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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neo-Confederate threatens author of Civil War novel

My Missouri Civil War novel A Fine Likeness has only been out ten days and it's already getting an angry response from Neo-Confederates. I posted an announcement on the normally sane Missouri Civil War Discussion Board and included my blurb. Skip down if you've already read it.

A Confederate guerrilla and a Union captain discover there’s something more dangerous in the woods than each other.

Jimmy Rawlins is a teenaged bushwhacker who leads his friends on ambushes of Union patrols. They join infamous guerrilla leader Bloody Bill Anderson on a raid through Missouri, but Jimmy questions his commitment to the Cause when he discovers this madman plans to sacrifice a Union prisoner in a hellish ritual to raise the Confederate dead.

Richard Addison is an aging captain of a lackluster Union militia. Depressed over his son’s death in battle, a glimpse of Jimmy changes his life. Jimmy and his son look so much alike that Addison becomes obsessed with saving him from Bloody Bill. Captain Addison must wreck his reputation to win this war within a war, while Jimmy must decide whether to betray the Confederacy to stop the evil arising in the woods of Missouri.

Bloody Bill Anderson was a real person. Neil Block, Commander of the Captain William T. Anderson Camp #1743 SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans), posted this response. I've kept his and grammar spelling intact.

"Any writing, even fiction, especially fiction that portreys Capt. Anderson in a negitive light should be considered a Hertiage Violations by the Captian William T. Anderson Camp #1743 SCV and steps will be taken to address this writers material as such............"

Okaaay. Neil Block can't even spell the name of his own organization! As you can see from their website, they're desperately trying to rehabilitate the name of this guerrilla who killed unarmed prisoners, scalped victims, and according to the scholarly biography Bloody Bill Anderson: the Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla, had a fondness for raping young black girls. This isn't just some damned Yankke talking. The self-styled modern Missouri Confederate government admits Anderson's band had a penchant for rape.

I used Bloody Bill as a character in my novel because while he was a real person, his personality was like something straight out of central casting for a horror movie. I didn't include the rapes because I didn't want to write those scenes, so in a sense I was actually kind to Anderson's memory.

Of course I responded:

"Mr. Block,
You misspelled "portrays", "negative", "heritage", and "captain".
And you forgot the apostrophe in "writer's".
After careful consideration of the evidence I find you guilty of a Literacy Violation and hereby sentence you to complete grade school."

You can read the inevitable continuation of the thread, here.


  1. Amazing...wish we could have read the rest of the thread before it was deleted.

  2. This is the exact reason why I do not read fiction books that are portrayed as having a hint of truth. I do not plan on reading this novel or any other novel by this author, based his comparison of Captain Anderson as an equal to Freddy Krueger or Jason Myers.

  3. Good luck with the Neo-Confederates. Didn't even know such a group existed. The book sounds great.

  4. Okaaay. You spelled Yankee wrong. "This isn't just some damned Yankke talking."

  5. Do you believe Anderson's penchant for rape was unique? The soldiers of the Union Army, too, engaged in the practice of "rapine". It's just as well that you left any rape scenes out of your novel for they wouldn't help to portray him as any more horrible than others who perpetrated this vicious deed.

  6. Dear Anonymous,

    Congratulations on finding a typo in my post. I'm sure that made your little day. Yes, I'm guilty of the occasional typo, but not the rampant near-illiteracy of Mr. Block.
    And yes, Union troops also raped. Does that somehow excuse Anderson?

  7. Oh, and Mr. Anonymous? You're a coward. When I criticize someone I'm man enough to do it under my own name. You hide behind the safe anonymity of the Internet.

  8. Tut Tut, Mr McLachlan, that's Mrs. Anonymous, to you. Thank goodness I'm not the man you are. And if you consider my two little, unassuming posts "criticism" then you are thin-skinned indeed. Has no one ever critiqued your books? I see that another anonymous person has told you that they have no intention of reading them at all. Nevermind, though, it takes more than something like this to make my "little day".

    But I'm curious, why would you assume that I should believe Anderson excused of rape just because the Union troops also practiced this hideousness. The logic you are using defies me. No one should ever be excused for raping another.

    I think you need to calm down a little. You are rather combative.

    Mrs. Anonymous

  9. Mrs. Anonymous,

    You are still a coward for hiding behind anonymity.
    Every time the subject of Anderson's rapes comes up, as it has numerous times today, someone yells, "Union soldiers did it too!" Yeah, they did, and those who did were evil. But that's irrelevant to the fact that Anderson did. It's just clouding the air instead of facing the fact that this "hero of the South" was evil.
    It's like saying at a murder trial, "Lots of murders happen in this city!"

  10. Wow, Sean! You sure know how to generate controversy. I'm looking forward to your interview on Dianna's blog. There's an open invitation if you want to be interviewed on mine.

