Look for my review of The Last Confederate Battle on November 14th.
History records that the last battle of the Civil War was fought on the red clay soil of the Rio Grande River at Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Texas. That battle took place in mid-May 1865, more than a month following General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. There are factual accounts of skirmishes that took place long after Lee’s surrender. The historical attention to detail is highly accurate giving the reader a front row seat to life before, during and after the Civil War.
The Last Confederate Battle brings to light the perspectives from both sides, revealing the positive and negative natures of men. Conflict within our own country is remarkably described through the writings of John Cline; the main characters of this multifaceted story come to life as real historical experiences are interwoven into each page.
The Story, Inspiration and Research Behind The Last Confederate Battle by John Cline
First, let me thank The Book Connection for the opportunity to talk about my book, The Last Confederate Battle. I think readers will be surprised to learn that the book is not so much about war, as it is about people – individuals in a wartime setting. Also, I guess it should be revealed here that no one was more surprised that I wrote a novel in a Civil War setting than me. While I have always believed that the Revolutionary War may have been our nation’s brightest moment in history, I have similarly believed that the Civil War was our darkest years with Americans fighting (and killing) fellow Americans, and the country ripping itself apart in an epoch that didn’t have to happen.
Regarding the story behind the story, there are several: By 1861 the United States was entering the Industrial Revolution. Some forward-thinking Southern planters were realizing that they could make greater profits by getting away from slave labor and turning to machinery; they were severely shunned for their beliefs. The fictitious stories of U. S. Senator Hill and his Chief of Staff, Winston Harrison, highlight the effects of unelected power brokers called “staffers” within the network of Congressional offices. And the liaison of really big business and individual Members of Congress depict how corruptible the lure of money from the private sector can be, and how that corruption can effect Main Street and the average citizen. And lastly, the expansion of railroads across the country during the Reconstruction Period was sometimes laced with accounts of violence that have largely gone untold. The economy, following the Civil War, played a major role in westward expansionism. But it was the Panic of May 9, 1873 that was so devastating, especially in the West. It did, however, allow me to start thinking about a sequel, tentatively titled, Rebuilding American Dreams.
The inspiration for The Last Confederate Battle, came from a mental image of a Confederate soldier squatting beside a small campfire near midnight on what had been the lawn in front of a grand plantation house that had been put to the torch during the war. I gave it little regard at the time, but the image would not go away, so I did the most dangerous thing a writer can do. I began asking questions. Why was he there? Why was he alone? What had happened to the plantation that was only miles away from Madison, Georgia, one of only seven towns that had not been put to the torch during Sheridan’s March to the Sea? Those questions, and a lot of later research, resulted in the book being written.
What methods of research were used? First, I am a product of the South, having been born in Memphis, Tennessee, so I was regaled with many Southern stories. As a boy, I spent summers visiting the battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War, upon which many of the Civil War battles were fought. I didn’t care for History in school because classes were all about the rote memorization of names, dates, and places without stories. So as a child, I went to the battlegrounds in search of those stories. I was fortunate, again as a child, to meet survivors and relatives of survivors who had Civil War stories to tell. I guess those people and their stories remained in the deepest storerooms of my memory, lying dormant these many years. The computer and several city, county and university libraries became my greatest sources of information. As a matter of interest, the antebellum house on the cover of the book, a house that actually survived the Civil War, is located in Madison, Georgia where several stories in the book take place. A friend, with whom I served in the Navy, and with whom I remain in constant contact, detoured on a road trip to stop by Madison where he and his wife took several pictures and emailed them to me for use in the book.
John J. Cline
The Boise Author
Following a twenty five year career in both the enlisted and officer corps’, John Cline retired from the U.S. Navy as a Limited Duty Officer (Mustang) in July 1993 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He was the director of the Idaho Bureau of Disaster Services until he retired in 2005.
He has a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Workforce Education and Curriculum Development from Southern Illinois University, and a Master of Art degree (M.A.) in National Security Studies; Homeland Security and Defense from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy (140th Session), and was nationally certified by the National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management and the International Association of Emergency Managers. He is an avid Amateur Radio Operator with the call sign W5USN. John and his wife Pat have three children and four grandchildren.