How to get over a cold in a day
The positive side to being bedridden for a day was that I was able to read the entire The Widow of the South in one sitting. It is a gripping novel that fictionalizes the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864, during the American War Between the States (Southern readers refer to it as the War of Northern Aggression, Mr. Lincoln's War, or War of Secession. Northern readers refer to it as the War of the Insurrection or Great Rebellion. But let's not call war civil.).
According to some sources, the Battle of Franklin is knows as the "Pickett's Charge of the West". The Federalist troops secured the high ground--a fortified semicircle around the city--that put the Confederates at a major disadvantage. From the East, Confederate soldiers crossed a mile of open ground in an assault lasting less than an hour. Some 20,000 Confederate troops marched into enemy guns across a two-mile stretch of field and conducted multiple assaults lasting over five hours. By 11:00 PM, the Union army withdrew to Nashville leaving carnage so gruesome eyewitnesses relate that one could walk across the battlefield on bodies of the dead and never once touch the ground. More Confederate soldiers died in five hours of fighting in Franklin than in two days of fighting at the Battle of Shiloh--over 6200 casualties. Federalist troops suffered over 2300 casualties. Think of this in comparison to US troop casualties in Iraq--five hours versus four years. War is messy.
The Widow of the South's main character is a New Orleans transplant to Tennessee and part of the Old South aristocracy who feels that God has cursed her because of the death of three (out of five) of her children. Often considered a bit crazy by locals, she transforms from a silent, weak woman to a strong, vocal woman during the Battle of Franklin. Her family's mansion becomes a field hospital for the army of the Confederacy and she leads in assisting the medical staff as they try to prevent the unimaginable loss of life. Amputated limbs pile up in one room, four dead generals are placed on the veranda, and more than 1000 dead soldiers need to be buried immediately. Her transformation is spectacular and somber as she interacts with wounded and dying soldiers.
Keep in mind I am reading this with a head cold that makes me feel like I've been shot or at least received a powerful blow to the old bean from a Yankee rifle butt.
Avoiding a presentation of the Robert Hick's plot outline, a general theme emerges: God is not just. Or another way of phrasing it--how could a good God allow this to happen? This is an ancient theme set in a tumultuous time in American history. But is it accurate in light of historical records? The author admits liberties in creating this novel which is entirely understandable. However, I wonder if Mr. Hick's injects his novel with modernist fatalism in the same manner Mel Gibson presents Apocalyptico in the framework of European colonialism. A key passage near the end of the book reads: "In death we are cleansed of our sins and our willfulness and the full complications of our life. Carrie knew this.... Simple heroes are already forgotten, barely recognizable as flesh and blood." The author makes several philosophical assumptions that remain unanswered in the narrative. For example, what is good? What is justice? Does justice exist? What is sin? If there is a God, is God just? I won't attempt to answer those questions. Further, should the author answer those questions in a novel?
Time for another dose of Good Earth® tea.