Until Shiloh Comes (Shiloh Trilogy)

Until Shiloh Comes (Shiloh Trilogy)

by Karl A. Bacon

ISBN: 9780986324406

Publisher Historical Chronicles Press

Published in Literature & Fiction/War & Military, Religion & Spirituality/Fiction, Literature & Fiction/Historical, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

Two boys fall at Shiloh. One is Stanley Mitchell, a Yankee, shot and his leg broken. The other is Aaron Matthews, a Confederate, mortally wounded, the son of a local family. Aaron's mother, Davina, searches for her son, but she finds Stanley instead, who tells her where Aaron is—on the condition that she take Stanley into her home and nurse him back to health. Until Shiloh Comes is a story of love—love between Stanley and Anna, and love among the members of the two families on the farm, one white, one black. It is a story of personal choices and their consequences.

Sample Chapter

Davina Matthews stood at the east window of her bedroom as daylight broke upon her sleeping farm. Her eyes slowly traced the split-rail fence that separated pastureland from woodland. Yankee patrols had appeared now and again to graze their mounts in her pastures. Levi said they had stolen a couple hogs from the woods a week past, but thus far they hadn’t bothered the small flock of sheep or the few grazing beef steers and milk cows.

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. She had learned those verses from her father back in South Carolina, as well as many other passages of Scripture through the years, but now those words of King Solomon plagued her nearly every day.

“‘All is vanity and vexation of spirit.’” Davina’s whispered words created small breath puffs upon the window pane. Vexation of spirit. Yes, indeed, ever since her husband Ben rode away to join Forrest’s cavalry corps.

The war had seemed so distant then, except for Ben’s absence. Sometimes it almost seemed to be someone else’s war. Until that cold, blustery day in late February when a single soldier on horseback, Hank Fowler from over near Selmer, had ridden up the lane with the terrible news of Ben’s death at Donelson, a place Davina had never heard of before. Pastor Blackwell told her it was God’s will, and he told her good would come from her loss, even showers of blessing. His words still felt hard and cold like midwinter earth.

Now, she was surrounded by Yankees. The first of their large steamboats had arrived at Pittsburg Landing just three Sabbaths before. The Yankees — Sherman’s men, most of them — had pitched their tents around the little church that her own Ben and their slave Levi had helped build. Their humble Shiloh Church was now the enemy’s headquarters, and again today, April 6th, no preaching of the Prince of Peace would be heard within those simple log walls, only the deadly schemes of war.

It was our hands that built your house, Lord, and Ben and Levi done a lot of it. Now it’s only a stinking, muddy city of filthy men and filthy beasts. Just ain’t no place to take the little ones for preaching, Lord.

Davina sighed and wiped the window pane with the cuff of her nightgown. A few days ago several riders in gray had dashed across her pastureland to the cover of the trees beyond. And on Friday afternoon, a Tennessee cavalry patrol had stopped at the farm to water their horses. The captain of the patrol confirmed what Davina already suspected — the army was coming up quickly from Corinth and there would soon be a great battle. But yesterday all was quiet, and this morning was just as peaceful.

If the army was close, then Aaron was close, too. Very close.

I’m empty, Lord. Is this what you want? Is this why you took Ben? Because I was leaning too much on him and not on you? I’m only a woman, Lord, and without Ben my heart is broke. You say you can put it together again, Lord, but can you even find all the pieces? And today, Lord, I’m afraid for Aaron. Keep him safe, please. He’s only eighteen, and I can’t lose him, too.

Davina dabbed at her eyes with her kerchief.

A soft knock on her door broke the silence. “Mama?”

It was Luke, her fourteen-year-old son. “Come in, dear.”

The boy entered and came to Davina’s side at the window. “Will it be today, Mama?”

Davina put her arm around Luke’s shoulders and drew him close. “Only God knows for sure. I was just standing here thinking about your brother, and praying, too. We haven’t seen him in more than six months, and it’s hard on a mother to know her boy’s so close, maybe in danger. I’d give anything to hold him just like this.”

“I wish I could go and fight, Mama. Just think of it, me and Aaron fighting them Yankees side by side.”

“Ain’t your time, my dear. Besides, this family’s already given so much.” Davina hugged her son a little closer. “It’s a hard thing, your papa never coming home, but I need you here with me.”

“I know, Mama.” Luke gave his mother a peck on the cheek. “Wish Aaron was here. Why can’t it be like it was?”

Davina had asked that same question countless times. Things would never be like they were before, not without Ben. And it was ever so hard for her to know how things ought to be, now that he was gone.

“I hate them Yankees, for what they did to Papa.” Luke’s words were hard and terse. “Every last one of them.”

Davina turned from the window to look at Luke. He tried so hard to be a man, sometimes, but so much of the boy remained, and that boy was tussling with the same hard things she was. So different from her grown-up Aaron, who was so much like Ben. But Luke was growing fast, now; another year and she’d be looking up at him.

“Hating ain’t good, Luke. ‘Love your enemies,’ that’s what Jesus said.” But the words sounded hollow and left a bitter taste. “Oh, Mama, I can’t — ”

A low rumble like distant thunder rolled across the sleeping farm. Davina’s breath caught in her throat. Luke stiffened beside her. Then there was a second report, more distinct this time, and another that Davina felt in her feet. The window glass in front of her face vibrated a raspy note within its frame.

“It’s started, Mama.”

“Yes. Now leave so I can dress. And pray for your brother.”

“Yes, Mama.” Luke paused at the door. “I’ll pray that Aaron kills lots of Yankees.”

Davina dressed quickly — not her pale blue Sunday dress with the frills at the hem and sleeves and bodice, but rather loose-fitting, workday attire: faded brown duck trousers with leather braces and a plaid cotton flannel shirt. She went to the front door, drew on her boots, and walked out onto the veranda.

