A brutal saga of the Civil War—and a regiment of fugitive slaves that thirsted for revenge.
Scarred, branded, unchained, they were the First Southern Volunteers, a Union regiment of fugitive slaves suddenly armed and free to avenge a lifetime of pain and degradation: some with a savagery that knew no bounds and offered no mercy.
Labe’s clowning had concealed the dark passion within him, even from himself. But the war changed all that—he had the gun now. Here was power. Here was something that would make him whole. Here was godliness.
Vulture, a towering giant, was unwaveringly loyal to his men. They trusted him. Powerful, deeply intelligent, hungry to learn, he was willing to go to any length to defend them. And did.
Geoffrey Williams had been born a freeman in Massachusetts, was privileged, educated. He had long ached in his heart for his enslaved brothers and volunteered early for the First Southern. Now he was lost and confused amid their boisterous immorality, shattered by the killing, and feared for his mind and soul.
Here, too, are the women who loved them:
Rona, young, beautiful, fierce, who returned again and again to the South to guide fugitives and runaways up North to freedom. She needed no one, wanted no one, she thought—till she saw Vulture again.
Dido’s husband had been killed by a chaser’s hounds. She knew Labe’s heart, the hurt beneath his fury; he sensed the tenderness and longing in hers. They comforted one another, though she dreaded what might become of him.
And the white officers who led them: opportunists, idealists, misfits, cynics, and hardened professionals. Men like the earnest and naïve Colonel Mathew Spearing, the contemptuous Captain Thomas Ebery, and the unyielding, stoic Emory Woodson who was blind to the color of his troops and cared only that they fight well and survive.
Here is the Civil War at its most brutal and violent, from vicious early skirmishes to the liberation of slaves from plantations, from deepening camaraderie to a blood-soaked debacle, from the madness of the Southern irregulars of Bryerson’s Butchers to the final, climactic storming of the massive Confederate Fortress Blackstone.