Most Americans have heard of the horrific Battle of Antietam, the Civil War’s bloodiest single day battle, but few remember an equally tragic event that occurred on the very same day: the massive explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Seventy-eight girls and young women, engaged in rolling bullet cartridges for the Union army, lost their lives that day, but, buried beneath the horrific reports coming out of Antietam, few outside of Pittsburgh learned of the tragedy.
Pittsburgh lawyer and author, Mary Frailey Calland, seeks to correct that historical omission with her new book, Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North, which tells the story of four young northerners – feminist, Clara Ambrose; law student turned soldier, Garrett Cameron; industrialist, Edgar Gliddon; and Irish immigrant, Annie Burke – caught in the maelstrom of the American Civil War. In the teeming streets, munitions factories, and military training camps of wartime Pittsburgh, and on the battlefields of the Army of the Potomac, they struggle to survive, forced to choose between love and duty, sacrifice and greed. Their choices ultimately lead to their presence at both the Arsenal and the Antietam battlefield on that fateful September day, a day that reveals the true meaning of courage – a day not all of them will survive.
The title, Consecrated Dust, is taken from the inscription on the memorial over the remains of the unidentified victims of the Arsenal explosion, but pays homage to every common person, civilian and soldier, whose determination and sacrifice, at home and on the field of battle, helped to right the steps of a faltering nation.
With particular attention given to the real life exploits of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves regiment, Mary Frailey Calland manages to deftly weave fact with fiction, creating a vivid representation of life in 1860’s Pittsburgh and on the Civil War battlefield. Careful research by Calland ensures that the reader will come away with a deeper knowledge of a sadly forgotten part of the not-so-distant past, memorializing a group of brave young civilians who sacrificed their lives in service to their country as well as the men who fought valiantly for their beliefs. A long neglected story thoughtfully told, Consecrated Dust will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.
For more information, visit www.maryfraileycalland.com
Mary Frailey Calland
ISBN: 978-145750-501-0 344 pages $19.95 US
Available at Ingram, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com
and fine bookstores everywhere.