Yankees on the doorstep: The Story of Sarah Morgan
Debra West Smith
Ages 12 and up
Pelican, 2001, 1-56554-872-8
Sarah Morgan has had a happy life, a life she shared with her large Baton Rouge family, one full of love and contentment. Then everything changed dramatically. Now Sarah lives a life full of fear and worry, not knowing what the future holds for her and those she loves. Not long ago her father passed away regretting that he was unable, unlike his sons, to fight for the Confederacy; for these are the days of the American Civil War, when much of the United States was thrown into a state of turmoil. Sarah not only lost her father but also could lose her dear brothers who took up arms to defend the South against the Yankees.
Sarah, her mother and her sisters are now living in their much loved home in Baton Rouge without any protection from possible invading Northern troops. It is a very frightening time and the women find themselves constantly moving out of town and then back as the Yankees come and go. No one seems to know what is happening and what to expect in the near future. Sarah has two great consolations in this terrible time; she has her faith and she has her diary. Into this diary she pours her fears, worries, and observations.
Throughout this book there are excerpts from the diary and through them we get to hear, in Sarah's own words, what it was like to live in Louisiana during the Civil War years. Food is very scarce, as is clothing, shoes, and in fact all the basic necessities of life. Add to this dreadful situation a crippling injury that Sarah sustains. For months she is bed-bound. Then she finds that her legs no longer seem to want to work. Now, as she ruefully tells her sister, she has to face the Civil War without even the means to run away from it.
What makes this story especially powerful is the fact that it is based on the true story of Sarah Morgan. Furthermore the diary entries are the ones she wrote as she lived and suffered through those dreadful war years. Her voice is a strong and sometimes haunting one and we are able to see how civil war can destroy the hopes and dreams of an ordinary family. The author has skillfully weaved together her own telling of Sarah's story and the words she has chosen to use from Sarah's diary.
In the back of the book the reader will find an author's note which describes how the author "discovered" Sarah's story and how she gathered material to write the book.
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