An uncommon Civil War novel based on the bloody sacrifice of one of the author’s ancestors.
In 1861 in Sandy Creek, New York, Moreau Salisbury doesn’t want to go to war despite his father's urging him to fight slavery: “You know where evil resides!” Moreau plans to become a preacher, but after helping an escaped slave flee to Canada, he leaves the seminary to go to war, enlisting in the 24th New York Volunteers with his cousin, Merrick. So far, it’s an engaging but not unusual Civil War story. Moreau often writes his parents and his intended, Miss Helen Warriner, as the war grinds on elsewhere, and eventually he meets the elephant—the soldiers’ term for seeing battle. Amid hails of iron Minié balls he sees bloody mist followed by acres of wounded men and knows that bravery in battle makes no difference. War changes Moreau. He kills men and doesn’t look like that aspiring preacher anymore. But this war isn’t quite through with him; it has not yet crushed his spirit completely. That comes later, after armies clash at Antietam in the country’s worst bloodbath ever and the Salisbury brothers suffer grave wounds. These are gripping scenes, but Moreau’s dark challenge continues during his long and painful recovery at home. His ankle and his world are shattered, and the scenes of despondency and bitterness are heartbreaking. While Helen and the Salisburys struggle to heal Moreau’s body, he responds to their love with verbal cruelty. Author Luke Salisbury tells a compelling story about his ancestor Moreau, and it’s “as true as I can make it.” Slavery is America’s original sin, and the Salisbury cousins are among so many who pay penance.
An engrossing, well-told story by a writer with a unique perspective.