Thursday, June 1, 2023

Talkshow Thursday: A Guest Post by Sarah Hanks

Talkshow Thursday: 
A Guest Post by Sarah Hanks

Did you know hundreds of women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Civil War? My novel A Battle Worth Fighting is the first in the Sister in Arms collection featuring such women. Fall Back and Find Me, releasing this Fall, will be the second. These are all stand-alone split-time novels. The contemporary storylines differ vastly, but the historical storylines all have the thread of the secret female Civil War soldier.

How did they do it? It’s amazing to think how many women got away with this on both sides of the conflict. Indeed, we don’t know the number of those who did mostly because of their stealth. How many women died in battle, their identities a secret they took with them to the grave? There are reports of women not being discovered until they gave birth in camp. As inconceivable as that is to us today, if we put ourselves into the culture of the 1860s it becomes a bit more understandable.

Women then didn’t wear pants, so no one expected such. The uniforms were ill-fitting, making it easy
Pixabay/Wendy Luby
for a woman to hide her figure. Ranks were full of boys lacking the deep timber of mature, masculine voices and too young to grow facial hair. Women blended in with them. Medical exams to enlist were cursory, often only checking for strong teeth and the existence of a trigger finger. Because camp latrines were filthy, no one thought much of a more private soldier excusing himself (or herself) to the woods to take care of business.

Perhaps just as important of a question is why did they do it? What would possess a woman to run towards battle? The reasons are as varied as the women themselves. Some women, like Bernie in A Battle Worth Fighting, couldn’t stand to be parted from a husband or loved one. They followed their person into war. Some women, like Willow in Fall Back and Find Me, were running from someone or something. The war for them was an escape. As we’ll see in Henrietta’s story (to come), money was a powerful motivator for some. Financial opportunities were limited for women. Transforming oneself into a man opened up a plethora of new options, including steady pay from the army plus a hefty sign-on bonus. What would you do if your family was starving? Would you take the risk?

Pixabay/David Mark
No matter why a woman chose to enlist, there were risks involved. Besides the obvious of risking her life in battle, a woman risked her reputation if caught. Rumors abounded that women who chose to be soldiers did so because they were prostitutes. Also, she ran the risk of being jailed. Each regiment handled these cases differently as there were no official rules. Some arrested the woman. Some put her in a dress and sent her home. Some allowed her to stay on as a laundress or cook.

We can learn a lot from these brave women. Follow me on social media to learn more fascinating historical facts, among other things. I’m @authorsarahhanks on both Facebook and Instagram. Also, feel free to visit my website for several freebies.

A Battle Worth Fighting

Two strong women, centuries apart, fight for the men they love in this inspirational split-time novel.

Sahara Dawn married a man she didn't fully love, only to find, over a decade later, she can't breathe without him. The problem is, he seems to have given up on their marriage, having taken a job across the country, and is in no apparent hurry to return to his wife. Desperate to make things right and inspired by a distant relative who fought as a female soldier in the Civil War, Sahara leaves everything familiar behind, learns a new trade, and sets off to win back Jaxon's heart. But is she too late?

Bernice Reisenfeld loves the life she and her husband Hermann have built together on their sheep farm in rural South Carolina. But when the Civil War breaks out, everything changes. Despite her desperate pleas for Hermann to stay out of the conflict, he enlists. After growing up with a grandfather embittered by war, she can't stand to see her husband succumb to the same fate. Dressing up like a man, she enlists as well, determined to find Hermann and bring him home. Only she finds far more than she bargained for. Will she make it home with her marriage and her heart intact?

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