Charles D. Phillips is a native Texan and a public health professional living and teaching in College Station, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Flashshot, flashquake, HeavyGlow, Long Story Short, the Angler, Static Movement, Smokebox, Toasted Cheese, and the Vestal Review. His Old West historical fiction has appeared in The Copperfield Review, Short Barrel Fiction, The Western Online, and Rope and Wire. His stories in Rope and Wire can be found in its Featured Authors’ section. His essays social and political issues appeared in Bent Magazine, Clockwise Cat, Events Weekly, Smokebox, and Touchstone Magazine. KEOS 89.1FM Community Radio for the Brazos Valley has aired a number of his commentaries on current events. His short fiction has been nominated for StorySouth’s Million Writer Award, the Pushcart Prize, and for inclusion in the Best of the Web. His one-act play, 50 Minutes, was chosen as a finalist in Fifty 7 Production’s off-Broadway One-Act Play Festival, 2011.
The Sharpshooter 1862-1864by Charles Phillips
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Jurian Baecker’s journey leads him from breaking and trading horses in central Texas to heavy involvement, as a member of an elite unit in the Union Army, in the fighting at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Over time, Jurian’s youthful recklessness becomes the deep maturity found among some of those who daily see and face death. As he makes his personal journey, Jurian, known by some as Jake Baker, finds two extraordinary women, but he can keep the love of neither. He experiences both the brutality to which men can sink and the heights of compassion they can reach, even on a torn and bloody field of battle. He also assumes the terrible weight borne by those whose decisions may mean life or death to the men who fight beside them.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Sharpshooter: 1862-1864. The characters jump off the page! Ciivil war battles revealing strategic brilliance and simultaneously reflecting the depths of human suffering, a narrative tightly woven, a love triangle early on, another love story blossoming at the end, and some serious Texas history all make reading this novel an experience from the inside out! Philosophical undercurrents running throughout the narrative also catch the reader's attention - moral conflict created by participating in war, issues of "just war," values of family and nation, the struggles borne of individuality and independence. We will see more of Dr. Phillips' fiction writing, no doubt, and the end of this novel is deftly laid out for just that!! Get it and enjoy!
The Impact of War’s Atrocities on Man’s Mind, Body, and Spirit Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (9/12) Charles Phillips takes his reader back to the days of the Nueces massacre, an intense and violent conflict between the Confederate soldiers and the German Texans of August of 1862 in his novel “The Sharpshooter 1862-1864.” Like many other first-generation German immigrants living in Kinney County, Texas, Jurian Baecker did not advocate slavery nor support the cause of the Confederate States and their arbitrary conscription of young Texicans to fight against the Union. Jurian’s background establishes the essence of the conflict that follows. He is the son of a Lutheran immigrant pastor who joins other German immigrants to farm the land in central Texas. Julian is doubly at odds with his family. He finds it difficult to accept his father’s faith and has a deep distaste for farming. After his father’s untimely death, Jurian leaves the farm to his brother, to become a dealer in horses. He crosses the border into Mexico to buy stolen horses, to train them in readiness, to make a profit. Jurian is devastated when the girl he loves rejects him to marry the banker’s son to insure her family’s economic security. Confederate authorities blatantly declare central Texas to be under martial law. As a result of this act, over sixty local draftees head for Mexico to avoid being drafted. Jurian learns that Confederate cavalrymen are in pursuit of the party. Familiar with the territory, Jurian overtakes the fleeing renegades with the intention of leading them to safety over the Mexican border. They chose not to heed his advice. Only a few of the men escape the massacre that follows. The events resulting in this shocking bloodbath change Jurian’s life. He joins the Unionist forces as Jake Baker, and becomes a sharpshooter assigned to the Army of the Potomac. Jake seeks revenge for the coldblooded killing of his countrymen. As the result of near death wounds received in battle, Jurian is taken to the home of a pacifist pastor of a colony of Brethren in Virginia. While there, he is conflicted concerning his motives and attitudes toward killing as he reflects on his heritage and his father’s teaching and the convictions of the pacifist code of belief. Much has been written about the strategy, politics and bloodshed of the Civil War. Phillips brilliantly goes beyond the horrors of witnessing the death of comrades on the battlefield and the dreadful conditions prevalent in Civil war history to uncover the emotional trauma of human suffering, the accompanying sacrifice, the confusing emotional reactions experienced by the participants of war and their families, and the unanswered moral questions of life and death while in the midst of battle. Charles Phillips’ writing creates tension, conflict, introspection, and a mindfulness of the persecution, injustice, and futility that are the result of man’s bias, intolerance, and bigotry. Phillips has developed strong believable characters, a realistic plot, and engaging dialog. I appreciated Phillips’ careful attention to details of Civil war history, evidence of meticulous research, manifest by the transference of this knowledge as expressed though his characters and storyline. “The Sharpshooter 1862-1864” by Charles Phillips is destined to become a classic in the genre of Civil War Novels.
