Civil War Interview: Marie Davis and Margaret Hultz

Civil War Truce App Icon

Today I am joined by Marie Davis and Margaret Hultz from Davis Studios. At Davis Studios they are pioneering storytelling through interactive multimedia apps, using text, music, and video to create a truly comprehensive experience.

One of their main focuses is telling little known stories that you won't hear in history class. Wow, sounds just like what I'm trying to do here. We must be a good fit! They just released their first app, Civil War Truce—Remarkable Little-Known Story of Sister Lucy :

"Civil War Truce—Remarkable Little-Known Story of Sister Lucy is the true story of a mysterious orphan. As a young woman, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, and a musical prodigy, Sister Lucy left an indelible mark on both Confederate and Union soldiers. This evocative multi-touch book/app combines music, photographs, movies and many other interactive features. Media Voyagers traveling through this app will unearth the intriguing story of a courageous young woman—and why a truce to the gruesome war was called on her behalf. "

Sounds exciting doesn't it? I know I can't wait to read this story! So, without further ado, here are Marie and Margaret answering some questions about Civil War Truce, their future plans, and much more...

1. Marie and Margaret, thank you for your time, and welcome to American Civil War Story. Please introduce yourselves, and tell us little bit about your backgrounds. 

When I met Marie, gosh, it was close to fifteen years ago, she had a newspaper-in-education cartoon strip titled Kentucky Tales — based on our state’s multi-cultural history. Right away I was enthusiastic to join her in telling stories that were so quickly being lost in the shadows of history. Over the next few years we expanded the strip and began writing on the topic for various media outlets. We both have a great love of research and we literally have hundreds and hundreds of stories accumulated while travelling around our state digging through dusty files, disintegrating newspapers and magazines, culling information from microfiche and documenting oral histories too! Basically big fun! 

2. You guys go by the name Davis Studio, could you tell us a little about Davis Studio and your mission and dreams going forward?  

Yes, right now we have six people on the Davis Studio team — and we are happy to report that our apps are built entirely by a group of women app developers! YAY for women working in the arts and sciences! What are our dreams for the future? Well, that includes lots of geeky answers — we want to push computer coding and the capabilities of the app format. At the same time we want to deliver fascinating stories that have been left out of the traditional history message. 

Our next app is about the Civil War hospital ship, Red Rover and the hospital at Mound City, both of which were staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. What joy and honor we felt reading their letters—over 150 years old! For researchers, holding primary documents—like the letters from Sisters serving as nurses during the Civil War—is such an emotional moment. It places you into that specific second in time where you can almost hear the sounds and see the sights described in those letters. You feel the emotion of the person writing, it really becomes personal, and we want others to sense those feelings from these stories as well. Documents like that never lose their appeal to us, they really send shivers up and down our spines.  

3. Your first release is slated to be Civil War Truce — Remarkable Little-Known Story of Sister Lucy. When can we expect it to be available, and can you give us a preview of Sister Lucy’s story, and tell us why we should want to learn the whole story? 

We are in the Amazon Appstore now, but soon people can find us in the Google Play Store and then on Apple’s App Store—available for all mobile devices, tablet and phone. For many reasons Sister Lucy’s story is captivating, the idea that a very young Sister’s life could affect so many people during a gruesome war with death raging all around. These same soldiers who had already experienced so much crawled out of their sickbeds to be a part of her honor guard. Additionally, it is fairly astounding that Federal officers in Paducah, Kentucky would call a truce to the war on her behalf — AND let prisoners of war go! The logistics of getting a boat to carry her upstream through war zones and snipers would have been quite difficult and dangerous. She must have made such a terrific impact on those around her for all of this to take place in such a short time. We are very hopeful that genealogists will respond to this story, perhaps somewhere in their notes or family histories are the answers to the Dosh riddle? Specifically, who were Sister Lucy’s parents, where was she born, and where did her surviving sister, Lucinia, wind up living? We are really hopeful that these questions will be answered in the next year or so. 

