How the Book Came to Be

How does a book begin?

It usually involves the imagination—or inspiration. In the case of Tillie Pierce’s story, the book began the moment I heard the story of Tillie Pierce and Hettie, Sadie, and Mollie Shriver while taking a tour of the Shriver House Museum in Gettysburg, PA, one October afternoon. Inspiration, indeed!

Nancie Gudmestad, owner of the museum, stood dressed as a Civil-War-era lady, her long dress sweeping wide due to the hoop skirt beneath as she walked through the Shriver House. She took us from room to room, telling the story of a young mother, her two little daughters, and the teenage girl next door, Tillie Pierce. The mother was Hettie (Weikert) Shriver, whose husband George had left to serve in the Union Army. Her little girls were Sadie (age 7) and Mollie (age 5) in 1863.

The story Nancie proceeded to tell was captivating. I’d taught American history for years and had read many books about the Civil War, even about the Battle of Gettysburg in particular. But I’d never heard this story—a true tale of what some civilian women endured before, during, and after this fateful battle. Tillie and the Shrivers began to feel like people I knew but wanted to know better. I asked questions, bought books, read articles, joined the Adams County Historical Society. A book was taking shape in my mind, and it was one I wanted to share with young readers across the country. Thanks to the people at Lerner Publishing Group, this dream has come true.

To read more about the book on Lerner’s website, click on the book cover above. To take a peek at the interior, click on on the image to the right. —>

Below are some icons that will take you to websites where you can learn more about Gettysburg, the battle, and the 150th anniversary events.

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July 1, 1863: At the Jacob Weikert Farm

jacob weikert farm circa

The Jacob Weikert farm, photo around 1890. Library of Congress.

Tillie, Hettie, Sadie, and Mollie didn’t get to rest for long before they found themselves not in such a safe place after all. Taneytown Road was soon filled with Union artillery units rushing north and west across the fields to join their embattled brothers. Tillie watched and remembered:

. . . It was indeed a thrilling sight. How the men impelled their horses! How the officers urged the men as they flew past toward the sound of the battle! . . . Shouting, lashing the horses, cheering the men, they all rush madly on.

 

Suddenly we behold an explosion; it is that of a caisson. We see a man thrown high in the air and come down in a wheat field close by. He is picked up and carried into the house. . . .

 

I was not long in learning what I could do. Obtaining a bucket, I hastened to the spring, and there, with others, carried water to the moving column until the spring was empty. We then went to the pump standing on the south side of the house, and supplied water from it. Thus we continued giving water to our tired soldiers until night came on, when we sought rest indoors. . . .

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The barn at the Jacob Weikert farm, as it appears today.

It was toward the close of the afternoon of this day that some of the wounded from the field of battle began to arrive where I was staying. They reported hard fighting, many wounded and killed, and were afraid our troops would be defeated and perhaps routed. . . .

Some limping, some with their heads and arms in bandages, some crawling, others carried on stretchers or brought in ambulances. . . . Before night the barn was filled with the shattered and dying heroes of the day’s struggle. (AT GETTYSBURG, pp. 41–44)

 

 

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July 1, 1863 – Afternoon: Tillie’s Trip

After the events of the morning, Tillie returned for lunch (“dinner” to her), but was too excited to eat very much. If she had known what the afternoon held in store for her, she might have chosen to eat and drink more before her adventure began. Again, here are her own words:

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Hettie Shriver (Schriver)

. . . Mrs. Schriver [Tillie’s spelling differs from modern “Shriver” spelling], called at the house and said she would leave the town and go to her father’s (Jacob Weikert), who lived on the Taneytown road at the eastern slope of the Round Top.

 

Mr. Schriver, her husband, was then serving in the Union army, so that under all the circumstances at this time surrounding her, Mrs. Schriver did not feel safe in the house.

 

sadie and mollie

Sadie and Mollie

As the battle had commenced and was still progressing at the west of the town, and was not very far off, she thought it safer for herself and two children to go to her parents, who lived about three miles to the south. She requested that I be permitted to accompany her, and as it was regarded a safer place for me than to remain in town, my parents readily consented that I should go. . . .

 

About one o’clock we started on foot; the battle still going on. We proceeded out Baltimore Street and centered the Evergreen Cemetery. This was our easiest and most direct route, as it would bring us to the Taneytown road a little further on.

