I am absolutely delighted to welcome author Tara Johnson to the blog today to talk about her new book Where Dandelions Bloom! Don’t you just love that cover?!?
Where Dandelions Bloom
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Fiction
RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2019
Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.
Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.
Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?
What Scarlett O’Hara Didn’t Tell You: Women During the Civil War
by Tara Johnson
Oh, that Scarlett. It seems the conniving Southern belle and her soft-spoken entourage have left an indelible mark on the roles we believe women played during the Civil War. While it’s true the Union and Confederacy alike had their share of pampered debutantes and women who attended to tasks like knitting socks, organizing charity drives, and forming relief societies, women engaged in far more diverse and colorful roles than most realize. These females were made of conviction, grit, and an irrepressible spirit of honor.
Though we can’t know the exact number, it is estimated between four hundred and eight hundred women enlisted under a masculine alias and picked up arms to fight. Some fought to escape a future that to them seemed worse than death.
When Sarah “Emma” Edmonds’s father was going to force her to marry an abusive brute of a man, Sarah cut her hair and enlisted as Frank [Thompson] in the Michigan Second. Sarah became the driving inspiration behind my latest heroine, Cassie Kendrick, in Where Dandelions Bloom.
Other women enlisted out of a burning desire to do their part for the great and glorious cause. Another handful believed separation from their husbands would be too painful and chose to fight alongside them. When Frances Clayton’s husband died beside her in battle, sources say she stepped over his body and continued to charge.
On a side note, I’m often asked how women managed to hide their identity for such long stretches, especially while bunking for months on end with male soldiers. It wasn’t as hard as you might believe. The soldiers rarely took off their uniforms and almost never bathed. The woolen suits would shrink or pull apart in a grotesque fashion, so soldiers made every effort not to wash them. As for menstrual cycles, the stress of war, combined with scant food and malnutrition, caused many of the women to lose their cycles completely. The few that retained them later wrote that it was impossible for male officers to distinguish one kind of bloodstain from another. In the gore of war, most soldiers bore blood-spattered clothing from injured comrades or minor battlefield wounds.
Although nursing directors like Dorothea Dix enforced a strict code of requirement for female nurses, many women still wrangled their way into the formerly male-dominated profession. When Elida Rumsey was told she was “too single and far too comely” to be a nurse, she entered a war hospital anyway and began singing to the soldiers. They were entranced with her voice and begged the hospital directors to allow her to remain. In time, Elida worked as a battlefield nurse. (She was also the first person to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in public.)
Other notable women like Clara Barton and Louisa May Alcott have become household names but are a small percentage of the thousands who worked tirelessly to care for the wounded and dying, often at risk of their own lives. During the Battle of Antietam, Clara Barton was busy caring for a wounded soldier when a stray bullet passed through the sleeve of her dress and killed the very man she was attempting to save.
Women held an uncanny advantage during the Civil War. Since they were considered the gentler sex by men, a creature to be protected and coddled, astute women could use this for more nefarious purposes. Playing coy and innocent allowed them to pass intelligence directly under the noses of unsuspecting officers. Women on both sides of the war wielded this power with great effect. Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose Greenhow, Harriet Tubman, Mary Edwards Walker, and Belle Boyd (just to name a few) were critical allies to both Union and Confederate commanders. These brilliant women used everything from cipher codes and disguises to passing messages through their children’s dolls.
They persevered, despite threats of imprisonment and death. As Mary Chesnut wrote in her diary, “It is so delightful to be of enough consequence to be arrested.”
Susie King Taylor was a runaway slave from Georgia and a Civil War nurse. In a time when states like Georgia had strict laws against African Americans receiving formal education, she attended two secret schools taught by black women. Later on, she became the first black teacher for freed African American students in Georgia. She taught forty children in day school and “a number of adults who came to me nights, all of them so eager to learn to read, to read above anything else.”
After she married, she moved with her husband’s regiment, teaching many of the black soldiers to read and write. Susie is the only African American woman to have published a Civil War memoir.
5. Protectors of Home
Many women were forced to become both father and mother when war was declared. In a matter of weeks, their entire world turned upside down. No longer were they simply to care for the children, attend to the garden, laundry, and meals. These women were now the hunters, gatherers, providers, security, and financial management for their entire brood.
The women who took up the work of caring for their families, facing down enemies who showed up at their door, protecting their children and livestock did it with a spine of steel.
Sometimes courage is putting one foot in front of the other. Heroism has little to do with grandeur but everything to do with forging ahead, even when there is no audience or acclaim . . . despite what Scarlett O’Hara might tell you.
thank you so much, Tara! These women were so heroic – I want to learn all I can about them. (And I’ve never liked Scarlett anyhow lol) I can’t wait to read Where Dandelions Bloom!!
Tara Johnson is an author, speaker, and passionate lover of stories. She loves to travel to churches, ladies’ retreats, and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.
From the time she was young and watched Gone with the Wind with her mother for the first time, the Civil War has intrigued her. That fascination grew into all aspects of American history and the brave people and stories who make up its vibrant past.
She says, “History is crammed full of larger-than-life characters. Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Amelia Earhart, and Frederick Douglass are just a few examples of flawed, wounded humans who battled their demons with determination and left an indelible mark on the pages of history. I suppose that’s why people are so fascinating. No matter the era, we all battle the same wounds. Abandonment, abusive fathers, overprotective mothers, loss, grief, rejection, addiction, crippling anxiety, loneliness, or the yearning for unconditional love, to name a few. We all battle the same junk and have to decide whether to fight or cave. Run or stand. Cry or smile. That’s what great characters do. They are a reflection of our struggles, our own wounds. Our own need. And, when written well, they remind us whom we need to turn to for healing.”
Tara has written articles for Plain Truth magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth Radio and Enduring Word Radio. Tara is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Todd, live in Arkansas, and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, and Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane, who are with Jesus.
Tyndale House is offering a print copy of Where Dandelions Bloom to one of my readers! (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? Which woman that Tara mentioned in her article most intrigues you? What are you looking forward to about Where Dandelions Bloom?