Be Strong and Steadfast
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Kate, America Joan, and sisters Belle and Elizabeth enjoy their lives in the safe, "finished" town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Then, the Civil War breaks out and their lives will never be the same.
Kate Corbin must make some tough decisions about her family and her own future while dealing with personal losses. AJ Prentiss and her younger sister must run the family farm, but she longs to make a bigger impact on the Confederate war effort. Belle Turner must help run her family's plantation while she tries to continue living as a genteel Southern woman. And Elizabeth Bennett must run her husband's blacksmith shop while caring for her children and helping her family however she can. How will the Civil War affect the women and their town? Will they lose faith, or always remain 'Strong and Steadfast'?
Friday, December 21
Bennett Blacksmith and Farrier: Fredericksburg, Virginia
James McCann Turner ran a hand through his neatly trimmed black hair as he knocked on the door of the small home connected to one of Fredericksburg’s blacksmith and farrier shops.
“I’m sure they already know what’s happened, James.” James looked at his sister, who patted her perfectly coiffed, midnight hair.
“I know they do, Belle, but I would still like to see Joshua.”
The door opened, and James and Belle were greeted by the smiling face of their sister.
“James! Belle! What brings you to town?” Elizabeth Turner-Bennett’s blue eyes sparkled.
“We missed you at dinner on Sunday,” James said as Elizabeth opened the door wide to let them in.
“Uncle James!” Benjamin’s excited voice rang through the small, three-bedroom house, followed by the pattering of feet. The four-year-old threw himself at James, who bent to catch the boy in his arms.
“Benjamin!” James gave his nephew a big hug. Dark-haired and blue-eyed Benjamin was the spitting image of his father. He looked over at Belle and reached for her.
“Aunt Belle!” Belle stepped closer to her brother and took Benjamin in her arms, squeezing him tightly.
“Benjamin Matthew, you need to keep quiet. Your sister just fell asleep, and we don’t want to wake her up.” Elizabeth wiped her hands on her white apron.
“Sorry, Mama. Does that mean it’s my quiet rest time?”
“Yes, sir, you know it is.” His mother smiled at him, then addressed her siblings. “Joshua should be in shortly for a late lunch. He got caught up with a project. I assume you two have eaten?” Benjamin slid out of Belle’s arms.
“Yes.” James nodded.
“Alright. I will be right back.” She nudged Benjamin toward the back of the house where the bedrooms were.
“But Mama, I didn’t get a chance to see Papa yet.” He protested.
“You’ll see him when you get up.” She told him. The boy headed toward his room with no further argument, Elizabeth following behind him.
Just as Elizabeth closed the bedroom door, the side door that led to the blacksmith’s shop opened and Joshua Bennett entered. Joshua was not only Elizabeth’s husband, he was also James’s best friend.
“James, Belle, it’s good to see you.” Joshua stopped at the indoor pump to clean himself up. “I hope you’ll excuse me if I eat while we visit.” He wiped his hands and face, then opened the oven to take out the plate that Elizabeth had saved for him.
“Not at all,” James said. The difference in social status between him and Joshua was constantly in James’s mind. It had never affected their friendship. James had no job and very few responsibilities, living off of his family, while Joshua had to work almost every day since his father passed away five years ago.
Elizabeth came back into the room that served as both a kitchen and dining room. “James, Belle, can I get either of you something to drink?”
“No thank you,” James said and Belle waved her hand in agreement. Elizabeth joined them at the table.
“I suppose you two have heard the big news,” Joshua said after a bite of his fried chicken.
“We have. It’s hard to not have heard about it.” James replied.
“South Carolina has seceded.” Elizabeth wrapped her hands around her cup of coffee and hung her head.
“That’s about all we’ve heard. What is the word around town? What are the details?” James asked.
“It happened yesterday and was expected, after the election of Lincoln.” Joshua frowned. “What I didn’t expect was the fact that it was unanimous”
“Agreed,” James said. “What have your customers been saying about the possibilities of war?”
“It seems as though other states will follow South Carolina. I’m not sure about Virginia, though. From what people are saying, the southern states don’t really want war but if the North wants to try and stop the South from being its own country, the South will defend itself. It sounds as though South Carolina will demand the Federal army vacate all the forts in the state.”
“And if they don’t?” Belle asked. This was not the kind of conversation she usually participated in, and the topic of current events and politics bored her, but she felt that she needed to know some of the information. Her future depended on it.
“If they don’t, I’m sure that South Carolina will force them as best as they can,” James said.
“Those would be the first shots of a war, I imagine.” Elizabeth glanced somberly at her husband.
“Most likely.” Joshua nodded, pulling Elizabeth’s hand into his.
“If Virginia does secede and goes to war, what do you plan on doing, James?” Elizabeth asked.
“Do you mean will I go and fight?” He glanced out the window. “It depends on certain issues, I suppose.”
“He means it depends on Nicole Austin,” Belle interjected. “His going off to war might help him grow up and become a more suitable match for Nicole. You know how his lawyership, Mr. Theodosius Austin is.”
“Belle…” James looked at his sister, slightly annoyed.
“Well, its true, James. That's exactly what is going on. Nicole loves you and you love her and you are both in the upper crust of Fredericksburg society. It’s not like the daughter of a planter marrying a common laborer. I mean no offense, Elizabeth, Joshua.”
Elizabeth glanced at Joshua, who squeezed her hand and gave her a brief smile over the glass of water he was drinking. They were both used to Belle’s inability to think before she spoke when in the company of her family and close friends, as well as her tendency to be condescending regarding the relationship between Joshua and Elizabeth.
Belle continued, “For some reason, even though you are the heir to the Turner Plantation, well, James, the problem is you just don’t want to grow up and take on responsibility. I think you believe that joining the southern army will prove that you are mature and you can be brave, therefore making you good enough to marry Mr. Austin’s precious daughter.”
“Belle, I told you to let that be. My reasons for joining the army, if I do, are none of your concern.”
“They might be if you’re killed,” Elizabeth spoke softly. Joshua entwined his fingers with hers.
“You don’t know that I would be killed. Even if there is a war, most believe it won’t last long.”
“We can still hold on to the hope that Virginia won’t secede, and shots will never be fired,” Joshua added.
“God willing.” Elizabeth nodded.