The barn at Pry House was used as a field hospital after the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War.

I looked at this photo all the time as I was writing scenes about my Civil War novel, Divided Loyalties. Although the battle took place in late summer, the hospitals around the Antietam battlefields were open through a long, cold winter. Imagine trying to heal mind, heart and body inside a big barn. Imagine the winds that must have whipped down from those mountains in the distance across those fields and into the poorly insulated barn. How dark it must have been at night. How lonely.

I visited the battlefields near Sharpsburg, Maryland, several times to be sure I got a sense of place as I imagined my characters through that difficult winter.

Even now, looking at that picture, I hear the whistle of the wind, the clatter of carriage wheels. And I can see a young woman, younger than most Civil War nurses but just as determined, crossing that grassy field. Inside that smelly old barn, she’ll find her mission in life.


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