Benjamin Wood's Fort Lafayette and Civil War America
Publication Year: 2006
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin has often been cited for its galvanizing effect on anti-slavery opposition in the years before the American Civil War. Southern sympathizers in the North (known as Copperheads) never came close to producing anything that matched its influence. One of the more interesting attempts was Fort Lafayette; or, Love and Secession (1862). The novel -- which features liberal doses of love and lust, intrigue and violence, loyalty and death -- is by no means great literature. It does, however, lay claim to being the only pacifist novel of the Civil War. Wood hoped to persuade his readers of the moral wrong, the folly, and the dangers to republican government of the war in which the country was engaged. The novel underscores the deep connections between Americans on both sides of the sectional conflict, the pain of their severance, and the suffering brought about by war.
For this reissue, Menahem Blondheim has provided a detailed introduction to the novel, the politics of the era, and Wood's life and career. Two of Wood's Congressional speeches are also included.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Practically all reasonable antebellum Americans were against civil war, but when it came they fought in it anyway. A large minority of Northerners objected to the way the Civil War was conducted and even questioned the purpose for which it was fought, but only a small share of them actively resisted the war or tried to obstruct the...
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"The real American literature," mused Theodore Parker in 1846, "is found only in newspapers and speeches, perhaps in some novel, hot, passionate, but poor and extemporaneous."1 In the course of the Civil War, Benjamin Wood (1820–1900), a Kentucky-born New Yorker, practiced all three of the genres that Parker had considered...
FORT LAFAYETTE; OR, LOVE AND SECESSION
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There is a pleasant villa on the southern bank of the James River, a few miles below the city of Richmond. The family mansion, an old fashioned building of white stone, surrounded by a spacious veranda, and embowered among stately elms and grave old oaks, is sure to attract the attention of the traveler by its picturesque...
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"Oriana," said Beverly, as he paused from demolishing a well-buttered batter cake, and handed his cup for a second supply of the fragrant Mocha, "I will leave it to your savoir faire to transform our friend Arthur into a thorough southerner, before we yield him back to his Green Mountains. He is already half a convert to our institutions...
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The incident related in the preceding chapter seemed to have effected a marked change in the demeanor of Oriana toward her brother's guest. She realized with painful force the wrong that her thoughtlessness, more than her malice, had inflicted on a noble character, and it required all of Arthur's winning sweetness of disposition...
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Oriana, after awaiting till a late hour the return of her brother and his friend, had retired to rest, and was sleeping soundly when the party entered the house, after their remarkable adventure. She was therefore unconscious, upon descending from her apartment in the morning, of the addition to her little household. Standing upon the...
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There was no remedy but to cross the woodland and cornfields that for about a league intervened between their position and the highway. They commenced the tedious tramp, Arthur and Harold exerting themselves to the utmost to protect Oriana from the brambles, and to guide her footsteps along the uneven ground and among the...
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Oriana started as if stung by a serpent, and rising to her feet, looked upon the man with such an expression of contempt and loathing that the ruffian's brow grew black with anger as he returned her gaze. Harold confronted him, and spoke in a low, earnest tone, and between his clenched teeth...
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Several gentlemen of the neighborhood, whom Beverly, upon hearing little Phil's story, had hastily summoned to his assistance, now entered the cabin, together with the male negroes of his household, who had mounted the farm horses and eagerly followed to the rescue of their young mistress. They had been detained without by an...
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During the four succeeding days, the household at Riverside manor were much alarmed for Arthur's safety, for a violent fever had ensued, and, to judge from the physician's evasive answers, the event was doubtful. The family were unremitting in their attentions, and Oriana, quietly, but with her characteristic self-will, insisted upon...
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The following morning was warm and springlike, and Arthur was sufficiently strong and well to walk out a little in the open air. He had been seated upon the veranda conversing with Beverly and Harold, when the latter proposed a stroll with Beverly, with whom he wished to converse in relation to his proposed marriage. As the...
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In the drawing-room of an elegant mansion in a fashionable quarter of the city of New York, toward the close of April, a social party were assembled, distributed mostly in small conversational groups. The head of the establishment, a pompous, well-to-do merchant, stout, short, and baldheaded, and evidently well satisfied with...
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"Well, Arthur," said Harold Hare, entering the room of the former at his hotel, on the following evening, "I have come to bid you good-bye. I start for home tomorrow morning," he added, in reply to Arthur's questioning glance. "I am to have a company of Providence boys in my old friend Colonel R——'s regiment. And after a...
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To shorten his way, he turned into a cross street in the upper part of the city. As he approached the hall door of a large brick house, his eye chanced to fall upon a man who was ringing for admittance. The light from the street lamp fell full upon his face, and he recognized the features of Philip Searle. At that moment the...
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Arthur heaved an involuntary sigh, as he gazed upon those sad wrecks of womanhood, striving to harden their sense of degradation by its impudent display. But an expression of bewildered and sorrowful surprise suddenly overspread his countenance. Seated alone upon a cushioned stool, at the chimney-corner, was a young...
