Friday, April 26, 2013

Graveyards are a Source of Great Plots

by Deborah Wilbrink

“Police Break Up Fight at Crematorium!” My husband chuckled at the headline he read in the Netherland e-news site. The brawl forced the normally sedate Dutch police to intervene amongst ten violently excited people. It reminded me of the many stories that had walked and talked their way into my office while Sexton of the Columbus, Georgia, City Cemeteries. Nothing that exciting, to be sure, but we had our days. In the aging office with its horse-ready portico, I learned new skills from a mortician. He kindly shared with me that grief can have an anger stage, and how to be a better listener when that happens.

Supervising hundreds of acres of historic graves led to the collection of many stories, of the living left behind and of the deceased. Now that I’m a ghostwriter and personal historian in Nashville, I’m naturally drawn to the stories of the Nashville City Cemetery. They have the best cemetery website I have ever seen!

I’m honored to have a featured piece in their Spring Newsletter. It’s about a victim of Gen. Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, C. S. A. – but this victim was one of his own officers. Research in the Tennessee State Library and Archives yielded abundant material about this man buried in the City Cemetery. There was even an eyewitness account from a boy who saw the event, and grew up to be a reporter! Frank H. Smith of Columbia, Tennessee, interviewed all the principals except the killer and the killed for his story.

Here’s an excerpt from my article, “A Violent Misunderstanding”

On June 14, 1863, Lt. Gould confronted Gen. Forrest about his transfer, saying, “It’s a lie!” Forrest understood it as an accusation that he was a liar. Gould then allegedly struggled to pull a pistol caught in his pants pocket, while the agile General flipped open his penknife with his teeth and aimed for the jugular, succeeding in his stab. Gould’s pistol fired and wounded Forrest! It appeared to be a fatal wound in the abdomen. The General lost all control, pursuing the Lt. though the streets, into the Provost Marshall’s office where he was getting medical help, and out into the field behind. There he verified that Gould was bleeding to death from the stab wound. Only then did Forrest seek medical help for himself, in the process denying it to the young man. He was in a rage, seeking vengeance for what he understood as his own eminent death. Could it all have been a violent misunderstanding?
The full article will be found at when the Spring issue is released. If you are looking for material to write about, it may be found no further than that nearest fenced, pleasant hill, site of many last long walks and memoriam. You may also explore a cemetery website as a shortcut! Final tip: Don’t overlook non-profit newsletters as welcoming publishers for good writers willing to donate material.

No comments: