With Lee in Virginiaby G. A. Henty
Readers are rediscovering G. A. Henty, the prolific 19th century author of historical adventures, whom George Grant calls "a Victorian literary phenomenon."
With Lee in Virginia introduces us to young Vincent Wingfield. Not yet 16, and back in Virginia after four years in
Back in Print! G. A. Henty's novel of the South and the War Between the States
Readers are rediscovering G. A. Henty, the prolific 19th century author of historical adventures, whom George Grant calls "a Victorian literary phenomenon."
With Lee in Virginia introduces us to young Vincent Wingfield. Not yet 16, and back in Virginia after four years in England, Vincent finds conditions in the South and the country unsettled. Before long, war breaks out between the states and Vincent goes to fight for the South. Henty's gripping story weaves Vincent's adventures with the real life events and people of the War, teaching history as it entertains.
Admiring of the South, but by no means downplaying the evils slavery wrought, Henty makes a valuable contribution to the field of children's literature with this rousing story that gives today's children a new perspective on the War Between the States.
Vincent . . . was returning homeward, when he heard the sound of heavy blows with a whip and loud curses . . . For a moment he hesitated, and then, with a cry of rage Vincent leaped from his horse . . . and burst his way through the shrubbery . . . Vincent sprang forward, and seizing it (the whip), wrested it from the hands of the striker . . . "You are a coward and a blackguard, Andrew Jackson!" Vincent exclaimed, white with anger. "You are a disgrace to Virginia, you ruffian!" . . . The slave who had been flogged . . . ran up to Vincent, threw himself on his knees, and taking the lad's hand pressed it to his lips. "I am afraid I haven't done you much good," Vincent said. "You will be none the better off for my interference; but I couldn't help it." So saying, he made his way through the shrubbery, cleared the fence, mounted, and rode homeward.
BONUS! This book includes a Build-Your-Vocabulary Glossary for quick look-up of words children may not know. Other G. A Henty Books Available from Lost Classics Book Company: The Young Carthaginian, In the Heart of the Rockies, A Tale of the Western Plains & For the Temple.
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Read an Excerpt
Vincent Wingfield was not with the army that retired across the Rappahannock. A portion of the cavalry had followed the broken Federals to the very edge of the stream, and just as they reined in their horses a round shot from one of the Federal batteries carried away his cap, and he fell as if dead from his horse. During the night some of the Northerners crossed the stream to collect and bring back their own wounded who had fallen near it, and coming across Vincent, and finding that he still breathed, and was apparently without a wound, they carried him back with them across the river as a prisoner.
Vincent had indeed escaped without a wound, having been only stunned by the passage of the shot that had carried away his cap, and missed him but by the fraction of an inch. He had begun to recover consciousness just as his captors came up, and the action of carrying him completely restored him. That he had fallen into the hands of the Northerners he was well aware; but he was unable to imagine how this had happened. He remembered that the Confederates had been, up to the moment when he fell, completely successful, and he could only imagine that in a subsequent attack the Federals had turned the tables upon them.
How he himself had fallen, or what had happened to him, he had no idea. Beyond a strange feeling of numbness in the head he was conscious of no injury, and he could only imagine that his horse had been shot under him, and that he must have fallen upon his head. The thought that his favorite horse was killed afflicted him almost as much as his own capture. As soon as his captors perceived that their prisoner's consciousness had returned they at once reported that an officer of Stuart's cavalry had been taken, and at daybreak next morning General McClellan on rising was acquainted with the fact, and Vincent was conducted to his tent.
"You are unwounded, sir?" the general said in some surprise.
"I am, General," Vincent replied. "I do not know how it happened, but I believe that my horse must have been shot under me, and that I must have been thrown and stunned; however, I remember nothing from the moment when I heard the word halt, just as we reached the side of the stream, to that when I found myself being carried here."
"You belong to the cavalry?"
"Was Lee's force all engaged yesterday?"
"I do not know," Vincent said. "I only came up with Jackson's division from Harper's Ferry the evening before."
"I need not have questioned you," McClellan said. "I know that Lee's whole army, 100,000 strong, opposed me yesterday."
Vincent was silent. He was glad to see that the Federal general, as usual, enormously overrated the strength of the force opposed to him.
"I hear that the whole of the garrison of Harper's Ferry were released on parole not to serve again during the war. If you are ready to give me your promise to the same effect I will allow you to return to your friends; if not, you must remain a prisoner until you are regularly exchanged."
