Monday, February 26, 2024

 Post # 93 February 26, 2024

Quote for the Day: "In this uncertain climate the hopes of the eager watcher for spring are doomed to many and many a disappointment." Bela Hubbard. Memorials of a Half-Century in Michigan and the Lakes Region. 1888.


His Sword A Scalpel: General Charles Stuart Tripler MD, USA. Jack Dempsey, ed.

The Civil War ended more than a 150 years ago and an estimated 60,000 books have been written about it. Even with that many books on the subject the Michigan Civil War Association shows it is still a fertile ground to plow by writers and researchers. This is the first biography of an army doctor who was instrumental in organizing and building the medical wing of the Army of the Potomac. 

Charles Stuart Tripler was born in 1806 in New York, graduated medical school in 1827, went to West Point and was commissioned an assistant surgeon in 1830. He served in various posts including Detroit where he met his wife and made Michigan his home. He was a distinguished battlefield surgeon in the Mexican-American War and just prior to the Civil War wrote A Manual of the Medical Officer of the Army of the United States and Hand-Book of the Military Surgeon. Both books proved to be indispensable to the influx of doctors with no experience as battlefield surgeons or the general campground duties of a regimental doctor. The Battle of Bull Run proved the medical service incapable of caring for the wounded. Days after McLellan was handed the reins to the Army of the Potomac Tripler was ordered to Washington and appointed Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac.

I found this well-written book endlessly interesting because it describes an aspect of the war I have read little about. I was especially fascinated by the description of Triplet's gargantuan task of reorganizing the Army of Potomac's medical forces. This ranged from redesigning ambulances, to accrediting regimental surgeons, determining all the equipment needed for frontline hospitals, how to requisition materials, sanitary campground duties, advice on how to treat certain wounds and dozens of other duties. I was also absorbed by the description of how the wounded were cared for on the peninsula campaign because the army was frequently on the move battle after battle. I have read almost nothing on that part of the campaign. The book paints General Triplet as a man of sterling character and devoted to providing the best care for the wounded. It is a shame he wasn't treated better for his service to his country and the thousands of wounded who received better medical care due to his leadership.

This book is a major contribution to the history of Michigan in the Civil War and a fine testament to an all but forgotten Michigan Civil War hero. And here's hoping the Michigan Civil War Association finds more overlooked subjects and events in the War Between the States worthy of publication.

His Sword A Scalpel: General Charles Stuart Tripler, MD, USA. Jack Dempsey ed. Mission Point Press, 2023, 289p., $24.95.

Church Lady Chronicles: Devilish Encounters by Terri Martin

No writer in the Upper Peninsula has a better formula for mixing satire with slapstick comedy and producing grins, chuckles and laughter than Terri Martin. Much of her success is due to inventing  a uniquely oddball Yooper characters strong enough to feature in and become the narrator of a book of short stories. In this specific case we are talking about Bea Righteous a loyal member of the Budworm United Methodist Church (BUMC) who has voluntarily appointed herself a keen-eyed watchdog dedicated to keeping a cunning Satan from slipping into her congregation. 

Bea Righteous sees Satan's influence everywhere and her attempts to rid him from the church and her fellow worshipers is often disastrous and always humorous. The good lady is the equivalent of a tack on a pew for all her fellow church goers and even the minister who she endlessly pesters. This includes telling him he must stop working on a eulogy and go find the person who took up two parking places. The Devil made him do it and it must be stopped. The author could have easily turned Bea into one an irritating and unlikeable holier than thou characters. Instead she's a wonderfully comic character totally unaware of her helplessly funny self righteousness.  

