The Battle of Milroy Station: A Novel of the Nature of True Courage

The Battle of Milroy Station: A Novel of the Nature of True Courage

by Robert H. Fowler

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Overview

What is the nature of true courage?

In March of 1896, Andrew Jackson Mundy, a senator from the Deep South, is secretly urged by Marc Hanna, the rich kingmaker, to become William McKinley's running mate in the upcoming presidential election. Hanna argues that Mundy, a reconstructed Southern Democrat and wounded Confederate veteran of the Civil War, running with McKinley, a Republican veteran of the Union Army, would help to heal the still festering wounds and head off threats posed by William Jennings Bryan.

Had Mundy jumped party lines and seized the opportunity, he, rather than Teddy Roosevelt, would have become President of the United States upon McKinley's assassination a few years later. Mundy had been tempted to accept Hanna's offer why did he refuse?

Thus begins a story that goes back to the War Between the States. At the beginning of the Civil War, before the death of hope, no one, least of all the naive, well-read Andrew Jackson Mundy, could foresee or understand the nature of the war they were to fight. Early on, Mundy comes under the spell of the immensely talented and ambitious Evan Martin. When Martin is given the command of a ragtag Confederate army sent to thwart a Federal invasion, Mundy is at first thrilled to be the aide-de-camp of his hero as Martin pulls the army together and wins victories with brilliant tactics. But then, Mundy becomes involved in an atrocity that forces him to consider the nature of true courage and honor. It is a dark, murderous infamy, and it will haunt Andrew Jackson Mundy until his dying day . . . and prevent him from accepting Marc Hanna's offer more than three decades later.

Through the experiences of Andrew Jackson Mundy, General Evan Martin, and dozens of other skillfully drawn, colorful characters, Robert H. Fowler provides the reader with fascinating insights into the tactics and strategy of Civil War battles, as well as the grim reality of the forced marches, the blood-torn bodies, the ear-splitting voice of massed artillery, the racket-rattle of musket volleys, the howling charges. It is a tale, at once forlorn and wonderful, of a war bravely fought and bitterly lost. In this brilliant and thrilling story, reminiscent of the novels of MacKinlay Kantor and Michael and Jeff Shaara, Fowler reveals the nature of true courage and brings a tumultuous chapter in American history to poignant life.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466838857
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/01/2004
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Robert H. Fowler is the founder and former owner of Civil War Times Illustrated, American History Illustrated, and British Heritage. A longtime journalist and newspaper publisher, he is the author of five historical novels. A native of North Carolina, he now lives in Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

Battle of Milroy Station

A Novel of the Nature of True Courage


By Robert H. Fowler

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2004 Robert H. Fowler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-3885-7


