The above mentioned book is now available on the Amazon bookstore site as an ebook. The paperback edition will be coming soon. — Chuck LaRocca
An Episode of the American Civil War
By Charles LaRocca
The Civil War is in its third year with no end in sight. On every front, the Confederate armies seem to be invincible. At the recent Battle of Chancellorsville, the combination of Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall Jackson” is once again victorious. The much larger Army of the Potomac has been defeated and is in retreat. But Private Henry Fleming of the 304th New York Volunteers, the “youth” who ran away in Stephen Crane’s novel, The Red Badge of Courage, does not feel defeated. He fought well, even captured a Confederate battle flag for which he is roundly congratulated by his “pards” and by the officers of the Regiment. For his bravery and leadership ability, he will be promoted to the rank of 2nd Sergeant.
The 304th New York Infantry marches back to winter camp, licks its wounds and prepares for the summer campaign. Henry returns to the simple log hut where he and his friend Wilson spent the winter along with two other soldiers who did not come back from Chancellorsville. They invite two brothers, Patrick and Paul Walker, to share their cabin and settle down to the normal routine of army life.
Henry does not have the least idea as to the duties of a 2nd Sergeant, but he knows that it is a difficult job with a lot of responsibility. He will be taught those duties by 1st Sergeant Sam Kneely, a recent addition to the Regiment who arrives in camp after the battle. Sam is accompanied by a young Lieutenant named Milnor Brown who will become the new commander of the Company. Both are combat veterans who served in the New York State Militia. But these two men turn out to be much more than they appear. They are special agents sent by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to investigate a very small but dangerous group of Nativists, separate from the Copperhead anti-war Democrats, who are suspected of spreading discord in the army. The Nativists are advocates of white supremacy who want to weaken army moral. They abhor Catholics, especially recent Irish and German immigrants, and seek to undermine Lincoln’s policy of emancipation and his plan to recruit and arm black soldiers.
The Nativists know that working men in the north will oppose the new Enrollment Act of 1863, also known as the Military Draft Act, which makes all males, ages 20 to 45, liable to be drafted into the Union army. The law is very unpopular in part because it exempts from military service anyone who can pay a $300 “commutation fee” or hire a substitute. The well-off can afford the fee but very few immigrant laborers have that kind of money to spare. The Nativists plan to whip up opposition and encourage violent riots to oppose the draft all over the north. They hope to foment a violent insurgency that will undermine the Constitution, bring down the Federal government, and insure white supremacy. They will steal, murder, and incite to riot to achieve their goals.
Henry must learn his new job and deal with the Nativist menace while preparing himself and his men for the battles they all know are coming. Ahead lay events that will change the course of American history.