Can Love Form Amidst Tensions of War?During the clash between Union and Confederacy, quiet Tennessean Pearl MacFarlane is compelled to nurse both Rebel and Yankee wounded who seek refuge at her family’s farm. She is determined to remain unmoved by the Yankee cause—until she faces the silent struggle of Union soldier Joshua Wheeler, a recent amputee. The MacFarlane family fits no stereotype Joshua believed in; still he is desperate to regain his footing—as a soldier, as a man, as a Christian—in the aftermath of his debilitating injury. He will use his time behind enemy lines to gather useful intelligence for the Union—if the courageous Rebel woman will stay out of the line of danger. Join the adventure as the Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear. More in the Daughters of the Mayflower series:The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1620 Atlantic Ocean (February 2018)The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans (April 2018)The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War (June 2018)The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1774 Philadelphia (August 2018)The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1794 on the Wilderness Road (October 2018)The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall – set 1814 Baltimore (December 2018)The Alamo Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1836 Texas (February 2019)The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1849 San Francisco (April 2019)The Express Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1860 Utah (July 2019)
About the Author
Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in Charleston, South Carolina, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. She’s a military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of three, grammie of two, and a member of ACFW and RWA. Her first novella, Defending Truth in A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® finalist. When she’s not sewing, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies. Connect with her at www.shannonmcnear.com, or on Facebook and Goodreads.
Read an Excerpt
September 20, 1863
The Battle of Chickamauga, Northern Georgia
Hold the line! For the love of God, hold it!"
Not for the first time, Joshua Wheeler wondered if he'd descended into hell. The sun blazing fierce enough to make his head ache even through a cap. The flash of fire from his own rifle as well as those to his right and left. Answering fire from across the forested, rock-strewn gully. The burn of gun smoke in his nostrils, and the screams of men above the continuous concussion of shots, both rifle and artillery, pounding through his chest.
Oh God, save us ...
Fire, reload, fire again. Over and over.
God ... if You do love us ...
Cursing, frantic. "Hold — the — line!" There was no holding. The return fire was too hot, the Rebels pressing hard, and those on both sides of Josh either falling back or — falling. A curse was on his own tongue as he reloaded just one more time —
Something struck him, but he barely felt it. Stared in shock at his shredded sleeve, the forearm dangling above the wrist. Tried to make his hand move, but — nothing.
The pitch of the cries around him changed to a warble, the distress of his fellow Union soldiers and the unholy glee of the Rebels alike fading as the ground rushed up to meet him. ...
* * *
Hell took on a different face when he awoke. Darkness wrapped him about with lingering heat. A low moan rumbled from his left, while a whimpering came from his right. And somewhere not far away, the rasp as of a saw and the unmistakable scream of a man in mortal agony.
Pretty sure that had been him, not long ago.
He tried to move — but fire lit through that left arm, coursing up and into his shoulder and the rest of his body. A yelp escaped his throat before he could stop it.
God ... oh God ...
His mama's voice. "Don't you be takin' the name of our Lord in vain, now!"
His breath came ragged. "I didn't mean to, Mama."
A slow, deep voice rolled out of the dark. "I reckon I ain't your mama, but can I get you anything, soldier?"
He startled at both the nearness and cadence. "I — water. Please."
A hand behind his neck and tin cup brought to his lips. Trying not to whimper again, but then the blessed coolness of water on his lips, into his mouth.
Maybe this wasn't hell after all.
As he gratefully took another gulp, approaching voices overlaid the moaning around him.
"Local boy, and we're gonna have to go tell his family."
"While you're at it, see if they have room for some of our prisoners to convalesce. Perhaps those less likely to survive the train journey to Richmond. Our own boys need attention, here, and there are more yet on the field." The cultured accent of a Virginia native paused, giving way to the brief sound of boots shifting on the floor. "Portius, can any of these men be made ready to transport soon?"
"Yes, sir," came the voice of his attendant. Tennessee, if Josh didn't miss his guess. "This one's awake. Not sure for how long, though."
His pulse stuttered. Wait. Was he then a prisoner? Or —
Josh swallowed. "Sir." He cleared his throat, tried again. "Where am I, sir?"