  11. Frankly it doesn't bother me in the least that you call me cowardly since I have no testosterone issues.

    What does bother me is that you won't answer my question. Specifically, why do you assume that I, and I imagine others as well, can't face the evilness of Anderson's rapine activities when we can see it in, oh let's say for the sake of argument, the activities of Sherman's men? Not forgetting that I didn't bring up rape at all, you did, in your blog. I said that it's just as well you didn't go on at length depicting rape in your book as it wouldn't distinguish Anderson's viciousness from that of the Union troops. That is what I said, in not so many words. How does this translate into my not being able to "face the fact that [he] was evil?" In short, it does not. But you have yet to explain why you see it that way. Instead you go on about "clouding the air" and murder trials. You're either not understanding my question, or pretending to not understand it because you'd rather make this a North-South issue. You'd much rather I were a Neo-Confederate on the attack. Too bad, I'm not.

    I, too, worked as an archaeologist, in my case for the Grosvenor Museum in Chester, England. And I'm rather a purist when it comes to history. I don't care for this genre in which you are writing, this Civil War Horror. It's nothing more than a little trailer on the latest bandwagon to come rumbling down the road and you seem to be hopping on it rather late, I might add.

    One would think that anyone who's studied the Civil War in Missouri, even superficially, would realize that there's enough horror to go around without making up things which are entirely not true in order to pander to the fans of the latest fad in popular fiction. And Lord knows, the Civil War has enough bad P.R. anyway, the discussions (arguments) are divisive enough between those who feel they are on the side of all things good and right and the people they look down upon as representatives of all things ignorant and evil. I don't see that those flames of anger need to be fanned for the sake of the almighty buck. There are buffoons on both sides of the issue, people ignorant enough that when they read your story they could conceivably believe that the Anderson fiction is a true rendition of history, being attached, as it is, to an historical person.

    For the sake of that almighty buck, do we really need to risk making the division worse than it already is?

  12. And on and on it goes. I've mentioned Union atrocities in this blog, other forums, my nonfiction books, even hint at it in my novel's blurb, yet these anonymous folks keep saying I'm taking one side of the issue. It's like their eyes skip over any sentence they don't want to see.
    This latest comment is right about one thing, though. I am late coming to the Civil War horror genre, as is anyone writing in the past 100 years. Ambrose Bierce wrote Civil War horror, including the classic "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" in 1890.
    Perhaps I should write a post on the history of Civil War horror. Not enough material here in Santander, though. I'll have to wait for my annual summer research trip to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

  13. Wrong. Mr Bierce's story, which I first read 4 decades ago, was not a horror story. It was a first class study of the psychology of the dying brain, along lines which the movie "Point Blank" followed when Walker is shot and the entire movie is quite possibly the machinations of a dying brain, or possibly not.

    I am impressed by this anonymous lady, and also by you for not deleting her comments (unless perhaps you can't). Her perspective is very much correct. And she is not "anonymous folk", she just doesn't care because as she said, she is not troubled by testosterone issues. That's what I love about my wife.

    Take care.

    1. Steve,

      In your eagerness to show off your assumed knowledge, you made a serious blunder. Why wouldn't Bierce's story be considered horror? You seem to be saying that it isn't because there are no supernatural elements, but if in your mind that disqualifies it from being a horror story then novels such a Misery and Silence of the Lambs would also not be horror.

    2. And yes, Blogsmith allows bloggers to delete comments. I have to do that with spammers sometimes. Needy strangers get to keep their comments, but outright ads get spiked.

  14. Wow, I just got around to reading this entry and the comments...

    Well, I guess if there is a bunch of love swoon women still sending love letters to Charles Manson, I guess there can be love swoon people over that monster, Bill Anderson.



  15. On the topic of "Bloody Bill" Anderson and rape I have not been able to find one account of him raping a young African American girl in a reliable source. According to unreliable sources such as Wikipedia the rapes supposedly took place at Glasgow, Missouri when he beat Benjamin Lewis nearly to death on October 21, 1864. Now, I have not completed my research on this, but every reliable source I have read states his men raped the female servants, but make no mention of Anderson doing so. In Castel and Goodrich's " Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla" it states Anderson's men took turns raping two black slaves, but does not mention if Anderson did. This account apparently comes from the "New York Times." James Erwin in his book "The Homefront in Civil War Missouri" cites the same source, but refers to it as lurid. Again Erwin says Anderson's men raped the young girls, one one night while Anderson beat Lewis, and two more in the morning, but makes no mention of Anderson doing so. I therefore have to question how accurate it is to say Anderson "had a fondness for raping young black girls." Anderson was a cutthroat that kept the scalps of his victims on his saddle, and was capable of savage cruelty no doubt, but this is one case where I have to question the authenticity of the idea of Anderson committing rape. Is there some source out there I am missing?

  16. Disregard my previous comment... I found the source of the different accounts of Anderson raping a young African American girl. It is a New York Times article published November 20, 1864 that was wired from the Missouri Democrat. Unfortunately, only the second installment was published in the Times and it does not give the age of the girl. And the Democrat archives are not readily available so I cannot see the first installment.


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