“Huelskamp’s research and story has set the record straight for future generations.”
– Harriet Gustason, Freeport-Journal Standard
“Marvelously researched … deftly bringing alive the volatile atmosphere of a nation in peril.”
– Kirkus Reviews
When considering the Civil War, which battle comes to mind first? Most likely, the Siege of Vicksburg – fought in the Western Theater and consistently credited by historians as the conflict’s turning point – is not your first choice, as The Battle of Gettysburg tends to dominate the narrative. Vicksburg, and other mid-western battles, are uncommonly known for a variety of reasons: Lincoln’s Homestead Act, which scattered many Illinoisans (and their stories), a lack of documentary photography of this time and place, and a more powerful response to victory on the east coast.
An Illinois transplant by way of Maryland, noted Civil War historian and author John William Huelskamp long ago realized that Illinoisans do not share the same sense of pride or knowledge of the Civil War as their fellow citizens on the eastern seaboard. Concluding that locals needed a story they could grasp onto in order to understand their state’s history, he set out to pen the historical novel Friends of the Wigwam: A Civil War Story (Barrington Group, Chicago, 2016), which highlights the significance and role that the Midwest and its soldiers and citizens played in the U.S. Civil War.
Spanning the years 1857–1865, Friends of the Wigwam focuses on the ramifications of historical events on the lives of six friends and their discovery of a Winnebago Indian wigwam hidden on the banks of the Pecatonica River. The shelter becomes the official meeting spot for this group of young friends, serves as a safe haven for a runaway slave, and is where romance blossoms and friendship thrives amid war-fueled turmoil. In this stark juxtaposition of bloody conflict and youthful innocence, readers are re-introduced to historical figures like Lincoln, Grant, Putnam, Washburne, and Ellsworth like never before. Not only is the story of Illinois brought to the spotlight, so are war heroes that have remained in the shadows. Heroes like Albert Cashier… or “Allie,” as she is called in Friends of the Wigwam.
“Albert Cashier was a woman masquerading as a man in battle,” says Huelskamp. “She is the only known female soldier in the history of the United States to muster in and muster out without anyone knowing about it. She was a true hero who experienced horrific battles in the western theater of the Civil War.”
The heartfelt stories of these historical figures told by Huelskamp in Friends of the Wigwam are moving, insightful, and overdue. Important topics addressed include:
- The amazing story of Albert Cashier: the only known female soldier to masquerade as a man in American battle
- Significant contributions Illinois soldiers and leaders made to the successful outcome of the Civil War and the preservation of the Union
- The volatile atmosphere of a nation at peril and how love and friendship continued to survive and thrive in such conditions
- How the African-American Civil War regiment and the Illinois underground railroad were crucial to the shaping of our nation
John William Huelskamp is a Civil War historian and author who has contributed to several Civil War periodicals including Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the American Civil War. His publication, Never Forsake the Colors, reintroduced the sacrifice of Union Colonel Holden Putnam and the 93rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He is also a contributing lecturer to Civil War roundtables and historical societies, and has provided Civil War authors including Peter Cozzens (The Shipwreck of Their Hopes) and Wiley Sword (Mountains Touched with Fire) with rare documents and diaries that have contributed to an understanding of civilians and soldiers during the climactic years of the Civil War. He resides in Deer Park, Illinois.