Sisters of Shiloh

by Kathy Hepinstall, Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

Amid the ravages of the Civil War, two sisters join the Confederate Army disguised as men—one seeking vengeance for her husband’s death, the other hoping to keep them both alive but then finding love on the battlefield.

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544400009
  • ISBN-10: 0544400003
  • Pages: 256
  • Publication Date: 03/03/2015
  • Carton Quantity: 12

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About the Book
About the Authors
  • About the Book
    A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love. 


    In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle. 


    Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters. 


    Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him. 


    In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts


    Libby waited for her dead husband in the woods, her breath making clouds in the cold night air. Her hair was cut short above her ears, and her neck was cold. Her wool uniform itched. She had not slept in two days. She leaned against a bay tree as the fog moved through the woods. She closed her eyes and began to drift. She heard the crackle of a footstep and opened her eyes. The fog cleared and Arden stood in front of her, pale and somber, the red stain of his stomach wound still fresh and spreading out across his gray jacket. 

        She was exhausted from the march, and the sight of him no longer caused the shock and dread of the earlier encounters. She had resolved that there must be a realm, when the fractions of night and fog reached some magical equation, where the living and the dead could coexist. Arden, though, had grown increasingly moody and demanding. 

        “How many have you killed?” he asked. 

        Her fingers shook as she counted them. She had known the answer at noon but had forgotten it with the coming of dusk. 


        “Nine? Still?” 

        “I’m trying, Arden.” She looked at the blood spreading over his shirt. 

        “And your sister. How many has she killed?” 

        “I don’t know.” 

        He leaned in close. 

                “You’re a liar. You do know. And you know who else she killed, don’t you?” 




    Winchester, Virginia 


    They were sisters, the pretty one and the one who lived in her shadow, a pale, chip-toothed, uncertain girl who made too much noise while eating celery. They lived on the outskirts of Winchester, in a house owned by their father, a dentist by trade. The fields behind their property grew wild with evening primrose and goldenrod. Near the cornfield on the east side of their property stood an apple orchard, and it was here that golden Libby and chipped-toothed Josephine, Libby’s elder by a year, made their sanctuary, taking refuge from everything: the yelps of children during tooth extractions, the peskiness of a little brother, the swift, severe gaze of a mother, general pangs, harsh sunlight, and chores. 

        The other children in town courted the affections of Libby, but she preferred the sweet mixture of orchard and sister, all that shade and adoration. 

        When Josephine was thirteen, a shadow trespassed on that filtered light. The family next door had moved from a small town near Fredericksburg called Shiloh, a young couple with three sons. The oldest was named Arden. He came strutting into the yard on a warm spring day, when the leaves in the orchard were curling tendrils, and the shadows hung dark, waiting for May to lighten them into the brown of an Angus bull. He wore a pair of corduroys and a shirt with a Western design; his hair was almost as light as Libby’s and his face just as angular. His eyes gave off different inferences that depended on the angle of approach. Libby saw wildness and sweetness and a deep capacity for sorrow. Josephine saw arrogance and entitlement and a lack of respect for elder sisters. 

        Soon Arden’s feet were swinging from the branches, and the quality of conversation was forced into a different season, one that incorporated boys. Now Indian talk pierced the orchard, fishing lore, legends, and brutal accounts of cats killing birds. Pirate stories and secret caves, the challenge of breaking a colt. Even the drifting scent changed from the faint lavender of girls to the sweat of a hot boy. Something was unnatural here, like a tree that fruits before it blooms. Josephine was gently elbowed out of the shade until she no longer entered the orchard at all but lurked at the perimeter. 

        She didn’t understand how to be alone. She felt insubstantial, impermanent as silence in a room full of women. There was some kind of secret to making friends, and, denied this, she began to spend her time in her father’s office. Children cried and teeth flew. 

        “Hand me the laudanum,” her father said. 

        She watched him pour the opiate onto a spoon to numb a patient’s pain. She imagined the bottle held to her own lips, pain declining, pleasure growing. The sweetness of a watermelon, the dreaminess of a summer afternoon, the cool water of a fishing hole, the softness of ferns. 


