by Sandra Merville Hart
Today I am interviewing the heroine of my Civil War romance, A Musket in My Hands, Callie Jennings. I hope you enjoy meeting this feisty, courageous woman from Tennessee!
1) Callie, just where is Cageville, Tennessee? What is your home like?
The town of Cageville is in western Tennessee. It was named for Licurgus Cage, one of our first merchants. The town became known as Alamo in 1869. They renamed it as a memorial to folks who died at Battle of the Alamo—and to Davy Crockett.
Our farm is about a mile outside of town. We don’t have any close neighbors, just lots of trees near our cleared fields. Empty now, except for an acre plot that I planted to keep us from starving. I hope it’s too small for the Yankees to notice it much.
The biggest city nearby that you might have heard of is Jackson. I’ve never been there, but Louisa—my sister—and I told our soldier comrades that we came from a place outside of Jackson. We didn’t want the other soldiers to find out where we were from and tell our pa where to find us.
2) What are the living conditions like where you are in the summer of 1864?
Oh, things are bad. After the Yankees took our crops, Pa stopped planting. Said he wasn’t going to plow and plant just so the Yankees could steal it from us.
Louisa works at the mercantile. They pay her in food so that helps put meals on the table. I planted a garden, hoping the Federal soldiers that ride by our farm don’t take notice of it. It’s not much, but that food should keep us alive this winter.
Other folks in town are doing about the same as us.
3) I hear your pa is a Confederate ranger. What are he and the Confederate soldiers fighting for? And has it been worth the toll it’s taken?
Yep, Pa is too old for soldiering, but he found a way to fight for his country. He and his friend, Ezra Culpepper, joined a cavalry guerrilla group. They go out on missions and then come home, pretending to be nothing more than average citizens while in town.
I know the South needs all the help they can get to win this war, but I hate what being a ranger has done to my pa. He never used to drink like this. I think he drinks to forget about those missions.
4) Are you really engaged to your pa’s friend? Rumor has it that your heart belongs to someone else.
No! I’m not going to marry a man thirty years my senior, no matter what Pa agreed to on my behalf. Pa’s mind is made up so I have to figure out something.
I love Zachariah Pearson. Zach never courted me before the war and now the fighting is about all he thinks of. But I’m the only girl in town he writes to—I know because I asked all the other single ladies. That makes me special, doesn’t it?
5) Tell us something about your true beau, Zach?
Oh, what I could tell you about Zach. We’ve been friends since his aunt and uncle took him in after his parents drowned. That was when he was fourteen, eight years ago. It was a tough time for him. He and his cousin, Nate McClary, grew as close as brothers.
Zach is a handsome man, especially in his Confederate gray. I love his green eyes and the way his brown hair curls right before it gets cut. I always thought he might court me … and then the war started. He trained at Camp Trenton in September of 1861. I’ve only seen him on his furloughs since then.
6) How would you describe yourself?
Oh, I’m not much to look at. Louisa takes after Ma. With her blue eyes and blonde hair, she’s the real beauty of the family. She knows it, too.
I got my auburn hair from Pa. His brown eyes, too. My hair is curly so I have to keep it pinned in a bun on top of my head. Wish I was prettier, though. Maybe Zach would notice me.
7) How do you plan to avoid marriage to your pa’s friend and how does your sister, Louisa, fit into all this?
Oh, Louisa’s got a plan. She’s the adventurous one. She’s been reading newspaper reports about women disguising themselves as Confederate soldiers. She’s been after me to muster into the army to avoid marrying Mr. Culpepper.
But Louisa has her own reasons for joining the army. She’s heard reports that her fiancé, Nate McClary, has been flirting with other women. I don’t want to think badly of him … but I’m afraid the reports are true.
8) Disguising yourselves as men to join the Confederate army is risky. Aren’t you worried your disguises might be found out?
Louisa and I have done our best to disguise ourselves as men so we can muster into the army. I’ve sewn trousers, coats, and blouses for both of us. Louisa sewed padding onto our underclothing to hide our shapes. Our blouses and coats fit loosely so that should help.
We’ve practiced walking like men, talking like men.
I hope we’re ready.
Back Cover Blurb for A Musket in My Hands
Can I count on you in times of great need?”
Callie Jennings reels from her pa’s decision that she must marry his friend, a man older than him. Her heart belongs to her soldier hero, Zach Pearson, but Pa won’t change his mind. Callie has no place to hide. Then her sister, Louisa, proposes a shocking alternative.
Zach still hears his pa’s scornful word—quitter. He’s determined to make something of himself as a soldier. He’ll serve the Confederacy until they win the war. If they win the war.
Callie and Louisa disguise themselves as soldiers and muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864. Times are tough and getting tougher for their Confederacy. For Callie, shooting anyone, especially former countrymen, is out of the question—until truth and love and honor come together on the battlefield.
Available at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas