1863: A House Divided: A Novel of the Civil War

1863: A House Divided: A Novel of the Civil War

by Elizabeth Massie

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466856127
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/05/2013
Series: Young Founders , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,094,739
File size: 246 KB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Elizabeth Massie is author of numerous novels for young adult, middle grade, and primary readers. These include the Young Founders series, the Daughters of Liberty trilogy, The Great Chicago Fire: 1871, The Fight for Right, Read All About It, and more. A former middle school teacher, Elizabeth enjoys exploring both important and little-known moments in American history and presenting those moments to readers through the struggles and triumphs of her characters.
Elizabeth lives in the historic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, very close to where her family moved in 1747. She says, "Every place is historic. Well-known or not, every town, city, and county has its own compelling tale of people and events, a story that plays a part in the continuing story that is our history."

Elizabeth Massie is author of numerous novels for young adult, middle grade, and primary readers. These include the Young Founders series, the Daughters of Liberty trilogy, The Great Chicago Fire: 1871, The Fight for Right, Read All About It, and more. A former middle school teacher, Elizabeth enjoys exploring both important and little-known moments in American history and presenting those moments to readers through the struggles and triumphs of her characters.  
     Elizabeth lives in the historic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, very close to where her family moved in 1747. She says, “Every place is historic. Well-known or not, every town, city, and county has its own compelling tale of people and events, a story that plays a part in the continuing story that is our history.”  

Read an Excerpt

1863: A House Divided

Young Founders A Novel Of The Civil War

By Elizabeth Massie

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2000 Elizabeth Massie
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5612-7


April 28, 1863

I won the race, there is no doubt about it! My horse Molly and I, up Harrisburg Road from Gettysburg and then across the field to our farm we galloped, a good twelve yards ahead of Stephen and his nag most of the time. I lost my hat as we jumped the ditch by the crooked pine, but I can retrieve it in the morning. I would not stop for a hat when having a win was so close at hand!

Stephen did pull up beside me as we reached the orchard, and for a moment, as I leaned into Molly's sorrel mane and shouted, "Go girl!" I could see them beside me, neck and neck we were, with Stephen grinning his triumphant grin and his horse straining at the bit and foaming at the neck. The three deer hides we'd retrieved from the tannery in town were tied to his saddle, and flapped behind him like the wings of an enormous and furious bird. Stephen shouted, "I've got it!" But then at the last moment, when we were to pass the finish, which is always the hooded well, Stephen's horse crashed beneath an apple tree and Stephen was off. Dropping like a stone he was, and bouncing on the ground, crying out even as he struck the dirt, "I won! I passed the well first!"

He did not win. I say one must stay astride to win even if, perhaps and only perhaps, one might have been a hairs breadth ahead before he took his tumble.

We curried our horses in the barn, and gave them an extra hand of grain and extra minutes of grooming for their racing, then took the leathers inside the house to show Uncle Silas. Uncle Silas is actually my Great-uncle Silas Preston. He is seventy-three years old and has been abed for many years with a rash of infirmities from gout to asthma to dropsy. From his bed in the parlor by the fireplace he pawed the three deer hides Stephen held out for his inspection, then said, "I suppose the tanner did what he could with these pitiful specimens. Next time, Stephen, hunt like a man. Go after the full-grown animals and not the babes."

Stephen huffed, and took the hides to the kitchen. Uncle Silas is always criticizing Stephen, and often criticizing me. The tanner, Mr. Bowler, did a nice job with those hides. And I know they came from three good-sized does.

Our Great-aunt Darcy was in the kitchen, darning a pair of her stockings at the small table. She is our father's mother's sister, seventy-one years of age and not infirm as is Uncle Silas, but in her own way is limited. She smiled at the hides and said they were nice, then her eyes grew narrow and she asked, "You did not hunt them from Pratt's Woods?" No, Stephen assured her, he had not hunted the deer there, for Pratt's Woods, the small acreage of trees on the west side of the farm, contains a spirit who haunts Aunt Darcy mercilessly, so she claims.