"And who do I have the honor of being addressed by?"
His shoulder and arm were on fire again. "Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, First Ohio, Army of the Cumberland, sir."
A huff answered him, which might have been a sardonic laugh or something else entirely. "Well, Sergeant, you are now in the company of the Army of Tennessee." A definite short laugh, now. "Welcome to the Confederacy, son. You may consider yourself a prisoner at this time."
* * *
September 21, Southern Tennessee
The guns were silent now, over on West Chickamauga Creek and across the mountains. But as quiet fell, sullen and smoky under the moonlight, Pearl MacFarlane's tears would not cease.
She never knew a body could cry so many tears.
All three of her older brothers gone now. First Jeremiah at Shiloh, then Jefferson at Fishing Creek, and now Gideon — here. In the very hills they'd run as children.
Pearl drew her shawl more tightly around her shoulders and let her body sag against the porch post. Clem's sniffling still carried across the yard, likely from around the corner and behind the woodpile out back. Pa had taken himself straight to bed. If Mama were still here — well, it would kill Mama all over again.
Instead, all three of them had gone ahead to greet Mama in heaven. Wouldn't she be glad.
A fresh, hot stream poured down her cheeks at the thought.
Word was that the Confederacy had driven the Federals back this day through Rossville Gap and maybe even as far as Chattanooga. General Longstreet, all the way from Virginia, had swept in to help. But what good was victory if the blood of their finest lay spilled into the ground?
Never mind that her brothers had only cared about defending that ground and were only too glad to go into the fight.
All three lay in the very earth they'd fallen upon, if one counted Gideon's being laid to rest today beside Mama. Pearl wished all three could be buried there, but they hadn't the means to find and bring the other two home. With only her and Clem left of the MacFarlane clan, and Pa being nearly an invalid, they'd barely enough resources to scratch out a living, much less go trying to find family who were long since in the grave.
Pearl buried her face in a corner of the shawl — a beautiful Oriental weave of cream and tan and brown, presented to Mama from Pa as a courting gift years before. Mama's scent was long gone, but Pearl inhaled anyway, out of habit.
No, she wouldn't wish Mama back, not in the midst of such trouble.
A slight rumble broke the quiet from somewhere down the road, growing louder by the moment. Pearl stiffened. Why would a wagon be coming this late?
The rumble resolved into a rattle, and through scraggly brush lining the road, the shape of a pair of horses and wagon could be seen, the canvas cover a white blur in the dark. As the rig turned into their yard, Pearl patted the weight of the old flintlock pistol in her skirt pocket, then stepped out from under the shadow of the porch.
Two men sat on the wagon seat, one driving and the other cradling a rifle. Both tipped their hats to her as the wagon rolled to a stop below the porch. "Evenin', miss," the driver said.
She bobbed a nod, gaze straying to the man riding shotgun.
"Pearl," said that one.
"Travis," she replied, trying to keep her voice level.
"It's been a long time."
"Indeed it has." Her weary mind scrolled back through the months — years? Yes, nearly two — since she'd last seen her cousin. In this moment, however, she could not even summon gladness for it. Nothing but a faint surprise.
"I was most regretful to hear about your brothers," he said, his voice still subdued.
She swallowed, then nodded again, harder this time. Neither man got down, but the driver fidgeted, scratching his beard and fiddling with the reins. "Miss," he said finally, "reckon we got to impose upon your hospitality for a short time. There's a couple of wounded Yankees in the back of the wagon what needs nursing care. We'll be bringing more tomorrow."
"We don't have room. Or the wherewithal."
"Well, we was thinking you'd be saying that. Captain has authorized us to help with victuals. You just need to give 'em floor space."
For a moment the night tilted around Pearl, and a hot, heavy wave of nausea overtook her. Then she pulled a long, slow breath, and the world righted itself again.
"Why aren't you asking me to come down and help with nursing, there?"
Travis shot her a glance from under his hat brim, visible even in the dark. "Didn't figure you'd agree."
She huffed a laugh. "You'd be right. And I will not open my home to the likes of these either."
