Saying goodbye to the company commanders was difficult. Saying goodbye to First Sergeant Tanneyhill was especially difficult. Conor promised Chaplain Yancey that he would attend as many of his services as possible, as he had been doing, and Conor thanked him for his support and friendship. The brigade commander, Colonel Baker, agreed that Captain Willingham would be the best choice as Conor’s replacement, and the three of them met for two hours to transition the regiment.
In the late evening, Conor was walking the regimental line with Captain Willingham when three soldiers called out from their trench.
“We hear you’re leaving us, sir. Before you get away, we’d like for you to join us down here.”
Willingham and Conor jumped down into the trench with the three young soldiers. One man reached into his coat pocket and brought out a handful of shelled, roasted peanuts. He passed three of the peanuts to Conor, three to the others, and they toasted each other by tapping the shells together. “To the Thirty-eighth Georgia,” they all repeated.
The peanuts were damp and stale, but Conor didn’t care. It was the purest, most unselfish, most cherished gift he could remember.
“We’ll miss you, sir. We walked a lot of miles together, didn’t we?”
“We did. And I appreciate what you men have meant to this regiment, and to me personally. I’ll ask you to give Captain Willingham the same great support you gave me.”
“We will, sir. Good luck to you.”
Conor mentioned to Willingham as they finished the inspection of the line, “Where did we get such men as these? How could I have been so blessed to command them? To have gone into battle with them, and bled with them, and watched so many of them die? These men have carried me from the field after being wounded. I have seen them march for days on dusty roads, wade fast-flowing, rain-swollen rivers, trudge through hard rain and thick mud, and lie down on the grass and be asleep in a matter of seconds. I have looked into their eyes just before we faced an enemy of superior strength and seen their determination, and knew they would be right there with me as we moved forward each time, every time. I have watched them freezing in the cold, half-starved, homesick, lovesick, physically sick, and yet they manned their posts. I have written to their mothers of their astonishing bravery and of how proud they should be of their dead heroic sons. I have listened to their ribald humor, their cursing, their sarcasm, and their prayers. I know that no matter how long I live, no matter what else I do in this life, I will never see their equal again. Just where did we get such men as these?”
Afterwards, when he got back to his hut and thought about those young, undernourished, loyal soldiers so eagerly sharing their few remaining peanuts with him, an act of extraordinary generosity matched only by their magnificent valor, Conor sat on the ground and wept.
Excellent Historical Novel
By Kelly R. Mellen on April 9, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book captivated my attention from the outset which is a quality I look for in anything I choose to read. I immediately became invested in the lead character, Conor Rafferty. Gillis' character development in this novel is strong and you get a good sense of each character that you're introduced to along the way throughout the book.
As a southerner, I appreciated Conor Rafferty's point of view and his take on the Confederacy's Cause. If you haven't read this great book yet, don't make any presumptions on what that might be because you will likely be surprised. I won't give anything away, I will just say that I personally feel that his take on the cause is one that many of us would share today.
I also appreciated the way two story-lines were neatly interwoven throughout the book. You get Conor's Civil War experience and you also get to glimpse into a newly formed relationship with his grandson, Aaron. Throughout the novel are lessons on military leadership, family ties, forgiveness, and redemption. There's even a hint of a sweet love story too.
This is a great read and I highly recommend it! Get to know Conor Rafferty for yourself in these pages and you'll find a character worth remembering.