Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tillie Pierce: A Must Read Book

Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg is a perfect book, balancing historical scope (the Battle of Gettysburg) with an intimate narrative of a fifteen-year-old girl caught within  the three-day maelstrom of war. Anderson allows us to experience the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes and words of  Matilda  "Tillie" Pierce, who accompanies her neighbor Hettie (whose husband is in the army) and children to escape the  imminent dangers posed by the Confederate and Union armies converging on the town. By foot they hurry from Baltimore Street to what they expect will be a safer locale, farther south of town, along the Taneytown Road, east of Little Round Top. They head to the residence of Hettie’s parents: the Weikert Farm. For those who know a little about the Gettysburg Battle, this farm was about to become a field hospital for over 700 soldiers, from both the North and South.

Anderson retells the story first written by Matilida Pierce Alleman herself  as a mature woman and published in 1889: At Gettysburg; or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle.  In retelling the story, Anderson provides what “Tillie” could not: the larger historical context within which to place the personal narrative.  And she does so deftly, not only through a concise yet interesting overview of the political and social struggles between North and South but also through photographs taken from that period and side bar information on cultural customs  (like hiding a child’s shoe in the walls of a house for good luck) and current history relevant to key locations during the battle.

What is most amazing, of course, is Tillie’s specific experiences, narrated mostly by Anderson and sprinkled with direct quotes from Alleman’s own narrative (a book I intend to read immediately).   A wonderful story teller, Anderson’s account will keep you glued to the pages of this incredible story.

I highly recommend this book and can’t imagine a school library without it.

Georgia Anne Butler

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