The Girls of Gettysburg
With both her older brothers dead while serving in the Confederate Army, and nothing to keep her home, thirteen-year-old Annie Gordon sells herself as a substitute soldier, joining the Ninth Virginia Army. Tillie Pierce, a fourteen-year-old resident of Gettysburg, finds her romantic view of war dashed as two great armies descend upon her hometown. A third young woman, a free black named Grace Bryan, refuses to flee the town, despite the threat of being rounded up and sold into slavery by the invading Confederate army. The lives of these three become intertwined during these three days of some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War. We’re with them as the first shots are fired, as the first wounded come into town, and as Pickett leads his doomed charge.
Both Tillie and Grace were real young women who experienced the battle much as it is laid out in this tale. Annie’s story is inspired by a Union officer when he noted seeing the body of a young woman outfitted as a Confederate soldier among the dead of Pickett’s Charge.
This book is gripping, the details strong, and the characters compelling. The historical detail is engrossing, as are the experiences of these three remarkable girls. It’s marketed toward mid-grade youth, and I had intended for my nine- and eleven-year-old daughters to read it and give me their reviews. But after reading it, I felt that they would have been overly daunted by the terminology and lack of historical and cultural context. Also, it’s bloody and at several points quite tragic. All that said, I was very much emotionally engaged by this book, and feel it is a wonderful junior companion to the likes of Shaara’s or Peters’ books about the same battle.