With a little help from Aunt Darcy, I fixed supper for the four of us in the Dutch oven out in the backyard, for it is too hot to cook in the kitchen on most spring days, and we don't have a cookstove in the cellar as many neighbors do. I boiled the peas I had shelled in the morning and the sweet potatoes from the cellar, as well as a leg roast from one of the does Stephen had gutted and put in the smokehouse. When we were finished with our supper, I then took scraps to the pigs in the pen by the barn.

I wish I had a dog to eat scraps under the table at dinner. When Stephen and I lived in Rhode Island with our parents, we had a dog. His name was Tommy. Tommy could sit up, roll over on command, and sleep at the foot of my bed. Uncle Silas says dogs are a nuisance, for they chase cows and cows chased by dogs give no milk. I say pah to that! One time when I was mad at Uncle Silas I chased the cows myself and swore a fox did it.

The cows still gave milk, anyway.

I received a letter today. When Stephen and I were in town we stopped by the post office and found there was mail. A letter for Aunt Darcy from her daughter, Rudine, who lives in New Jersey with her husband and son, and a letter for me from my friend Marjorie Olson who went to Pittsburgh in March to work at the Allegheny Munitions Factory. Marjorie wrote that work is long and hard, but she lives in a boarding house with other girls and has made new friends. "Our army is in so great a need of ammunition," her letter said, "with the war against the Southerners having gone on a full two years now. You should come join me, Susie, and make your own money while helping our good men save the Union. I earn nine dollars a week! Surely you should not find yourself missing your aunt and uncle, whom I know drive you to distraction."

But I shall not go to Pittsburgh to work. I shall not leave this farm. Regardless of how difficult it is, living with a curmudgeon and mild-mannered lunatic. I will bear with it, for someday this farm will belong to Stephen and me. I am quite plain in appearance, and scarred on my arms from the fire which claimed my parents. I shall not make my way in this world by my looks, Uncle Silas has told me so, and on this one matter I am afraid he is right. I must, then, be strong and stay put. There are times when I cry, but I don't let anyone see. It would do no good, and would only make me feel worse.

When our home burned in Rhode Island, and our beautiful sweet mother and gentle father with it, I thought we should go to the charity of the church, and then to some family we did not know for servitude. But word reached Gettysburg, and we were sent for, and have lived with our great-aunt and great-uncle ever since. We were twelve when our parents burned to death. We are now sixteen. A long four years it has been. Yet I will stay strong. I will stay put.

Stephen received no letter today, but snatched up a copy of the Daily Gazette from the druggist to read about the on-going war. He has on occasion said he would like to help put the Southerners in their place, but I'm sure he would not really go to battle. First of all, he is not old enough. Second of all, he knows I need him here. Uncle Silas grew up in South Carolina. I think when Stephen gets angry with Uncle Silas he likes to imagine that he could face a whole line of South Carolinians with a rifle and chase them clear to the Gulf of Mexico. But I do not think Stephen would enlist, for what would I do then?

Aunt Darcy is coming upstairs now, huffing and puffing with her age. I will blow out the candle and feign sleep.

Susanne Annalee Blackburn


April 28, 1863

I wonder if I shall ever understand women. Or girls, as the case may be. I have never heard such a noise as came from Susanne when I insisted that I won our little race. And I did. It doesn't matter that I was thrown. I passed the well first. What she doesn't know is I held back and let her get a lead on me just so I could show her what Fury can do when I let him have full rein. If I'd kicked Fury from the start, I'd have been home, finishing up my supper by the time she crossed the finish.

Susanne can get temperamental, though. No matter. Next time, I'll just let Fury go full at it and Susanne can complain all she wants to.

