Touched with Fire is inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft, an escaped slave determined to rescue her still enslaved husband. Ellie disguises herself as a man to join the Union Army, becoming a part of a watershed moment in American history. More
Touched With Fire, a novel of the Civil War inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft. Ellen Craft is property; in this case, of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her “father:” the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same pale—indeed, lily-white—skin.
Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army: she will literally fight her way back to her husband.
Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.
“Christopher Datta’s Touched with Fire is in that fine American tradition of the works of Howard Fast and John Jakes. His characters are richly drawn and he has great command of the history to which he has attached his narrative. Also, as Datta’s deliberate and sincere historical fiction wends its way through this abject time in our nation’s youth, he keenly goes about Forest Gumping the reader through a Who’s Who of the Civil War. Touched with Fire is a welcome addition to the ever-increasing canon of Civil War fiction.”
-E. Warren Perry, Jr., author, Swift to My Wounded: Walt Whitman and the Civil War