Tidbits of History: Guest blog by C.M. Huddleston 

Can you believe we only have a few short weeks left before we enter into 2018! There are times I am still amazed by how quickly the year passes. This week I would like to introduce you to a very special guest blogger. Not only is she a multi-award-winning author, but she is also a personal friend of mine. I proudly present to you,  C.M. Huddleston

C. M. Huddleston loved history and dreamed of writing a book even as a child. Instead, she became an Army wife, mother, elementary school teacher, archaeologist, and historic preservation consultant, before publishing her first book! In 2017, she published her ninth and tenth volumes, all dealing with her first love, our nation’s past. While four are written for children, her other works are histories for adults on a variety of subjects.

Connie resides in a log cabin in Kentucky, with her husband Charlie and their Australian Shepherd Katie. They all enjoy the quiet of rural Kentucky.

Connie has some very interesting tidbits to share with all of you. If you are anything like me, you will save these for those conversations when you want to share something fun and unexpected. I really appreciated the last one about Brass Monkeys, so read all the way to the end to see what I am referring to. I now turn things over to C.M. Huddleston.


Learning a tidbit about some historical event or person that others might not know can make for an interesting conversation starter or even the subject of a book. Here’s what I mean:


            Did you know that James Edward Hanger, a Confederate cavalryman, who lost his leg in the Civil War, started a business which became the world’s largest manufacturer of artificial limbs?


            Do you know about the C.S.S. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy ship?  Did you know it sank that same night with its entire eight-man crew on board? (Another great tidbit about the Hunley is that author Clive Cussler, who writes thrillers about Dirk Pitt, a diver who often saves the world from the bad guys, paid for most of the recovery and restoration of the Hunley.)


            Little Women author, Louisa May Alcott, served as a nurse during the Civil War before she contracted typhoid and had to return home. Her book, Hospital Sketches, is an excellent primary source about Civil War hospitals and nurses.


            Winston Churchill, Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II, smoked as many as 16 cigars a day!  (He didn’t die of lung cancer.)


            But this is one of my favorites: In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. Yet, they needed to prevent them from rolling about the deck. The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem. . .how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a Monkey with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make “Brass Monkeys.” Few landlubbers realize how brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.” (All this time, you thought  that was an improper __expression, didn’t  you.)


            So learn a bit about history to amaze your friends. It can also come in handy when you need to write a story or composition of your own making. Take a historic fact and turn it into a really tall tale! That’s what I do when I write time-travel history for middle-graders and above. I use events from history, often obscure ones, to place my time travelers in the past without having them influence history. For example, Greg, my main character, may one day deliver cigars to Winston Churchill or serve as an ammunition boy on a ship of war or stand on the Charleston shore and watch the C.S.S. Hunley destroy the USS Housatonic and realize the Hunley never returned to shore. He could even be there the day the Hunley was recovered on 8 August 2000.

If you would like to learn more about C.M. Huddleston and her multi-award-winning books, be sure to check out Greg’s First Adventure in Time. Archaeology, time travel, and a moose hunt combine to force 12-year-old Greg to face his fears and find his strengths.  Greg explores a world that existed more than 3,000 years ago with his new Native American friend Hopelf.  While Greg learns about Native American ways of life, how to hunt and fish, and just to survive, he is always searching for a way back home.


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