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ECPA 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist!
Near the end of the Civil War, inhumane conditions at Andersonville Prison caused the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers in only one year. In this gripping and affecting novel, three young Confederates and an entire town come face-to-face with the prison’s atrocities and will learn the cost of compassion, when withheld and when given.
Sentry Dance Pickett has watched, helpless, for months as conditions in the camp worsen by the day. He knows any mercy will be seen as treason. Southern belle Violet Stiles cannot believe the good folk of Americus would knowingly condone such barbarism, despite the losses they’ve suffered. When her goodwill campaign stirs up accusations of Union sympathies and endangers her family, however, she realizes she must tread carefully. Confederate corporal Emery Jones didn’t expect to find camaraderie with the Union prisoner he escorted to Andersonville. But the soldier’s wit and integrity strike a chord in Emery. How could this man be an enemy? Emery vows that their unlikely friendship will survive the war—little knowing what that promise will cost him.
As these three young Rebels cross paths, Emery leads Dance and Violet to a daring act that could hang them for treason. Wrestling with God’s harsh truth, they must decide, once and for all, Who is my neighbor?
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Read an Excerpt
The Sentinels of Andersonville
By Tracy Groot, Kathryn S. Olson
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Tracy Groot
All rights reserved.
Two men stood sheltered from the blazing sun in a sentry box at the top of the stockade wall. One thought of his rheumatic knee, and one thought of Violet Stiles.
Violet Stiles had large blue eyes and other features Dance Pickett could never remember, subjugated as they were by the eyes. So, wanting still to conjure her face, he allowed aspects of her nature to form the forgotten features: She was naive, patriotic, self-righteous, kind (he allowed her that), and merry (he couldn't be unfair, she had laughed heartily at the antics of the younger sisters at the Stiles dinner table last Sunday); but naive, patriotic, and self-righteous were the overriding elements of her nature, and they fashioned a caricature image of a dark-haired girl with gigantic blue eyes and tiny everything else, including figure and feet. It was like looking through field glasses at the wrong end to find great, startling eyes, with all else crabbed and distant.
Violet Stiles represented all that Dance despised in Southern womenry. He didn't despise women as a general rule, but he hated what the war brought out of them. Violet was like all the rest, a fire-breathing patriot determined to do her duty by any hapless Confederate soldier who had the misfortune to cross her path. Did she suppose men actually wanted to be fussed over and praised and—worst of all—encouraged for the Cause? She was so meaning and feeling and earnest—the most ignorant, galling, entertaining creature he'd ever met.
The guard next to him shifted, and Dance stopped laughing.
No wonder they didn't like him. At least they left him alone. He touched the shoulder strap of his leather scrip. In there was a bit of his favorite Shakespeare, and he decided to indulge the fellow.
"Burr, hear me out, and I'll confer on you something fine: The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the form of things unknown, the poet's pen—" Dance paused for dramatic effect, allowing, hopefully, his listener to form a pen in his mind—"turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name."
"Pickett, I don't know as I should hit you or treat you kindly," said Burr. "If you was my boy, I'd beat you half to death and let the good Lord take care of the rest."
The leather pouch had been a Christmas gift from his mother when he was a boy, carried in the Revolution, she said, by her grandfather. Dance had examined it for signs of Revolution. The nick on the flap, surely from a musket ball. Stains were surely blood. Mother seemed to know just what her son would do with it: make it into a sanctuary.
Early on he took particular care with the papers he put into the scrip. They were quotes and isms, poetry and prose, declarations and decrees and bits of airy nothing, and nothing could go in there indiscriminately.
The result was such that his scrip powered him through his first two years at the University of Georgia. It powered him through the patriotism of his father and the death of his mother. But it had no power here. He had not opened his scrip since the day he was posted to the garrison at Andersonville Prison, for the stockade was a different sort of sanctuary, and two sanctuaries could not exist in the same place. It was a law of religion or physics.
"Here they come," Burr grunted.
Dance took his eyes from the men in the stockade to the men approaching the stockade, coming through the stand of pines from the Andersonville depot, a quarter mile distant. They came in long shambling columns, Captain Wirz riding his old gray mare alongside.
"Run, you fools," Dance muttered.
They were two hundred or so, held in check by Wirz's commands and curses and occasionally brandished pistol, as well as thirty or so armed members of the Georgia militia and any escorting regulars. Dance looked away.
He shifted his weight to the other leg, glanced from habit to his ancient musket propped at his side, and fell once more to the interesting ponderation of Miss Violet Stiles. Dance selected an early Stiles Sunday dinner and rolled it out on his mind's stage.
Stiles Sunday Dinner. Volume Two.
Characters: The entire Stiles household, the mayor of Americus and his wife, Dance Pickett, and another member of the Georgia militia, an uncouth geezer on burial duty named Linney.
