After I wrote A Rebel in My House, my Civil War romance set during the turbulent Battle of Gettysburg, other authors and readers asked me why I wrote the novel. Since the anniversary of the historic battle is almost here, I thought I’d share the “story behind the story” with you, my readers and blog family.
Something drew me yet again to Gettysburg. I knew there was a story waiting there for me. My husband and I walked the battlefields. Ideas stirred when I found Tennessee troops in Archer’s Brigade, part of Heth’s Division who began the fighting on the first day. Nothing solidified so I kept digging. I discovered fascinating history at the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum in Lutheran Theological Seminary. Surely my story touched this place. Spending several hours exploring the museum and surroundings sparked no ideas so I trudged on.
I explored Gettysburg museums, spending hours at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, Gettysburg Museum of History, Gettysburg Railroad Station, General Lee’s Headquarters Museum, and The David Wills House where President Lincoln stayed. I learned captivating facts at the Jennie Wade House, Shriver House Museum, and “The Women of Gettysburg Tour,” an evening walking tour.
Ideas swirled as my husband and I walked the town’s streets around the “Diamond” or the town square. This is where the women and children suffered through a nightmare from which they didn’t awaken for many months.
Then we spent another afternoon and evening at the battlefield.
Three Tennessee regiments fought the beginning battle on July 1st. They didn’t fight again until they joined in Pickett’s Charge.
The sun sank low on the horizon as I stood alone on Cemetery Ridge. The expansive field crossed by Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, captured my imagination. Though the land is peaceful once more, it still tells a story. My imagination soared while the sun disappeared.
As an author, I had to tell what the townspeople endured. What if a Gettysburg woman fell in love with a Confederate soldier? What if they both made promises to loved ones? Some promises are impossible to keep …
I reluctantly left the ridge. I had a story to write.
-Sandra Merville Hart