Posts tagged ‘Union’

POIGNANT AND POWERFUL

The Thackery Journal

Written by John Holt

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This well-written book of historical fiction is divided into three parts: the first part sets the stage for the personal tragedy the looming civil war will impose on friends and family; the second part begins in 1864 when the South is on the brink of defeat and engages in plot to buy weapons from the French government, and the third part delineates the intricate plot of Northern generals to carry out the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln using John Wilkes-Booth as their instrument. Holt informs the reader that only three of his characters are genuine, Grant, Lincoln and Booth. The reader will be hard pressed to believe that statement because Holt does such a good job of making all his characters realistic and seamlessly weaves them together with both the historical and the fictional.

At the outset the reader meets Aaron Thackery, an old man who sits before the fire in the remains of his Southern home reading the journal of his deceased son who has been implicated in some sort of plot. Thackery thinks back upon his own arrest and his wife’s death. After the flashbacks, the author shifts to the town of Larkspur in Virginia introducing us to Jacob Thackery and his friend, Miles Drew. When war is declared, Miles, who does not believe in slavery nor the fact that the South can win, flees to join the Union forces. He quarrels with his best friend Jacob, who will join the Confederacy. Their paths will cross again during the war.

In the second part of the book, the scene shifts to 1864. Jacob realizes that the South will lose, but he becomes involved with the plot of the Confederacy to buy weapons from the French government. When a Mexican agent finds out about the plot, he hatches a new plan to steal the gold needed from the Mexican government, which Thackery will be responsible for delivering to the French in Canada. After the weapons destined for the Confederacy are blown up, he must decided what to do with the gold.

The third part of the book is the crux of the plot. Holt creates a character named Jarvis who will enlist Lincoln’s most trusted generals in a plot to wrest power from him and replace him with Grant. The plan goes awry, so Booth is enlisted to carry out the plan. How will Miles and Jacob be involved and how will it affect the rest of their lives and the future of the new restored Union government?

Holt does a magnificent job of transporting the characters into the minds of the reader. His research is carefully done and the descriptions of battle, angst, and raw emotion are outstanding. I had to finish the entire book in one setting, and by the end of the read was totally convinced that the story was plausible.

As a historian, I liked the fact that Holt gave citations to his research to permit further exploration of the topics. The cover is a painting from the Battle of Antietam and the period photographs add another dimension of personality to the work. There is no graphic violence or sexuality so the book is suitable for young adults. This book sheds light on the psychological, historical and moral aspects of the American Civil War much better than any historical text and is highly recommended.

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DIFFICULT DECISIONS

Widow of Gettysburg:Heroines behind the Lines Series

Written by Jocelyn Green

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This is the second book in the heroines behind the lines series. The characters are well developed; you will feel their emotions and the enormous difficulty grappling with the decisions that they were forced to make. Plot lines are mostly well developed; there are many twists and turns that will surprise you. One commonality all the characters face is that they were placed in situations under which they had no control forcing them to make immediate choices and sacrifices. It can be argued that some handled them better than others, but all of them were victims of circumstances they could not control. Historical details are carefully researched and annotated in the bibliography. The book is based on the diaries and writings left behind by women who lived in Gettysburg though the characters are fictional.

The story opens at the end of June, 1863 shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg begins in this quiet town with approximately 2400 residents. Many fled as the troops advanced. Those left behind were mostly women and children. We meet the protagonist Liberty Holloway who is a young nineteen year old widow whose husband died in the Battle of Bull Run two years earlier. Libby is left to run the farm and large house. She has help from Bella Jamison, a freed mulatto slave., who proves to be a true friend in time of need. Liberty never knew her mother; she was raised by a mean aunt who told her that she was an unwanted child.

One day, a stranger who calls himself Johnny, though his real name is Silas Ford, knocks on Liberty’s door asking for something to eat. She knows the soldiers are coming soon. There is something so familiar about him. She will find out that he has a dark secret. Johnny encourages her to stop mourning and start living again. For some strange reason, she feels compelled to listen. While the rest of the town is appalled, she resists them. Her mother in law, Amelia Sanger, arrives with her husband’s body to bury him in the town cemetery next to her  son.. Liberty does not want her to stay, but Amelia insists that she will invest money to help fulfill Liberty’s dream to open a guest house.

Then tragedy strikes. First Confederates overrun the town. Blacks are forced back into slavery. Bella and her friends must hide. Harrison Ford, a reporter, arrives to report on the battle as well as the happenings behind the scenes. He thinks that he recognizes Bella, and suspects that she is hiding something. During the three day battle, the lives of  Gettysburg residents are changed forever. More than 163,000 soldiers and 15,000 animals virtually destroy everything in site. A Confederate doctor seizes Liberty’s home. She makes the decision to stay and becomes a nurse to more than 500 seriously wounded enemy soldiers. Harrison Ford and Bella Jamison find their way back to the Holloway farm as well as Silas and Amelia, but they have experienced turmoil in their personal lives.  Liberty’s property is in shambles. The many twists and turns in the lives of the characters are almost as compelling as the horror and mutilation of the battle.

This is an adult novel, but there is no overt sex or profanity so it would be a valuable resource to young adult students studying the Civil War period and the moral conflict and aftermath engendered by the slavery issue. The writing is well done though a few of the minor characters like Myrtle Henderson are not fully developed. This novel is not one for the faint hearted. You will become fully immersed in the lives of those trapped in the war between brothers.

 

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