Those who enjoy American history know the men of the Civil War, men such as the elusive John Mosby, who captured a U.S. general with a handful of Confederates and became known as The Gray Ghost. William Tecumseh Sherman, who marched to the sea and then offered the City of Savannah to Lincoln as Christmas present. And Ulysses S. Grant, who divided the Confederacy with the capture of Vicksburg, and then forced Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
Women’s contributions during the Civil War, however, have been less renowned—until now.
In her new book, The Dancing Delilahs, Pamela Bauer Mueller brings to life two women who operated as real-life Civil War spies. Mueller, an award-winning author of several nonfiction novels, weaves together tales of adventure, romance, and mystery into a book told through the unique voices of two, courageous women: Antonia Ford and Pauline Cushman. The result is a compelling story of the Civil War from the female point of view.
Mueller, in fact, tells the women’s stories through Ford and Cushman’s own voices, an accomplishment made possible by the author’s meticulous research into primary source materials, such as letters and diaries. The resulting material gives readers insight into the women’s Civil War work, as well as their families, their loves, and their daily lives.
“I want my readers to think about their private relationships, their intimate lives, and even their sufferings,” Mueller wrote in her Author’s Note.
Actress Pauline Cushman, a widow and mother, was arrested by Union troops after she gave toasted the Confederacy during a play, though her gesture was a ruse. And Antonia Lord was living the quiet life of a Virginia socialite when she overheard secrets about troop movements that could be relayed to Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
“Their choices would reshape their futures,” Mueller wrote in her Author’s Note to The Dancing Delilahs. Indeed, those choices did. And what happens next, as the women’s futures unfold, is what makes the book so interesting.
Readers who love history and biography will enjoy this spy thriller set largely between 1861–1865, during America’s most divisive time. “I have always been captivated by history—its broad sweep and its intimate corners,” Mueller wrote. “And I especially love to discover women who are edgy, salty and somewhat eccentric.
“History is a connection between the present and the past,” she added, “and sometimes the voices we want to hear are barely audible.”
The 19th-century voices of Cushman and Lord, however, are now finally being heard—loud and clear, for the first time—and the result is an entertaining and informative ride.
Pamela Bauer Mueller’s other works include: Splendid Isolation: The Jekyll Island Millionaire’s Club 1888-1942, a fictionalized account of the wealthy elite who once vacationed at Jekyll Island, Ga.; Water To My Soul: The Story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, set in South Carolina; and Lady Unveiled, a sweeping historical saga about the life of Catharine Greene Miller.