Guest Review: THE CONFEDERATE WAR BONNET by Jack Shakely

Today’s guest review comes from author Mary Simonsen.  She has written a number of novels, including Searching for Pemberley and Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.

Please give her a warm welcome as she reviews The Confederate War Bonnet by Jack Shakely.

Jack Gaston, the son of a white mother and a Creek Indian, is as comfortable in the white world of Harvard University and St. Louis as he is in his father’s print shop in the Creek Nation, but his heart is Creek. The story opens in the office of Charles Eliot, Dean of Harvard College.  It is there that Jack learns that he has been elected by the Creek elders to the House of Warriors. The honor comes in the third year of the Civil War when the Northern Creeks are fighting for the Union and the Southern Creeks, Jack’s people, are fighting for the Confederacy. As Jack begins the long journey home, he tells his friend Jim Tom Nokose that, “When two elephants fight, regardless of which wins, the grass loses.”

Jack serves honorably as an officer in the Confederate Army before being seriously wounded. Back in the Creek Nation (now eastern Oklahoma), Jack and Jim Tom print a news sheet which contains the usual wartime propaganda. Because there is actually very little good news to report, Jack fills the empty space with the exploits of a Creek/Confederate warrior in the story of “The Confederate War Bonnet” which is modeled after the dime novels of the time. “The Confederate War Bonnet” is read by both armies, and the imaginary hero becomes so real in the eyes of the Union soldiers that he ends up with a price on his head.

Confederate War Bonnet explains why so many Indians chose to fight on the side of a government that supports slavery.  Twenty years earlier, Federal soldiers had forcibly removed the Five Civilized Tribes from their homes in the South. Thousands died on the Trail of Tears while walking to their new home in Oklahoma. So it is not that the Creeks are fighting “for” the Confederacy as much as they are fighting “against” the Federals.

Throughout the novel, we learn about Jack Gaston who maintained his dignity while fighting for a lost cause, provided for his people who were on the verge of starvation, and wrote letters to leaders in Washington asking that the Creeks be recognized as a sovereign nation. This last service landed him in a Federal prison on Governor’s Island in New York.

Jack Shakely, who is of Creek descent, has no axe to grind, and his portrayal of Jack Gaston shows that. The story is a positive one told with grace and humor, but it also strikes the right chord when the hardships of war descend upon the Creek Nation. Although a historical novel, the characters are based on real people who barely survived the clash of armies in the War Between the States.

This book is an important re-creation of events that occurred in a theater of war that few people know or care about. But they should care because this is where the grass lost.

Thanks, Mary. We appreciate your guest review.

**Attention participants:  Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

FTC Disclosure: Links will take you to an Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase is required, though appreciated to cover postage and shipping costs of challenge prizes.

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