J. keith jones climbing the bestseller list one book at a time

For so many, their knowledge (if they bother to have any) of the so-called American Civil War ends with Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. What most don’t know is that there was still a much larger contingent of Confederate troops in the field that those surrendered by Lee. Most belonged to the Army of Tennessee (not to be confused with the Union’s Army of THE Tennessee – Southerners prefer land and the Union army seemed to prefer bodies of water for naming purposes for some reason) which was under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston for the second time in its life.

“We Ride a Whirlwind: Sherman and Johnston at Bennett Place” is the first comprehensive work dedicated to the War’s largest surrender. Eric Wittenberg provides great detail of the three meetings between Maj.


Gen. William T. Sherman and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in which they negotiated the surrender of the remaining Confederate forces east of the Mississippi River. He wraps the events leading up to the meetings, the events of the meetings, the dynamics within the Confederate army and government and the fallout into his usual smooth narrative. Included are appendices covering the forces involved, Lincoln’s meeting with Sherman, correspondence within the Davis administration and the sub-plot of Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton and his dilemmas surrounding the surrender.

The surrender of Johnston’s forces was not a fait accompli, in fact, there was a very real possibility that he could flee to the mountains with his army or head south to Texas or west to continue the war on a guerrilla basis. Johnston did not want this any more than Sherman did, but the terms had to be acceptable before surrender was an option. Sherman took this knowledge and fear into the first meeting. He also carried another piece of information that neither Johnston nor the members of either army knew, the assassination of Lincoln. Sherman knew that once this became common knowledge, the behavior of his army would become worse and his odds of reaching an accord would lessen. He had a strong incentive to act quickly and the directives that Lincoln himself had given to guide him. Wittenberg does yeoman’s work in communicating the complex interactions that resulted in the final meeting and aftermath.

The shock ending of Jigsaw (Part I) segues into a surprise beginning to Jigsaw Part II. Cape Thomas’s seemingly mortal bullet to the brain, as it turns out, was not so mortal after all. In Part I, Captain Cape Thomas had struggled to solve a mystery. In so doing, he discovered that he had a whole family he was unaware of, complete with a grown daughter. Then as quickly as this new life is found, it is snatched away in what the reader is led to believe is Cape’s final act of altruism. A bullet intended for Cape’s daughter Jana, is intercepted by Cape as he jumps in front of her.

As this book begins, we discover that Cape is alive and has been in a coma for three years. Cape leaves the hospital with one goal in mind: regaining his job as a 747 captain at Aeromax Airlines. Cape slowly regains his health only to find himself in the middle of a new mystery. This one deadlier than the last, in fact it may threaten his entire family. Cape has a deadly stalker, but despite numerous opportunities, this pursuer passes on the chance to kill Cape. Instead, those close to him appear to be at greater risk. No knowing who to trust, Cape navigates a landscape between faith and doubt in Detective Darius Martin and Sheriff Scarlett Dubois. These challenges force Cape to reevaluate his priorities. Can Cape solve the mystery in time to save those dearest to him? Will he regain his flight status and job? Which kind of life will Cape want to end up living? Will all of this be snatched away from him once more.

For one thing, Quantrill’s service in the Missouri militia was intended to help the Union forces to police the actions of the “Red Legs” in its self-serving victimization of the Missouri people. The problem arose when the Federals not only were turning a blind eye to former Sen. Jim Lane’s renegades as they were robbing and committing numerous outrages across the landscape, but in fact began firing on Quantrill’s men when they attempted to stop Lane’s Red Legs. Despite this, Quantrill actually gave them multiple warnings before throwing in with the Confederacy, at which time he rode to Richmond and obtained a commission from the government. Also, something that doesn’t fit with the narrative about Quantrill is his swift punishment of any of his raiders who engaged in theft or harsh treatment of civilians. This seems surprising because of all that you hear about Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence, Kansas. The events in Lawrence are not to be admired, but this book gives you quite an understanding of the happenings that led up to the raid, including the much undermentioned jail house collapse that triggered the attack. When this is mentioned in official accounts, it is played off as a simple tragedy and due to the poor condition of the building. This book offers a deep look from an insider’s perspective. First, the women – several were fourteen or under – were all locked up there simply for being immediate family members of Bushwhacker leaders. Second, the building was selected for its poor condition and the second floor and first floor – which rested above a basement – were overloaded with the deliberate hope that it would collapse. Third, when the building did not collapse, digging was performed around the foundation to weaken it until the “accident” did indeed occur.

John McCorkle was a favorite scout of Quantrill’s. McCorkle started out the war serving under Gen. Sterling Price. He and his brother were captured and after some time, his brother had become so ill that McCorkle feared that he would soon perish. The McCorkle brothers then gave in and signed the oath of allegiance so they could go home and survive. That lasted for a while, but the Federals would not leave him along for long. The harassment started with charges being leveled against McCorkle for being overheard singing a pro-Confederate song as he went about his business. He paid a fine and soon found himself being faced with conscription into an army that he had fought against, but had agreed to sign the oath on the condition of neutrality. He was willing to agree to not take up arms, but was not willing to take up arms against his fellow Southerners.

So, John McCorkle and his brother became soldiers once again. Much like the many states that were willing to stay neutral, but were ordered to raise troops by Lincoln, these states did raise troops, but not for Lincoln. So was the case of the McCorkles, they took up arms and joined with the Confederate Bushwhackers. Much of this time was serving under Col. Quantrill or under Capt. George Todd. This book is a who’s who of the Missouri border war and includes a number of people who are more famous for their actions after the war. McCorkle had extensive interactions with Cole Younger and Frank James. Jesse James also makes an appearance in the narrative, but to a lesser extent.