Marty McKidrict and Stuart Brodie are outcasts during the turbulent colonial backcountry of the 1780s. Trying to escape a brutal, sadistic husband, McKidrict disguises herself as a man and reluctantly joins the Patriot cause led by John Sevier and the Overmountain Men. Meanwhile, Brodie, a freedman, joins the Loyalist cause and Patrick Ferguson’s militia after Brodie’s brother is lynched by a gang of Patriot renegades. In the heat of the American Revolution, Fate will bring the two together in a bloody climax on a ridgetop along the North Carolina-South Carolina border, a place that will go down in history as King’s Mountain.
Winner of the Western Heritage Wrangler and Spur Awards for his Western fiction, Johnny D. Boggs recreates the events leading up to the Battle of King’s Mountain, the often-overlooked turning point of the American Revolution, in this meticulously detailed novel.
A native of South Carolina and graduate of the University of South Carolina, Boggs has tackled the anarchy of the Carolina backcountry during the Revolution before. "Boggs tells a crisply powerful story that rings true more than two centuries after the bloody business was done," the Charleston Post and Courier said of his 2002 novel, The Despoilers.
A worthwhile follow-up to The Despoilers, Ghost Legion is not so much a story about war but rather about the effects war has on men and women. It’s a novel in which there are few white hats and black hats, only realistic men and women with strong views, often contradictory, of what is right and wrong.
Excerpt from Ghost Legion:
“Bound for the cord,” his mother had often told him. “You are bound for the cord.”
Those words echoed through Stuart Brodie’s head as he stared at the body hanging from the oak’s sturdy limbs. Bound for the cord, only it wasn’t Stuart Brodie who had been executed as a warning to others.
Brodie pulled his grandfather’s English Sea Service Pistol from his belt, cocked it and fired over his head. The .58-caliber monster barked angrily, coughing out thick, white smoke, and the noise reverberated across the meadow, sending crows and vultures to safer climes. Still holding the pistol, he stopped his mule’s nervous prancing, swallowed down bile and stared ahead.
Younger brother Ezekiel twisted in the wind, sending a horde of flies scattering for just an instant, and Brodie’s mule balked at moving any closer. His brother’s hands were tied behind his back with rawhide, eyes bulging from their sockets, head tilting slightly, the neck unbroken. The killers had done a poor job, or maybe they had purposely let Ezekiel choke to death, kicking, biting his tongue in half, and trying to scream as the hemp squeezed the life out of him. Ezekiel’s homespun shirt had been ripped, the shredded muslin still tucked in his soiled breeches and dancing in the wind, and they had flogged him mercilessly before his torment finally ended. Welts and dried blood scarred that broad back, the once unblemished black skin. Across his chest, the murdering fiends had pinned a crudely written sign.
Brodie slid the pistol into its saddle scabbard, dismounted unsteadily, and hobbled the animal in the meadow, upwind. His face glistened with sweat as he moved closer to Ezekiel’s bloated body, and, with a rabid oath, he swung the tomahawk. The blade severed the rope those Whig brigands who called themselves Patriots had secured around the oak’s trunk, and Ezekiel’s body slammed into the earth. Flies buzzed furiously at the sudden movement, and a crow kawed from a pecan tree.
His fingers clenched the long handle of the tomahawk, tighter and tighter until spasms shot up his arm, but Brodie couldn’t let go, not until he choked out something unintelligible and dammed the tears building inside. Finally, he jerked the blade loose, let the weapon fall, and strode angrily back to the mule, where he unfastened his woolen bedroll tied behind the cantle.
After he had covered Ezekiel’s body, Brodie walked to the tavern he and Ezekiel had built along the Great Wagon Road in the South Carolina Back Country. Brodie had traveled the length of that pike, north to south and south to north, from Pine Tree Hill to Philadelphia, even venturing on the Cherokee Path to Keowee, and off the trail to the Catawba reserve. Bartering, buying, befriending Indians and whites, even some freedmen like himself, Brodie had become well-known in the uncivilized settlements. He had left the innkeeping to his brother, always telling himself, as well as their mother, that Ezekiel was safe, at least as safe as anyone, white, black or red, could be in this part of the colonies. Innkeepers lived long lives. If anyone died, it would most likely be Stuart, murdered somewhere between the Schuylkill and the Catawba. His mother had nodded in agreement.
Well, Mama, we both were wrong.
Copyright 2005 by Johnny D. Boggs