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Posted March 12, 2010
"But you people up North are different than us southern folk. You Yankees don't respect the old ways, every thing is money, money, money, hustle, and hustle. We're different, you know." - Virginia woman
"Ma'am, every state in the Union has different customs and such. We're here to preserve the government that allows us to be free, you, me, even the Negroes." - Private Hiram Terman, 82nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
"Why you blasted abolitionist. I will never live under an abolitionist flag!" - the Virginian
As a native Ohioan and the descendant of numerous Civil War soldiers who served the Union in Ohio and West Virginia regiments, I have always had a strong bias toward books and articles relating to the Buckeye State during the conflict. Normally I shy away from historical fiction, much preferring historical accounts of people, places, and battles, but in recent years I have become more interested in the genre of Civil War novels. Dr. Max R. Terman's new book, Hiram's Honor: Reliving Private Terman's Civil War, is among the very best of these recent additions.
Max Terman has extensively researched the Civil War adventures of his ancestor Hiram Terman and has written a fascinating, gripping account of what it may have been like to be a common infantryman in the War Between the States. Taking Hiram's known movements, his battles, and his remembrances, the author skillfully interweaves them into a wonderfully conceived and brilliantly written narrative that takes the reader into Hiram's hypothetical world.
Terman assembles a colorful supporting cast, which gives him a chance to explore the myriad of emotions and beliefs emerging in the mid-19th century. We meet am agnostic, one of the growing crowd who questioned the existence of God and the supernatural. His interplay with a traditionalist is interesting and filled with the tension that two very different cultural and socio-scientific values systems. Virginia slaveholders clinging to the Old South's antebellum culture dialogue with pro-Union young men who abhor the idea of owning another human being. Officers with privileged backgrounds and educations lead soldiers fresh off the farm and the factories. Through it all, Private Terman marches, camps, and fights alongside his diverse collection of comrades in such places as Virginia's scenic Shenandoah Valley and the southern Pennsylvania battlefield at Gettysburg.
Like thousands of other Union soldiers in the I and XI Corps on July 1, 1863, Hiram is captured by the Confederates at Gettysburg as his regiment retreats through the town toward Cemetery Hill. Max Terman's description of the emotions and thoughts of Hiram and his friends as they head off to prison in Virginia and later to the infamous Andersonville prison camp in Georgia is both vivid and insightful, helping add depth to the character development.
As the prisoners are taken to Andersonville, Terman is exposed to several deaths of comrades. Among the more colorful passages is this one which typifies Terman's riveting writing style. As Hiram surveyed a fallen fellow prisoner, he exclaims "What a pity! The man survived Gettysburg and the horrors of Belle Island [a Virginia prison camp] to be trampled by his own comrades scrambling for apples tossed into our [rail] car by young girls! Now there he is, unknown to his family, without a coffin, naked to the soil in a nameless grave near the railroad depot in Raleigh, North Carolina. Not a good death; not a good death
Dr. Terman takes the reader on an incredible journey as he traces the steps of his ancestor through the Civil War. The reader experiences both combat and confinement in all its stark and brutal reality. Writing in the first person as though he were his great uncle, the author provides a unique perspective to a familiar subject thereby adding a new dimension to the genre and making his reader the beneficiary. From the numbing terror of the battlefield to the grinding misery of the prison camps-in this riveting first person account, you are there."
"Dr. Terman has, in a manner, done what most Civil War enthusiasts would like to do, that is, to go back in time and see what it was really like. The journey was, it is obvious, an eye opener. I roundly applaud his effort and am convinced that Hiram would do the same."
"Hiram's Honor tells the fascinating story of an ordinary Union soldier's experience of the greatest drama in American history, the Civil War. It is a novel full of adventure, suffering, friendship, and in the end, hope."