I’ll admit it up front, I’m not a Civil War buff. Once or twice a year I will delve into a biography of historical significance and like many, the older I get, the more fascinated I am with all history. But some part of me still recoils at the sight of a Confederate flag and all that it represents, so I have probably missed out on some compelling stories from that period of American history. That is until recently when Tennessee author Robert Hicks pulled me into the Civil War era with his first novel “The Widow of the South.” Whether you know everything there is to know about the Civil War or you just want to dive into a powerful story set in nearby Franklin, Tn., you’ll be able to walk back into history with a talented guide this Saturday, Dec. 3.
Robert Hicks will give a talk, do a Q&A, and be available for book signing at the Barnes & Noble (2230 Hamilton Place Boulevard, phone # 423.899.9970) here in Chattanooga.
It all starts at 2 p.m. and Barnes & Noble will discount the book when you purchase it there - making the cost just $19.96 plus tax.
“The Widow of the South” (Warner Books $24.95) is a novel based on the story of Carrie McGavock and the 1864 Battle of Franklin, one of the bloodiest battles of the war with over 9,000 casualties (7,000 of them Confederates) in just one day. It all took place quite literally on Carrie and her husband John’s doorstep, their family home, Carnton Plantation. The Confederate Army took over the plantation, turning it into a hospital and Carrie became the “angel of mercy” to the wounded and eventually, the only female record keeper of the battle and its aftermath. She became known as “the Widow of the South, the Keeper of the dead.” But her fame spread far beyond Tennessee because when British playwright Oscar Wilde was touring America in 1882, he asked to visit “sunny Tennessee to meet the Widow McGavock, the high priestess of dead boys.”
However, the book doesn’t just capture a moment in history accurately, it draws you into the relationship Carrie had with a wounded soldier, Zachariah Cashwell. And Hicks lovingly paints a picture of courage, on the battlefield and off, in body and spirit. For that reason, “The Widow of the South” has universal appeal which has resonated beyond the South. So it’s not surprising that the town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri chose the book for their fifth annual city-wide literary focus.
Beyond the opportunity to be introduced to the book itself, those attending the event at Barnes & Noble will get a glimpse of an impressive author. Robert Hicks has more than writing credentials behind him as he is a music publisher, artist manager, art collector and partner in B.B. King’s Blues Clubs. In addition, he has made substantial contributions in the area of art, music and historical preservation for our state.
To prepare yourself for the event or if you won’t be able to attend, visit the following web sites: www.WidowoftheSouth.com; www.Carnton.org; and www.franklinscharge.com. I’ve heard that a visit to the novel’s setting is well worth the trip. For more info on a joint offering of Carnton Plantation and downtown Franklin, call Margie at 615.794.0903 or e-mail her at Margie@Carnton.org. The guided tour costs $18.
The abridged version of “The Widow of the South” (read by Becky Ann Baker, Tom Wopat, David Chandler and Jonathan Davis) is also available on 5 cds for $29.98.
(Bambi Evans is a freelance writer in Chattanooga. She returned to her birth town after decades in the Washington, D.C. area. She covers the book, music, film and art world in addition to her editorial column, Engines On Run-Up. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org)