A Heart Dividedby J. M. Snyder
Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grown weary of the War Between the States. He is all too aware of the tenuous thread that ties him to this earth -- as he writes a letter home to his sister, he realizes he may be among the dead by the time she receives the missive. His melancholy mood is shared by other soldiers in the campsite; in the cool Virginia night, the pickets claim to hear ghosts in the woods, and their own talk spooks them.
Andy knows the "ghost" is nothing more than a wounded soldier left on the battlefield, dying in the darkness. With compassion, Andy takes the picket's lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier's pain. After a tense confrontation with the soldier, Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, a young man Andy's father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. The last time the two had seen each other, Sam had been heading west to seek his fortune, and had promised to send for Andy when he could.
Then the war broke out, and Andy had enlisted in the Confederate Army to help ease the financial burden at home. Apparently Sam had similar ideas -- he now wears the blue coat of a Union solider.
Sam is severely wounded and infection has begun to set in. Andy can't sneak him into his own camp for treatment because all Union soldiers are taken prisoner. But Andy's Confederate uniform prevents him from seeking help from the nearby Union camp, as well. It's up to Andy to tend his lover's wound and get Sam the help he needs before it's too late ... and before Andy's compatriots discover Sam's presence.
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One of my favourite genre settings is the American Civil War. In reality it was a brutal conflict, filled with cruel bloodshed and death, but it also had strong element of gallantry and romance. Not the least of which was the ‘flower of brave young manhood’ who participated because of principle. This is what I found in J.M. Synder’s period novel A Heart Divided [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, July 27, 2011]. The story begins in March, 1865, one month before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865, and at the opening we find Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks writing to his sister with the pathetic notion that he could well be de dead by the time she receives his letter. It is a powerful opening, and true, for death was always just one breath away. Snyder also does quite a fine job of capturing the tense environment of the encampment, frequently in sight of the enemies picket fires, and surrounded by the yet-to-be-retrieved wounded and dead. His men fear the voices of ghosts when they hear an enemy soldier crying out for water, but Blanks recognizes it as such and takes a lantern and a canteen in search of him. This scenario immediately struck me as familiar, and so I went searching for the real, historical event—the story of Richard Rowland Kirkland, the so-called “Angel of Marye's Heights.” The story goes that on hearing the cries of wounded Union soldiers: “Kirkland gathered all the canteens he could carry, filled them with water, then ventured out onto the battlefield. He ventured back and forth several times, giving the wounded Union soldiers water, warm clothing, and blankets. Soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies watched as he performed his task, but no one fired a shot. General [Joseph B.] Kershaw later stated that he observed Kirkland for more than an hour and a half. At first, it was thought that the Union would open fire, which would result in the Confederacy returning fire, resulting in Kirkland being caught in a crossfire. However, within a very short time, it became obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland was doing, and according to Kershaw cries for water erupted all over the battlefield from wounded soldiers. Kirkland did not stop until he had helped every wounded soldier (Confederate and Federal) on the Confederate end of the battlefield. Sergeant Kirkland's actions remain a legend in Fredericksburg to this day.” Wikipedia. Whether or not Reynolds was aware of this story is immaterial. What is significant is that it makes a most powerful device by which to reunite Blanks with his tragically lost love, Samuel Talley. The rest of the story pits the two of them against the ideological divisions of “north” and “south,” and the severity of Samuel’s wound. I won’t elaborate beyond saying that the tension is balanced with romance, and the writing is strong. My quibbles are almost too trivial to mention, but at times I felt the coincidences were just a bit convenient. Altogether, it is a true romance with an authentic core. Five bees.