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Authors: Bobbi Miller

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“And did it?” Grace asked.

“For a little while.” Tillie nodded, but her own tears flowed freely. She wiped them away.

“There'll be more peaches again someday. You wait.” Grace smiled. “Then you can
more peaches. But I'll chase you down, just so you know. I have little tolerance for thieves.”

“I'll be sure to give you fair warning, to give you a head start,” Tillie said. “I promise.”

Mr. Butler said then, “Heard tell about some peaches once that grew so large, a farmer had to use a wheelbarrow to harvest one peach at a time.”

“That true?” Abraham Bryan smiled.

“True enough,” Mr. Butler said.

And Tillie smiled, too, glad to be home.



Dear Mama

I hope this letter finds you feeling better. I know I have disappointed you. Forgive me. I am well, Mama, so do not worry. I have traveled through many towns, and have seen some handsome country. Such terrible wonders I have seen

I'm thinking to go west once I am done. I would have my own land. William said I can do anything I set my mind to, and seems to me I can't live a better life than that

We will be marching soon. I do not know how long before I have to go onto the field of battle

Dear Mama, I am not afraid, so you be not afraid. There is not a Yank bullet made for me yet! But if it is God's will, so be it. And I will wait for you in heaven, then, with a warm embrace. I will be there with William and with James. Pap will be smiling again, waiting for you. It will be a happy time. Until then, Mama, you should look north to William's star. I'll be looking, too. We'll all be looking. There's a comfort in that knowing

I think of you every day

Your devoted A

Thursday, November 19, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln was nervous. The famous orator Edward Everett, the featured speaker of the day, had held the audience spellbound for two hours, moving them to tears. Lincoln also felt weak from fever, and his head ached. He worried for his son, Tad, who had fallen ill. His wife, Mary, had begged him not to go. His personal secretary, John Hay, noted that Lincoln's face had a ghastly color and his expression was haggard.

But the president was determined to speak at the ceremony for the new national cemetery at Gettysburg, to honor the soldiers who had died in the battle there. The field where Pickett made his charge still showed the ravages of war. The town, too, still bore the signs that a great battle had moved through its streets.

President Lincoln stepped slowly to the platform, and standing before twenty thousand spectators, his hands clasped in front of him, he spoke:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little
note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

At the end of his “little speech,” as he later called it, the audience erupted in applause. Everett was so moved that he thanked the president for the “eloquent simplicity and appropriateness” of his remarks, adding, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln replied, “I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.”


Between five hundred and one thousand women disguised themselves as men and enlisted in the Union and Confederate armies. Only the letters written by three women soldiers have been found. Diaries, if any existed, have not survived. Only two women soldiers, Sarah Edmonds and Loretta Janeta Velazquez, published their memoirs after the war.

Tillie Pierce was fifteen at the time of the battle. Her diary,
At Gettysburg: Or, What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle
, was published in 1889.

Miss Mary McAllister was a 41-year-old spinster and store owner when the Confederate and Union forces marched through Gettysburg. Her family was very active in the Underground Railroad. Visitors can still see the houses, caves, and other sites that were used as safe houses and hideaways. Two interesting books that explore the experiences of the women in Gettysburg are E. F. Conklin's
Women in Gettysburg
(Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1993) and William G. Williams's
Days of Darkness: The Gettysburg Civilians
(Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Publishing, 1986).

Abraham Bryan owned twelve acres south of Gettysburg, complete with two houses and a barn. As a landowner, he was one of the economic elite of the town. Unable to read and write, he left no personal recording about his life seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line nor about his observations of the battle. What little information is known comes from tax and census records and from legal documents that he filed because of damages to his farm.

Before the Civil War, the African-American community in Gettysburg flourished. Of the 2,500 citizens of Gettysburg, more than 250 were African-American. Many of the black citizens were involved in the Underground Railroad. In 1834 a school was established for the children of African Americans. In 1839 the school was moved to St. Paul's Church. The curriculum focused on reading and math skills, considered essential in achieving economic success. During the war, most of the
community fled north, never to return. Seven years after the war, nearly two-thirds of the African-American community lived elsewhere.

However, Abraham Bryan did return to Gettysburg with his family. He rebuilt his farm, which had been destroyed during the battle. In 1869 he sold his farm and moved into town, where he lived comfortably, managing the local hotel until his death in 1879. For more information on the African-American community at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, read Peter C. Vermilyea's “The Effect of the Confederate Invasion of Pennsylvania on Gettysburg's African American Community” in
Gettysburg Magazine

To re-create the story of Annie, Grace, and Tillie, I drew upon diaries and many other documents, including town records, regimental records, government documents, and current research on the battle. Scott Hartwig, supervisory historian of Gettysburg National Military Park, and the National Park Service provided invaluable help. So, too, did the wonderful people at the park bookstore. Re-enactors and historians Dave Pueschel and Mark Strojek were wonderfully generous with their information on the life of a Confederate soldier in the Ninth Virginia Infantry Regiment. Among the most valuable readings, but certainly not the whole of the list, are
John Dooley, Confederate Soldier: His War Journal
(Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1945); Thomas Francis Galway's journal in
The Valiant Hours
(Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1946); Mark Nesbitt's
35 Days to Gettysburg: The Campaign Diaries of Two Enemies
(Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1992); Albert Nofi's detailed analysis of the battle, including personalities, strategy, geographical studies, and even weather patterns, in
The Gettysburg Campaign
(Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, 1986); the invaluable
Pickett's Charge: Eyewitness Accounts
, edited by Richard Rollins (Redondo Beach, CA: Rank and File Publications, 1994); and Benjamin Trask's definitive regimental history,
Virginia Infantry
(Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard, 1984).

An estimated 618,000 to 700,000 Americans, both civilians and soldiers, lost their lives during the Civil War, more than in the
Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars, and the Korean War combined. This was the time before dog tags or other means of identification, and close to half who died remained “unknown soldiers.” Neither the North nor the South kept accurate records of its causalities. Families often never learned the fate of their sons, husbands, and brothers.

On November 19, 1863, the town of Gettysburg opened a new cemetery to honor the fallen. Although feeling sick on that day, President Lincoln delivered his “Gettysburg Address” at the opening ceremony for the new cemetery. He was later diagnosed with a mild case of smallpox. For an eyewitness account of the events of that day, see Tyler Dennett's
Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay
(New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1939); Phillip B. Kunhardt's
A New Birth of Freedom: Lincoln at Gettysburg
(New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1983); and Carl Sandburg's
Abraham Lincoln: The War Years
(New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1939). Edward Everett's November 20, 1863, letter to Abraham Lincoln is in the collection of the Library of Congress and can be seen at

My special thanks to Julie Amper, most fabulous editor, for going on this journey with me, and to Harold Underdown, for his insights while I was his student during his Kid's Book Revisions workshops.

While I did my best to stay true to the times and the people, I did imagine discussions and make leaps of logic for the sake of character and plot. In the end, I am just a storyteller, not a historian.

But then again, all of history is a story.

BOOK: The Girls of Gettysburg
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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