Dragged Fighting From His Tomb by Barry Hannah, 1978
The magic trick:
Showing just how pointless it is to look for truth and logic in war
Barry Hannah sure seemed to like Jeb Stuart. Interesting general, but you don’t see many authors writing multiple Civil War fictions starring the Confederate cavalry. Well, really, Jeb is a supporting player here, but nevertheless. Strange.
Anyway, this story crushes any fancy romantic myths Civil War buffs like to conjure. It’s one of the most miserable stories you’ll ever read. It floats by with wonderful words, scintillating sentences and a great sense of surrealistic humor. But you don’t have to pay too close attention to see very quickly it ain’t funny. It’s terrifying.
Our narrator is a philosopher trapped in the body of a Civil War soldier. He seeks beauty and demands truth. The carnage around him provides neither. And that’s quite a trick on Hannah’s part.
“Tell me something. Tell me something wise!” I screamed.
“There is no wisdom, Johnny Reb,” the old man said. “There’s only tomorrow if you’re lucky. Don’t kill us. Let us have tomorrow.”
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“Don’t shoot me. They’ll hear the shot down there and come blow you over. All the boys got Winchester rifles,” he said.
Except the boys wouldn’t have had those because they weren’t invented until 1873. They might have had Henrys which were invented in 1860, or more likely Spencer repeaters. When you’re writing historical fiction it’s really important to get the history right because otherwise you wonder what else is wrong.