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Charles W. McLandress, editor of “Ink, Dirt and Powder Smoke: The Civil War Letters of William F. Keeler, Paymaster on the USS Monitor.”

My name is Charles McLandress. Until my retirement several years ago I was an atmospheric physicist. I received my Ph. D from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at McGill University in 1988. Over my 30-plus year career I authored and co-authored more than 60 publications in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals. I have always enjoyed doing research and writing.


I have also had a lifelong interest in American history, an interest that was kindled by my annual visits to my American grandparents in San Antonio, Texas when I was a boy. I remember my grandmother showing me her grandfather’s silver fork on which are engraved the words “Paymaster United States Steamer Monitor,” a silver tea service handed down from her ancestors from Oakley Plantation in Louisiana, a beautiful pencil and ink sketch of the planet Saturn drawn by her teenaged father using the telescope he built, and much more.


After my grandmother’s death her things found their way to my parents’ home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Included in the boxes was a stack of old letters. Among them were letters from her grandfather when he served on the famous ironclad USS Monitor during the Civil War. There was also a bundle of letters from her brother when he was working for the Standard Oil Company in China from 1915 to 1918.

Set in historic times and places, these letters are superbly vivid and extremely well written. Wanting to make them accessible I started my own publishing company. I named it Seal River Publishing in honor of the northern Manitoba river that flows into Hudson Bay north of Churchill, which I first paddled as a teenager in 1973 and again in 2006.

This website serves two purposes: to publicize my books and to tell the stories of some of the characters in my mother’s family tree, characters who all appear in these books. These include my great grandfather James E. Keeler, the astronomer, who made important discoveries about Saturn and gallaxies; his son Henry who went to China and died there at age 25; some of the denizens of Oakley Plantation; a young Connecticut lawyer and distant cousin named Melzar Dutton who fought and died in the Civil War, and of course Navy paymaster William F. Keeler whose letters are considered to be among the very best from the Civil War.

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