By Charles McRaven

Tranquilla Taylor should have been a pampered Southern belle, and indeed was courted by two suitors who were best friends. But this hard-riding, straight-shooting rebel scandalized Mississippi planter society by learning Latin, mathematics, the classics. She freed her inherited slaves, worked the fields alongside two husbands, both tragically murdered, and held her family together despite war, poverty, and too much death.

 She lost two infant sons, raised nine children, then lost her father, a gifted daughter and a husband in a few wrenching months on the eve of the Civil War. And a gentle son at Gettysburg, who had helped her hold the plantation together.

Her daughters were belles with blisters on their hands, and her sons were forced to grow up too soon. There was the doctor, driven to alcoholism by the carnage of Shiloh. Two daughters married doctors, and one was denied medical school because she was a woman. Her land changed hands 32 times during the war, and her house was raided, set afire. Her son's fiancée was attacked, beaten.

Tranquilla's best friend and former maid, who was involved in helping escaped slaves, endured it all beside her into old age, both iron-willed, defiant.