For the Colleys of southeastern Missouri, the War between the States is a plague that threatens devastation, despite the family’s avowed neutrality. For eighteen-year-old Adair Colley, it is a nightmare that tears apart her family and forces her and her sisters to flee. The treachery of a fellow traveler, however, brings about her arrest, and she is caged with the criminal and deranged in a filthy women’s prison.
But young Adair finds that love can live even in a place of horror and despair. Her interrogator, a Union major, falls in love with her and vows to return for her when the fighting is over. Before he leaves for battle, he bestows upon her a precious gift: freedom.
Now an escaped "enemy woman," Adair must make her harrowing way south buoyed by a promise . . . seeking a home and a family that may be nothing more than a memory.
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January 21, 2003
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Excerpt from Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles
Oct. 29, 1864
Dear Wife and Children; I take my pen with trembling hand to inform you that I have to be shot between 2 & 4 o'clock this evening. I have but few hours to remain in this unfriendly world. There are 6 of us sentenced to die in retaliation of 6 Union soldiers that was shot by Reeves men. My dear wife don't grieve after me. I want you to meet me in Heaven. I want you to teach the children piety, so that they may meet me at the right hand of God... I don't want you to let this bear on your mind any more than you can help, for you are now left to take care of my dear children. Tell them to remember their dear father. I want you to tell all my friends that I have gone home to rest. I want you to go to Mr. Conner and tell him to assist you in winding up your business. If he is not there then get Mr. Cleveland. If you don't get this letter before the St. Francis River gets up you had better stay there until you can make a crop, and you can go in the dry season.
It is now half past 4 a.m. I must bring my letter to a close, leaving you in the hands of God. I send you my best love and respect in this hour of death. Kiss all the children for me. You need have no uneasiness about my future state, for my faith is well founded and I fear no evil. God is my refuge and my hiding place. Good-bye Amy
-- Asa Ladd, a Confederate prisoner of war in Gratiot Street Prison, St. Louis, who was selected along with five others by the Union command of that city to be executed in retaliation for Reeves's execution of Major James Wilson of the Union Militia. Ladd was from southeastern Missouri.
It was the third year of the war and by now there was hardly anybody left in the country except the women and the children. The men were gone with Colonel Reeves to live in the forests, and many families had fled to Texas or St. Louis. Abandoned house places looked out with blank windows from every hollow and valley in the Ozark mountains so that at night the wind sang through the disintegrating chinking as if through a bone flute.