"You'll be swept away by the passion and power of this remarkable, trailblazing woman who risked everything to follow her own heart." – Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"An epic page-turner." – Christina Baker Kline
Named Best Fiction Writer in the Austin Chronicle's "Austin's Best 2018"
Named one of Lone Star Literary Life's "Top 20 Texas Books of 2018"
The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
“Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it.”
Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, destined by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her chance at freedom presents itself with the arrival of Union general Phillip Henry “Smash ‘em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
Alone now in the ultimate man’s world, Cathy must fight not only for her survival and freedom, but she also vows to never give up on finding her mother, her little sister, and the love of the only man strong enough to win her heart. Inspired by the stunning, true story of Private Williams, this American heroine comes to vivid life in a sweeping and magnificent tale about one woman’s fight for freedom, respect and independence.
Bird's rich historical novel (after Above the East China Sea) is a layered study of post-Civil War America from the imagined perspective of remarkable Buffalo Soldier Cathy/Cathay Williams, the first woman to serve in the legendary all-black cavalry and infantry. Mining the rich terrain of Civil War military history, the nation's western expansion and clashes with Native Americans, and the fraught issues of gender and race relations, Bird frames an epic romantic tale around Williams. It tracks her life from the time she's taken from her family as "contraband" by the Union Army in the waning days of the Civil War, to her service as a cook's aide to Gen. Philip Sheridan, to her illicit enlistment in the Army disguised as William Cathay and service as a rifleman with the Buffalo Soldiers cavalry. Williams, as narrator, reveals a bravado fueled by her love of dashing Yankee soldier Wager Swayne, hero-worship of Sheridan, and pride in her heritage as the granddaughter of an African queen. Bird's fast-paced, action-packed story is a bittersweet one grand love and legacy ultimately eluded Williams but this fearless, often heartbreaking account sheds a welcome light on an extraordinary American warrior.