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Memoirs of a Confederate Scout and Sharpshooter
Three main stories emerge from Benson's account: his reconnaissance exploits, his experiences in battle, and his escape from prison. Though not yet eighteen years old when he left his home in Augusta, Georgia, to join the army, Benson was soon singled out for the abilities that would serve him well as a scout. Not only was he a crack shot, a natural leader, and a fierce Southern partisan, but he had a kind of restless energy and curiosity, loved to take risks, and was an instant and infallible judge of human nature. His recollections of scouting take readers within arm's reach of Union trenches and encampments. Benson recalls that while eavesdropping he never failed to be shocked by the Yankees' foul language; he had never heard that kind of talk in a Confederate camp!
Benson's descriptions of the many battles in which he fought--including Cold Harbor, The Seven Days, Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg--convey the desperation of a full frontal charge and the blind panic of a disorganized retreat. Yet in these accounts, Benson's own demeanor under fire is manifest in the coolly measured tone he employs.
A natural writer, Benson captures the dark absurdities of war in such descriptions as those of hardened veterans delighting in the new shoes and other equipment they found on corpse-littered battlefields. His clothing often torn by bullets, Benson was also badly bruised a number of times by spent rounds. At one point, in May 1863, he was wounded seriously enough in the leg to be hospitalized, but he returned to the field before full recuperation.
Benson was captured behind enemy lines in May 1864 while on a scouting mission for General Lee. Confined to Point Lookout Prison in Maryland, he escaped after only two days and swam the Potomac to get back into Virginia. Recaptured near Washington, D.C., he was briefly held in Old Capitol Prison, then sent to Elmira Prison in New York. There he joined a group of ten men who made the only successful tunnel escape in Elmira's history. After nearly six months in captivity or on the run, he rejoined his unit in Virginia. Even at Appomattox, Benson refused to surrender but stole off with his brother to North Carolina, where they planned to join General Johnston. Finding the roads choked with Union forces and surrendered Confederates, the brothers ultimately bore their unsurrendered rifles home to Augusta.
Berry Benson first wrote his memoirs for his family and friends. Completed in 1878, they drew on his--and partially on his brother's--wartime diaries, as well as on letters that both brothers had written to family members during the war. The memoirs were first published in book form in 1962 but have long been unavailable. This edition, with a new foreword by the noted Civil War historian Herman Hattaway, will introduce this compelling story to a new generation of readers.
Parts of Berry's history have achieved legendary status--the story, for example, of how Martha Berry was inspired to start a school after visiting with poor mountain children in her log cabin. Ouida Dickey and Doyle Mathis separate myth from fact as they address Berry's traditions, controversies, and triumphs and relate important developments at Berry to wider events in Georgia and Appalachia.
As Berry graduates and career-long members of its faculty and staff, Dickey and Mathis themselves are part of the Berry tradition. Their meticulous research draws on a rich trove of documents to reveal a story that surpasses many of the familiar and beloved tales connected to the school. Berry's enviable standing--as a model for work-study colleges nationwide, as a place intimately tied to the cultural life of its region, as a choice recipient of philanthropy--makes this new book important to historians, scholars of higher education, and thousands of Berry students, faculty, and alumni.
The stories in Better Than War encompass narratives from a diverse set of Iranian immigrants, many searching for a balance between memories of their homeland and their new American culture. The everyday life of each character subtly reflects viewpoints that are simultaneously Iranian and American, of all ages and circumstances. These stories deal with family, friends, relationships, urban life, prison, school, and adolescence. They also contain powerful messages about what people want, need, and deserve as citizens and human beings. For instance, in the story “Better Than War” a young Iranian boy must overcome the fear of asking an American girl on a date. His friend tells him there is no shame in pouring your heart out to someone you like. The boy must realize that expressing emotion and sorrow is worth the embarrassment because it shows loved ones that you are better than hatred—and especially better than war.
