Disguised as a boy, the 16-year-old wife of a Methodist circuit rider sees action in the 1781 revolutionary battle at Cowpens.
How the lass comes to be toting a rifle is the bulk of southern specialist Morgan’s (This Rock, 2001, etc.) latest bit of Carolina history, which opens and closes with scenes from that pivotal battle. Having driven an axe into the skull of the creepy stepfather who raped her, teenager Josie Summers has thought it best to flee her mother’s Carolina homestead. Disguised in her stepfather’s clothes and with her pretty hair hacked off, Josie stumbles off into the dark and roadless colonial interior with no plan other than to put some distance between herself and the crime scene. After days of fearful and freezing travel, she stumbles into a church and warms to the spiritual glow spread by the Reverend John Trethman, an unusually well-educated frontier clergyman. Hitherto unchurched and largely skeptical, Josie is attracted both to Trethman’s message of salvation and to his charisma, and, with no other plans, she is happy to follow in his circuit, becoming his assistant. Fooled by the disguise, Trethman is happy to have such a bright lad to assist in the services, but their travel from church to church has led the King’s forces to suspect the minister of espionage, and the couple begin to receive warnings from the edgy settlers. Trethman’s inevitable discovery of Josie’s true gender leads first to some surprisingly steamy frontier sex and then to a self-administered wedding. Before the two can figure out how to break the news to the congregations, Trethman is badly burned in a forest fire and then captured by the redcoats, and Josie has to hit the road, where she’ll be swept up into the colonial army.
Grim but interesting history, with excellent battle scenes.