A few years ago, my wife volunteered at the Abraham Lincoln Museum on weekends. This availed me of more historical education. For example: in the War Room, a picture of Civil War troops plus a book and an interactive map, which identified soldiers, were pictures of two women who dressed as men to fight in the American Civil War. In this photo the women: one we see dressed first as woman and in another place as a man, and the second woman only once as cross-dressed, are both identified by name. According many sources there are over 400 documented accounts of cross-dressing troops among the Union Soldiers. Some women traveled dressed as men to be with their husbands, and some dressed as it was their proclivity. Perhaps for some the money was better than anything they could otherwise earn or others dressing as a man was a matter of safety and freedom. Certainly, keeping their secrets must have been difficult. Did they share a tent? Did they ever bathe? A well-known story is of an Irish immigrant named Jennie Hodgers who enlisted as Albert Cashier from Illinois, and served the entire war dressed as a man. Years after the war she continued to cross-dress. Late in life, she was in an accident and when the doctor discovered her secret, she convinced him to keep quiet, otherwise she would lose her government pension.
Hearts Under Siege, Book One, and Hearts Under Fire, Book Two, are historical romances, about the life of a scrawny tomboy, named Melody, who comes of age at the beginning of the Civil War. We see her at the beginning working her father’s farm and hating it. When the father becomes ill, she has a girl from town come to help care for him while she continues the heavy farm work. The two develop an intimate relationship and here Melody learns about physical love with a woman. Upon the death of Melody’s father, her helper’s father takes the girl away, suspecting the affair between the two, and forces her to marry.
Next, Melody does what any of us would like to do when our first love goes bad. She, changes her name to Melvin, dresses as a man and runs away to join the army. In this case the Union Army. Here the author does not spare us overwhelming heat, repugnant odors, pitch black nights on guard, lice and bloody deaths of close friends.
Hearts Under Siege, Book One, is the journey of a strong woman. The journey ends close to his 21st birthday, when Melvin, still dressing as a man, fights alongside of General Grant in Mississippi. We are presented, not only to the history of the United States, but a history of its horrors. This author’s characters handle difficulties with grace. Mel Coffield takes part in the war to find his role in life and future for him/herself. He endures, as the Civil War rages on, the sight, destruction, loss of spirit, but mostly loss of so many lives.
These books feature high quality historical writing, characters that you become invested in, and a storyline that will inform the reader of Civil War history. Dickerson’s writing is beautiful and believable. She says she’s traveled to many battlefields, her favorite Gettysburg, PA. And those travels gave the story about a female soldier whom she wanted to make credible. And she nailed it.
Hearts Under Siege T L Dickerson. Sapphire Books. ASIN : B08Z3N73GK B08HR9WZTJ. 178 Pages. $14.95. Kindle $4.99.Book One.
Hearts Under Fire. T L Dickerson. Sapphire Books. ASIN : B08Z3N73GK $12.95 Paperback: Kindle $7.99. Book Two.