Nine short stories present characters profoundly touched by the defining battle of the Civil War.
Gettysburg presents a group of related fictional characters whose stories illuminate various facets of the bloodiest engagement of the American Civil War. Ranging from the first day of the battle until after the turn of the 20th century, the stories explore bravery, loyalty, memory, and loss. They expose the wastefulness of war and its long-lasting effects, not only for the soldiers who struggled on the frontlines but also for the women who tended them, the children who were neglected in the upheaval, and other citizens and family members confined to the home front.
Two residents of the town of Gettysburg—Mary Bowman and Hannah Casey—emerge as memorable heroines after being shocked that war could come to their quiet community. “The Home-Coming” tells the story of a frightened young soldier who realizes, as the battle rages, that he may die just yards from his boyhood home. “The Battleground” recounts President Lincoln’s visit to the site to give his famous address and how his words strengthen Mary, who is distractedly searching for her husband’s remains, her clothes still stained with the blood of the wounded. “Victory” is based on the actual wartime experiences of Frank Haskell, an aide to General John Gibbon. “Gunner Criswell” moves forward to 1910 and the dedication of a regimental monument on which a veteran cannot find his name.
With these stories, Singmaster renders the painful and lasting ways in which the battlefield affects surviving individuals, both those able to bear the scars and those subdued by them. Sentimental glorification of the battle is not her aim. As Lesley Gordon explains in the introduction, “The Civil War, like all wars, was gory, messy, and chaotic. Its effects were not entirely admirable, and its legacy remains contested. Works like Elsie Singmaster’s Gettysburg are vital to our understanding this.”