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Gettysburg by Morning - Randy O’Brien

It’s July 4, 1860, and the featured speaker at this year’s Independence Day celebration at Concord, MA, is high-spirited and fiercely patriotic Eloise Edwards. She rails against the South’s attack on Fort Sumter and the injustice of slavery. A newspaper article recounting the speech inspires her brother Edward to enlist. The siblings’ father, a War of Independence veteran, dies, and Edward decides he doesn’t want to join the Union army after all and runs away. Heartbroken, Eloise returns to the family telegraph office, committed to a life of boredom and servitude. The disappointment in her brother devastates Eloise.

In a dramatic moment, she decides that she will take her brother’s place and fight for the honor of her family and the country. She joins the Massachusetts 20th and lives through several horrific battles, including the most devastating conflict in U.S. history, Gettysburg. General George Custer discovers her talent as a telegraph operator, and she soon rises through the ranks and to the war room at the White House, where she works daily with President Abraham Lincoln. One night, as Eloise sleeps at her post, Lincoln sees a copy of the newspaper article featuring Eloise’s speech. He reads it, is inspired by it, and borrows key phrases for the most famous speech in American history, The Gettysburg Address.

There are over two hundred documented cases of women dressing as men to fight in the Civil War. Gettysburg by Morning places you on the battlefield with a patriotic young woman fighting arm-in-arm with her fellow soldiers. Historical characters like Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, George Custer, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others make reading this story like walking hand-in-hand with history.

An award-winning radio journalist and book reviewer, Randy O’Brien has a B.S. degree from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, majoring in English and minoring in History and Secondary education. He was the News Director of WMOT-FM for three decades, reporting hard news and features, proudly mentoring dozens of now successful graduates. He was an adjunct writing instructor at MTSU and Watkins School of Art and Design and former President of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association.

My Review: An excellent historical fiction set in the Civil War Period. The main character, Eloise lost her mother shortly before the story begins and has dreams like any other girl of her age, but that soon changes after she loses her father as well and her brother runs away because "life is too short to waste". Eloise decides to take his place in the Union Army, cuts off her hair, dresses in her brother's clothes and sets off for the adventure of her life assuming a new identity. The story takes her to one of bloodiest battlefront in American history, Gettysburg.

Eloise mirrors a more famous character in the Asian culture, Mulan, who also went to fight for her family's honor. Another would be Ecaterina Teodoroiu, a Romanian woman who fought and died in World War I. One thing that makes Eloise such a strong and believable character is that, aside from her family's honor, she believed in the same things as the male soldiers fighting on the same side, a belief that can be seen right at the start of the story in her speech. The period after the American Civil War was just the start of open fight for equality.

Overall, this book is a must-read for all those who enjoy a good 19th century historical fiction with a great character development, and a strong female lead.

Publisher: Addison & Highsmith

280 pp.


Date of Publication: November 2, 2021

ISBN 978-1-59211-101-5

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