger family. In October 1864, his daughter Mathilde married Frederick Emile Baron d’Erlanger, the very manager of Erlanger et Cie responsible for the Confederate bond issue.

Lastly, it is interesting to speculate about the post-war politics surrounding a Confederate victory won in part through bonds held by the Federal government. These held a commitment to deliver $15,000,000 (plus 7% interest) worth of New Orleans middling cotton, at twelve cents a pound, not less than six months following the ratification of the treaty of peace.

Sean Gabhann

Book 1 of the Shiloh Trilogy

Book 1 of the Shiloh Trilogy

Book 2 Harper's Rescue Front Cover

Book 2 of the Shiloh Trilogy, available March 23rd, 2017.