Widow of Gettysburg:Heroines behind the Lines Series
Written by Jocelyn Green
This is the second book in the heroines behind the lines series. The characters are well developed; you will feel their emotions and the enormous difficulty grappling with the decisions that they were forced to make. Plot lines are mostly well developed; there are many twists and turns that will surprise you. One commonality all the characters face is that they were placed in situations under which they had no control forcing them to make immediate choices and sacrifices. It can be argued that some handled them better than others, but all of them were victims of circumstances they could not control. Historical details are carefully researched and annotated in the bibliography. The book is based on the diaries and writings left behind by women who lived in Gettysburg though the characters are fictional.
The story opens at the end of June, 1863 shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg begins in this quiet town with approximately 2400 residents. Many fled as the troops advanced. Those left behind were mostly women and children. We meet the protagonist Liberty Holloway who is a young nineteen year old widow whose husband died in the Battle of Bull Run two years earlier. Libby is left to run the farm and large house. She has help from Bella Jamison, a freed mulatto slave., who proves to be a true friend in time of need. Liberty never knew her mother; she was raised by a mean aunt who told her that she was an unwanted child.
One day, a stranger who calls himself Johnny, though his real name is Silas Ford, knocks on Liberty’s door asking for something to eat. She knows the soldiers are coming soon. There is something so familiar about him. She will find out that he has a dark secret. Johnny encourages her to stop mourning and start living again. For some strange reason, she feels compelled to listen. While the rest of the town is appalled, she resists them. Her mother in law, Amelia Sanger, arrives with her husband’s body to bury him in the town cemetery next to her son.. Liberty does not want her to stay, but Amelia insists that she will invest money to help fulfill Liberty’s dream to open a guest house.
Then tragedy strikes. First Confederates overrun the town. Blacks are forced back into slavery. Bella and her friends must hide. Harrison Ford, a reporter, arrives to report on the battle as well as the happenings behind the scenes. He thinks that he recognizes Bella, and suspects that she is hiding something. During the three day battle, the lives of Gettysburg residents are changed forever. More than 163,000 soldiers and 15,000 animals virtually destroy everything in site. A Confederate doctor seizes Liberty’s home. She makes the decision to stay and becomes a nurse to more than 500 seriously wounded enemy soldiers. Harrison Ford and Bella Jamison find their way back to the Holloway farm as well as Silas and Amelia, but they have experienced turmoil in their personal lives. Liberty’s property is in shambles. The many twists and turns in the lives of the characters are almost as compelling as the horror and mutilation of the battle.
This is an adult novel, but there is no overt sex or profanity so it would be a valuable resource to young adult students studying the Civil War period and the moral conflict and aftermath engendered by the slavery issue. The writing is well done though a few of the minor characters like Myrtle Henderson are not fully developed. This novel is not one for the faint hearted. You will become fully immersed in the lives of those trapped in the war between brothers.