"You ain't being given a choice," Travis said. "Every house in the area is prevailed upon to host the wounded or prisoners. We have hundreds of wounded, Pearl. Maybe more like thousands."
An ugly word came to her tongue, but she bit it back. Why were only men allowed to curse?
A heavy step and scrape heralded the open door behind her. "We'll take them," came Pa's voice from over her shoulder, steady and mild.
"Pa," she whispered, but his hand came down on her shoulder.
"Shh. Good Book tells us to be kind to our enemies."
There'd be no arguing with him, but her throat burned. That kindness would be required directly of her hand, not of Pa's, whose every step was a trial and had been for many a year.
But she'd not dare complain.CHAPTER 2
Morning sun slanted through a window, falling across his face and adding to the general agony in his body. Josh grimaced, instantly sorry for even the small motion that came with sudden wakefulness.
So he'd survived the night.
Was he supposed to be thankful for that turn of events?
With sunlight still stabbing his eyes, he squinted, trying to see where he was. The quiet confirmed that what he recalled of a nighttime wagon ride must not have been a dream — and the absence of men's screams and groans was a decided relief, for sure — but where exactly had they brought him?
A plain room inside a cabin or house, looked like. A single curtain at the window, lifting and falling with a faint breeze. A straight-backed chair, a narrow bed — where someone else lay, a man's hand outflung over the edge, still grimy and bloodied — and a small washstand. A blue dress hanging from a hook near the corner, and another small table behind the door holding a hairbrush and various female accoutrements.
Bits and pieces of impressions, too fragmented to even be called memory, filed through his thoughts. Lamplight, the twang of Tennessee mountain voices, first of a man, then the sharper accent of a woman. The comfort of a blanket covering a hard floor that blessedly did not jostle and bounce beneath him.
"Prisoners?" He remembered one voice, the woman's.
"No fear. They ain't in any shape to try an escape ... die trying."
At this point, Josh would rather try, and die.
His pa's voice came swift on the heels of that thought. "That's the easy way out, the coward's way, Son. And you ain't a coward."
Josh rolled his head back and forth but slowly. Could it be there were some things even Pa didn't know?
The hardness of the floor finally forced him to move — that, and an ever-increasing baser need. He had to get up, find a privy — Agony stabbed through his arm and up into his shoulder, drawing a gasp from his throat and pinning him down. He lay still, breathing hard for a moment, then lifted his head to look. His chest and shoulders, bare. Bandages swathing his elbow and downward, but —
Wait, something there wasn't right.
He tried lifting his arm, flexing his hand. Thought he flexed his hand. But — the bandages ended several inches below the elbow. And where the rest of his forearm and hand should have been — had been — only empty air.
Great God in heaven! Gracious God ... no! Please no ...
A crushing wave of blackness rushed over him, and he fell gladly into it.
* * *
Pearl could delay no longer the unhappy task of looking in on the men taking up space in her bedroom.
She'd heard a rustling, and knowing a little of what to expect, fetched a pitcher of water, a towel, and a tin cup before setting her jaw and heading for the room with firm steps.
Heart pounding — without account, that, except — they're Yankees, for the love of all that's holy — she nudged the door open and peeked around it. No movement. The man they'd laid out on the floor over to the side lay sprawled as if he'd been in a fight and lost, with the one in her bed in much the same position. She peered closer to make sure both were breathing.
The one in her bed had a round but strong face, fair hair sticking at odd angles, and a short beard curling in a manner that appeared half-boyish, half-rakish, but mostly foolish with how his mouth hung open. He definitely still breathed.
The one on the floor ... Pearl tiptoed closer. Auburn hair of a shade just missing fiery red fell in an untidy wave over his forehead. Beard of a more vivid hue covering a jaw also hanging slack.
And he too was definitely still breathing.
The waxy pallor of the man's face, with fresh-looking beads of sweat, made her frown and peer closer. Long, dark lashes lying against sharp cheekbones and a scattering of freckles standing out against his pale skin gave the similar impression of boyishness.
Both men so young, so ordinary-looking in sleep, she could not help but be reminded of her brothers.