It took us several years to find enough primary sources to actually write a full-length story, the account of her life takes place primarily near the Ohio River, and so many records were destroyed through the years due to fires, floods and the war. When we finally had enough information to actually begin writing, it became a question of exactly how we were going to tell Sister Lucy’s story. Although we eventually had much of this information, it was always a question of how we were going to tell these stories. When Marie and I decided to become app developers and we combined all of our talents in art, music and writing, we were determined to tell this story first by using the newest technology. People passing through this app will discover copies of primary resources and music, movies—all sorts of surprises!

This app is designed for everyone to enjoy including Civil War buffs, Catholics, religious and women's history scholars, middle school or high school researchers and you! Here is a fascinating topic rarely mentioned in history books and waiting for your discovery.

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Here are three screenshots from the Civil War Truce app, click to enlarge the images.

4.  On the about page of your website, it says that you are “…exploring the confluence between the literary, musical and visual arts. Each of their apps is a complete media experience for their audience, challenging old-fashioned ways of digesting media.” This sounds awesome, I wanted to download Civil War Truce right away! Can you describe what the user experience will be like, and how you think it will be a better way of telling a story than old media (like a book)?  

The team at Davis Studio is very interested in using the abilities of digital media to tell history’s captivating and little-known stories. The experience of our app is so different than simply reading that we call our audience Media Voyagers rather than merely readers. We combine a variety of media including—movies, music, sound effects. Media Voyagers can even manipulate certain historic documents—they can count on us continually pushing the boundaries of digital media to include even more variety in our storytelling—stay tuned—we will continue to be intriguing. 

5. Do you have more Civil War stories in the works, or what is the future at Davis Studio after the release of Civil War Truce? 

There are so many untold stories about Catholic Sisters who served during the Civil War that we see a series about their lives and service. Our next app will be focusing on the Sisters of the Holy Cross who primarily served aboard the Red Rover and at Mound City, IL. These Sisters were the forerunners of the Naval Nursing Service and a few of them actually stayed in the service and ‘gave up their habits’ so that they could continue their work as nurses. 

6. Many Civil War buffs (at least me) identify strongly with an individual character from the war. Do you have a favorite Civil War hero? If so, who is it and why? 

I think more than identifying with any particular person, we strongly identify with the fact that so many women’s stories have been left out of the general Civil War story. Women followed their husbands into war, some dressing as men, others followed behind the troops with their children as well. Many women used their medical skills as nurses or even doctors, and some, of course, dressed as men and were never discovered until they were wounded, which begs the question of how many women served their country without ever being discovered? We ran across several instances of the Catholic Sisters being called in when a woman was found out after being wounded. So women played a huge roll during the war, and of course we certainly can’t forget the women who stayed at home, taking care of their families until the end of the war. So many of them never established what happened to their loved ones so far away.

7. Finally, the focus of this site is stories. So, I can't end the interview without asking, what is your favorite interesting or entertaining incident or story from the Civil War (other than Sister Lucy’s story)? 

Oh! We have so many, but here is one that sticks out to us. A copy of this amazing letter will be found in our next app. Written by Sister de Sales, CSC and Sister Anthony, CSC, this story has stuck with us since the first day we read it. The devotion given to those they nursed was all consuming, nothing broke their concentration to their job.

"I remember distinctly the February day in 1862, soon after the battle of Fort Donaldson, when Mother Angela was assisting the Chief Surgeon (E.C. Franklin, Dubuque) on the lower floor [of the Red Rover].

He was performing a difficult operation, the accuracy of which would determine the life of the soldier. His head and that of Mother Angela were bent over the poor boy.

Suddenly from the ceiling a heavy red drop fell upon the white coif of Mother Angela . . . she did not move. Another and still another, drop after drop came until a little stream was flowing.

At last the final stitch had been taken and the two heads, that of the Surgeon and that of the Sister, rose simultaneously. Not until then did the Doctor know that a stream of blood, trickling through the open chinks of the upper floor, had fallen steadily upon the devoted head of Mother Angela, who now stood before the Surgeon with her head and face and shoulders bathed in the blood of some unknown soldier."

Wow! They gave some great answers didn't they? I especially liked the letter they shared at the end. Thanks to Marie and Margaret for taking the time to do this interview, I hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. 

Finally, here is an app trailer they put together for Civil War Truce :

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