Talk about temperamental. Aunt Darcy went to whining about a ghostly light she thought she'd seen tonight while holding the kitchen door open for me as I came in with the well water. She whimpered and spun about, knocking the bucket and spilling the water on the floor. She worried aloud all evening, glancing frequently out the kitchen window at Pratt's Woods and wringing her wrinkled hands. How can an old woman like her be so foolish? I've hunted down in Pratt's Woods many times, and it's a right-friendly place, with nothing more evil than a few snakes and skunks. Of course I can't tell Aunt Darcy that's where I was hunting or she might up and shed her skin. And if I mention it to Uncle Silas, he'll blab it to Darcy just to amuse himself. And then she'll shed her skin.

My aunt and uncle are such vexations! Why must Uncle Silas constantly complain about what I do? Those hides were perfect. I don't think the old man has ever given me a kind word since we moved here four years ago. I wish somehow, amid all his other infirmities, he would be struck dumb. I keep this place from falling apart, I tend what little crops we've got, I take care of the horses, I chop the wood, I mend the fences, the barn, and even the creaking floors of this old weatherboard farmhouse, yet all he does is complain. If it weren't for me, they'd probably be in the Alms House right now, both of them. But maybe Aunt Darcy would like that. She'd be well away from that silly ghost that causes her such grief.

These are terrible thoughts and I'm sorry I have them. I'm sure my father would not have approved. But I can't help how I feel.

I hear Alvin Collins has gone and joined the army. And not just the army, but the cavalry! I'm told they have fabulous horses. What an exciting life that must be, charging the Rebels on horseback, everyone with sabers and rifles, and our flag flying high. It would make me proud to go off like that. There I could be a man. Here I'll always be a boy. I think the way I'm treated is hardly better than being a slave. Isn't that what the fight is about anyway?

It's no wonder Uncle Silas thinks the Rebels have the right to make their own country. I remember the fit of temper he had when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He snarled and complained so hard he nearly rolled out of bed. Uncle Silas talks like the South is fighting for their rights like the founding fathers did against England in the Revolution. I guess he thinks it's fine for people with power to own other people, and maybe that's the way he feels about me and Susanne. We're like property to him, just here to see to their needs and never mind about our own. It makes me so angry that maybe I will just join up and go into the cavalry.

I bet Marshall and I could both pass for old enough to enlist. Last year, neither one of us looked eighteen. We've both grown a lot, though, and Marshall's even got a mustache. Hell, Alvin Collins just turned seventeen.

Perhaps it's cruel to think about leaving Susanne alone with Uncle Silas and Aunt Darcy. But sometimes I feel like my muscles are ready to jump out of my skin for wanting to do something besides tend this farm. So why shouldn't I go?

Poor Susanne. Though we quarrel sometimes, she understands me better than anyone. She ought to, being my twin. I'd hate to leave her behind. Still, she's hardheaded, not quick to cry, and almost as strong as I am. The scars on her arms have not rendered them useless, only disfigured. I bet that if I were to enlist, she'd be able to run this place almost as good as I do.

I can't go on like this with life passing me by. What kind of man will I be ten years from now if I can't look back and say "that was my decision, I made it, and that's what I did"?

A boy has to become a man. And it's high time everyone knows I'm not just a boy anymore.

Stephen Blackburn


"Gracious, and just what has become of your hat?" asked Aunt Darcy, her wrinkled fists thrust upon her bony hips, her rheumy gray eyes staring at Susanne as the girl straightened the covers on the bed they shared in one of the three upstairs rooms. Susanne and Darcy were dressed except for their shoes, with Aunt Darcy in her old brown frock with the velvet buttons and Susanne in her plain blue dress with the round white collar and black velvet bow at the neck. It was early in the morning, just after five-thirty, and the sky outside the window was barely awake, shimmering in shades of blue and plum. Mockingbirds and larks could be heard in the trees near the farmhouse. On the chest by the bed a single candle burned, throwing light and shadows over the walls and floor. Downstairs, Uncle Silas was already in the midst of his morning coughing fit, with racks so loud it shook the floor beneath Susanne's feet. Across the hall in another bedroom, Stephen was thumping around, getting ready for the day.

"I believe it's in the barn," said Susanne. She did not look at her aunt, but continued fluffing the feather pillows and placing them at the bed's head. "I broke a tie, and removed it so it wouldn't fall into the trough while I was brushing Molly last evening."

