Image from National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/living-history.htm
One of the tasks I had before me when setting the last half of Walk by Faith in Gettysburg was imagining what it was like to be in the town during the battle.
We know a great deal about the Battle of Gettysburg itself. Military historians have studied it to death, and we know, almost to the minute, what was happening when and where. However, information regarding the lives of the town’s citizens is less abundant.
Fortunately, journals and memoirs do exist that give us part of the story from the perspective of some of the town’s citizens. I was able to read a few of these and they helped shaped my fictional account of Maggie, Emily, and Lydia’s experiences in the old Smith House, which becomes an impromptu hospital for wounded soldiers from both sides. Some Confederate soldiers, led by Captain Morrison, also take up residence in the Smith house, and this pouts more stress on the women, especially since they are harboring Union soldiers in a secret cellar.
The military action starts north of the town, as you’ll learn in this first segment, moves through the town and locates in the woods and farmers’ fields to the south.
Day 1 (July 1, 1863)
The second day of the battle finds Maggie and Emily dealing with the question of how to feed all the people temporarily residing in their home. In those days the protocol for most armies on the move was to make use of the food, water, and other resources they found around them. There were no MREs back then. The situation in and around Gettysburg was that the number of soldiers from both sides vastly outnumbered civilian population. By the end of the battle, people found that they had precious little food on hand and crops were ruined. This begins in Walk by Faith and Day 2. Maggie’s journal entry gives us sort of an “eye-witness” account of what life is like that day.
Her daughter Lydia, meanwhile, finds it annoying to perform surgery while in a long dress and petticoats and resorts to wearing trousers. I based this on the story of a female doctor (people thought she was an effeminate man) who worked in Gettysburg during the battle.
Hiding in the cellar during the cannonading becomes a regular practice for Maggie and Emily, as does welcoming Confederate soldiers who also want to take shelter during artillery fire.
Day 2 (July 2, 1863)
On the third day of the battle, there is a turn that gives the advantage to Union forces. However, Maggie and Emily do not know this has happened. All they know is that Capt. Morrison and is men return that evening, pack up, and leave early on July 4 Remember, they now have no form of communication other than what they hear from others.
Days 3 & 4 (July 3-4, 1863)
On July 4, the people in the old Smith House finally learn that the Confederates have lost and are retreating. At this they are relieved. But aside from that, there is no other Independence Day celebration in the town. It is far to decimated for that. Other things occupy their minds and energy. The household itself is still full of wounded men and short of food. Maggie, Emily, and Lydia are exhausted and traumatized. Frankie is still missing. No one knows where she might be or what has happened to her. Picket fences have been torn up, gardens raided, outhouses are overflowing, and there are dead men and horses, ruined wagons and other equipment.
The only saving grace is that only one civilian (Jenny Wade) has been killed in all that turmoil.
So, we’ll leave the celebration for tomorrow, when we visit Eli, Maggie, and household in Blaineton during the Fourth of July of 1864.
May you all have a happy Fourth of July.
And, to honor and understand the document, please read the Declaration of Independence between the picnics, and fun, and fireworks.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder