Near the end of the Civil War, inhumane conditions at Andersonville Prison caused the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers in only one year. In this gripping and affecting novel, three young Confederates and an entire town come face-to-face with the prison’s atrocities and will learn the cost of compassion, when withheld and when given.
Sentry Dance Pickett has watched, helpless, for months as conditions in the camp worsen by the day. He knows any mercy will be seen as treason. Southern belle Violet Stiles cannot believe the good folk of Americus would knowingly condone such barbarism, despite the losses they’ve suffered. When her goodwill campaign stirs up accusations of Union sympathies and endangers her family, however, she realizes she must tread carefully. Confederate corporal Emery Jones didn’t expect to find camaraderie with the Union prisoner he escorted to Andersonville. But the soldier’s wit and integrity strike a chord in Emery. How could this man be an enemy? Emery vows that their unlikely friendship will survive the war—little knowing what that promise will cost him.
As these three young Rebels cross paths, Emery leads Dance and Violet to a daring act that could hang them for treason. Wrestling with God’s harsh truth, they must decide, once and for all, Who is my neighbor?
The Sentinels of Andersonville opens with an exchange between two soldiers on a battlefield in Georgia. One is injured. The other wants him to surrender. Their back and forth has gone on for several hours to the point that these men have moved beyond enemies. They have shared personal information about their families, their hopes, and their dreams. When the Yankee finally surrenders, the Rebel first gets his injuries seen to before personally escorting him to the POW camp at Andersonville. Both have heard rumors about the prison, but neither expects them to be true. The Rebel vows to do everything he can to assist – and hopefully free – his new friend.
Andersonville is one of the most well-known horrors of the American Civil War. In this novel, Tracy Groot uses survivor testimony to send the reader into the depths of a nightmare. What was it like to exist in a camp where rations were minimal, the water was putrid and you slept out in the elements? At the same time, we get an insight of what those who lived nearby thought about the camp. Many were ignorant of the harsh reality, while others felt the prisoners deserved the treatment they were receiving. A small minority, represented here by the main characters, tried to alleviate the suffering in whatever way they could.
Because of its subject matter, I thought this would be a difficult book to get through. Once I started it, however, I realized how wrong it was. I love the style in which it’s written with language that’s easy to read. Secondary characters are a delight to discover such as Violet’s youngest sister, Posy, and Pickett’s fellow guard, Burr. Throughout the book, Groot wants us to contemplate the question of “Who is our neighbor?” I believe, however, that there is another lesson for us. It’s that doing something good doesn’t necessarily need to be a grand act; a small one can have just as much impact. In fact, it might just change a life.
Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for my complimentary copy of The Sentinels of Andersonville, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read The Sentinels of Andersonville? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date: 17 January 2014
Page Count: 368