Civil War Literature: No Signs of Retreat
Hyman, Ann, The Florida Times Union
There is a moment when Scarlett O'Hara, lounging in the cool
shade of Tara's front porch with the firebrand Tarleton twins,
stamps her little foot and says, "Whaw, whaw, whaw, that's all
you boys talk about!" Or words to that effect. And, she tells
the twins if they say one more word about the whaw or the
county's new cavalry troop, she's going in the house and close
the door. For good.
It's a lost cause, Scarlett. Interest in the whaw, especially
where literature and its offspring are concerned, is high and
shows no sign of retreat.
Re-enactors from Europe come to Pennsylvania to re-create the
Battle of Gettysburg.
The film version of Gone With the Wind has been dusted off and
digitalized and is playing theaters again.
Jeff Harrah's The Last Full Measure, about the final years of
the Civil War, is just off the Jacksonville best-sellers list,
and may make a comeback. The same is true of Charles Frazier's
Cold Mountain, a superb novel the North Carolinian cobbled from
Just what is it about the Civil War that, 133 years after Lee
surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, keeps us returning to it?
"I'm asked that question half a dozen times a day," said
Randall Floyd during a telephone conversation from Augusta, Ga.
People ask him the question because Floyd is the author of
Deep in the Heart (Harbor House, $24.95), a novel based on a
true story of the Civil War that follows the fortunes of a
Georgia farm boy who follows Robert E. Lee to Seven Pines,
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness,
Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg.
The book is based on a collection of family letters between
Pvt. Wiley Nesmith and his bride. The story of the letters
themselves is intriguing.
Nesmith, a soldier with the 49th Georgia Infantry Regiment, did
not mail all of the letters he wrote to his young wife. Who is
to say why? What were his intentions for the letters? What he
did with them was to hide them in the wall of a Virginia
farmhouse when Lee surrendered, and Nesmith could finally turn
The letters were in the wall for 120 years, until they were
discovered in 1980 by a new owner of the house who was doing
The finder and a Civil War buff tracked the descendants of
Wiley Nesmith and returned the letters.
Nesmith's granddaughter, Ann Wildenradt, asked Floyd to write
The story of the letters hooked him.
It took a decade to write the book, 10 years of squeezing in
research between teaching duties at Georgia Southern University
and at Augusta State University and tending to other writing
commitments. Deep in the Heart is Floyd's seventh book, his
The book has been well received.
The History Book Club has chosen it as a featured selection.
HarperCollins has spoken up for the paperback rights.
Floyd has become a popular speaker at book stores, historical
societies and, next month, he will talk at a Nesmith family