Civil War battle subject of lunch at the library

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005

How many wonder, as the cannons thunder on Saturday and Sunday of the annual reenactment of the Battle of Selma, what living in a city at war is really like.

Of course, television screens portray war nightly, but when the reality becomes too stark, it is easy to flip off the set.

At the Public Library this year we will learn a bit more about that tension through the characters in April’s book for Lunch at the Library, featuring Jim Harrell, author of “Their Last Ten Miles,” an historical fiction novel set during the Civil War.

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Jim Harrell was born in Selma and grew up in the small town of Thomaston. His keen interest in the Civil War is due in part to the fact that his grandfather lost his right arm in the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most bitter of that bitterly fought war.

That, along with Harrell’s own unique and imaginative language takes the reader straight to the “front lines” of those four years of agony that split our nation asunder from 1861 to 1865.

The story begins at the beginning of the war and follows a varied cast of characters through the rise and fall of events, actually climaxing with the Battle of Selma, where Wilson’s Raiders defeated the Confederate soldiers who so valiantly defended this little town on April 1, 1865.

They were men like Seth Cooley and Clyde Boozer that second day of April in 1865.

“Seth Cooley and Clyde Boozer managed to stay together, settling in behind a partly built earthworks. After a short breather, they had taken turns with their entrencing shovel, scooping dirt to deepen their too-shallow pit. Standing up to measure the depth of their hole, each soldier, greatly relieved, nodded in agreement that they had done a good job; and, as their lives might well depend upon their position at this place under fire, the work they had done lifted their spirits. To raise the level of comfort that their burrow might provide, they gathered leaves and pine needles and covered its dirt floor …after some minutes of rest and silence, Clyde Boozer spoke.

“Seth, ol’ buddy, did you ever wonder what in tarnation we are doing out here shooting at somebody and getting shot at ourselves?”

“It’s just bein’ in the army I s’pose.”

“Yep. ‘Cose I know that. But what I mean is, why are we fightin’ this war?”

Those lines and that question penetrate our minds as we think of the wars that have come and gone since that afternoon in Selma, Alabama when the forces of our country met in a bloody clash. Caught within all the bloody struggles of war are the men and women who fight the battles and endure the anguished feelings they invoke.

This book, though written about an event of more than 140 years ago, still reminds of the terror and fear that surely must have arisen in the soul of each soldier that day. Homes were destroyed, lifestyles were forever changed and the future of the Black Belt altered that day. Many men did not come home. Many came home different people.

Jim Harrell tells a great story in his book. Come to hear him talk about it on Thursday, April 21, the weekend before the reenactment of the Battle of Selma. It is a great lead-in to this weekend of tourism.

Be sure to call the Library and make a reservation for lunch. A tasty menu is planned as always and is as enjoyable as the fellowship that accompanies this favorite event. This is the last Lunch at the Library until autumn, but the way time flies, that is just around the corner.

Reservation number is 874-1725.