ONE
 
 
Â? Â? Â? In the early days of 1896, both the United States and my own Democratic Party had fallen into great difficulties. The second administration of Grover Cleveland, nearing its end, had become a disaster. We had been in the worst depression of our history for three years and our bull-headed president persisted in treating the crisis as a business, not a governmental, problem. He had come back into office in '92 preaching against what he called raids on the treasury by President Harrison. Yet our gold reserves had dipped dangerously low. He had antagonized the laboring man. His (and my) party was being taken over by silverites and wild-eyed populists, yet he refused to organize his own political resources to halt them. Worse, he refused to say whether he intended to seek a third term, which left our more levelheaded Democrats unprepared for the coming fall presidential election.
I had served only the first two years of my six-year term as junior senator, and so comforted myself that I had four more years for the situation to resolve itself. My wife, the former Martha Jane Pettis, and I occupied a handsome, comfortable house on Massachusetts Avenue. Thanks to her skill as a hostess, not to mention an inheritance from her father, we enjoyed a full and pleasant social life in Washington.
My standing in the Senate hardly compared with that of titans such as Rhode Island's Aldrich, Connecticut's Platt, or Ohio's Sherman, but the national press had taken favorable note of some of my speeches, which called for reconciliation between North and South, improved education for Negroes, removal of protectionist tariffs, and maintaining the gold standard.
Imagine my amazement one Friday morning when I arrived at my Senate office to find a messenger with a letter he said required an immediate response. I bristled at what seemed the fellow's effrontery until he confided in a low tone, "It's from Mr. Hanna. Mr. Marc Hanna."
I entered my inner office to read the note, which went something like this:
* * *
Dear Senator Mundy:
I invite you to dine with me this evening in my room at the Willard to discuss a matter of great import for our nation in these troubled political and economic times and, I trust, for yourself.
Knowing how busy you are kept these days with your Senatorial duties, I leave it to you to choose the exact time of our dinner.
Please forgive my boldness in asking you to keep this letter and our meeting in confidence. I have instructed my messenger to await your written reply.
I am your respectful servant,
Marcus A. Hanna
* * *
I had never met Hanna, but it was well known how this millionaire industrialist was busy raising money and pulling strings to get William McKinley, former Congressman and ex-governor of Ohio, named as the Republican candidate for the presidency in the fall.
Martha Jane and I had a standing arrangement whereby we reserved Friday nights for dining alone at home. This gave us an opportunity to compare notes, she from her many social functions and I from my political activities. I dashed off a reply explaining that while dinner was out of the question, I was willing to drop by the Willard at five o'clock to talk and trusted that this would be a satisfactory compromise. Although mistrustful of Hanna, I was curious to hear what he had up his sleeve.
I arrived at the Willard at five to find the same messenger in the lobby waiting to escort me up to Hanna's commodious suite on the second floor and into a room rank with stale cigar smoke.
Hanna was nothing like what I expected. An auburn-haired, roly-poly fellow, he carried more flesh on his small-boned frame than was called for. Wearing a checkered vest, rumpled coat and a bow tie, he put me in mind of an unmade bed.
His face was undistinguished except for its rather rubbery appearance. But it quickly became apparent that behind his unkempt surface, there lay a lively, sharp mind.
His deep brown eyes shone with shrewdness (or guile?) as he shook my hand and thanked me for coming to him. He had me sit facing him under a window while his messenger friend brought us our bourbon and water. After dismissing the flunkey, he said in a conspiratorial tone that he wished everything he had to say to remain "within this room" and added that he likewise would not disclose anything I said to him.
I saw no reason not to agree to his terms, whereupon he launched into a rambling monologue.
First he expressed his dismay at the inroads the free silver men and populists were making "in both our parties." This was true. I could not argue with his assertion that a majority of Congress was at least leaning toward the free coinage of silver.
"But you, I understand, still favor the gold standard."
I acknowledged that this was the case.
"And, although the populists and silverites pose the greater threat to the Democratic Party, there is a growing faction among Republicans of those who also want to abandon the gold standard."
Then he asked me if I would not regard it as dangerous if "these fanatical anarchists were to seize control of either party and, worse still, if they were to elect our next president."
Not yet getting his drift, I agreed that this was a worrisome prospect.
He then turned his remarks toward President Cleveland.
"I have heard it whispered that although you made a seconding speech for him at your '92 convention in Chicago, your attitude is no longer so warm."
"Actually, I only made a seconding speech for Stevenson for vice president."
"All the same, your relations with President Cleveland have not been all thatâ??how shall I put it--"
Growing irritated by his indirections and mindful of the time, I broke in with "Like many in my party, I find some of his behavior, how shall I put it?â??Baffling."
