21 November 2013

Excerpt Thursday - Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure by Betty Bolte

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Betty Bolte, whose latest novel, HOMETOWN HEROINES, is set during the 19th century. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of Hometown Heroines to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb.

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history. This book provides both historical fact and historical fiction about each of 19 girls and young women whose actions are remembered with an historical landmark in the United States. These are inspiring true stories of real American girls, our Hometown Heroines, who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.

** An Excerpt from “In the Face of Danger
the story of Nancy Crouse (1862 Maryland)**

Nancy cleared the breakfast dishes and washed them up quickly, while Martha straightened away the mess from preparing the meal. Rebecca picked up the braided rugs from the hallway and parlor and took them out behind the house so Nancy could beat them. With each swing dust billowed into the air. Nancy pictured the Rebels with their gray uniforms, and swung harder, taking out her anger over slavery on the defenseless rugs. Once cleaned thoroughly, she carried them back inside and laid them out.

Suddenly she thought of the United States flag waiting to be hung outside. She raced up the stairs, gathered it into her arms, and carried it to the front bedroom, where she hung it on the pole out the window. Thirty-four stars on the blue background danced with the thirteen red and white stripes in the slight breeze. Nancy sighed. The flag symbolized freedom for everyone who lived in the country, not just those of a particular skin color. On July 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln had declared that the slaves must be set free and that had fueled the war even more. She hoped that it would end quickly and Papa and George would come home safe.

She turned and went back downstairs. Taking up the broom she headed for the front porch. Charles thundered down the hall towards her, a frantic Frances chasing him, a headless cornhusk doll in her hand. Nancy chuckled and moved aside to let them pass. As she stepped onto the porch, her friend Effie Titlow walked up the few steps from the street to the wooden planks.

“Morning, Nancy,” Effie said.

“Morning, Effie. What brings you out so early?” Nancy set the broom aside as she talked with her friend. She recalled her mother telling her that a lady didn’t do household chores when entertaining company.

“I thought you’d like to know – an advance detachment from the Confederate cavalry are heading this way. They’re close by!”

“Are those rascals coming into town?” Nancy asked, her eyes darting up the street.

Effie nodded. “They aren’t far away at all. You should take that flag down before it gets you in trouble.”

Nancy looked up at the flag, stirring peacefully in the crisp fall breeze. A deep blue sky provided a perfect background for the stars and stripes. She thought about what the flag stood for, what her family believed, what the men were fighting for. She turned back to Effie with a determined smile. “No. It stays right there.”

Effie shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

A clatter and rumble from down the hill to the west caught the young ladies’ attention. In the distance they could see a cloud rising along the street as a detachment of Confederate cavalry rode into town.

“There they are!” cried Nancy. “I hope our troops come soon and catch them.”

The riders approached purposefully, heading for the next town of Frederick to meet up with the rest of the Confederate soldiers. As Nancy and Effie watched them from the narrow porch, the cavalrymen suddenly saw the United States flag hanging from above the ladies heads. The detachment stopped and several men dismounted.

Nancy watched with defiant horror as they ran onto the porch. They were dirty, smelly, and had holes and tears throughout their uniforms. The set of their jaw and the glint in their eyes sent a shiver through Nancy. She could see Effie shaking with fear as she backed against the house. Nancy raised her chin. This was her house and they had no right to be on her porch without an invitation.

“Give me that damn Yankee rag!” one officer demanded.

“No.” Nancy said it as calmly as she could, but she thought she heard her voice waver.

“While this town is occupied by Confederate forces, the town will fly the Stars and Bars!” the officer snapped. He made for the door, but Nancy was quicker.

“You’ll never take my flag from me!”

She dashed inside and scrambled up the steps to the front bedroom window. Snatching the flag from its post, she held it around herself and walked back downstairs. Her mother stopped her for a moment, about to say something, then released her arm. Nancy saw her brother and sisters, Malinda and her children, gathered behind her mother, eyes wide and glistening.

“They won’t hurt me,” Nancy said. “They wouldn’t dare.”

“I hope you’re right,” her mother said.

Nancy stepped onto the front porch, sure that wearing the flag would end the matter. No gentleman would harm her in her own home.

The officer grew even angrier at her display of Union pride. “Girl, give me that damned Yankee rag, right now.”

“Not as long as I live.” Nancy tucked the flag closer around her body.

She heard Effie inhale sharply and then noticed the revolver in the officer’s hand. He placed the muzzle of the gun against her head and growled, “Divest yourself of those colors.”

“You may shoot me, but never will I willingly give up my country’s flag into the hands of traitors,” Nancy declared.

“You’ll give me that flag, or I’ll take it,” The officer pushed the muzzle into her skin, hurting her. “Off your dead body if necessary.”

Nancy realized she couldn’t win. Too many cavalrymen surrounded her, all looking like they would follow this officer’s orders without hesitation. She released her grip on the flag and the officer grabbed it from her. A whoop from the troops was raised at their minor victory. Within moments the men had remounted, the officer had tied the flag around his horse’s head, and the detachment galloped up the hill, bound for Frederick.

“Oh, Nancy, I don’t know whether that was the bravest or stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” Effie exclaimed, sinking to the floor.

Nancy put her hand to her heart. “They stole my flag.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “Those traitors put their grubby hands all over my beautiful flag – they had no right, Effie.”
Learn more about author Betty Bolte:

Website: www.bettybolte.com
Blog: www.bettybolte.com/blog.htm
Newsletter: www.bettybolte.com/newsletter.htm
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorBettyBolte