Readers of historical fiction always want to know how much of a novel is based on fact. It’s a tricky business to write about the past, to use enough of what’s true to evoke it, while obviously making up something that isn’t.
Unlike a more famous book, set in a mythical spot north of Atlanta, my novel Slave and Sister is set in a real place in northern Georgia. Cass County still exists, although under another name; it was renamed Bartow County around the time of the Civil War. I took the liberty of believing that its residents, used to calling it Cass County since its founding in 1832, would keep on doing so.
Cassville, the county seat, was a real place. According to a local chronicler of Cassville history, antebellum Cassville was a destination for travelers, with four hotels, and the center of cultural life in northwestern Georgia. My character Adelaide’s boast to the snobs of Savannah, about Cassville’s colleges and newspaper, was based on fact. The Methodist Female College that Adelaide attends in the story was a real place, and there was a companion college for men, Cherokee Baptist, which had a notable marching band. The local newspaper, the Standard, was one of the few in that part of Georgia, reporting news of the county, great and small.
Cassville is no more. It was part of General Sherman’s March to the Sea in the spring of 1864 and was the site of a minor battle on May 19th, 1864. Later that year, on November 5, 1864, the town was burned to the ground, supposedly on General Sherman’s orders, and was so badly destroyed that the county seat moved to Cartersville, where it has remained since.
I am delighted to report that history and technology have joined to give Cass/Bartow county a Facebook page, with some of the latest news from 1854.