The Long Road Home
The Second Book in The Long Road South Series….
The Long Road HomeNow available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook and on Amazon.COM !!
is a personal story of the lives of James Johnston and Miranda Madderra, the characters you met in “The Great Southern Circus”. This time you will follow their emotional journey through the dark years of the American Civil War.
It is a story of hope, despair, joy, heartache, bitter division and reconciliation on a personal level for friends divided by war.
It is the story of old friends that met during the long circus tour described in “The Great Southern Circus”. These four people were separated by fate during the War. Two men, one white and one black, took up arms for the Union, one for the South, and one young woman who tried with all her courage to hold her family together while the war raged around her.
This book is based on recollections of the War as they were passed on to the author by his grandmother.
As to historical accuracy, I will list a few of my many sources that allowed me to view this troubled time through the eyes of those who lived it.
Ken Burns wonderful documentary “The Civil War” on public television was both inspiring and filled with antidotes and personal reflections of the men and women caught up in the conflagration.
Below is a sample from this book:
July 1, 1863
James had the dream again last night. He was back on the road with the Great Southern Circus. Randi was riding bareback on the running white horse, her legs flexing smoothly as she balanced gracefully with her arms wide spread atop the speeding animal.
The heavy beat of the circus band matched the pounding of the horses hooves. Together they seemed to drum against his chest as he watched her speed around the ring. Her beauty took his breath away, same as always. A sense of dread crept into his dream. Something was wrong.
Waking with a cry, and drenched with sweat, he suddenly sat straight up in the little tent. It took him several seconds to transition from dream to reality. The jarring boom of cannon shook the earth and the flash of hundreds lit the sky around him.
The circus was over. Randi was home on Sand Mountain. His old friends Miles and Duffee were fighting for the Union. He was wearing the gray uniform of a lieutenant in the Confederate Army and sleeping here on the cold hard ground near a little Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.
While trying to remember if he finished his prayers, he rose painfully to his feet, pulled on his boots and limped down to the creek where he sat down on a large rock and splashed cold water into his face. As he rubbed his eyes and rinsed out his mouth with the cold spring water, Sergeant Smith walked up leading their horses.
James thought back to the dream and his old friends from Wisconsin. “I wonder what outfit that is up yonder?
Smitty beat his hat against his leg and spat. “Damned if I know. From what I can see it’s a bunch of blue bellies thick as ants at a church picnic. I’m a feared General Lee has done shit and stepped back in it this time Lieutenant. If we ever get our asses back to Virginia hit will be a miracle!”
James sighed and pulled on his hat. “Well Smitty, I recon we are soon gonna find out.” Together they swung onto their horses and rode slowly toward the sound of the cannon.
July 1, 1863
Times were hard on the little Alabama farm. The Union blockade had all but stopped the availability of dry goods from England. She and her family had so many patches sewn into their clothes that her Momma joked that they all looked like Joseph’s coat of many colors from the Bible. Food was scarce and it seemed they were always hungry.
Their few family heirlooms had been packed into the old circus trunk and hoisted with great difficulty into the fork of a huge oak where it was disguised with branches and leaves to keep it safe from Yankee raiders. She hadn’t heard from James in over a year. Each trip to town was filled with apprehension that she would find his name there, posted on the window of the general store, where all the war casualties were listed as they became known. She had become so afraid to look that her sister had volunteered to make the weekly trip.
Today Randi sat rocking on the front porch of the old house, mending clothes and occasionally glancing down the road toward town for the first glimpse of her returning sister. Catching a sob in her throat, Randi thought “She ought to be back by now.”
Taking two deep breaths to hold back the tears, she stepped down from the porch onto the hard packed clay and began to walk slowly toward town. She would meet her sister on the road. She couldn’t wait any longer. She had to know.
The following books were invaluable in my research:
“Gods and Generals” by Jeff Shaara.
“The Life of Johnny Reb” by Bell Irvin Wiley.
“From Shiloh to San Juan. The Life of Joe Wheeler” by John P. Dyer.
“Bull Run” by Paul Fleischman.
“The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War” by H. W. Crocker III.
“Antietam, the Soldiers’ Battle” by John Michael Priest.
“Rebel Cornbread and Yankee Coffee” by Garry Fisher.
“The Civil War” by Shelby Foote.
“The Story of the Confederacy” by Selph Henry.
“Allegiance” by David Detzer.
“Lee’s Miserables” by J. Tracy Power.
“My Brothers Keeper” by Daniel N. Rolph.
This is the actual “Hurdy Gurdy” carried throughout the Civil War by Willie Madderra and mentioned in both The Great Southern Circus and in The Long Road Home. It now resides in a museum in Guntersville, Alabama.
Praise for The Long Road Home:
“I so enjoyed reading this heartwarming true story of friendships that spanned racial lines only a generation removed from the Civil War. The hard work and cooperation from those early days could serve as an inspiration to us all today. Mr. West has a way of bringing each character to life in such a compelling way that I find myself wishing that I could travel back in time just to be friends with them. Well done!”