I have the flu right now. Yesterday I had chills and fever and stayed in bed, covered with every blanket in the house, for most of the day.
For most people, snow and the flu are bad things. For a writer, they’re just that more inspiration.
Right now I’m working on my Civil War Novel set in New Mexico, and one of my main characters, Jemmy Martin, is enroute between San Antonio and El Paso with General Sibley’s 3,200-man Army of New Mexico. Jemmy is a packer, a civilian who was hired at $1.25 a day to manage the army pack trains that carried ammunitions and rations because enlisted men either would not or could not properly learn to pack. (Very few packers ever got paid, and when they did, it was in worthless Confederate scrip.)
Jemmy’s huddled with other men around a fire made with green mesquite. The thorns keep puncturing his benumbed fingers and the saddle blanket around his shoulders isn’t keeping out the cold or the blowing snow, but he’s better off than a lot of soldiers. Because he rides with the pack train, Jemmy has access to the tents and blankets and food supplies. Many a soldier’s diary complains about stopping for the night far from where the train stops and having nothing more than what they had carried.
Sibley lost about 500 men during this 500 mile march. While some men were transferred or deserted, the majority of the loses came from small pox, measles, and pneumonia. Having the chills makes me think that perhaps I need to write a “sick scene” into my novel. Although flu isn’t mentioned in Civil War accounts, it is entirely possible that some of the other diseases, most notably black measles, could have been the flu.
So I sit here, feet up on the hearth, a fire roaring, drinking spiced cider and thinking up mean scenarios to put poor Jemmy Martin through. Cold. Snow. Disease. Poor Jemmy better pray we don’t have an earthquake here. Neither he, nor my historical novel, would like that.