Widow of Gettysburg, Heroines Behind the Lines Series #2Widow of Gettysburg, Heroines Behind the Lines Series #2
Jocelyn Green
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When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering--and a Confederate scout who awakens her long dormant heart.

When the scout doesn't die, as expected, she discovers that he isn't who he claims to be.

While Liberty's future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty's hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.
     


 

 Widow of Gettysburg: Facts Behind the Fiction: by Jocelyn Green


 

Widow of Gettysburg was inspired by the letters, diaries, and first-person accounts of Gettysburg civilians who I had the pleasure of meeting in the archives of the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a few years ago. Perhaps like you, my knowledge of Gettysburg up until that time was limited to what I knew of the battle itself. But once I discovered the forgotten work of the women of Gettysburg, their stories came to life for me, and I hope it came to life for you too, through this novel.

Although her name is inspired by a Gettysburg teenager named Liberty Hollinger, Liberty Holloway is a purely fictional character. But she did what real women were called upon to do. They watched their homes and farms become ruined, they assisted surgeons, even with amputations. Women discovered one hundred men in the flooded basement of the Lutheran Theological Seminary and arranged for their rescue. They learned to show love to their enemy as they cared for Rebel wounded. Several women from Gettysburg actually did marry men who they or their mothers helped nurse back to life, whether the soldiers had worn blue or grey. One Gettysburg woman pitched her tent at Camp Letterman (also a real place) and stayed there for four months, which inspired Liberty’s action to do the same. The Holloway Farm’s location was based on the position of the real farm belonging to J. E. Plank, on the west bank of Willoughby Run.

The major events preceding and during the three-day battle were depicted as historically as possible, including the Rebels passing through Gettysburg on June 26, General Buford’s cavalry coming through on June 30, the locations of Lee’s and Meade’s headquarters, the late arrival of General Stuart, the battles at Little Round Top and the Wheat Field, and Pickett’s, Trimble’s and Pettigrew’s Charge on the third day. The Confederate capture of Union medical supplies from the seminary is also true to history. The minor character Theodore Hopkins who died from loading too many charges in his musket before firing at Little Round Top represented a real danger and cause of death. Among the 35,000 muskets recovered from the fields of Gettysburg, 6,000 were found to have between 3 and 10 charges in its barrel, and one musket held 22 charges.

The wake of battle rocked the town long after the last soldier had been buried. There are several records of women who worked so hard during and after the battle that their health broke down, a few to the point of death. While six months pregnant, Elizabeth Thorn buried 105 bodies in her cemetery, and complained of ill health from it for the rest of her life. At least one girl was orphaned when her mother died from drinking polluted water from a well which had been used as a burial pit for corpses without her knowledge. Several young men and boys were killed from trying to harvest lead from unexploded shells they had found on the fields. Some residents moved away from town, unable to cope with the memories. Many in the black community of Gettysburg simply did not return. The fictional Aunt Hester was based on the historical Elizabeth Butler, Aunt Liz, a washerwoman for the McCreary family, who was captured on July 1 but hid in the bell tower of Christ Lutheran Church until danger passed, three nights and two days later.

 

Silas Ford represents a portion of Confederate soldiers who were conscripted into the army against their will. The phantom pain he experienced is well-understood now, but at the time, a Philadelphia doctor named Silas Weir Mitchell was pioneering the field of nerve injuries, and just beginning to learn about the phenomenon. After the Civil War, the presence of 35,000 amputee veterans prompted profound developments in prosthetic limbs. The use of opium and morphine did translate into abuse for tens of thousands of soldiers during the Civil War. Country doctors from the South, like the fictional Dr. Stephens, were one of the demographics most likely to suffer opium addiction.

The Sanitary and Christian Commissions performed critical work at Gettysburg, and the efforts depicted in this novel were true to history. Though most delegates of the Christian Commission volunteered to minister to the spiritual needs of the soldiers, those who could serve the physical needs, like the fictional Dr. O’Leary, willingly did all they could in medical capacities as well.

Bella’s husband Abraham Jamison is a fictional character, but the events the 54th Massachusetts regiment experienced in the novel are true to history, including the raid on Darien, the battle at Fort Wagner, and the struggle for equal pay. It is also true, unfortunately, that black women who served as nurses in a hospital in the Sea Islands were used by Union officers, and that at least one black woman was shot in the shoulder while trying to protect her daughter from sexual assault. Congress finally passed a bill granting black soldiers equal pay in June 1864.

