Book Review: A Bit of Colored Ribbon by Craig S. Whitmore (four stars)

Book Review: A Bit of Colored Ribbon: A Novel of The Civil War by Craig S. Whitmore (four stars)

“And you want them to put a bit of colored ribbon on your body and sing hymns around you too?” “I just want to be remembered in some way.”

Solid historical fiction. Excellent everyman view of the Civil War. Slave, conductor, and soldier’s eye view of slavery, underground railroad, and war. Origin, status, and role of Contrabands. Little heroics; lots of danger and tedium. Rumors are the primary source of news. (Somethings never change.) More real than Gone with the Wind or Red Badge of Courage.

“I’ll help you, but we do it quietly, we do it safely, we harm no one. That’s my terms.” “Now where’s the fun in that?”

Multidimensional characters. Good and bad in bad and good folks. Prejudice among Union soldiers, some of whom fought to preserve union, not free slaves. Compassion among slaveholders.

“It don’t matter what name you born with. It what name you make fo’ yo’self make de difference.”

Whitmore explains his extensive use of dialect, but it slows the reading and adds the judgmental tone which he says is the opposite of his intention. Storytelling is a bit “on the nose”; he explains when showing would have had more impact.

“Martyrdom only shows the intensity of their beliefs, not the correctness of them. There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for. Murder is still murder.”

Quibbles: “January 20, 1861. Abraham Lincoln at last took the oath of office.” No, the inauguration was still in March in 1861. Other minor infractions. (Huge spoiler on cover.)

“‘…and there is no end to the odd things humane people will say and do…’ Mrs. Stowe saw through them, Nat.” “No one listened to her.” “Many of us did.”

Book Review: Grant by Ron Chernow (Four Stars)


Book Review: Grant by Ron Chernow

(Four Stars)

“I thought I could run the government of the United States as I did the staff of my army. It was my mistake, and led me to other mistakes.” US Grant

A readable and informative, if exhaustive biography of our eighteenth president, our nation’s youngest at the time. Though contemporaries viewed him as a unite-er and reconciliator, history has been less kind. Chernow raises and examines the charges of drunkenness, corruption, and insensitivity. The Grant who emerges is deeper and more human than even he described himself in his famous memoirs.

The Civil War was “largely the outgrowth of the Mexican War. Nations like individuals are punished for their transgressions.” US Grant

For a quarter century Chernow has redefined America through huge, deeply-researched biographies of prominent historical figures. His books are best sellers and award winners and one became a pop culture Continue reading

Lest We Forget …

Memorial Day was celebrated for many years on May 30th, not the last Monday in May (to create a three-day weekend). That’s no great matter as supposedly the 30th of May was chosen to remember the fallen of the Civil War because no significant battle occurred on that day. Not that many other battles weren’t fought on May 30th.

I, however, have reason to remember the 30th. As I explained before, I followed my grandfather, Rev. John Hodge, around the Easton, Kansas cemetery setting flags in front of the stones of veterans.

May 30th was John Hodge’s birthday. He would have been 112 years old today. (It seems so unlikely that I knew, as a vibrant, living person, someone who would have been over a hundred years old.) He died in 1976.

kiss2May 30th is also significant because on that day in 1969–forty four years ago–Treva Parsons became my wife.

So, I’m flying the flag today.

Memorial Day (Observed)

We honor Monday those who have donned the uniform of our country and died in its defense.

Not all veterans nor all who died. “All gave some; some gave all.” The rest of us who donned the uniform of our nation have our day in November.
We should pause to remember those who “gave the last full measure of devotion,” as Abraham Lincoln suggested in his address dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg. “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. Continue reading