Act One: Dance must endure the patronizing efforts of Miss Stiles to engage Linney in conversation.
"I understand you are posted at the prison, Mr. Linney," Violet said, her voice cultured enough to jelly eels. "How do you find the work?"
Linney stopped midchew, surprised and not altogether happy to find attention on him. They might, after all, see him slip biscuits into his dirty vest. Linney gulped some wine and sent a look to Dr. Stiles, who was busy cutting meat for one of the younger girls and admonishing her to chew carefully.
"Reckon I find it all right. 'Cept I cain't talk about it or I'll git in trouble."
"Your discretion does you credit. Security is very important, for Yankee spies abound. I understand General Winder has called down detectives from Richmond. Goodness, what an important job you have. You are certainly our protector." She gave a little shudder, and Dance gripped his cutlery. She recovered from her theatrical musings, and asked brightly, "Where are you from, Mr. Linney?"
"Skull Gully. More of dem peas, ma'am. Some of dem biscuits."
"Please," Dance prompted.
"Please," said Linney.
"Certainly, Mr. Linney," said Violet with a frosty glance at Dance. "Tell me, Mr. Linney, where is Skull Gully?" said she, all melodic politeness once more.
"It must be a very nice town."
"It's a swamp. More o' dat wine, ma'am. Please."
"But it isn't polite," protested the youngest Stiles girl. "You've already had three glassfuls. Mercy me."
Dance choked on a biscuit. Violet's gaze rained down violence on the girl.
"Why, certainly, Mr. Linney." Violet reached for the wine.
"I won't tolerate it," the little girl said, and snatched the decanter. "He is being rude and we do not tolerate rudeness at this table."
"Posey Stiles," Violet breathed, eyes glowing red.
This time Dance couldn't hide the laughter.
It caught the attention of the oft-distracted Mrs. Stiles, who smiled with bemused approval at her laughing guest and returned to remonstrate with the other girls while keeping conversation with the mayor's wife.
"Such a lovely brooch, Esme. It's only a little gristle, Daisy, eat it. You should wear it more often, I've not seen it since the pink taffeta last Christmas. Rosie, wipe your mouth. I declare."
"Say your name again to me," Dance asked of the little girl with the decanter safely between her knees, "for you are my favorite Stiles, and I wish to remember it always."
She smiled up at him, glorious in her defense of the family wine, triumphant that someone admired it.
"I am Posey Eden Stiles, called so because my sisters are Violet, Lily, Rose, and Daisy, and when I came along Papa said I made a posy. So though I am officially Pansy, I am called Posey and I like it right fine."
"You like it very much," Violet corrected severely.
"Mr. Linney said right fine a minute ago, and I liked it."
"I like Posey right fine, too," said Dance. "And you were entirely correct to waylay this man from drinking all your wine. Such rudeness should be corrected, and hastily." He looked at Linney, who was slipping a spoon into his vest. "Linney, guardian and protector of genteel Southern womenry, I request that you apologize for your rudeness, and return to the table your recent acquisitions."
That had been the first time he saw Violet mad. But Volume Eight was the memorable best. Dance had gloried to see that a methodical chipping away had at last revealed the true Violet. On that infamous evening he had seen in full what had only peeked from behind a well-bred cloak—a tempestuous nature nigh unto feral, not at all civilly Southern as he was sure she had supposed. He didn't trot out Volume Eight very often. He saved it for when things were especially bad. Today was tolerable. He couldn't remember Volume Nine. It did trouble him some.
Violet Wrassey Stiles desperately needed guidance at this critical juncture in her young life. Someone needed to devote delicate method to make it clear that Volume Eight Violet was the one to be admired, not fought and subdued in favor of the other person he didn't much like at all. Clearly Dr. and Mrs. Stiles had a handful with that one, and would not mind the kind intervention of a concerned distant cousin—
"Strike me dumb," said Burr. "Look over there."
What Dance saw first made him squint, then made him lunge to the rail. A girl came out of the pines, following at some distance the columns of prisoners. He gripped the rail.
"That a woman?" Burr said.
"It's Violet Stiles," Dance breathed.
"Uh-oh." He had heard of the Sunday dinners. "What's she doin' here?"
"She can't see this." He broke and ran for the ladder.
"Where you goin', Pickett? Pickett! Oh, let her see, I say! Don't no one ever see. Fancy-pants what never put themselves in the way of mizry will find naught but mizry at the end."
Burr suspected he had said something wise, thought it should be wrote down, set himself to memorize it on account he couldn't write, then caught sight of a Yankee too close to the deadline and grabbed his musket. "I see you, Old Abe," he bellowed down into the stockade. "Do not try me today, for I am in a foul temper'ment."
Excerpted from The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot, Kathryn S. Olson. Copyright © 2014 Tracy Groot. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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