He snorted with laughter and tried to continue by saying, "Such as his refusal to say whether--"
"Whether he will seek a third term? Yes, that does leave us up in the air. But does not that play into your Republican hands?"
"To be truthful, for the good of the country, I would prefer a third term for Cleveland over a first term for an idiot like William Jennings Bryan. But my goal, you might say my mission, is to see my friend and fellow Ohioan, William McKinley, become our next president."
"I have heard reports to that effect."
Ignoring my sarcasm, he drew his chair closer and lowered his voice.
"I am going to confide in you, Senator Mundy. It is my intention to move my headquarters to Georgia this spring and there maintain an open house to entertain both white and black southern delegates to the Republican convention. I want to show up in St. Louis in June with a solid block of support from Dixie to make Governor McKinley our nominee for president. That, I feel confident, can be accomplished. The trick will be to move him beyond the nomination to the presidency."
"Your dedication to Governor McKinley is impressive," I replied, thinking as I did of his hero's congressional role some years earlier in erecting artificially high tariffs that harmed the South as much as they protected the industrial North.
"I supported him for Congress and I backed him for the governorship. I regard him as the one man capable of ending the days of bloody shirt politics, North and South, capable of leading our grand nation into the twentieth century with prosperity for the laboring man as well as men of means such as you and I."
"Mister Hanna, my means can hardly be compared with yours."
"Yes, but you have much in common with both Governor McKinley and me."
"How is that?"
"You and I both own newspapers. Oh yes, the Cleveland Ledger is one of my enterprises. And both you and McKinley served in the late unpleasantness between North and South, he as a major, and you, as I understand it, as a captain."
I smiled at his comparison, but before I could point out that we served opposing causes, he pressed on with, "Oh yes, I have made inquiries in your state. You have a reputation as a hero. Lost your foot in a campaign I had never heard of."
"It was the Milroy Station campaign. It occurred in October of 1864. My foot had to be amputated. Somehow my part in that brief period of active service got blown out of proportion after the war."
"Nevertheless, your white constituents perceive you as a wounded hero, whereas your colored fellow citizens regard you as a champion for sticking up for their basic rights."
Interpreting my frown as disagreement, I suppose, he said, "Oh yes, I was told that the Klan burned your newspaper building in the late sixties but that you did not back down. You just rebuilt your office of brick, put bars in the windows, strapped a revolver to your waist and went back to editorializing for better schools for both races and for fair play in general. Now in my book that would be regarded as real heroism."
"I hardly regarded my actions as heroic. A measure of self-interest was involved."
"And one of my colored delegates told me that you stood in the jailhouse door with the county sheriff to save two members of his race from a lynch mob. Said that you, leaning on a crutch, shamed them into backing off."
By now I had become embarrassed by his knowledge of my background and impatient to learn where all this was leading.
"Mister Hanna, excuse me for interrupting but, as I explained in my note, I am expected at home for dinner."
"And you would like me to get to the point. Have you any notion as to my real purpose in inviting you here?"
"It sounds very much like you want me to jump party lines and support McKinley in the fall election, something I have no intention of doing. That would be political suicide."
"Ah, Senator Mundy, be not so hasty. I am inviting you to take a far bolder stepâ??bolder for you and for me and Governor McKinley."
"I don't know what you are getting at."
"You may recall that back in the spring of 1864 it seemed to many in the North that Abraham Lincoln might well lose the upcoming fall presidential election. The country was weary of war. The Army of the Potomac was suffering enormous casualties in Grant's drive on Richmond. And Sherman's advance on Atlanta was being skillfully delayed by General Johnston. Things looked very bleak indeed. And Lincoln's likely Democratic opponent, McClellan, enjoyed considerable popularity, especially among Federal soldiers. So what did Lincoln do?"
"He held his course. And the war wore on to its bloody end."
"No, while the military issue was still in doubt, he got Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat, the Federal governor of Tennessee and a Southerner, to run with him for the vice presidency on a Union-Republican ticket. Yes, yes, I know, Johnson turned out to be a disaster as president after Lincoln's assassination, but my point is that the election strategy paid off at the polls."
"Actually, Mr. Hanna, 1 would rather think that the fall of Atlanta and Sheridan's rape of the Shenandoah Valley would have insured Mr. Lincoln's election success, no matter whom he had chosen as his running mate. At any rate, I doubt that you would get many men in my party to join a crusade for McKinley. The times are not analogous. This is 1896, not 1864,"
Then he said something that stunned me. In a low, calm voice he said, "I am not looking for what you call 'many men.' I only want one. And that one is you, Andrew Jackson Mundy."
 
Copyright Â? 2003 by Robert H. Fowler
(Continues...)

Excerpted from Battle of Milroy Station by Robert H. Fowler. Copyright © 2004 Robert H. Fowler. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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