Becky Lower Interviews Saffron Fitzpatrick from The Forgotten Debutante
History Imagined’s own Becky Lower brings us a peek into the world of romance during the American Civil War.
- BL: Where and when were you born?
- SFB: I’m Saffron Fitzpatrick, now Saffron Boone (smiles radiantly). I was born in New York City, a fascinating place. But now I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband and new baby boy, Adam.
- BL: What influence did your birth family have on you, your choices, your life? Explain why and how.
- SFB: I am the youngest in my family. I have eight brothers and sisters, who always looked after me and told me what to do. I grew up wrapped in their loving arms, but sometimes I felt constrained by them. So when I got the chance for a little rebellion, I usually took it.
- BL: If you could relive your life, what changes would you make?
- SFB: I wouldn’t do anything differently. Every choice I made has led me to where I am today.
- BL: How did you feel when you first saw the love of your life?
- SFB: I knew immediately this man was going to be my husband. I just had to wait a long time for it to actually happen, since we met when I was only fifteen.
- BL: What drew you to the person you fell in love with?
- SFB: (Giggles) There were so many things that drew me in. First, he filled out his Yankee uniform so well. Second, he had a tragic story to tell, about how his four brothers all died during the same battle. Third: His love of family was very apparent. Oh, and that little lock of hair that falls into his eyes all the time just makes me gooey inside.
- BL: Tell us why you believe that falling in love is a gift/curse?
- SFB: Well, it’s definitely a gift in my case, but when we first met, I paid a hefty price. There were draft riots going on in New York City, since men weren’t signing up to fight the war at the same pace they were being mowed down on the battlefield. I found Zeke in my carriage house, and after pinning him down with a pitchfork until he told me his story, I knew I had to help him get home to his family. I drove our wagon to the outskirts of town with him hidden under the seat. That turned out to be a good idea, since there were armed guards preventing every able-bodied man from leaving town. And his body definitely qualified! It took an hour to get him to a place where he could run into the forest, and then an hour to get back home. My family had no idea where I was and I couldn’t tell them what I’d done. My brother was a recruiter for the Army, and if he had any idea I’d helped someone desert the Army, even though he never did sign on to fight in the first place–well, you can imagine what would happen. So, I lied about it and said I was restless and decided to go for a joy ride. What that lie got me was two months of house arrest. Oh, and my first-ever kiss! So, all in all, it was worth every moment I spent being bored silly in my room for months on end.
- BL: What do you want from life?
- SFB: I told Zeke when we married that I’d like to have four boys, and name them after his fallen brothers. His family named their children in alphabetical order, so we now have Adam, with Benjamin, Caleb and David to go.
- BL: What parts of loving come easy for you? Hard?
- SFB: The attraction to Zeke came easily. From the moment I speared him with the pitchfork, not enough to do harm to him, you understand, but enough to mark his body so no other woman could have him, I knew he would be my husband. And then when he gave me a kiss–well, my fate was pretty much sealed. But he was a farm boy and I was raised in high society, so we had the culture bias to overcome. It didn’t bother me at all, but I had no knowledge of cooking, laundry, or milking cows, so I realized the struggle involved. Fortunately, after the court martial hearing, which was a whole other struggle, my father came up with the perfect solution for us. We now own a general store in St. Louis.
- BL: Did you turn out the way you expected? The way your parents predicted?
- SFB: As the baby in the family, I was understandably spoiled my entire life. When the war dragged on through my teenage years, I missed all the balls and social events that my older sisters had gone through, so I was angry and spoiled. It took meeting Zeke and hearing about how his brothers all died in one battle, in one week, for me to find a purpose in my life. As soon as I was allowed to go out of the house again, I began volunteering at the Sanitary Commission, to track the dead at the various battles and inform the families involved. Of course, my main focus of interest was the battle at Chancellorsville, where Zeke and his brothers had been. That training led to me getting a job with the Federal Reburial Program, where Zeke and I finally reconnected.
- BL: What are you most proud of about your life?
- SFB: I’m most proud of having taken the chance to help Zeke when I did. If not for me, he would have been pressed back into service instead of returning to the farm and helping his father. It was worth two months of house confinement.
- BL: What’s the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
- SFB: Family, of course. We hosted all my brothers and sisters, my parents, and all our extended family, for Christmas in St. Louis last year. Now that we’re all adults and have gone our separate ways, it’s especially hard to get together in the same place at the same time. So it was a lovely holiday, and it was all Zeke’s idea, since he knew how homesick I was.
In 1863, America is war-weary. Fifteen-year-old Saffron Fitzpatrick, whose teenage years have been spent mourning the dead rather than dancing at her debutante ball, just wants to visit her beloved horse after being housebound due to the draft riots. A chance meeting with soldier Ezekiel Boone changes everything.
Three years ago, Ezekiel ran away with his older brothers to join the war effort, welcoming the chance for adventure. But when all four of his brothers die at Chancellorsville, he retreats home, despondent and depending on the kindness of strangers, like Saffron, who help him on the journey. They share a wild ride and a breathless kiss, parting with fond memories.
Fate reunites the couple three years later, and their former attraction rekindles as they discover unexpected common ground and begin to build a relationship. But though the war is over, a future together may still elude them … especially if Saffron’s older, protective brother and the U.S. Army have anything to say about it.
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