Just because the war has left your neighborhood, or you have left it, does not mean that it no longer has an impact. If Walk by Faith portrays the Civil War as a ravaging beast, then A Time to Heal explores the damage the beast has left behind.
None of the characters has escaped the war’s touch. In Gettysburg Maggie (who is pregnant), Emily, Frankie, and Lydia had dealt with a flood of wounded soldiers from both sides, occupation by a squad of Confederate soldiers, privation, fear, and (in Maggie and Emily’s case) physical attacks.
Nate, Grandpa, the children, and Matilda and Chloe spent the battle in a safer place about seven miles away with Eli’s sister Sarah and her husband Andrew Millhouse. Although not in direct contact with the war, they suffered anxiety over the fate of their loved ones in Gettysburg. Part of the healing process for Matilda, Chloe, and Grandpa comes when they return to Gettysburg to help Frankie and Lydia with the hospital in the old Smith house. They are joined by Chester Carson, who had covered the war as a correspondent with Eli.
In the field, Patrick McCoy and Edgar Lape faced battle head on with the New Jersey 15 Volunteer Regiment, part of the 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Maggie’s husband Eli and Chester Carson follow the 6th Corps in their news wagon and had their own experiences with battles and field hospitals.
After the battle, Eli and Nate return to Gettysburg and whisk their wives away from that the town’s wreckage. Both women have been traumatized and their husbands feel that going to a quiet, clean place will help them heal. Fortunately, they find a house to rent near Middletown (current day Biglerville) and sojourn there.
While A Time to Heal is about healing from trauma, it also goes into detail about the disruption and destruction in Gettysburg after the armies leave. Another storyline involves Frankie’s sympathy for a wounded Confederate soldier named Caleb. Her connection to him as a human being helps Caleb running away before he can be sent to a prisoner of war camp, an act that is illegal. His escape leads to complications, including arrest, and arraignment and trial before the District Provost Marshal, although in the confusion the wrong people are arrested and detained.
As time passes, the raw wounds begin to heal. The war's character in Seeing the Elephant changes.
By the time Maggie and family return to Blaineton, mention of the war appears in Eli’s news articles and his conversation with Maggie. But it present in other ways, notably as PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the 1860s, some soldiers and even their loved ones presented doctors with a baffling series of symptoms. The disease would not be identified fully and named until the late 20th century, but the doctors of the nineteenth century couldn’t help but notice something was not quite right. After an interview with a former soldier who has committed a crime in the midst of a panic attack, Eli increasingly becomes concerned about his own set of symptoms: terrifying and disturbing nightmares and eventually decides to seek treatment.
Seeing the Elephant also hints at the coming age of industry and industrialists in the person of Josiah Norton, who owns a nearby woolen mill and a uniform factory. Josiah increasingly perceives that the new Hospital for the Insane has income-generating potential. And so greed of an emerging industrialist becomes dovetails with the treatment of people suffering from mental and emotional illnesses.
The war will not disappear completely, at least in the Saint Maggie series. I plan take the story into 1865 up to and possibly past Lincoln's assassination; and at this point do not plan to take the series any further.
However, the long-form novels are not the only place where the Civil War appears as a character. It is found in the novellas and the Christmas short stories, as well, despite the fact that one of them is set in the 1850s. So, I'll conclude this series of blogs with a discussion about the war's presence n them.
Until Wednesday… be well!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder