By James Reasoner
James Reasoner continues the saga of the Brannon family of Culpepper County, Virginia, in “Shiloh,” the second installment of “The Civil War Battle Series.”
“Shiloh” picks up shortly after the conclusion of “Manassas,” the first book in Mr. Reasoner’s series, continuing the story of the Brannon family with the only member of the family we have not yet met, Coriolanus Troilus Brannon, the wayward son of Abigail Brannon. Before the war he travelled west to find his fortune. Things haven’t gone as well as he had hoped. When the book begins Cory is a day laborer working on the wharfs of New Madrid, Missouri on the Mississippi River. He is dirty, hungry and homeless.
Through a series of unfortunate events Cory is rescued by Ezekiel Farrell, captain of The Missouri Zepher, a river boat which frequently traverses the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Cairo, Illinois. When Cory warns the captain that a torch-bearing crowd of abolitionists is on its way to burn the Zepher, Captain Farrell decides to quickly depart from New Madrid, and as thanks for the warning allows Cory to come along. But Cory is not the only youngster onboard the Zepher, the Captain’s daughter, Lucille, is also aboard.
Cory spends the next few months on board the Zepher, travelling up and down the Mississippi River, learning the river and its hazards all the while falling in love with Lucille. But in early 1862 Cory’s past catches up with him, and sends him, and the Zepher, fleeing from New Orleans with a cargo of cotton bound for Cairo and a shipment guns for the Confederacy. After the cargo is delivered, Captain Farrell seeks the safety of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, but that isn’t far enough, the Union Flotilla is on its way. Farrell sends Lucille to live in the safety of the home of her uncle and aunt, Charles and Louise Thompson, in Nashville, while Farrell and the crew of the Zepher stay to help defend the fort. It is a disastrous decision, the Zepher and her crew are lost and only the Captain and Cory make it safely back to shore and eventually twelve miles over land to Fort Donelson where Captain Farrell is killed in Grant’s attack on that fort.
Many of Nashville’s citizens, including Lucille and the Thompsons have fled the city ahead of the occupying forces of the Union army. After arriving in the city Cory fruitlessly looks for Lucille, and unable to find her heads to Corinth, Mississippi, where he volunteers, temporarily, and fights with Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry during the battle of Shiloh, his third battle in as many months.
Though most of Mr. Reasoner’s narrative concentrates on Cory Brannon, he briefly catches his readers up on what has been going on with the rest of the Brannon family: Will is still with the Confederate army; Titus, pining for Polly Ebersole has turned to alcohol to sooth his broken heart; Henry’s shoulder has healed; and Mac has captured and tamed the mysterious wild stallion and had decided he will soon join the Confederate army.
As with Mr. Reasoner’s previous book, “Shiloh” is a simple story told simply. There is not much in the way of character development; the novel is purely a plot driven vehicle. Though, there is more action in this novel than in the previous one, it is all in its last hundred pages: The attack on Fort Henry doesn’t occur until page 265. Over all it is a satisfying novel, it is neither good, nor bad, but falls somewhere in the middle.
ISBN 978-1581820485, Cumberland House Publishing, © 1999, Hardcover, 362 pages, $22.95. To purchase click HERE.