“Missus Davina.” Min Jackson stepped up onto the veranda, breathless from running up the lane from her family’s cabin. “Did you hear, missus? Did you hear?”

“I heard, Min. Wish I hadn’t, but I heard.” Davina looked over the line of trees beyond the fields to the east. “Seems a big fight’s started down near the church.”

Davina and Min stood at the railing of the veranda, listening intently as the thump of artillery grew more constant. Waves of clattering musket fire filled the gaps between cannon blasts and soon the noise of pitched battle became a steady clamor from which there was no escape.

“Oh my,” Min said every so often. “Oh my.”

Davina’s children appeared one by one on the veranda, still dressed in their bedclothes. She hardly noted their presence until six-year-old Davy, the youngest, began to scream. Ruthie, his tenyear-old sister, took his hand and tried to quiet the boy.

Davina was about to gather Davy into her arms when Anna, her fifteen-year-old daughter, came rushing out of the house, as did Luke. “Anna, look after your little brother, please.”

Anna picked the boy up. “Don’t cry, Li’l Davy. You remember them bad Yankees we seen? Well, Aaron’s down there, and he’s giving them Yankees a whipping and we won’t see them no more. Then Aaron’ll come home, and everything’ll be good again.” Davy screamed all the louder.

Davina fixed her gaze on the wisps of battle smoke rising over the trees. Aaron was down there somewhere, down near the Corinth Road maybe, with all the rest of the Thirteenth Tennessee. She knew her eldest son would go into battle and do his duty, just as his father had done. His courage warmed her a little, but it frightened her more, and she wished only to take the buckboard and dash down the lane and bring Aaron home to Matthews Hill.

Still, it was the Sabbath, and she would try to observe it as best she could. The family would gather, and Luke would read from the Bible, and maybe Willy would remember some verses, and she would pray for the little flock — her flock. They would do these things just as they had done them last Sunday, and the Sunday before that. But first, her flock needed to be fed.

“Min.” The black woman moved not at all. Davina turned and laid a gentle hand on the short, stout woman’s shoulder. “Minny.”

Min jumped at the touch. “Yes, missus?”

“Go fix breakfast for this hungry gang. Do up some ham and eggs, and griddle cakes, too. Make plenty for all yours, too.”

“Yes, missus.” Min tore her gaze away and disappeared into the house just as her husband, Levi, came running across the yard from the barn.

“Excuse me, Missus Davina,” Levi said, bounding up onto the veranda, his brown eyes dark, wide, and darting. “You need me doing anything, missus?” He ran a large hand over the top of his nearly bald scalp and down the side of his stubble-roughened face to his chin. “I mean, not the usual, missus, already done it, me and my boys. Anything, Missus Davina, with the fighting and all?”

“Settle down, Levi,” Davina said, trying hard to settle her own voice. It had been a long time since she’d seen Levi in such distress. “There might be work to do later, but right now, I just need a clear head.”

Davina turned her back to the battle sounds. “Anna, Luke, come here, please.” Anna, still holding Davy in her arms, seemed every day to grow a little more toward a beautiful young woman and a little farther from the gangly child she used to be, and it pleased Davina deeply. Luke, just thirteen months younger than his sister, tried hard to look the man of the house, but the fear in his eyes was unmistakable.

“There’s no way of guessing what the Lord’s set on our table today,” Davina said, “but I think it best we be prepared. First, we’re all going to have breakfast. Levi, bring your little ones up here to the house. We’ll find room. It’s chilly here on the veranda, so maybe in the living room by the fire.”

“Yes, missus,” Levi said.

Luke didn’t look pleased. Several times during the recent months, he’d made it clear that, in his judgment, his mother was too good to the Jacksons.

“It’s the Sabbath, so after breakfast we’ll have Bible reading,” Davina said. “Luke will read for us, won’t you, Luke?”

Luke’s face brightened a little. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Anna, I need you to look after Ruthie and Li’l Davy today. That’ll be two less things I need to worry about. And, Levi, I’m thinking that, win or lose — and I pray God to smile on us and we beat them Yankees to kingdom come — Aaron and his friends will need anything we can take them. You and your boys go look around and figure what we can spare — hams, bread, butter, cornmeal. Look at all our hidings, too. Get a heap together, and if we get an opportunity, we’ll load up the wagon and get on down there.”

“Yes, missus.”

“No matter which way the fight goes, they’ll need whatever we can spare.”

Davina felt a soft tug at her elbow. It was eleven-year-old Willy, his blue eyes the exact image of her own.

“What can I do, Mama? I want to help Aaron, too.”

Davina got down on one knee. She cupped Willy’s face in her hands and kissed him lightly on the forehead. “You got the most important job of all, my boy. We’ll all be doing lots of praying today — for Aaron to be safe, and us here, too, and for beating them Yankees, and for this wicked war to end so we can have peace again. Remember what St. Paul said to do?”

Willy nodded. “You mean pray without ceasing?”

Davina hugged Willy close. “That’s what we need today, my dear.”

Willy’s voice was barely a whisper. “I will, Mama. You know I will.”


Excerpted from "Until Shiloh Comes (Shiloh Trilogy)" by Karl A. Bacon. Copyright © 2015 by Karl A. Bacon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Karl A. Bacon

Karl A. Bacon

Karl Bacon grew up in the small picturesque town of Woodbury, Connecticut. After graduating from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he returned to Connecticut and found employment in manufacturing. "Just a job" turned into a professional career, much of which was spent working for a Swiss machine tool company. In 2000 he started his own business to provide services to manufacturing clients across the USA. This change also allowed him time to develop his writing craft.

View full Profile of Karl A. Bacon

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