Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Waking up to the reality of war

Fellow Civil War novelist Blythe Forcey Toussaint has written an interesting post about Picnicking at the Battle of Bull Run. When the North and South clashed at the first major battle of the Civil War on 21 July 1861, civilians from nearby Washington, DC, came out with picnic baskets to watch the "fun". Instead they saw thousands of men die and their own army get trounced. They fled back home in panic.

It took some time for Americans to wake up to the realities of war. At Missouri's first battle, the Battle of Boonville, a rebel picket who saw the Union troops advancing rode back to Confederate lines and shouted, "They're coming, boys. They were shooting at me back there!"

Well, yeah. What did you expect them to do?

For Missourians, the big wake-up call was the Battle of Wilson's Creek, where both sides got decimated and the Union lost its first general in combat. In my Civil War novel, there's a minor character who lost his leg at that battle. He lost his romantic attitudes to war along with it.

My novel is to a great extent about two men losing the last of their innocence. Despite having been a bushwhacker for some time, Jimmy Rawlins fought honorably until he wound up under the control of Bloody Bill Anderson, a real-life villain who shot civilians and took scalps. Union militia captain Richard Addison never feels fully involved in the war until he faces off against Bloody Bill in an attempt to save Jimmy from becoming something far worse than a mere rebel. The book follows these two in their downward spiral, the same downward spiral so many others had to deal with in that conflict. in the end, though, they do find a way out, although I hope it's in a way that the readers don't see coming.

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