Finding refuge among strangers who become her surrogate parents, she matures into a beauty who marries the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. At last, Mary Catherine has happiness and security until civil unrest brings armed intruders with whom she has an inexplicable connection. When the thugs murder her husband for failing to meet their demands, she directs them to her uncle and his secret in order to save herself and her in-laws. With the danger passed, however, her husband’s family demands that she is arrested for complicity in her husband’s murder. Innocent and betrayed by family for a second time, Mary Catherine must now fight for survival.
Mary Catherine is rescued from the gallows by friends, but cannot remain in Brazil. She boards a ship bound for New York with little money and without a home to return to, a family to welcome her, or a nation from which to claim citizenship. Her father never took the loyalty oath required of all former Confederates in order to have their citizenship restored. Once again, she must recreate herself in order to survive.
In old age, Mary Catherine is still haunted by the long ago events for which she feels responsible. After a lifetime trying to forget, she seeks peace, understanding, and the ability to forgive through writing her story, Confederado do Norte.
Character Interview with Mary Catherine
of Confederado do Norte
of Confederado do Norte
LBP: Would you introduce yourself and tell us where you were born?
MC: My name is Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell and I was born January 1, 1857 in Washington County, Georgia on a farm overlooking the Oconee River.
LBP: We know that you left Georgia in 1866 because your father didn’t want to live under Reconstruction. You must have been quite small when the Civil War began. Do you have any memories of life before the war?
MC: It’s sometimes difficult to recall that there was ever a time before the war or that anything existed prior to our world’s being reduced to ashes. That period for me is really only impressions and shadows because they are my very earliest memories, those of a child of less than five years.
LBP: Would you mind sharing what you do remember?
MC: I suspect my memories are, as is the custom with very young children’s recollections, somewhat mixed up and jumbled together. Nevertheless, I will do my best to explain how it once was and then how it became.