Encampment: A Novel of Race and Reconciliation
by Carl Eeman
In 1963, the dream of “Free at Last” is proclaimed at Lincoln’s Memorial, but the reality is still incomplete.
Halfway between, in 1913, America has a chance to speed up the day of brotherhood, to put aside racial hatred and bind up the pain of slavery.
It was a road not taken.
Encampment: A Novel of Race and Reconciliation explores that road not taken. In July 1913, after two years’ preparation by the US Army, over 54,000 Civil War veterans came to the National Encampment in Gettysburg – a now-forgotten, week-long reunion that ended in a gesture of reconciliation between North and South. Hundreds of domestic and foreign reporters scribbled stories about reunions, forgiveness, speeches by dignitaries. All watched to see if North and South could meet and make peace on the bloody ground Lincoln called “hallowed.” All who gathered wondered: could Blue and Gray bind up the nation’s wounds and make peace? They could, and they did… for those who were white.
But what if there had been a deeper healing? What might have happened if 5,000 black veterans had dared to attend? What if not just blue and gray but also black and white had battled through their hatred and regrets to heal history?
Encampment follows three Civil War veterans in the autumn of their lives:
Zachariah Hampton, once sergeant in the 8th Georgia, lives in Savannah with his daughter Emily. He shares memories, parades, bigotry and bourbon with his old fellow Confederates.
Lucius Robinson ran away from slavery during the War. In the decades after he was a harness maker and carpenter around town. He lives on Savannah’s west side with his son Rufus, daughter-in-law Beulah, and grandchildren Alma, Hannah, and Sherman. Fifty years of race prejudice have worn out his dignity and used up his hope.
Calvin Salisbury of Rutland has been married 50 years to Eleanor. Having served as a major in the 14th Vermont, he spent decades as a judge. In his later years he sees the triumph of his youth crumbling under a national bigotry.
These three men join tens of thousands of their fellow veterans, hoping to heal ancient wounds, soften memories, and reconcile the past and their present. In this fictionalized account, Marian Anderson and WEB DuBois join Woodrow Wilson on stages to entertain, inform, and inspire, but it is the white-haired veterans who heal the burdens and fury of their past. In this inspiring and thought-provoking novel, Zachariah, Lucius, and Calvin are among the thousands at Gettysburg who share food, drink and memories while burying the ghosts of slavery and hatred. They lead America beyond the divisions of section and race and lay the foundation for a post-racial society decades before our time.
Title: Encampment: A Novel of Race and Reconciliation
Author: Carl Eeman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication: November 2009
For more information, visit www.gettysburgencampment.com