From the Register-Mail:
C. Kay Larson was inspired by the rich history of west-central Illinois. A longtime Civil War buff and independent scholar, her interest is now the subject of her latest novel, â€œSouth Under a Prairie Sky: The Journal of Nell Churchill, U.S. Army Nurse and Scout.â€
Nell, the star of Larsonâ€™s second book (her first was a biography on lesser-known Civil War leader Anna Ella Carroll), is based on her great-great- grandmotherâ€™s niece who was born in 1865 in Biggsville. Nell becomes the readerâ€™s guide through some of the major events during the Civil War and she later becomes Mary â€œMotherâ€ Bickerdykeâ€™s protege.
While Nell herself is a fictional character, much of what she witnesses is true and the details are historically accurate, Larson said.
Nellâ€™s journal begins in 1856 Kansas, but when slavery becomes a big issue in the area, her family moves to Monmouth. Local readers will find plenty of places and names they recognize when reading Larsonâ€™s work. Nell grows up on a farm and attends Knox College, while her brothers and cousins attend Monmouth College. Nell follows the 1860 presidential election, (won by Abraham Lincoln) and she and her family aid in the running of underground railroad stations for fugitive slaves.
When the Civil War breaks out, Nellâ€™s brothers and cousins immediately enlist in the Union Army. Nell does her part for the cause and joins a medical team in Tennessee after the Battle of Shiloh. Itâ€™s not long after that Nell becomes the protege of the legendary Sanitary Commission Agent Mother Bickerdyke.