A Desperate Search in the Midst of Civil War
Bronze Medal winner, 2020 eLit Literary Awards, Historical Fiction.
Emily Rose roams through a country ravaged by war, a damaged land where the very grass blades drink the blood of brothers, cousins, and friends. Protected only by her wits and Nathaniel Whiteeagle, a slave with Cherokee blood, Emily swears she will find her fiancé and buy his freedom. Facing danger at each turn, every clue she follows leaves her another step behind. Will she ever find Caleb? Can Caleb endure the unthinkable cruelty of civil war prisons long enough for her to rescue him? Or will she and Nathaniel meet a violent end?
Conecuh (Cah-NECK-ah ) is a story woven around and through the actual events in the mysterious and ironic life of Private Caleb Garner, CSA, during the most tumultuous time in American history. Whatever happened to Caleb? History has left us blind, but there are clues. Conecuh explores one very real possibility.
“It’s been a year since he left,” Emily announced to the spring breeze that fluttered the pines to the sides of the trail.
Nathaniel, the supplies they had purchased from the trading post slung over his shoulder, heavy but not slowing him down the least, walked beside her, slightly behind as was the habit of a slave. It was easy enough to realize who Emily was talking about. He could barely hide his own disappointment when the clerk had checked the postal bin and dryly stated there was nothing for the Rose family. He could think of no encouragement to offer.
“I’ve tried screaming in the woods,” she continued.
“Screaming in the woods?” Nathaniel repeated. His brows cocked.
“Yes. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But I did. I went out one night after Momma and Daddy went to sleep. When I was deep into the pines, I screamed at the world to stop this stupid war.”
“I’m afraid the world isn’t listening.”
“No. It isn’t. And I felt so stupid afterward. I went back inside and lay on my bed until the sun came up. But I’m not stupid. War is stupid. Why doesn’t the world listen?”
“You aren’t rich.”
“The world only listens to fools with money.”
“Then we’ve got fools listening to fools,” Emily observed.
Nathaniel snorted a short laugh. “Yes. And the everyday fools will continue to listen as long as the rich fools who are running the war still have money, regardless of what side they’re on. When the fighting takes the rich people’s money away, the little people will start to listen to other people. Perhaps those others will want the war to end.”
Emily turned and looked at Nathaniel and said, “Yes, but how long will that take?” Then she turned back around. She didn’t expect an answer. Nathaniel didn’t offer one.
They walked along in silence a few minutes. A hawk soared well above the tops of the pines, lazily drifting back and forth. It started to lower its circles, closing in on something below. Suddenly, it swooped down. As soon as it arced inches above the ground, it was on its way back skyward, a field rat in its talons.
Without turning around, Emily said, “And how many more soldiers have to die before we start listening to the politicians who believe in peace?”
Nathaniel glanced to the sides then turned his head enough to take a look behind them, a constant habit as he walked. “I’m afraid the cloth is dyed,” he said with finality. “The war is engaged and will not end until one side sees more hope in surrender than in continuing to fight. Even if we elect politicians who want peace, the fighting will not stop as long as both armies have even a faint hope of victory.”
Author Herb Hughes worked in the computer industry for over two decades then built a successful private business before selling the business and retiring to write full time. He has published seven novels, including two historical fiction works set during the civil war.
“I write in the present, but my stories are about the past and the future: historical fiction and science fiction. I find both fascinating."