Friday, August 8, 2014

Lock Ready #Excerpt by @JimRada #HistFic #AmReading #CivilWar

This excerpt shows how conditions were in the many Civil War hospitals and Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s compassion for those soldiers in her care.


Elizabeth sat next to a young soldier who wouldn’t meet her gaze. He looked young enough to be George’s age, though she suspected he was older.
“How are you?” Elizabeth asked.
The young man didn’t reply. He glanced at her and then looked away. Elizabeth wasn’t offended. She was used to seeing shell-shocked soldiers. The problem would be if he remained that way.
She set down a clean uniform on the edge of the bed and gently pulled back the blanket. The soldier didn’t resist.
“We need to get you out of those filthy clothes and dress you in some clean ones. You’ll feel a lot better once we get all of that dirt off of you.” The nurses had all learned to carry on a one-sided conversation with the soldiers. Hearing a woman’s voice had proven to be soothing to the wounded soldiers. It reminded them of home and their wives and mothers. It encouraged pleasant memories and helped keep their minds off the horror they had endured.
As Elizabeth began undressing the young soldier, he grabbed her hand. She looked at him but didn’t say anything. His eyes were wide with fear. She gently pried his hand off of hers. He didn’t resist her.
“It’s all right. It’s going to be a little embarrassing for both of us, but probably you more than me. I’ve been trained to do this. You need to be clean. It will help you get better,” she said softly.
Elizabeth had probably been more scared than this soldier when she undressed her first wounded man. She wasn’t sure how she would react. Would she gag at the man’s wounds or stare at his private parts? Her hands had shaken throughout that first washing and she had done her best to allow the man his dignity by focusing her attention on his face. Luckily for her, the man had been unconscious. Those were the only men Mrs. Carlyle had let her clean at first. That had been four months and a couple hundred soldiers ago.
Elizabeth slowly pulled the soldier’s uniform off. It was still caked with blood and dirt. It had quickly become obvious that the soldiers who were kept clean after an operation tended to survive better. Elizabeth would rather be embarrassed than see a soldier die so she let her face turn red but washed until the soldiers’ skins were clean of dirt and blood. She paid particular attention to cleaning any festering sores and burns.
She was particularly careful not to cause the young soldier any additional physical pain by irritating an unseen wound. It was best to try and salvage the uniform so it could be washed and given to another soldier, but sometimes that was impossible. Shrapnel and simple wear and tear turned a uniform into threads. Elizabeth tossed the man’s shirt and jacket into a pile on the floor. They could both be reused once they had been washed a few times. They just might not be reused by the original owner. When soldiers left the hospital, they were given a uniform that fit, not necessarily the uniform that they had come into the hospital wearing.
Next, she started wiping off the man’s legs. He had taken shrapnel in both of his legs, which had also ripped up his pants. The cloth was so dirty that he could barely tell that it had been blue. The legs had been bandaged. Maybe he would be able to keep his legs since the doctors hadn’t amputated them. If there was any doubt, the doctors usually amputated the limb. She would have to watch him closely for any signs of gangrene.
While his legs might have been saved, his pants were a loss. Elizabeth cut them off of him with a pair of scissors so she wouldn’t have to move him around.
She used a cloth dipped in warm water to wash the soldier as he stared at the ceiling. She could feel his muscles twitching nervously as she slid the cloth from his chest to his stomach. Elizabeth kept the man’s private parts under the sheet and did her work as quickly as she could. She talked to him about things happening in Washington and her family as she worked. It helped keep both their minds off of what she was doing.
When she finished, she dressed the man in a clean uniform and changed the sheets on his bed so they would be dry and clean.
“There that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Elizabeth said as she stood up to go.
The soldier grabbed her arm again. He didn’t squeeze it. He simply clamped onto her wrist.
Elizabeth smiled at him and patted his hand. “I wish I could stay longer, but I’ve got to help with all of the other wounded. I’ll be around, though. I promise I’ll come back and visit. After all, I want to see you walk out of here on your own.”
The soldier let his arm drop down to the bed. Elizabeth turned and walked away.
The Civil War split the United States and now it has split the Fitzgerald Family. Although George Fitzgerald has returned from the war, his sister Elizabeth Fitzgerald has chosen to remain in Washington to volunteer as a nurse. 

The ex-Confederate spy, David Windover, has given up on his dream of being with Alice Fitzgerald and is trying to move on with his life in Cumberland, Md. Alice and her sons continue to haul coal along the 184.5-mile-long C&O Canal. It is dangerous work, though, during war time because the canal runs along the Potomac River and between the North and South. Having had to endured death and loss already, Alice wonders whether remaining on the canal is worth the cost. 

She wants her family reunited and safe, but she can’t reconcile her feelings between David and her dead husband. Her adopted son, Tony, has his own questions that he is trying to answer. He wants to know who he is and if his birth mother ever loved him. As he tries to find out more about his birth mother and father, he stumbles onto a plan by Confederate sympathizers to sabotage the canal and burn dozens of canal boats. He enlists David’s help to try and disrupt the plot before it endangers his new family, but first they will have find out who is behind the plot.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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Website jamesrada.com