Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: The Shenadoah Spy Begins Exciting Civil War Series!

The Shenandoah SpyBy Francis Hamit
Brass Cannon Books
ISBN: 9781595959027
433 Pages


I met Belle Boyd this past weekend, thanks to Francis Hamit, and was thrilled to meet and spend all my time with her! This first book in a series starts with The Shenandoah Spy: Being the True Life Adventures of Belle Boyd, CSA, “The Confederate Cleopatra.”

“Belle Boyd was a real person, and became world famous as a spy for the Confederate Government...in September, 1862, [she] became the first woman in American history to be formally commissioned an Army officer.” (Foreword) The book centers on her role as a scout and spy for the Confederate Army. If only a small percentage of the story were true, Belle was...one gutsy woman! I am thankful that Hamit is publishing her story, for she is a woman to be much admired and embraced by all Americans and especially our younger generation!

Belle was a true Southerner but she was not the typical “belle” as we think of most women of the south. True, she might have worn the big-hooped gowns, learned how to flirt with gentlemen as part of her training, and had her first “season” in Washington with the intent to find a suitable husband. However, when the war began, she was just 17 and she automatically sought to find ways to support the south.

Her first major role was to assist and then nurse at the hospitals. Perhaps it was her required intimacy with those men that first started her reputation. Or perhaps it was her shooting a drunk Yankee soldier who had attacked her mother. But it was her scouting and spying efforts that firmly established Belle’s as a spy that could easily flirt and then finagle from the Yanks to learn and gain information to pass on to H. Turner Ashby, her immediate commanding officer, Jackson and other Confederate officers.

Hamit has created an exciting story of the civil war against which he tells Belle’s story. Through extensive reading and research, he presents the major players and battles of the war, and includes his characters that effectively supplement actual soldiers and officers. He also considers the political issues as to why the war was started and by whom, whether slavery was a major or minor point and highlights the role of the professional soldiers who moved from war to war, fighting for pay rather than through dedication to the people and the cause they supported.

Two other points of interest for me were the drinking, theft and lack of courtesy shown by the majority of Yankee soldiers and the role of the slaves/servants as they chose to support their families (owners) rather than their supposed liberators.

As the author stated in his foreword, he wrote the novel to entertain readers. Whether or not he took license with the truth in telling the story, I for one believe he did exactly what he said he was doing! This is truly an entertaining, fantastic tale of the past and provides all the excitement, intrigue, action and suspense that readers expect and enjoy!

Francis Hamit has the knowledge, experience and interest to have picked a remarkable character from our historical documents upon which to build this series. I highly recommend that you get the first book, The Shenandoah Spy, now and watch for the next one coming, hopefully soon!

G. A. Bixler