I Shall Be Near to You
More than 250 women are known to have disguised themselves to serve as soldiers in the Civil War. Some did it for love, some for the pay and signing bonus, others for patriotism. Though many were found out when they were wounded or became pregnant, the secret identity of a few was not revealed until death. Erin Lindsay McCabe has based her historical novel on a true-life female soldier who died following the 1864 Red River campaign. Even when she was buried, the true identity of “Lyons Wakeman” was not discovered, but it was revealed by her family.
McCabe’s heroine, the newlywed Rosetta Wakefield, misses her husband terribly. She can’t bear living with his parents, who assign the young woman the most menial of tasks, reminding her that their son had married beneath his station. So, Rosetta cuts her hair and binds her breasts, changes her name to Ross Stone, and follows her husband into the Union Army. Ross’ identity is kept hidden by men in her company who know her from home, though they fret about the added burden of protecting her during battle. The greatest struggle of all is between Rosetta and her husband Jeremiah, who is torn between the joy of having his beloved wife near to him and the dread of losing her.
McCabe has created a tough, realistic woman who is equally committed to being a good soldier and a good wife. I Shall Be Near to You is both a poignant love story and a gritty war experience, and is highly recommended.