Stephanie Grace Whitson. Daughter of the Regiment. New York, NY: FaithWords, 2015.
Some of my earliest historical fiction books focused on the Civil War and it seemed like the perfect place to start the Christian fiction genre. Those books seemed quintessentially American and far enough in the past to present unique stories and characters that seemed sufficiently removed from my own life. Over the years, I have significantly diversified my reading list and the historical periods represented within it. However, in periodically returning to Civil War-era books, I’m finding that authors are more frequently choosing to depict stories far outside of the mid-Atlantic military campaigns and instead showing many other perspectives and regions involved in the war.
Stephanie Grace Whitson’s Daughter of the Regiment focuses on the unique position of Missouri in the Civil War. In a region that directly pitted neighbor against neighbor, the novel follows two women who come to represent the polarizing nature of the conflict and the enormous socio-economic differences present among the population. Before the war, Irishwoman Maggie Malone spends her time working alongside her brothers and uncle to manage their family farm. After receiving word that her brother has been injured fighting for the Union, Maggie becomes a vital member of the Irish Brigade. Nearby, Elizabeth Blair lives with her brother on his successful hemp plantation, living a lifestyle not far removed from her childhood in Tennessee. When her brother forms the Wildwood Guard to fight for the Confederate cause, Elizabeth soon finds herself protecting the plantation from Union forces, including her neighbors serving in the Irish Brigade. While Elizabeth discovers the maturing effect of imminent war, Maggie realizes how her unorthodox childhood may have perfectly prepared her to serve “her boys” in the regiment.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Daughter of the Regiment. However, as I’ve found to be the case with other books that present multiple character perspectives, there always seem to be sections and people that seem far more interesting than others. By far, Maggie’s perspective on the war and her involvement in the Irish Brigade were the most fascinating parts of the novel. Her work as the “daughter of the regiment” raises awareness of this significant, yet infrequently described, women’s role during the Civil War. In comparison, Elizabeth serves as an interesting foil to Maggie, although she seems typical enough to the genre that her sections feel less intriguing as a result. Altogether, the novel feels true to Ms. Whitson’s writing style, historical research, and character development. While the timeline of the book seems relatively limited in terms of the overall war, Ms. Whitson utilizes this focused period to thoroughly develop her story and characters.
Readers who enjoy Ms. Whitson’s other novels will definitely want to read Daughter of the Regiment. Fans of mid 19th century historical Christian fiction, especially about the Civil War, will find the novel to present a particularly fascinating perspective not often found in other books. With moderate pacing and an accessible writing style, the novel makes for a relatively fast read, even at 312 pages.