One of my favorites stories is the account of the consequences resulting from Miss Righteous bringing a tray of deviled eggs (what was she thinking) to a church buffet. Bea carried the Devil in the door and the result was two injured, all the food abruptly parting company with the tables, and an attempted theft squished (it seems the appropriate word) by Bea. Who by the way has an almost ironclad excuse that relieves her of even an iota of responsibility for the Deviled Egg Affair. This is a comic gem.
Church Lady Chronicles: Devilish Encounters by Terri Martin. Gnarly Woods Publications, 2020, 136p., 

Murder for Treasure: Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder by Dave Vizard

This is the seventh novel featuring Bay City journalist Nick Steele and it is both a compelling mystery
and a realistic portrayal of how journalists research and build a story. This story begins when a widow  askes Steele to look into the death of her husband. It was ruled an accidental death but the widow is sure her husband was murdered. Nick Steele is moved by the widow's certainty and his journalistic curiosity leads Steele into a tale of five friends who decades earlier recovered a treasure from a ship that went down just north of Saginaw Bay in 1871. Two of the five friends have recently died. Both deaths were ruled accidental but Steele and his journalist partner find the rulings very questionable. 

The author is a retired journalist and writes authoritatively on how a paper's newsroom operates and makes Steele's dogged pursuit of the story seem very realistic. The ship that went down with the treasure, the R. G. Coburn, was an actual 193-foot steamer that sank on October 15, 1871 just north of Saginaw Bay in a storm with a loss of 32 passengers and all but one of her crew. The wreckage has never been found. It is  unknown if the Coburn carried a fortune in gold but I like the fact that the author tied his story to a dramatic piece of local history. The reporter's dedication to their story gets them in trouble in the newsroom and local agencies when their investigation uncovers shoddy work by city and county employees. There are surprising revelations and plot twists every few pages and the closer Steele and his partner get to the truth the more danger they face.

The author has a knack for making even minor characters believable and interesting. It was also a  pleasure to read a well-written novel set against the beautifully painted backdrop of Saginaw Bay and the Thumb area. It will leave readers with an itch to explore the southeast coast of the Saginaw Bay area. And this reviewer is left impatiently waiting for the 9th novel in the Nick Steele series.

Murder for Treasure: Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder by Dave Vizard. Independently published, 2023, 259p., $15.95.

Classic Restaurants of Michiana by Jane Simon Ammeson

This odd but interesting book is filled with the unexpected and contains almost none of the expected. First off, for readers unfamiliar with or never heard of Michiana it is an area in southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana most frequently used by radio and TV stations who broadcast within that area and businesses trying to draw customers over state lines. The heart of the area is comprised of seven counties of which only Berrien and Cass are in Michigan. Secondly, this is not a guide to great eating in Michiana but a history of restaurants within the area beginning with stage coach stops.

The book is filled with a stew of interesting historical and gastronomical tidbits from how codfish were shipped fresh from the east coast to a stage stop in Michigan and were still edible. The cod were made into codfish balls when the stage stop was established in 1836 and it's the oldest business in Michigan still doing business in its original building. Today you can't get a codfish ball at the Old Tavern Inn  cheeseburgers are recommended. The author does a good job of describing early stage coach stops and all manner of eateries up to roughly to the turn of the 21st century. I was impressed by the number of swank motels and resorts that sprung up along Lake Michigan and inland lakes during the 1930s and found it surprising they did so well in the Depression. The book even includes long gone soda fountains, food carts, and drive-ins. I find it somewhat amusing this is a guide, by and large, to restaurants you can't eat in because they no longer exist. 

Ah, but there are fascinating chapters on the religious group the House of David and their various restaurants, including a vegetarian one, their fine gardens and theme parks, and a famous barnstorming baseball team. Not sure how his got into classic restaurants but there's a chapter on Al Capone getaways here and I must admit it makes good reading. But back to food. There is a nice chapter on the influence of immigrants on area eateries from Chinese and German restaurants to Greek diners.

Obviously this was not the book I expected when cracking the cover. But it proved to be interesting, informative, and full of photographs, historical menus, and surprising pleasures. In an imperfect tally there seems to be more Michigan sites than those from Indiana.

Classic Restaurants of Michiana by Jane Simon Ammeson. American Palate, 2023,157p., $24.99.

No comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Powered by Blogger.