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Arthur felt ill and much fatigued when he retired to rest, and was restless and disturbed with fever throughout the night. He had over-tasked his delicate frame, yet scarce recovered from the effects of recent suffering, and he arose in the morning with a feeling of prostration that he could with difficulty overcome. However, he refreshed...
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In the upper apartment of a cottage standing alone by the roadside on the outskirts of Boston, Miranda, pale and dejected, sat gazing vacantly at the light of the solitary lamp that lit the room. The clock was striking midnight, and the driving rain beat dismally against the window-blinds. But one month had passed since her...
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When Miranda awakened from her swoon, the lamp was burning dimly, and the first light of dawn came faintly through the blinds. All was still around her, and for some moments she could not recall the terrible scene which had passed before her eyes. Presently her fingers came in contact with the clots of gore that were thickening...
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The night after the unhappy circumstance we have related, in the barroom of a Broadway hotel, in New York City, a colonel of volunteers, mustached and uniformed, and evidently in a very unmilitary condition of unsteadiness, was entertaining a group of convivial acquaintances, with bacchanalian exercises and martian...
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We will let thirty days pass on, and bear the reader south of the Potomac, beyond the Federal lines and within rifle-shot of an advanced picket of the Confederate army, under General Beauregard. It was a dismal night—the 16th of July. The rain fell heavily and the wind moaned and shrieked through the lone forests like unhappy...
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Toward dusk of the same day, while Philip and his lieutenant were seated at the rude pine table, conversing after their evening meal, the sergeant of the guard entered with a slip of paper, on which was traced a line in pencil...
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At dawn of the morning of the 21st of July, an officer in plain undress was busily writing at a table in a plainly furnished apartment of a farmhouse near Manassas. He was of middle age and medium size, with dark complexion, bold, prominent features, and steady, piercing black eyes. His manner and the respectful demeanor of...
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On the evening of the 20th July, Hunter's division, to which Harold Hare was attached, was bivouacked on the old Braddock Road, about a mile and a half southeast of Centreville. It was midnight. There was a strange and solemn hush throughout the camp, broken only by the hail of the sentinel and the occasional trampling of...
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At the doorway of the building on the hill, where the aged invalid was yielding her last breath amid the roar of battle, a wounded officer sat among the dying and the dead, while the conflict swept a little away from that quarter of the field. The blood was streaming from the shattered bosom, and feebly he strove to staunch it with...
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The Federal troops, with successive charges, had now pushed the enemy from their first position, and the torn battalions were still being hurled against the batteries that swept their ranks. The excellent generalship of the Confederate leaders availed itself of the valor and impetuosity of their assailants to lure them, by consecutive...
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No need to say that Harold was well cared for by his two friendly foes. Beverly had given his personal parole for his safe keeping, and he was therefore free from all surveillance or annoyance on that score. His wounds were not serious, although the contusion on the temple, which, however, had left the skull uninjured, occasioned...
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It was a fair morning in August, the twentieth day after the eventful 21st of July. Beverly was busy with his military duties, and Harold, who had already fully recovered from his wounds, was enjoying, in company with Oriana, a pleasant canter over the neighboring country. They came to where the rolling meadow subsided into a level...
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They had now approached the edge of the plain which Oriana had pointed out on the preceding day. The sun, which had been tinging the western sky with gorgeous hues, was peering from among masses of purple and golden clouds, within an hour's space of the horizon. Captain Haralson, interested and excited by his disputation, had...
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When Captain Haralson and the two troopers reached the verge of the forest, they could trace for a short distance the hoof-prints of Harold's horse, and followed them eagerly among the labyrinthine paths which the fugitive had made through the tangled shrubbery and among the briery thickets. But soon the gloom of night closed...
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Harold had perceived the watch¤re an hour earlier than his pursuers, having obtained thus much the advantage of them by the fleetness of his steed. He moved well off to the right, riding slowly and cautiously, until another faint glimmer in that direction gave him to understand that he was about equidistant between two pickets of...
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With the earliest opportunity, Harold proceeded to Washington, and sought an interview with the President, in relation to Arthur's case. Mr. Lincoln received him kindly, but could give no information respecting the arrest or alleged criminality of his friend. "There were so many and pressing affairs of state that he could find no room...
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The sufferer was still sleeping, and Mrs. Wayne was watching by the bedside. Harold seated himself beside her, and gazed mournfully upon the pale, still features already, but for the expression of pain that lingered there, seemed to have passed from the quiet of sleep to the deeper calm of death...
Appendix 1. Speech 1: "State of the Union," Benjamin Wood, 16 May 1862
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Appendix 2. Speech 2: "Restoration of Peace: On the proposition for a general convention to devise measures for the restoration of peace to our country," Benjamin Wood, 27 February 1863
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Glossary and Explanatory Notes to Fort Lafayette; or, Love and Secession
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Menahem Blondheim is a member of the departments of American Studies and Communication at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and serves as the director of the University's Smart Family Institute of Communications. He earned his B.A. from the Hebrew University and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard...
Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2006