"Mercy, child!" said the old woman. Her voice was as dry as a seed pod in autumn. She eased herself down on the chair by the window with a groan, and leaned over with great effort to put on her shoes. "A young lady should not be dilly-dallying with horses!" Aunt Darcy panted as drew up the laces. "Dilly-dallying, no! Caring for horses are a man's duty. Your mother would turn in her grave if she knew you were behaving in such a manner!"

Susanne bit her tongue so she would not reply that it was her mother who had taught her to ride a horse and her mother who had taught her to groom, tack, and care for a horse. Her mother had been a strong-willed and capable woman, able to cook, sew, nurse, and garden, as all women did, but she was also able to chop wood and mend fences and assist with the birthing of a foal. Aunt Darcy, however, was raised to be a "lady," and in spite of the fact that the farm on which they lived was now tumbling into various degrees of disrepair — for although the twins worked as best they could they had a difficult time keeping up with the entire place — the old woman held to the firm belief that a woman was the weaker sex and commanded of God to do only that which did not "bring up a glow nor harden the hands." It did no good to argue with the old woman, but Susanne had learned over the past four years that her great-aunt was more of a grumbler than a disciplinarian. She said what she thought but then forgot what she'd said, and Susanne and Stephen were most often free to handle things in their own manner.

And so she only said with a sigh, "I shall find my hat as soon as we are done with our breakfast."

"I should think so," said Aunt Darcy. She finished with the first shoe, then unlaced it and tied it up two more times. "We've not got the income we once had," she continued. "No, no, we do not. Now that there are sewing machines we certainly do not. We cannot be neglectful with what we have. We must be careful." The first shoe finished, she bent to the second. She would not be done with this shoe, either, until it had been laced and tied thrice.

"Yes, ma'am," said Susanne.

Aunt Darcy finished her second shoe and hoisted herself to her feet, teetering for a moment then catching her balance. Susanne draped the quilt over the blanket rack at the foot of the bed and then placed her nightdress into the tall oak highboy. She and her aunt then took turns peering into the small looking glass to see that they were presentable to the world downstairs. Although Darcy, in her fear of the woods, never ventured outside anymore, so what could it matter how she looked? Susanne wished they had a large mirror on the chest like she had had back in Rhode Island, but Aunt Darcy said it was bad luck to be able to see one's whole self at a time. When Susanne had asked why, the old woman had only shuddered and replied, "It's not for me to say."

As Susanne held the little tortoise-shell backed mirror up for her aunt, Aunt Darcy smoothed her white hair with a mother-of-pearl backed hairbrush and then pinned on her cap with shaking fingers. Then she took it off, put it back, and pinned it, then repeated the motion a third time. Every morning she did this. She could not go with only putting the cap on once. There were many such behaviors Aunt Darcy did over and over, day after day.

"There now," said Aunt Darcy, pinching her cheeks with her fingers in hopes to bring out a glow. It failed miserably. "That's done. Done. Done." She reached for her shawl on the bedpost.

Susanne propped the looking glass against a pillow and braided, coiled, and pinned up her own long hair as her aunt slowly made her way into the hall and down the rickety steps. When Susanne was done, she stepped back as far as she could to try to catch her whole reflection but it was impossible. It doesn't matter what you look like, she told herself sternly. You are plain and scarred, and that's the simple truth. It is probably best that there is no full mirror here, or you'd waste time looking for something that just isn't there. She took a deep breath then picked up the mirror from the pillow and turned it face down on the chest. It didn't matter that she was not beautiful like her friend Marjorie. She was smart and she was patient. She would not need to attract a husband of wealth, because she and Stephen would someday inherit this farm and never want for shelter.


Excerpted from 1863: A House Divided by Elizabeth Massie. Copyright © 2000 Elizabeth Massie. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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1863: A House Divided: A Novel of the Civil War 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
joririchardson on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The same old-same old Civil War story... with lifeless characters and a cliche, predictable, and rushed-through plot.Not all that great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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