By 1863, most states had laws against interracial marriage. Of the states that did, Pennsylvania was the first to repeal the law in 1780, as part of a gradual process toward the abolition of slavery in that state. It would be sixty-three years until the next state (Massachusetts) would follow suit. The Loving V. Virginia case in 1967 forced the last sixteen states with anti-miscegenation laws (including Tennessee) to repeal them.

Pierce Butler and Fanny Kemble were well-known not only in their native city of Philadelphia, but around the country, for Fanny was a famous British actress before marrying Pierce. Their tumultuous marriage and divorce, due largely to their opposite views on slavery, was common knowledge. Fanny’s Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation was published in the United States just before the battle of Gettysburg. All the excerpts from the journal are verbatim, except for the ones mentioning Bella, who is a fictional character. Roswell King Jr., the Butler overseer, is a historical figure who sired countless children by force with slave women. The Weeping Time, too, was a historical event. Lt. Pierce Butler Holmes, the godson of Pierce Butler, was also a historical figure who fought and was wounded at Gettysburg, and most likely taken to a Confederate field hospital along Willoughby Run before he was moved to a prison in Baltimore.

 

Gettysburg residents Elizabeth Thorn, Hettie Shriver, Tillie Pierce, Jennie Wade, Sarah Broadhead (the Sarah who helped rescue men from the seminary basement), Hugh Ziegler and Dr. Samuel Simon Schmucker are also historical figures who appear in the novel. The baby Elizabeth carried during and after the battle, Rose, was born sick and weak, and the child died at age fourteen. Elizabeth believed it was due to the physical and psychological stress of the battle and its aftermath. Her husband Peter survived the war, as did Hettie Shriver’s husband George. Visitors to Gettysburg are able to stay at the Tillie Pierce House Inn, tour the Shriver House Museum, the Jennie Wade House (which was her sister’s home, but where she was killed), and see the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse, where Elizabeth Thorn and her family lived. More about all of these can be found at www.heroinesbehindthelines.com. Other historic landmarks mentioned in this novel that can still be seen today include the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, Lutheran Theological Seminary (which now hosts the Seminary Ridge Museum), the Samuel Simon Schmucker House, Christ Lutheran Church, the Gettysburg Depot, and Gettysburg College (formerly Pennsylvania College). The Soldiers’ National Cemetery has approximately 3,500 soldiers buried on its grounds. In the 1870s, Southern veterans’ societies relocated 3,200 Confederate remains to cemeteries in Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas, such as Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. A few Confederates do remain interred at Gettysburg National Cemetery.

The signs and symptoms of combat fatigue that Harrison Caldwell experienced were very real to war correspondents—and soldiers—of the day. I replaced Uriah Painter, the real reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer who was on the scene, with Harrison, but Charles Carleton Coffin, Whitelaw Reid, and Sam Wilkeson were all real war correspondents. After the war, Coffin, who was a devout Christian and considered one of the best war correspondents of his time, went on to author fifteen books. Whitelaw Reid’s coverage of the Civil War prompted Horace Greely to make him managing editor of the New York Tribune in 1868. Eventually, he controlled the paper himself, and went on to serve as minister to France and ambassador to Great Britain.

Readers of Wedded to War will recognize Charlotte Waverly from the first book in the Heroines Behind the Lines series. The nurse Charlotte’s character was inspired by Georgeanne Woolsey, who did indeed nurse for three weeks at the Sanitary Commission Lodge at Gettysburg.

 

The text from the newspaper articles, General Lee’s General Orders No. 73, as well as the addresses by Edward Everett and Abraham Lincoln, are also verbatim.

It was considered crass and unladylike for women to write and publish, so many civilian accounts were not recorded for decades. Sarah Broadhead did print her diary from June 15–July 11, 1863, to help raise money at the Sanitary Commission Fair in Philadelphia in June 1864. Consulting the bibliography will show you when the other first-person narratives were recorded. Monuments have since been raised to honor Gettysburg civilian women Jenny Wade, the only civilian killed in battle, and Elizabeth Thorn, the pregnant gravedigger.

 

Primary source material, maps, photos, and other resources can be found at www.heroinesbehindthelines.com.

 

 


 

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