As in his other Civil War novel, The Falling Hills (1967) Lentz sends his characters into a shattering stretch of atrocities and ruin, but they are so overloaded with hortatory significance that they merely illustrate rather than motivate the action. There's plantation owner, Malory, ramrod sure, randy in the slaves' quarters, and family-proud; his porcelain wife Celia, brittle and childlike; Yankee Sergeant Deall whose Puritan dualities can rationalize murder and rape; and those two Negro types -- Tobe, with the ""white mind,"" unwelcome on either side and doomed, and Jade, blank, black, dependent, with only an animal's survival cunning. The Yankees take over the plantation, ""free"" the slaves with instructions to the helpless chattels to hold off the returning Southerners, attempt to hang Malory (he miraculously escapes) and the house is burned to the ground. Reinforcing the aura of an ancient curse is a basement ghost and the bones of 18th-century walled-up slaves. One wishes the personae were not so omen-crammed, but the action and dialogue have an acrid tension underlining the tawdry hypocrisy of ""causes"" in the savage actuality of war.