    Hostility toward the whole led to belligerence about the fractions. His laugh. His haircut. The shape of his arms. The blue of his eyes. The way his pretty face resembled Libby’s. 

        “You spend so much time with him,” she complained to Libby. “How about me? I thought I was your best friend.” 

        “Don’t be silly. You can sit in the orchard with us anytime.” 

        “That was our orchard!” 

        “Oh, Josephine. Orchards belong to everyone.” 

        When Libby and Arden weren’t in the orchard, they would disappear into the woods and stay gone for hours, returning with new secrets, certain stories exchanged, pebbles gathered, sparrow eggs rescued, snakes slain. The sight of the interloper drove Josephine to distraction. She had nightmares in which he fell from the branch of a tree or from the top of their house, grasping her sister’s hand and pulling her down with him. 


    A year had passed. Autumn had arrived. The apples were heavy in the orchard, weighing down the limbs. Flowering weeds turned colors or withdrew their blooms. The sky was white in places, sweet blue in others. 

        Libby’s illness began as a weariness, a desire for naps. Quickly it grew a fever, then chills. The orchard sat empty. Libby lay in a dim room, her face flushed and skin perspiring. Arden visited her at first, but when she grew worse, he could not look at her without bursting into tears, and Mrs. Beale sent him away. 

        “Get ahold of yourself, son. You aren’t helping matters.” 

        Despite the protestations of her mother, it was Josephine who took over, fetching teas and applying poultices, whispering, singing, telling her own tales, finally. She wiped down the floors with lavender water so that Libby could awaken to the fragrance of flowers. She brewed tea, heated soup on the fire in the kitchen. Her nursing skills defined her, made her whole again. 

        A framed tintype sat on the night table. Two little girls stared out from it, one with golden hair and the other with bright eyes and a contented smile. Their father had taken them down to the studio at the Taylor Hotel as a birthday present for Josephine a few years earlier. She couldn’t help staring at it now and remembering those days when Libby was healthy and belonged to her. 

        They would speak to each other, sister to sister, Libby’s voice dreamy and hot, a breeze coming through the open window, a pail of water on the nightstand, a gingham cloth dripping water on the floor. 

        “Hold still,” Josephine said, as she applied the compress. 

        No sign of Arden, whom their mother would no...

  • Reviews

    Winner of the Pulpwood Queen Bonus Book of the Year Award 



    Atlanta Journal-Constitution 


    "Sisters of Shiloh is an unsparing, bloody, emotional tour-de-force. . . . A tale of love and hate, vengeance and devotion, and the darkest secrets imaginable. This novel allows us a glimpse into the thin line between sanity and madness, and how it can become so easily blurred. If you love books about the civil war, especially those with strong heroines, then this is one to get. A very poignant read indeed. Highly recommended for all." 

    Historical Novel Society 


    "[A] complex and thoroughly delightful tale." 

    —Virginia Living

    "The Hepinstall sisters provide a fascinating glimpse into Civil War life from an unconventional perspective." 



    "The very best historical fiction delivers us into another time and place. In Sisters of Shiloh, Kathy and Becky Hepinstall plunge us so deeply into a complete and vividly rendered world of Civil War battlefields and Confederate campsites, we can smell the gun powder and taste the metallic tinge of fear along with their remarkable heroines." 

    —Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary and the forthcoming A Master Plan for Rescue 


    "A fluid story that is not just poignant but leaves you feeling well-informed of this time period." 

    For the Love of Words 


    "Highly recommended to fans of historic fiction and civil war buffs alike." 

    Flashlight Commentary 


    "Seeing the atrocities of this war through the eyes of two strong female characters makes for a fabulous and entertaining read." 

    Book Binder's Daughter 


    "The Hepinstall sisters write so beautifully, it's hard to put down." 

    Bookalicious Babe 


    "Sisters of Shiloh is a refreshing take on the Civil War, the bonds of sisterhood, and the bondage of prepared to be parked in a chair all day!" 

    —The Christian Manifesto