The Silent Shore of Memory: A Novel

The Silent Shore of Memory: A Novel

The Silent Shore of Memory: A Novel

The Silent Shore of Memory: A Novel


The Silent Shore of Memory chronicles the life of James Barnhill from his days as a young Confederate soldier through the trials of Reconstruction in his native Texas and his later career as a lawyer and judge.

After being critically wounded at Gettysburg and a long recuperation in North Carolina, James Barnhill returns to Texas where he battles widespread corruption and vigilante violence during the turmoil of Reconstruction.

Although he endures tragedy in his personal life, Barnhill becomes a respected lawyer who defends an African American man accused of rape and represents a titan of the Texas lumber industry in a precedent-setting confrontation with a railroad monopoly controlled by Wall Street financiers.

Steeped in the history of the South, The Silent Shore of Memory explores the nuances of views on slavery and the dissolution of the Union, the complexity of race relations and race politics during the thirty years following the Civil War, and the powerful bonds of familial love and friendship.


The Big Thicket East Texas October 1915

The old man reclined in his camp chair, stretching his hands behind his head, staring into the blazing fire as the wind sang in the boughs overhead. The flames cast shadows on the tents circling the campfire, ghostly white in the moonlight filtering through the canopy of pines. Massaging his left shoulder, the old man said, “Norther’s on the way. I can feel it.”

“That old wound, Judge?” asked a man in the shadows.

The old man nodded. “Only with a change in the weather.”

“I’ll be dad-gummed,” said another from the darkness, raising his voice over the wind. “After all those years.”

“Fifty-two, to be exact,” said the judge.

A teenaged boy sitting cross-legged stared across the fire, mentally calculating the year the judge was wounded. He was intensely curious about his grandfather’s war experiences, though the old man seldom, if ever, discussed them. “Well, Grandpa,” he said encouragingly, “sitting around a fire like this, with the rifles stacked by the tents, must bring back memories.”

The judge considered. In truth, the campfire by the canvas, the wind in the pines, the scent of woodsmoke and pinesap flooded him with other memories. Bear hunts in the Big Thicket, year after year in October, for almost forty years. Then he summoned a dim remembrance of a campground, an entire hillside illuminated by hundreds, perhaps thousands of flickering campfires, the soft murmur of men’s low voices, someone in the distance singing a slow, sad ballad. Thinking of home. Of Mother. He closed his eyes and silently recited the verses:

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps … They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps … I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps …

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