Widow Of The South
The Widow of the South is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, who was forced to turn her home into a hospital during the latter days of the U.S. Civil War. Robert Hicks has taken the facts and set his imagination to the story to make it an interesting read. The beginning of the novel seems to be a mishmash of characters with no real direction, but as the reader continues, every character connects with every other in a believable fashion.
The novel opens in a graveyard with Carrie and Mariah, the slave given to her when both were girls, walking among the grave markers. They are joined by a weathered old man. The reader guesses there is some sort of relationship between these people, but it is never stated until the end of the book.
The story switches to the actions of several people in short succession: Carrie, her husband John, Confederate Sergeant Zachariah Cashwell, Yankee Lt. Nathan Stiles, the Griffins and the Baylors. Carrie is home in her stately southern mansion, Carnton, Franklin TN when General Nathan Forrest forces himself into her home. Mariah tries to keep him out, as Carrie has become a recluse upon the death of three of her children. She keeps herself locked away, with Mariah as her protector. Carrie?s husband, John, goes about his business, lately assisting in helping the confederacy equip themselves for war, and in trying to keep their plantation going, even though he has sent most of his workers further south.
Once the hospital is open, Carrie, Mariah and Carrie?s two remaining children serve as nurses, orderlies, and care givers to the injured men. Two doctors are also brought in to operate the hospital. Carrie, in surveying the hundreds of injured men lying on the floors of every room in her home, is drawn to Cashwell. He has a severely injured leg, and Carrie determines that the doctors must remove it as gangrene has set in. Cashwell wants to die, Carrie won?t allow that, and takes special care of him once the leg is removed. A friendship develops between them.
Cotton Gin is the name made up by Will Baylor. He arrives home on leave to see his girl, Becky Griffin. They spend the afternoon together, and then Cotton must return to his unit. He is killed, but word never reaches Becky?s ears until one day at the hospital. She returns to her home and eventually dies in childbirth. Her brother, Eli, is sent to live at Carnton where Carrie and John take him in as one of their own.
Once the War is over and things begin to return to normal, Mr. Baylor, Cotton?s father, says he is going to use his field next to Carnton for planting. This is the field where many of the soldiers that died in the Cashton hospital are buried. Disproving of this, Carrie goes to Baylor to try and stop him. Eventually, all the dead are moved and placed on McGavock land. Carrie keeps a record of the location where each body is buried. She does this so people will remember the heroes of the war.
Carrie?s cemetery stands to this day in Franklin, Tennessee.