In Walk by Faith, Maggie Blaine Smith must stand up on a number of occasions and in several ways before, during, and after she relocates to Gettysburg in 1863.
In the fourth chapter, Maggie is forced to stand up to Eli. Usually the two are on the same page and work together as a team, but now things are different. Eli left to be a war correspondent and Maggie was responsible for getting the Gazette printed and distributed. For months, she worries about her husband's safety, and then finds her own life endangered when her house and the Gazette office are burned to the ground by arsonists. Fortunately, her brother Samuel takes the family into his home.
Upon learning the news, Eli and Carson return to Blaineton. Relieved to have her husband home, Maggie assumes that he would be interested in rebuilding – but that is not the case. Eli, now concerned for his wife and family’s safety, has arranged with his sisters to occupy the old family home in Gettysburg. However, he does not tell this to his wife right away. In the excerpt below, the truth has finally come out and Maggie opposes Eli’s decision.
“I don’t want you to go back.” There. She said it.
“And I want you out of Blaineton.”
“Well, I shan’t go.”
His eyes snapped in annoyance. “On the contrary, Maggie, you shall go.”
The tone he used was as close to an order has she had ever heard from him and it stunned her. “I beg your pardon?”
“I said you shall move.”
The room vibrated with tension. Maggie sank into a terrible sense of betrayal. “Elijah! You said we would make this decision together.”
Frustrated, he took a step toward her. “Listen to me, Margaret Smith. It is not safe here. You heard the sheriff. And since I am head of this household - ”
“Head of this household? Elijah Amos Smith! I was under the impression that we were partners! I thought we reasoned together and decided together.”
He took a deep breath as he sought to moderate his tone. “Under normal circumstances, yes, but there are times when that cannot be so, and this is one of those times. So understand me: I am the head of our household and it is my duty to make sure that everyone – including you – is safe. We are moving to Gettysburg and that is the end of it.” He stiffened his back as he repeated what Samuel had said earlier to Abigail. “The end of it, understand? I will broach no further argument from you.”
How dare he treat her as if she were somehow less than he? Where had her tender husband gone? What had happened to her understanding Eli? Maggie’s eyes grew narrow. “Ah. So I see how it is now. Well, sir, there is a trundle bed in Bob and Natey’s room and it would be well if you slept there.” With that, she turned on her heel and swept out the door.
Eli thumped after her. “Do what you will, Mrs. Smith! You’re still going to move!” And then her last sentence registered. “What? It would be well if I slept where?”
Maggie whirled around. “Anywhere but my bed, sir.”
And, yes, she does keep hubby dearest at bay – for a while. Eventually, they do come to terms, but it takes time and some work.
Once the family moves to Gettysburg, they find tension gradually growing among its citizens. There are rumors and more rumors about Confederates crossing the border and coming in the Pennsylvania. Like the others in town, Maggie is fearful of a possible invasion by Confederate forces. When she finally realizes that such a thing not only is possible, but probable, Maggie records her fears in a journal entry:
Journal, my heart flutters at the thought of Confederate soldiers coming into Gettysburg. I cannot imagine what they would do here and what we would face. I must protect our goods but above all, I must protect those most likely to be hurt by the invaders
When the army of the CSA comes into the town and as the battle begins to rage, Maggie makes an emotional shift: she begins to see her nation’s enemy as human beings, especially once her home becomes a makeshift hospital for the wounded, with her daughter Lydia serving as the doctor. While Maggie remains true to her beliefs, being faced with caring for wounded Southern soldiers changes the way she views the men.
I still believe the slaves must be freed, for our Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. I have learned that people with dark skin are those who merely happen to have dark skin, nothing more and nothing less. They are created by God and as such are God’s beloved children just as surely as white people are also God’s beloved children. But now…these demons I feared, these Confederates, these monsters from the South also are changing into children of God right before my eyes. When I previously thought of them, my heart would thump terribly and my head would spin, but not so now. I see they bleed the same color and in the same way as our men. I hear them cry and moan and plead just as our men do. I hear them tell of their girls or wives and children, their mothers, sisters, fathers, and brothers. They speak of going to church and of praying. And they die, Journal, just as our men die.
Maggie confronts her own fears when she is forced to confront Confederate soldiers. This type of battle leads to the growth of her compassion.
However, toward the end of the battle, a significant event occurs in which Maggie is forced to stand up and fight for her life. I can’t reveal what happens and why (because "spoilers, Sweetie"), but suffice it to say, Maggie finds herself in a life or death physical struggle, and fights not only to preserve her own life, but also that of her unborn child.
Sadly, the fighting isn't over after the battle ends, and we will explore this in my next blog.
On Monday: Maggie stands up to her government.
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Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder