An exciting Civil War novel by a former serving soldier
For those who enjoy the fiction of the American Civil War, this book by Charles King will not disappoint. It concerns the ‘Iron Brigade,’ the black hatted soldiers from the mid-west who through their ‘iron’ discipline and determination earned themselves an abiding reputation among the infantry regiments of the Army of the Potomac. What make this book especially interesting is that is comes from the pen of Charles King who was not only a prolific author, particularly on Civil War and western subjects, but also a general in the United States Army. His credentials as regards this work could not be more authentic. As a young man he actually served with the Iron Brigade during the Civil War, under the command of his father General Rufus King. The author went on to serve in the 5th cavalry after the war campaigning with Crook and experiencing warfare against the Indian tribes of the great plains and the south west. Recommended fiction from one who witnessed the historical events of this book at first hand.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
“Down in Alabam, indeed!” grins Ewell. “There’s more than a few of you’ll be on the way there tonight, or I’m no prophet,” and then, for the last time in many a day, he mounts his ready horse. He will never stand on two feet again.<br>
But Old Jack gives no sign. He, too, is waiting and watching. He, too, is there in saddle at the edge of the trees, indistinguishable in the gathering gloom from across the more than mile-wide stretch of open, undulating fields. He waits until the leading brigade of the long column is clear of the eastward of the two groves. He lets it go until it drops into the low ground about Groveton—until its advance is at the Sudley Springs road, well to the eastward—until the head of the second brigade in column, marching in splendid order, with full and well-closed ranks, comes swinging out behind that now famous patch of timber, then nods to Ewell—and the ball begins. Out on a sudden from the left of the massed lines, Poague’s lean horses and gaunt, sinewy gunners spring to their work. Six black-muzzled barkers are whirled round in battery. The iron-shod “trails” drop with sullen thud on the turf. The loosened limbers, with dragging traces, circle back in position.<br>
The rammers whirl in air and there is a wheeze at the vents as the sponge heads slide home, a low thump, thumping as the cartridge bags are rammed to the base. There is a moment of sighting and squinting and low-muttered orders, then a leaping aside, and one—two—three,—quick bellowing, with vengeful spit of flame and sulphur smoke, the nearest battery hurls its screaming challenge across the field, and in spite and fury the black shells burst in whistling hail over the startled heads of the second brigade. Out beyond the first battery trot Wooding and Carpenter, forming “action front” on the slope a little to the northwest of Groveton, and so three batteries are suddenly hurling their swift fire upon the now halted column. “Now see ’em take to cover!” shout the seasoned ones by the gun-side, as the left half battery echoes the right, and all the front of Starke’s Brigade is now covered by flashing guns, bellowing in chorus, the men, leaping in and out to reload, dimly seen through the billowing battery smoke, and still, screaming and shrieking the shells sail high across the rolling earth sea. “See ’em take to cover,” indeed! Well might they do so, for just beyond the pike the woods lie thick and unbroken, but, sudden as the shot, each regiment has “fronted” to its left.<br>
The steel ramrods of the foremost are seen flashing in air. The shrill voice of Old Graybeard, spurring back to his colours, has yelled the order to load at will, and not until they’ve bitten and poured and rammed and capped does he follow that with “Lie down!” The right of their line is flat on its belly at the edge of the field, while spurring, lashing and bounding, cannoneers racing alongside like mad, a well-handled battery—Gibbon’s own, as Poague and Ewell more than suspect the beloved of the brigade, comes thundering up the pike, comes galloping out on the field, comes “front into line” at a breakneck pace, whirls without halting its bronze beauties about, and in another moment the loud-ringing “light twelves” are out-bellowing the trio of batteries blazing there northwest of Groveton, sweeping their sections with “spherical case.”<br>
Five, ten, fifteen minutes the duel of death goes on. Gibbon’s gunners are all regulars, lords of their trade, and old Ewell sees it and knows it. “Limber up, Poague! Back all of you! They are too heavy for our guns!” is the order, and Paul Ladue spurs to carry it. Out of the way, gentlemen gunners! It’s our time now, goes the word from Starke’s eager ranks, and so on down the long line. Into their saddles leap field, staff and commanders. The sun has gone down; the dusk is at hand; the night must not come until that stubborn brigade has been swept from the earth. Who shall do it, Ewell or Taliaferro?<br>
From the westward now, from the far right flank, a daring battery whips out on the field and unlimbers where its guns can enfilade Gibbon’s triumphant boomers, and young Taliaferro’s little brigade, till now held in rear, goes striding off behind its fellows, and so on to the extreme right as though in support. And still it is a battle of guns and gunners, for Jackson holds his hounds in leash, “down charged” at heel, crouched at the edge of the woods.<br>
And then comes the surprise of the day, the event of the hour, the marvel of the campaign. Even as Ewell and Taliaferro are deciding that the moment has come for attack, lo! to the amaze of the men of the Stonewall Brigade, still the extreme right of the line, there is a glint of steel in the opposite grove and a dark column bursts from the depths of the wood. Nimbly a swarm of skirmishers leap from their covert and come dancing out over the sward. Straight for the guns drives the daring blue line, backed by eight solid companies, closed on the colours and marching abreast. Fancy the canary defying the cat! Fancy the terrier bearding the tiger! Fancy the lamb assailing the butcher, and you have the sensation that thrills the waiting divisions as a grizzled Georgia colonel slaps down his field-glass and turns to his men with delight in his eye and five words on his tongue: “The Black Hats—by Goad!”