Sunday, March 16, 2014

Holderby's Landing by J. D. Ferguson #amreading #historical #excerpt

“I, Ben and eighteen regular infantry volunteers, made a forcedmarch for two days into Florida to scout out a supposed gathering, en masse, of hostiles south of the Altamaha River. It was reported by traders that it was so. Thieving bastards! It was all a lie, to secure prisoners for interrogation. The Indians were backward, not stupid. They knew what was happening to their north and wanted details from which to prepare their defenses. The traders wanted things left alone. They had made a fortune milking the Indians for years and wanted no change to business. We were sacrificed to their greed and the Indian’s desperation.” Colonel Thorne pauses and puffs his cigar in agitation at the memories. A blue haze drifts lazily away from him on the soft morning air.
“We were attacked during our second day of marching, near dusk. It was along a swamp road with the palmetto and pine woods to our right and the sluggish water blocking our retreat. The Indians were on us so quickly we barely had time to respond. Ten died immediately; two others wounded. We formed a line behind fallen logs and beat off the next attack. They could have stormed us at any time and killed us all, but that was not their purpose. Not that we suspected anything at the time. We were fighting for our lives; our dead comrades strewn about us. We endured the night, the bugs, the slopping water to our backs, until one of our wounded soldiers, Private J.G. Bean - all of 16 years, and shot through the gut - was dragged screaming from his bed roll in the jaws of an alligator that must have been twelve feet long. The men were panicked. Now we watched to our front and our backs. We watched and waited for two more days and nights. The second wounded soldier gave in to his wounds.” The normally staunch and controlled man scans the pruned and sculptured grounds before him as if seeing the primordial ooze of that dismal swamp. His gray eyes are framed with worry.
“The third day the savages had had enough of waiting. They wanted it over and they intended to have us, alive or not. They came out of the woods to our front and we stopped them with a fierce volley. We had all our guns if not our soldiers, and we were ready. The little road before us was now two bodies deep with the fallen. The rotting corpses and blow flies disturbed by a new addition of dead. We reloaded again and made ready. We were three less when the next attack came. This time they did not stop. The fighting progressed to hand-to-hand; knives and hatchets, brawn and grit. We backed our small band into the swamp water with the Indians pushing us with their slashing and stabbing every step of the way. As we backed away thorough the slime-coated waters the pursuing savages had to thin their front to pursue. The shallows, luckily for us, were just about two men wide. The other pursuers were floundering in water over their heads. They could not wade through it because of its depth, and could not swim in it because of all the rotting and growing things. The swamp that had trapped us was now saving us; saving us…at least the two of us that were left.” Justin’s heart is in his throat. He is standing with bated breath, staring at the introspective man at his side. The man he thought he knew all about.
When Justin Thorne, coddled student and heir apparent to Sylvan Springs Plantation, is forced to find his heritage, his manhood, and his destiny, in the space of one brief spring, all hell breaks loose on the banks of the Ohio River. His Virginia of 1836 is a time of transition and enormous growth. Northern industrial might and southern aristocracy, abolitionist movements and slave cultures, collide in turmoil and lay bare the raw needs and desires of those intrepid spirits confronting the frontiers of the antebellum South. Coming of age is an expected result of time and circumstance. 
It happens to all who live so long, but to each within the dictates of their own lives. The process is on-going and ever dynamic. Every person is a precious product resulting from the effects of nature and nurture. One's ancestry, culture, and environment collude in myriad ways to make us; all as different as each life's story, and as singular as snowflakes. This theme is played out over-and-over throughout the world and throughout history, in millions of places like Holderby's Landing; as similar and as different as each human is to the other. Holderby's Landing is a single glimpse in time at the coming of age of a land, a community, and a few determined souls thrown together in love, strife and chance. What they make of the time, the opportunities and themselves is the story told and the living breath of this book.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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