Miller explores the harrowing and bloody days of the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of three girls.
Annie Gordon has run away from home and disguised herself as
a boy to enlist in the Portsmouth Rifles of the Ninth Virginia Army. Her inexperience earns her the nickname “strawfoot,” yet she
proves to be a worthy soldier with her level head and marksmanship. In Gettsyburg, a local merchant’s daughter, Tillie Pierce,
assumes she can watch the war like a parade but is pressed into service as a
nurse. The third point of view is the most compelling, provided by Grace Bryan,
the fictionalized daughter of another historical figure, freed black peach
farmer Abraham Bryan. Grace’s story provides the most suspense, as she is cut
off from her family when the soldiers enter the city. The horrors of war are
appropriately smoothed for young readers, although there is violence and death.
While humanizing this well-covered piece of American history, the three
disparate views cannot encompass its breadth and come off as generic soldier,
nurse and freed black slave trying to cover the female Civil War experience.
The historical minor figures (Mary McAllister, another Gettysburg shopkeeper,
and Bryan) glint with bright specificity, leaving readers yearning for more. An
author’s note gives insight into Miller’s sources and process.
This is an introduction more than anything else, as it nibbles on the edges of a feast. (Historical fiction. 10-12)