UNION — The central character in a historical fiction series that follows her from the eve of the Civil War to the years leading up to World War I was brought to life for the Union Rotary Club by the author of the series, her great-granddaughter.
The “Carolina Rain” series chronicles the life of Theodosia Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sanders as she deals with the events of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. The series is written by her great-granddaughter, Nancy B. Brewer, who was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting at Covenant Baptist Church. Brewer, who wore period dress, addressed the Rotarians as her great-grandmother, recalling her life before the Civil War and during its early years, the era covered in the first book, “Carolina Rain.”
Lizzie told the Rotarians of how her parents came to live in Charleston and how her father built the thriving and successful plantation she grew up on. She told them of how she and her best friend, Lottie, the daughter of “Old Mammy” would sneak down to the “crick” and how one time they were caught by Old Mammy and what she threatened to do to them for sneaking out of the house.
Carolina Rain begins in 1860 when Lizzie is 18 and she expressed her disappointment that all the suitors her father had told her would seek her hand in marriage turned out to be more interested in talking to him about the issues of tariffs, taxes, and whether or not South Carolina would secede. She recalled how her father went to vote on the issue but how an outbreak of smallpox forced the meeting to be moved and, later, the reaction of the men once that vote was taken.
The social whirl of the antebellum South was also recalled by Lizzie who said that she and her sisters met Jefferson Davis, the future Confederate president, at a party. She said that one of her sisters became convinced that Davis, who was married and accompanied by his wife, was flirting with her and remained convinced even when it was pointed out that the winks she thought Davis was giving her was actually a twitch.
Lizzie talked about watching the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter after Union President Abraham Lincoln refused to withdraw federal troops from the island. This in turn led to Lincoln declaring war on the newly-formed Confederacy and the calling up of young southern men to military service in defense of their country. Lizzie recalled the excitement on the young men’s faces as they marched off to war, how they were looking forward to taking part in something none of them had ever experienced before. She also recalled the confidence of her father who predicted the war would be over soon and the quick return of the young men among whom Lizzie would find her husband.
The war, however, did not end quickly and soon more men were needed to fight, including older men like her father who was also called to military service. Many young men, however, did return home soon, wounded and sick, and Lizzie recalled how the women and girls of Charleston including herself were soon tending to these young men in makeshift hospitals in churches, private homes and even the great halls where those young men had once danced with the young women now trying to care for them.
It was while tending for one young solider that Lizzie was to encounter the Confederacy’s greatest military leader, Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Lizzie recalled how Lee’s presence seemed to transform the wounded soldiers and how this made her realize that Lee “was no ordinary man” and that he was “destined to be a hero.” Lee spoke to each soldier but somehow missed the 17-year-old she had been tending to. She went up and tapped Lee on the shoulder and asked him to speak to the young man. Lizzie said that Lee went to the young man’s bedside and knelt down beside him and prayed for him.
After Lee left, Lizzie found a button that had come off of his coat and she gave it to the young soldier who held it in his hand for the rest of the day. He was still holding it that evening when, at his request, Lizzie sang “Dixie” for him. His fellow soldiers joined her in singing the song and as they were singing the young soldier finally let go of the button as he slipped into eternity.
Speaking as herself, Brewer discussed her books and how they follow her great-grandmother from the eve of the Civil War to 1864 (Carolina Rain), from 1864 to 1867 (Beyond Sandy Ridge), from 1867 to 1896 and the postwar changes that occurred in the South (Lizzie After The War). She also discussed the latest book in the series, Letters From Lizzie, which will be out in July. While the first three books are set in the Carolinas, the fourth book takes Lizzie to Europe where she witnesses the changes in society that are helping set the stage for World War I.
Brewer and her husband, Vernon, were guests of Rotarian Lynn Mornane whose home, the Nicholson Mansion, will be the setting of a historical novel set in Union County in the 1920s. The central character of the novel will be Emslie Nicholson and Brewer said the story will feature lots of Union County history.
After speaking at Rotary, Brewer, her husband, and Mornane went to the Union County Carnegie Library where she was to sign copies of her books. While there, she and her husband also did some of the genealogical research she will use in writing her next book.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.