"I must do so, then, General," Vincent said quietly. "I could not return home and remain inactive while every man in the South is fighting for the defense of his country, so I will take my chance of being exchanged."
"I am sorry you choose that alternative," McClellan said. "I hate to see brave men imprisoned if only for a day; and braver men than those across yonder stream are not to be found. My officers and men are astonished. They seem so thin and worn as to be scarce able to lift a musket, their clothes are fit only for a scarecrow, they are indeed pitiful objects to look at; but the way in which they fight is wonderful. I could not have believed had I not seen it, that men could have charged as they did again and again across ground swept by a tremendous artillery and musketry fire; it was wonderful! I can tell you, young sir, that even though you beat us we are proud of you as our countrymen; and I believe that if your General Jackson were to ride through our camp he would be cheered as lustily and heartily by our men as he is by his own."
Some fifty or sixty other prisoners had been taken; they had been captured in the hand-to-hand struggle that had taken place on some parts of the field, having got separated from their corps and mixed up with the enemy, and carried off the field with them as they retired. These for the most part accepted the offered parole; but some fifteen, like Vincent, preferred a Northern prison to promising to abstain from fighting in defense of their country, and in the middle of the day they were placed together in a tent under a guard at the rear of the camp.
The next morning came the news that Lee had fallen back. There was exultation among the Federals, not unmingled with a strong sense of relief; for the heavy losses inflicted in the previous fighting had taken all the ardor of attack out of McClellan's army, and they were glad indeed that they were not to be called upon to make another attempt to drive the Confederates from their position. Vincent was no less pleased at the news. He knew how thin were the ranks of the Confederate fighting men, and how greatly they were worn and exhausted by fatigue and want of food, and that, although they had the day before repulsed the attacks of the masses of well fed Northerners, such tremendous exertions could not often be repeated, and a defeat, with the river in their rear, approachable only by one rough and narrow road, would have meant a total destruction of the army.
The next morning Vincent and his companions were put into the train and sent to Alexandria. They had no reason to complain of their treatment upon the way. They were well-fed, and after their starvation diet for the last six weeks their rations seemed to them actually luxurious. The Federal troops in Alexandria, who were for the most part young recruits who had just arrived from the north and west, looked with astonishment upon these thin and ragged men, several of whom were barefooted. Was it possible that such scarecrows as these could in every battle have driven back the well-fed and cared for Northern soldiers!
"Are they all like this?" one burly young soldier from a western state asked their guard.
"That's them, sir," the sergeant in charge of the party replied. "Not much to look at, are they? But, by gosh, you should see them fight! You wouldn't think of their looks then."
"If that's soldiering," the young farmer said solemnly, "the sooner I am back home again the better. But it don't seem to me altogether strange as they should fight so hard, because I should say they must look upon it as a comfort to be killed rather than to live like that."
A shout of laughter from the prisoners showed the young rustic that the objects of his pity did not consider life to be altogether intolerable even under such circumstances, and he moved away meditating on the discomforts of war, and upon the remarks that would be made were he to return home in so sorrowful a plight as that of these Confederate prisoners.
"I bargained to fight," he said, "and though I don't expect I shall like it, I shan't draw back when the time comes; but as to being starved till you are nigh a skeleton, and going about barefooted and in such rags as a tramp wouldn't look at, it ain't reasonable." And yet, had he known it, among those fifteen prisoners more than half were possessors of wide estates, and had been brought up from their childhood in the midst of luxuries such as the young farmer never dreamed of.
Among many of the soldiers sympathy took a more active form, and men pressed forward and gave packets of tobacco, cigars, and other little presents to them, while two or three pressed rolls of dollar notes into their hands, with words of rough kindness.
"There ain't no ill feeling in us, Rebs. You have done your work like men and no doubt you thinks your cause is right, just as we does; but it's all over now, and maybe our turn will come next to see the inside of one of your prisons down south. So we are just soldiers together, and can feel for each other."
Discipline in small matters was never strictly enforced in the American armies, and the sergeant in charge offered no opposition to the soldiers mingling with the prisoners as they walked along.
