Now, recovered from his wounds, John Tyler joins General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, defending Petersburg against overwhelming Union forces, while Towns marches with Confederate General Jubal Early to the gates of Washington, then, hounded by the Union Army, back to Virginia, where the Rebels meet a tough new adversary, Union General Philip Sheridan. Confederate victories are soon followed by defeat after defeat, and for young Townsend Philips, a deepening crisis of conscience and will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
"Swallowed up in Victory," Lee Passarella's long narrative poem based on the American Civil War, was published by White Mane Books in 2002. It has been praised by poet Andrew Hudgins as a work that is "compelling and engrossing as a novel." Lee has published two poetry collections: "The Geometry of Loneliness" (David Robert Books, 2006) and "Redemption" (FutureCycle Press, 2014). His poetry chapbook "Sight-Reading Schumann" was published by Pudding House Publications in 2007 and is available as a Google Book.
AUTHOR GUEST POST:
"Cold Comfort, Ill Wind: A Sequel with a Past"
by Lee Passarella
The American Civil War has been an on-again, off-again (mostly on-again!) interest of mine since I was around the age of, Townsend Philips, one of the two heroes of my tale. Fifty years ago, the U.S. celebrated the Civil War centennial, and there was a flood of newspaper and magazine articles as well as books about the war, plus the first wave of Civil War reenactments, one of which took place on the athletic field at my high school.
Now, my high school was built a long time after the war, so it couldn’t have been the scene of any Civil War battle or even skirmish. But in those days reenactments took place just about anywhere crowds were sure to form, including stadiums big and small—in other words, far away from the original battle sites. And reenactors were just as casual about the equipment and attire they brought to their ersatz battlegrounds. Blue jeans and work boots were often standard issue, and the weaponry included shotguns and .22 rifles (unloaded, of course).
Since then, Civil War reenacting has grown up; the modern-day reenactor can buy period-authentic uniforms, accoutrements, and rifle muskets that look just like they were made back in the 1860s. I know this because I’ve been reenacting for almost twenty years now. I belong to a Confederate unit, Company A of the 42nd Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. We also “galvanize,” which means we sometimes put on federal blue and fight as Company B of the 125th Ohio. And when we reenact battles such as Chickamauga, Shiloh, or Atlanta, we do so in terrain near the original battlegrounds. Today, authenticity is the name of the reenactment game.
My interest in the Civil War was one of my motivations for reenacting, but I also wanted to do some first-hand research for a book I was writing titled Swallowed Up in Victory, a fictionalized account of the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in the last two years of the war. My inspiration for that book went all the way back to my first encounter with the Civil War in eighth grade, when my class learned about the ingenious plan to tunnel under and blow a hole in the Confederate lines that encircled Petersburg. The tunneling and blowing up went according to plan, but the Union attack that followed was a fiasco. General Ulysses S. Grant called it “the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war. . . .” However, it made for a great story, and I tried to tell it from the angle of those on both sides who fought what came to be called the Battle of the Crater.
In my first Civil War novel, Storm in the Valley, I went back to the beginning, to the first year of the war, 1861, and told the story of two Virginia brothers separated by the war. The older of my two brothers, John Tyler Philips, headed off to Virginia Military Institute, where he hoped to learn soldiering, which runs in his family’s blood. John Tyler’s younger brother, Townsend Philips, too young to fight but fired up to serve his country, joined the 51st Virginia Infantry Regiment as a drummer boy. Despite their separation, the brothers constantly hoped for reunion; they could hardly imagine they would be reunited on a bloody battlefield of the war or that Towns would be called on to save his older brother.
The action continues in Cold Comfort, Ill Wind, as does the brothers’ separation. After he recovers, John Tyler joins General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, experiencing the horrors of the Battle of the Crater. Meantime, Towns marches with a tough old Confederate general named Jubal Early all the way to the gates of Washington, D.C., the high point of Confederate military actions in the summer of 1864. But soon, General Early meets a determined new adversary, General Philip Sheridan, and Confederate victory turns into one defeat after another. At the end of my story, Townsend Philips is left to wonder if the Confederate cause is evaporating before his very eyes.
Of course, the story doesn’t end here, either at Petersburg, where John Tyler fights General Grant, or in western Virginia, where Townsend Philips sees General Early’s little army swept away at the Battle of Fishers Hill. The Confederacy would live on, and continue to fight for its life. It is my hope that my tale of these two Virginia brothers might stimulate a reader’s continuing interest in the War Between the States, including a curiosity about how the story of that war finally played out. Maybe someday I’ll get around to following the story right up to the end!