Free young adult ebook to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Nancy Johnson is a retired school teacher and an active author. She envisioned a trilogy of books for children about the Civil War from different points of view: a Yankee drummer boy, an African-American soldier from Boston, and a VMI cadet and young people from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. As she explains on her website: “As a teacher I realized there was a need for historical fiction about the Civil War. I believe many of the issues which divided our country during the Civil War still touch us today.”
To mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, My Brothers’ Keeper: A Civil War Story for middle grade readers, will be free on Amazon on July 2, 3, and 4.
When I was a little girl, my mother read letters to me which had been written by my great, great uncles, two brothers from Rochester, New York. The brothers left home to fight in the Civil War when they were very young.
Mother kept their letters and pictures of the brothers and their little sister, Carrie, in a black box which was decorated with gold hearts and flowers. I was heartbroken when I learned that the youngest brother, George Peacock, had been killed in an ambush in Virginia while he was still a teenager.
In my young mind, I made up stories about the brothers, based partly on their letters and partly on my imagination. I think I knew then that someday I would write a story about them.
I still have the letters. They are yellow now, the edges bent down and crinkled, and the ink has faded. The letters, and the stories my mother wove as she was reading them, were the inspiration for my book My Brother’s Keeper: A Civil War Story. I used parts from the letters in the story. For example, in August 1861, my great, great uncle, Charlie Peacock, wrote:
As I passed through one of the back streets of Alexandria I saw a building 3 stories high built of brick with the sign Price Birch & Co Dealer in Slaves. It struck me as something different from anything I had ever seen before.
When you read My Brothers’ Keeper, you will find Price Birch & Co mentioned in Chapter 7, The Road to War. On my website, you can view a photograph of Price Birch & Co.
In addition to the letters and stories from my family, I did many months of research in books and by traveling to the places I was writing about. My husband and I climbed the rocky hill of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. We stood in the peaceful Virginia woods where my great, great uncle had been killed in an ambush in 1863. We found that three-story brick building in Alexandria with the lettering, Price Birch & Co Dealer in Slaves, still visible. We followed the path of Lee’s Retreat which led General Lee to Appomattox.
At Fort Moultrie, Union cannon still point at Fort Sumter as they did in 1861. And at Gettysburg, old deserted buildings and silent cannon and stone walls still face each other across the wide valley.
There is a virtual tour on my website with quotes from My Brothers’ Keeper captioning photographs from my research travels that I kept before me as I wrote the book. I wanted children to be able to see the actual places where such historic events occurred.
I hope my books will spark an interest in young readers to visit Civil War sites and to learn more about this tragic, and yet awesome, war. Please visit my website, http://www.nancy-johnson.com/, for links to Civil War sites.
As we honor the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, let us remember these words from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Review of My Brothers’ Keeper
“The story unfolds in a tight narrative that will hold readers’ interest, and Josh’s character development is both believable and touching. Historical details are accurate; anyone who has visited Civil War battle sites will find the experiences at Little Round Top and The Wilderness as convincing as they are exciting.” The School Library Journal
Do you have any family stories or mementos about the Civil War or other wars that have been passed down? Have you visited any Civil War sites?