Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tillie Pierce: Eyewitness to Gettysburg

 It's fun to read two works based on the same primary source. When you do and find scenes or turns of phrase common to both, it's a safe bet that the words or the scene came from the original material.

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred from July 1-3, 1863. One of the witnesses to the battle was fifteen year old Tillie Pierce. More than 20 years after the battle, she wrote her memoir, Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Thunder at Gettysburg, written by Patricia Lee Gauch (Calkins Creek, 2003) is a simple little chapter book written for elementary and middleschool-age students who have mastered easy readers. Ms. Gauch's main character is Tillie, and her book is a work of fiction that retells the biography on a very simple level. It is an historically accurate account of a young girl's involvement in the Battle of Gettysburg, especially her experiences helping wounded soldiers.

My book, The Bent Reed, is a work of fiction, but like many works of historical fiction, it includes historical characters. Sarah McCoombs, the teen-aged protagonist, and her family don't exist. Most of their neighbors did. I set the fictitious McCoombs family's farm right in the thick of the action, between two real farms that took a beating with actual artillery. Almost everything that happened in The Bent Reed actually did happen, but to other, real people. One of those people was Tillie Pierce. After her home is commandeered and turned into a hospital, Sarah McCoombs tends to wounded soldier from both the Confederate and Union Armies. Much of her empathy is derived from Tillie Pierce's writing.

Tillie actually shows up in a crowd scene in my book. She is named in a group of girls who went to the ladies seminary, a Gettysburg finishing school for young ladies. They are depicted waving flags during a Union parade through town. I got the description of the parade, including the songs they sang and the names of some of the handsome young men parading in their spiffy new uniforms, from her memoir.

To commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg and celebrate Independence Day, The Bent Reed will be offered on Amazon at special low prices from June 30-July 7th.

Jennifer Bohnhoff teaches New Mexico History to 7th graders at a Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is the author of The Bent Reed, Code: Elephants on the Moon, and On Fledgling Wings, all works of historical fiction for middle grades and Tweet Sarts, a funny contemporary novel for middle grade readers. Swan Song, a dual narrative contemporary/historical fiction for young adults, is due out later this summer and can be preordered for Kindle on Amazon, or in paperback at her website.

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