Then I sent the chapter to a friend. He casually mentioned, "What about the Canal?" That sent me back to the archives in a hurry. For any of you who might not know what to say or do if someone asks you to read something they have written, I will clear it up right now.
Just tell the writer what you honestly thought. If all the writer is looking for is unending praise, he or she will probably just show the manuscript to Mom. The rest of us want a real opinion. If we disagree or agree is immaterial. This book is no good to anyone if it isn't read--no book is. So read whatever is offered and be honest. Usually you won't say anything the writer has not already thought about.
Anyway, the Canawl deal opened things up for me. I now have a much better understanding about the North and its commercial advantage over the South, even this early in history. I have much more information with which to work, and--as I have noticed for several years now--the more I know about the past, the more I understand about the present.
Elmer Ellsworth was NOT a child of poverty. He was a child of working parents--sort of proto middle class, so to speak. No matter what EE told John Hay about how miserable his early childhood was, the facts simply do not bear this out. He was a well-loved, well-cared for little guy who lived in a big, safe house and played by the Canal paths. He wasn't rich in money, but he lived in emotional and intellectual abundance. The grinding fear that poverty brings with it as surely as we all have shadows was not a visitor to the house in the picture on the upper left.