When life and death are as near as the trigger finger, Jake Baker's aim is far from narrow. The Sharpshooter 1862-1864 delivers this top-shelf Civil War page turner with raw, absolute power. C.D. Phillips is on the firing line with stunning accuracy, hitting broad targets with a cannon of universal truth. Jake Baker, a sharpshooter assigned to the Texas 1 Regiment during the oxymoron called the Civil War, has fought in all the great battles through Gettysburg. But there is one fight remaining. It is when the night comes to the spirit and the past invades the violence of the moment. There's a lot of bloodshed in C.D. Phillips novel. But the blood sometimes seems like a metaphor in a house of contradictions or ambiguities. Our bloodthirsty hero, somewhere near the Texas-Mexican border, becomes haunted by his heritage. Much later, when he meets a pacifist colony of Brethren's in war-torn Virginia, that ambiguity begins to lift out of the fog like a paradoxical death or rebirth. And we understand the theme of Phillip's sharpshooters is no less than the abolition of war and the humanity found among men and women when their bodies and soul are on the firing line. "The skirmishers were still killing at a distance but their own men, comrades, were dying nearby.They screamed, gurgled, or fell silently. They died in as many ways as they lived. Some died with resignation and sadness. Others died spitting at the world and a God they thought deaf to their pleas. Some never knew they died. One moment they were sighting down the barrel of their rifle, and the next moment a minie ball entered their forehead .... Company G. Berdan's men were not strangers to death, but they were strangers to this type of mass death at close-quarters, and it unsettled them." This grim account of when the very existence of our nation was on the line is told in simple, compulsively readable fashion. Like the blood that flowed in Antietam tributaries, the palpable way of war is often too close to us to truly absorb. For a while, I thought, The Sharpshooter 1862-1864 was too narrow, too bloody to contain the immense saga of our nation's most terrifying times. The aim of the shooter seemed so simple; the backdrop of names too awesome to be contained. But C.D.'s Sharpshooter has a more deadly aim. In the humanity of rebels and Yankees, talking to each other across enemy lines, or the split-second decision whether to fire and kill, or not ... when life and death is on the firing line, as close as the trigger finger, there is a moral lesson that Jake learns. It is a lesson we all must learn and the teachings, rather than narrow, become a universal truth. "On the battlefield, death wore no ceremonial cloak. Here they moved the dead out as fast as possible to make room for the dying." Among this backdrop, Mr. Charles Phillip has created an American classic about the Civil War. I believe it will be considered an unforgettable, singularly focused, top-shelf fiction. The battlefields are alive with death and glory, and the ambiguity of killing. The tension created, not when death is meted out, but when it is delayed or ignored for a higher principle, is what makes this book a sure shot. Mr. Charles Phillip has become the new sheriff in the town of historical fiction. Robert Rubenstein, Author, The White Bridge
THE SHARPSHOOTER, 1862-1864 I grew up on westerns, Zane Gray's "Riders of the Purple Sage", Louis Lamour's incredible books and later the television series on The Sacketts, as well as all the movies and TV series that largely romanticized the heroes and gave short shrift and black hats to the villains. The early part of the Sharpshooter does cast Jurian Becker in a romantic light, particularly in his devotion to Adele and the lengths he will go to in order to try to save his friends and neighbors from the historically accurate but relatively unknown Nueces massacre of Texas German farmers fleeing to Mexico rather than being conscripted into the Confederate army. But romance, like truth, is a casualty of war. Jurian becomes Jake as he escapes an increasingly vicious life on the border and joins the Union Army as one of the famed "Berdan Sharpshooters." The story carries Jake through the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, where sharpshooters played a critical role. But more than that, it explores the deep and abiding friendships that form between men in battle, the moments of humor around another dinner of hardtack and bacon, the risks they take to save each other, and the struggle to retain honor in a bloody, hard-fought war. " The Sharpshooter" is not as detailed as Shaara's epic, "Killer Angels." "The Sharpshooter" focuses less on the men at one place in one battle than on a broader sweep of life at war. Yet at the same time, it conveys the deep friendships that form, particularly between Jake and the monumentally misnamed "Slim," and reveals little-known events, such as the plight of pacifist communities in Virginia who ministered to the wounded of both sides and suffered at the hands of the "home guard." Indeed, it is here that Jake meets and ultimately loses another love, Giselle, to the violence inherent in his life as a warrior. For me, this book was less about the philosophical struggle to maintain your soul in war, although that is clearly a strong theme, than it was a sweeping good tale that catches you up and carries you along for the ride. Recommended for anyone who likes fact-based fiction about the Civil War.