 

As we were passing along the Cemetery hill, our men were already planting cannon.

 

They told us to hurry as fast as possible; that we were in great danger of being shot by the Rebels, whom they expected would shell toward us at any moment. We fairly ran to get out of this new danger.

 

fleeing from danger

“Fleeing from Danger” from Tillie’s book, AT GETTYSBURG. Click on it to see a larger version.

As I looked toward the Seminary Ridge I could see and hear the confusion of the battle. Troops moving hither and thither; the smoke of the conflict arising from the fields; shells bursting in the air, together with the din [noise], rising and falling in mighty undulations [waves]. These things, beheld for the first time, filled my soul with the greatest apprehensions. . . .

 

We continued on our way, and had gotten to a little one and a half story house, standing on the west side of the road, when, on account of the muddy condition of the road, we were compelled to stop. This place on the following day became General Meade’s headquarters.

 

. . . a soldier came out and kindly told us he would try to get some way to help us further on, as it was very dangerous to remain there.

It began to look as though we were getting into new dangers at every step, instead of getting away from them.

 

. . . after waiting a short time, this same soldier came to us saying:

“Now I have a chance for you. There is a wagon coming down the road and I will try to get them to make room for you.”

The wagon was already quite full, but the soldier insisted and prevailed. We fully appreciated his kindness . . . and we thanked him very much.

 

At last we reached Mr. Weikert’s and were gladly welcomed to their home. (AT GETTYSBURG, pp. 35–41)

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July 1, 1863: The Morning in Tillie’s Words

fall of reynoldsThe bloodiest battle on American soil began on the morning of July 1, 1863. Tillie was at home with her father, mother, and older sister. Her two older brothers were away, already a part of the Union army. Here are some of Tillie’s words, again from her own account of the events:

We awoke early. It was impossible to become drowsy with the events of the previous day uppermost in our minds. We were prompt enough at breakfast that morning. . . .

 

We had no sooner finished our breakfast when it was announced that troops were coming. We hastened up what we called the side street, (Breckenridge), and on reaching Washington Street, again saw some of our army passing.

 

First came a long line of cavalry, then wagon after wagon passed by for quite awhile. Again we sang patriotic songs as they moved along. Some of these wagons were filled with stretchers and other articles; in others we noticed soldiers reclining, who were doubtless in some way disabled.

 

It was between nine and ten o’clock when we first noticed firing in the direction of Seminary Ridge. At first the sound was faint, then it grew louder. Soon the booming of cannon was heard, then great clouds of smoke were seen rising beyond the ridge. The sound became louder, and was now incessant. The troops passing us moved faster, the men had now become excited and urged on their horses. The battle was waging. This was my first terrible experience. (At Gettysburg, pp. 33-34)

(NOTE: General John Reynolds was shot and killed that morning. See image above, from Library of Congress.)

 

 

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June 30, 1863: Tillie’s Words

The following is taken from Tillie Pierce Alleman’s book At Gettysburg: Or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle (1889):

A little before noon on Tuesday, June 3oth, a great number of Union cavalry began to arrive in the town. They passed northwardly along Washington Street, turned toward the west on reaching Chambersburg Street, and passed on in the direction of the Theological Seminary.

 

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General John Buford

It was to me a novel and grand sight. I had never seen so many soldiers at one time. They were Union soldiers and that was enough for me, for I then knew we had protection, and I felt they were our dearest friends. I afterwards learned that these men were Buford’s cavalry, numbering about six thousand.

 

A crowd of “us girls” were standing on the corner of Washington and High Streets as these soldiers passed by. Desiring to encourage them, who, as we were told, would before long be in battle, my sister started to sing the old war song “Our Union Forever.” As some of us did not know the whole of the piece we kept repeating the chorus.

 

Thus we sought to cheer our brave men; and we felt amply repaid when we saw that our efforts were appreciated. Their countenances brightened and we received their thanks and cheers. . . .

 

The movements of this day in addition to what we beheld a few days previous, told plainly that some great military event was coming pretty close to us. The town was all astir and every one was anxious.

 

Thus in the midst of great excitement and solicitude the day passed. As we lay down for the night, little did we think what the morrow would bring. (pp. 28–30)

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