Zeb Hogan, a 15-year-old sharpshooter from Wisconsin, escapes from a
prisoner-of-war camp in Florence, South Carolina, and reluctantly teams
up with another teen: runaway slave Ebenezer Chase.
revenge on a Union traitor. Ebenezer just wants to be reunited with his
wife and daughter. As they make their way across the war-ravaged South
in the waning days of the Civil War, they will have to trust each other if they want to survive.
review): "This is surely one of Boggs' best westerns, an intense and
suspenseful story of personal redemption set during one of the most
tumultuous times in American history."
Roundup: "Johnny D. Boggs stretches the limits of the Western story with this novel ...."
Historical Novels Review: "South by Southwest is an engaging story with a terrific opening sequence followed by many more like it."
An Excerpt from South by Southwest
The only way to escape the purgatory that was the Florence Stockade was to die. So on February 3, 1865, Zebulon Nathaniel Hogan, age fifteen years, four months, four days, died.
Corporal Favour and Private Gardenhire, the only two soldiers of the 16th Wisconsin healthy enough to tote Zeb’s wasted-away ninety pounds, wrapped him in a dirty, stinking, and damp blanket too holey to keep out the biting wind, and carried him to the Dead House.
“Got another corpse, Harry,” a cracker voice said as Favour and Gardenhire laid Zeb on the floor. A weary sigh followed, and Zeb heard boots clopping on the wooden floor, knee joints popping, and heavy breathing. Zeb’s heart pounded so hard, he felt sure that the Johnny Reb could see the blanket trembling. He tried to steady his nerves, but couldn’t, when suddenly someone ripped the blanket off his face. The warmth of a lantern shined on him, and he did his best not to move his closed eyes.
“Land sakes,” the Reb’s voice said, “it’s the kid.”
“Yes. It is.” Favour’s voice creaked from nerves, but the Reb figured the Yankee corporal’s voice broke because a pal, a kid at that, had died. “’Twas the typhoid pneumonia that got him.”
From a corner of the room, another Secesh said: “Them Yanks been dyin’ aplenty the past couple of weeks.”
“Aye,” the voice directly above Zeb said. “Though I’d prayed that would not be the case, now that the measles and mumps have run their course, and the smallpox has not increased.”
“Must be the weather,” the Reb across the room said.
A warm hand touched Zeb’s cheek. “Feels cold,” the Reb said.
Of course, I’m cold, Zeb thought. It ain’t even forty degrees outside, been drizzling rain all morn, and the shelter you Rebs give us wouldn’t keep a rat warm, or dry.
“How’s his shoes, Major?” another Reb asked.
Before the Confederate surgeon could answer, Gardenhire snapped: “You Secesh took any decent pairs of shoes we had when we checked into this hotel.”
The cracker laughed.
A rough thumb and forefinger pried open Zeb’s eyelid. Zeb saw the gray-bearded face of Major Harmon, eyes bloodshot, breath reeking of whiskey. Just like always. Zeb’s eye began to water. He tried to keep still, wanting so badly to blink, and suspicion clouded the major’s face, but at that moment, six men brought in two other bodies—one of which was Sergeant Major Engstrand’s—and those men were really dead.
“Got two more Yanks that’ve been mustered out, Major.”
The surgeon shook his head before releasing Zeb’s eyelid, which snapped shut over his burning eye. The flap of the blanket fell back across Zeb’s face, and Major Harmon asked in a haggard voice: “How many more must perish like this? I have pleaded and pleaded with Colonel Forno and General Winder.” As his footsteps trailed away, Corporal Favour whispered: “Adieu, mon ami. Bon voyage.”
“Happy hunting, Zeb,” Dave Gardenhire said, before the Union prisoners were hustled out of the Dead House, and a cracker voice began shouting out the back of the cabin for a burial detail.
The slaves came inside, and Zeb felt him being lifted, then carried without the benefit of a stretcher or a coffin to the graveyard near the tall pines away from the Stockade. His pallbearers dropped him roughly on the ground, and Zeb coughed as the air whooshed out of his lungs. Neither of the Negroes heard, however, because next Zeb felt the blanket being jerked from under him, and he rolled onto the cold, wet grass, face down.
“You go help them others back inside that house,” a slow Negro voice said. “I’ll take care of this one.”
Zeb could breathe now. He heard the noise of a spade digging earth, smelled the foul odor of South Carolina’s thick, black mud. Zeb’s left hand gripped a reed, while his right fist clasped the last two brass buttons from his Army blouse, and he prayed, begged God as he had never begged Him before. Prayed for a shallow grave. Prayed that this slave wouldn’t scream his head off when Zeb’s eyes opened, when he told the Negro what to do. A shallow grave Zeb expected, for he had seen the graveyard while in stocks outside the palisade pine walls—punishment for an attempted escape—had seen razorbacks rooting out the dead bodies. Even now, the grunting of hogs made Zeb shiver as they moved about the graves, and his gravedigger yelled, his shouts punctuated by his shoveling: “Get on, you swine! Get out of there! Go on! Y’all stop that! Lord have mercy.”
His name was Zebulon Nathaniel Hogan—named after his father’s great uncle and an old Revolutionary War hero from his hometown, Madison, Wisconsin—but he answer to Zeb. Or Private Hogan these past eleven months, even though his parents had said plenty of times that Zeb was too young to be preserving the Union. What am I doing here, pretending to be dead, about to be buried alive? he wondered. As he listened to the slave digging a grave, humming some song that, at first, he couldn’t make heads or tails of, he began pondering that himself.
Copyright 2011 by Johnny D. Boggs