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Two Hartfield residents publish Civil War novel

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The book cover of “Silent Runs the Creek”
by Larry S. Chowning

Frank Garey and John Pajot of Hartfield have recently published a Civil War novel titled “Silent Runs the Creek” with a sub-title “Two Bare-faced boys March to Sharpsburg at Antietam Creek to Face the Bloodiest Day’s Battle in the Civil War.”

The novel traces two young Confederate soldiers from Virginia in their march from the Shenandoah Valley to the battle on Antietam Creek. The book focuses not so much on the event, but rather on the thoughts and feelings of two young boys cast in one of the world-changing events in American history.

Lang, 19, a well-to-do physician’s son, and Zeb, 16, a poor mountain boy, became friends and the book traces the evolution of their friendship and the horror of war for these two ordinary foot soldiers.

Under General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, they fight in the battles of Kernstown, First Manassas (Bull Run), through the Peninsula Campaign, Gaines Mill, Cold Harbor, Mechanicsville, Malvern Hill and, finally, at Antietam Creek.

As their experience progresses they question what they are accomplishing by fighting. “Explain it to me?” asked Zeb to Lang. “I don’t understand it no more. I thought in the beginnin’ that I was doin’ the right thing for my family and my ancestors. But now, I don’t know what I’m doin’ any more.”

Lang explained that the war was about history. “History can be a great guide to the future and often those who understand where we have been can best understand where we are going in the future.”

“Dunno,” replied Zeb. “History is ‘bout dead people. What does that have to do with whar we are now and whar we are goin’?”

The book follows the lives of these two boys, whose thoughts and opinions change in the aftermath of Antietam. Their young vital spirits, so confident at the beginning of the war, are now gone and the burden of war has aged them long before their years.

Garey and Pajot conclude their novel with an epilogue that gives their own insight into the thoughts of thousands of teenage boys who fought in a confrontation that seemed so right in the beginning, and so uncertain in the end.

The project took Garey and Pajot four years and became very personal. “Spending the last four years with Zeb and Lang has been rewarding to me in so many ways as I have trudged with them along the dusty roads and through the muddy fields,” wrote Garey. “How can I ever forget their first battle and their sacrifices? I can’t and I never shall.”

This is Garey’s third book and the local author is working on a fourth one.

“Silent Runs the Creek” retails for $20.99 and can be purchased through Amazon.com.

posted 01.20.2010

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