Two days later they were sent by railway to the great prison at Elmira, a town in the southwest of the state of New York. When they reached the jail the prisoners were separated, Vincent, who was the only officer, being assigned quarters with some twenty others of the same rank. The prisoners crowded round him as he entered, eager to hear the last news from the front, for they heard from their guards only news of constant victories won by the Northerners; for every defeat was transformed by the Northern papers into a brilliant victory, and it was only when the shattered remains of the various armies returned to Alexandria to be reformed that the truth gradually leaked out. Thus Antietam had been claimed as a great Northern victory, for although McClellan's troops had in the battle been hurled back shattered and broken across the river, two days afterward Lee had retired.
One of the prisoners, who was also dressed in cavalry uniform, hung back from the rest, and going to the window looked out while Vincent was chatting with the others. Presently he turned round, and Vincent recognized with surprise his old opponent Jackson. After a moment's hesitation he walked across the room to him.
Meet the Author
A storyteller who specialized in blending authentic historical facts with exciting fictional characters, Henty produced more than 140 books and achieved a reputation as "The Prince of Storytellers." Immensely popular and widely used in schools for many years, Henty's novels continue to fire young imaginations with their spirited tales of adventure amid exciting historical times.
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Fifteen-year-old Vincent Wingfield is the son of an English gentleman who came to America, married the daughter of a Virginia planter, and settled down on her family estate of the Orangery, just outside of Richmond, VA. As the book opens, Vincent returns from four years of schooling in England, and while he favors slavery he does not support brutality towards slaves. Therefore, when he was returning home from visiting friends, he intervened when Andrew Jackson, the son of his neighbor, was mercilessly beating a slave named Tony. To prevent retaliation, Vincent helps Tony escape to England. When Mr. Jackson sells Tony's wife Dinah and her baby in revenge, Vincent secretly buys her and keeps her at the Orangery. Then the American Civil War breaks out, and Vincent signs up in the cavalry under Col. (later Gen.) J. E. B. Stuart. After being badly injured at the first battle of Bull Run, he is taken prisoner during the second battle of Bull Run and imprisoned at Elmira, NY, but escapes, makes his way to St. Louis, MO, disguised as a minister, and while making his way to his unit through Tennessee saves a young lady named Lucy Kingston from northern bushwhackers. However, he is seriously injured again in the process, but after his recuperation, he escorts her to safety with relatives in Georgia before returning to his home. Meanwhile, his neighbor, Mr. Jackson, has conspired with the Wingfield's former overseer Jonas Pearson to kidnap Dinah and take her to South Carolina, so Vincent must rescue her before rejoining the army for the battle of Chancellorsville. However, he is captured while spying out the Northern defenses and is to be shot, but it just so happens that Tony had returned, joined the Union army, and was present to help him escape again. Pretty soon, the war ends and Vincent marries Lucy. This is my least favorite Henty book so far because of Henty's obvious sympathies with the Confederacy. He seems to go a bit overboard in painting a picture of happy, contented, carefree slaves in the South, even making fun of Harriet Beecher Stowe and her Uncle Tom's Cabin, and in depicting the Northern armies as mean, nasty, bullying ogres. You can read the writings of Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman to get a first-hand view of Southern slavery as opposed to the quaint, sanitized view of Henty. This book seems to have a lot more drinking of alcohol that other Henty books we've read; even the underage Vincent imbibes quite a bit. And in imitating the Southern Negro dialect, there are several usages of the word "Lor'" as an interjection. At the same time, the book is well written with a lot of excitement and adventure. And like other Henty boys, Vincent is still a model of honesty and integrity. He engages in deception as part of his service in the army during warfare, but he refuses to lie just to save his own skin. Also he encourages Tony not to seek personal revenge on the Jacksons. And he urges his mother to free their slaves before the end of the war and make the necessary provisions for them. So far as history is concerned, Vincent meets not only the Southern generals Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson and, of course, Robert E. Lee, but also the Northern generals George B. McClellan and Philip Sheridan. Finally, there is the advantage that since most Civil War novels for children are written from a Northern viewpoint, this is one book that does portray the Southern side of the issues.
My second read from G.A. Henty. A good, wholesome story that the entire family can enjoy. The action and battles in all likely reel in the attention of adventurous boys. "With Lee in Virginia" is the story of a young man who faces many decisions over the course of the Civil War. He must choose what he believes in, even when it sways from his family, and must fight honorably. I certainly enjoyed the book myself!
Its on my summer reading list. Uggggggghhhhhhhhhhh