All Iranian immigrants, young or old, carry with them a vivid past in their contemporary life. These histories help provide perspective, thankfulness, and virtue to their families and friends. Vossoughi’s Better Than War is about growing up, coming of age, and raising children in America while still remembering the importance of retaining Iranian pride.
A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Beyond Katrina is poet Natasha Trethewey’s very personal profile of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and of the people there whose lives were forever changed by hurricane Katrina.
Trethewey spent her childhood in Gulfport, where much of her mother’s extended family, including her younger brother, still lives. As she worked to understand the devastation that followed the hurricane, Trethewey found inspiration in Robert Penn Warren’s book Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South, in which he spoke with southerners about race in the wake of the Brown decision, capturing an event of wide impact from multiple points of view. Weaving her own memories with the experiences of family, friends, and neighbors, Trethewey traces the erosion of local culture and the rising economic dependence on tourism and casinos. She chronicles decades of wetland development that exacerbated the destruction and portrays a Gulf Coast whose citizens—particularly African Americans—were on the margins of American life well before the storm hit. Most poignantly, Trethewey illustrates the destruction of the hurricane through the story of her brother’s efforts to recover what he lost and his subsequent incarceration.
Renowned for writing about the idea of home, Trethewey’s attempt to understand and document the damage to Gulfport started as a series of lectures at the University of Virginia that were subsequently published as essays in the Virginia Quarterly Review. For Beyond Katrina, Trethewey has expanded this work into a narrative that incorporates personal letters, poems, and photographs, offering a moving meditation on the love she holds for her childhood home.
Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis
Through quirky plots, one-of-kind characters, and more than a few twists, the stories in Big Bend examine gentle-hearted men and their relationships. From made-in-heaven meetings to troublesome liaisons, Roorbach's characters experience romance in unexpected, sometimes disastrous ways.
In "Fog," a teenage boy learns hard lessons about canoes, the Gulf of Maine, sex, and love. A struggling young artist goes home for the holidays in search of succor for the stomach—and heart—with poor results in "Thanksgiving." Other stories recount the ultimately disastrous reunion of estranged friends, an unemployed architect's foolish courting with bad company, and a middle-aged rock star's struggle with the urge to settle down. In the tiitle story, "Big Bend," a grieving widower, troubled by his own waning years, is tempted by a seductively attentive birdwatcher no older than his daughter.
Poignant tales of hauntingly familiar situations, Bill Roorbach's stories are full of heart, romance, edgy humor, and the frequently concealed vulnerability of men.
In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In Upon Completion of Baldness” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. The precocious narrator of All Boy” finds comfort when he is locked in a closet by a babysitter. In Dr. Deneau's Punishment” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. A lesbian couple whose relationship is disintegrating flees to the Moroccan desert in The Children beneath the Seat.” And in Idyllic Little Bali” a group of Americans gathers around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and ends up witnessing a man's fatal flight from his wife.
In the eleven stories in The Bigness of the World we see that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away.
Swordfish, Sailfish, Marlin, and Other Gladiators of the Sea
Literature, Ecology, and Place
In the title story, an aging black singer who performs only Elvis songs despite his classic bluesman looks has his regular spot at the local blues jam threatened by a newly arrived Asian American with the unlikely name Robert Johnson. In Man Under,” two friends struggling to be rock musicians in Reagan-era Brooklyn find that their front door has been removed by their landlord. An aspiring writer discovers the afterlife consists of being the stand-in for a famous author on an endless book tour in Another Coyote Story.” Lonely and adrift in Florence, Italy, a young man poses as a tour guide with an art history degree in Know Your Saints.” And in This Is Not a Bar,” a simple night on the town for a middle-aged guitar student and jazz buff turns into a confrontation with his past and an exploration of what is or is not real.
In his depictions of struggling performers, artists, expectant parents, travelers, con-men, temporarily employed academics, and even the recently deceased, Becker asks the question, Which are more important: the stories we tell other people or the ones we tell ourselves?