Gritting her teeth, she slammed the door on that thought, then peered closer at the one on the floor. Fresh blood seeped through the bandages at the end of his arm. Travis had told her last night that all she needed was to change the bandages when she could, and keep the wound clean, but ...
Pearl flinched toward the owner of that voice, rusty from sleep, and found herself staring into the wide blue eyes of the man on the bed — her bed, but she wouldn't think about that either. He seemed as startled as she, though, and gaped for a moment before adding, "Could I — do you have any water, miss?"
She jerked a nod, then with the barest glance at the man still sprawled at her feet, stepped toward the washstand and unburdened her arms. This was, after all, why she'd brought the cup and pitcher.
She filled the cup about half-full and approached the bed, as the man there levered himself up a little, grimacing. At least he was still properly clothed, unlike the bare-chested man on the floor. But she supposed they'd had to remove his shirt because of the amputation.
He took the cup from her and gulped down its contents, then held it out to her. "More, please?"
Her throat burned at the plaintive note in his voice. With another nod, she refilled the cup then brought it back. He was only slightly less desperate the second time.
"Please," he said again, as she filled the cup a third time, "where am I?"
Pearl pressed her lips together. "In Tennessee."
Doubt filled his blue eyes, as if he wanted to consider that the foolery she half meant it to be. She exhaled, set her fist on her hip, and went on. "We are the MacFarlane family. We live just a little southeast of Chattanooga, about as far south as you can get and not be in Georgia yet. And — we've been charged with taking care of y'all."
The blue eyes flickered. Was that — fear? Dismay at the least? "Well. I thank you, Miss MacFarlane. Or is that Missus?"
He pronounced his words strangely, and thank came out as tank.
"Miss," she answered firmly.
His head bobbed, and he sank back against the quilt. "I am —"
A sudden gasp from the floor startled them both, and Pearl whirled aside, clutching her skirts.
The man there lay breathing hard, eyes wide and dark, teeth bared in a grimace. One hand clutched the blanket beneath him and the other — oh, the other arm — clamped across his middle. His gaze was riveted to her, an echo of the fear, pain, and inquiry she'd seen in the other, but far more fervently.
"Who are you?" he whispered. "And where am I?"
Flippant answers would not serve this one. Pearl scooted toward the washstand and refilled the cup she'd taken from the other man, then sank to her knees on the floor beside him. "Here," she said, keeping her voice soft, "I expect you'll also need some of this."
He gaped at her as if she'd just spoken some foreign tongue, and she held the cup a little closer.
His hand released the blanket and came out in a movement that could only be described as flailing, slapping hard against the floor, palm down. The muscles in his arm corded as he pushed himself upright, groaning, and rolled to a half-sitting position, where he stayed, gasping again for breath. "Good — Lord — in heaven," he panted, then groped for the cup.
"Yes, He is," she murmured without thought, putting the cup in his hand, awkwardly sliding closer to help brace him as he swayed.
Predictably, he gulped the water. She took the cup and refilled it before he could ask. He downed the second one similarly, then the cup went tumbling as he flailed again to remain sitting.
"Easy now," she soothed, again without thinking.
"I need — up," he gasped. "To — the privy."
"Hold on," she said. "Let me get help. Can you sit more to this side? There, like that. Yes."
Travis had anticipated and instructed her on this need as well. Ignoring the heat blooming across her face, Pearl helped him situate himself on his other hip, bracing this time against the good arm and hand, then scrambled to her feet and beat a hasty retreat from the room. "Clem!" she bellowed in the direction of the upstairs. "Get down here, now!"
* * *
She stood there, the morning light falling across her like a glory beam in a painting he'd once seen. Angelic, despite a gray calico dress with simple, practical skirts, brown hair escaping a sober knot, and eyes somehow severe and pitying at the same time.
He did not want her pity. He did not want her help, or anyone else's. He simply wanted to be able to get up and walk outside on his own.
And after that, return to his regiment and the war and everything else he'd signed up for. Because this house, snug as it seemed, was not that.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Rebel Bride"
Copyright © 2019 Shannon McNear.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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