November 13, 1833, the night of a spectacular Leonid meteor storm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids). Born in Valhalla's slave quarters on the same night, and almost at the same moment, was a male slave (tentatively named Dorsey) who would eventually be given to young Morgan as a companion and playmate.
I was inspired to give Morgan this date of birth by a passage from the Foreward of Carl Carmer's book, Stars Fell on Alabama: "Many an Alabamian to this day reckons dates from 'the year the stars fell' -- though he and his neighbor frequently disagree as to what year of our Lord may be so designated. All are sure, however, that once upon a time stars fell on Alabama, changing the land's destiny. What had been written in eternal symbols was thus erased -- and the region has existed ever since, unreal and fated, bound by a horoscope such as controls no other country." (Emphasis mine.)
Morgan and Dorsey are 28 when they go off to war to fight the yankees. Morgan leaves behind a young wife and baby. It will be in interesting to see how the fall of the stars on their birth night influences their lives -- whether they're charmed or cursed.
Valhalla is located on a fictional river in Baldwin, Monroe or Clarke county, probably Baldwin. The house was inspired by Crumptonia near Orrville, Alabama. It has a front porch covered with a triangular pediment roof supported by four square columns with very plain capitals. However, Crumptonia is a bit too grand for Valhalla's big house -- it served as the inspiration, not the pattern. Valhalla is smaller and much more modest.
These are more what Valhalla would look like:
The Dellet House, Claiborne, Alabama
Black Thistle Plantation, the Underwood Home, Pleasant Hill, Alabama
Glencairn Plantation, Greensboro, Alabama (Don't know if it's been restored.)
Dry Fork Plantation, Coy, Alabama
Although the plantation house and outbuildings will look like those in more inland areas, Valhalla's land and vegetation was inspired by those that surround Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, Florida. But the house won't look like this one....
The plantation will border on a fictional river, a tributary of the Alabama or Tensaw. It will also border on, and in some areas encompass, wetlands thick with saltmarsh cordgrass.
In antebellum times and in the 21st century, the house is visible from the main road, but one must travel a short distance through coastal woodlands like those below to reach it.
Valhalla is still owned by the descendants of the Walravens who built it. The current owner (in the sequel) is Julian Walraven. By the time of the sequel, in the 21st century, the plantation has transitioned to a dairy farm. Julian, in his late 20s, and he and his father run the farm.
(Note: Some of these images found on the net are for illustration purposes only.