One of the most unique elements of Blind Tribute is the epistolary writing that underpins the narrative. Not only letters and telegrams you might expect in a certain type of historical novel, but also the newspaper editorials the main character, Harry Wentworth, writes about the issues of the day (in the 1860s in America, slavery, secession, and the Civil War). However, as with any novel, there were many pieces of the book left on the cutting room floor. In this case, one of the shortest editorials ended up replaced with:
“Today, however, would be a true day of rest, which always required solitude. He knew he needed to consider how to address General Sherman’s despicable show of force, as well as the fact that his family, friends, and colleagues were still spread out across the Confederacy, about to be trampled by the annals of history, if they hadn’t been already.”
So, indicative of the flavor of the dozen or so editorials that remain in the book, today, I am offering up an exclusive look at one that didn’t make it through the final editing round.
December 3, 1864
by P. H. Wentworth III
National News Editor
An age-old weapon in the waging of war is a heavy-handed, uninhibited use of force by the prevailing army. While force is clearly the objective of any armed conflict, the spectacular nature of such a campaign is undisputed and has been the making of many wartime triumphs. This will likely be the case with the long, terrifying, and ruthless march of General Sherman, which began with the burning of Atlanta and continues unchecked through the countryside.
I am not conflicted as to the validity of such an act of war, nor the rightness of using all necessary force to put down the Rebellion. Such a crusade—as it has been for centuries—is the consequence of many failed military actions. Compassion and mercy are rare in a clash between generals, and Sherman’s actions do not disappoint in this regard. This serves as a microcosm of the gratuitous destruction of the entire South, and a warning to the losing side of what is to come upon their defeat.
There are many reasons such military exploits are not in the best interest of the Union Cause. While it is true that I have personal feelings about the burning, looting, and terrorist actions Sherman’s men are taking—fear for the lives of my family, grief at the destruction of the countryside I love, futile longing for a peaceful resolution—the primary arguments I present here are not predicated on my limited concern for what remains of the Confederacy.
Economically, this campaign and its larger context are the death knell of prosperity for the winners and those defeated. The wanton destruction of property that might otherwise be used to finance the dwindling Confederate Cause also ensures such material goods may not be used to repay debt raised in the pursuit of Northern victory, nor assist in the reintegration of the Southern States at the conclusion of this conflict. It also brings surety that global interest in a newly formed Union will remain elusive due to internal instability and a marked shortage of agricultural production. Additionally, this war in its entirety will leave America burdened with debt and our military inadequate to defend against outside invasion.
Societally, this march ensures a long-term, radical distrust of half the populace of a united nation. The willful ruin of noncombatants—women, children, the sick, the elderly—and the pilfering of already inadequate stores demonstrates that the South will be denied justice from their appointed overseers for many years to come.
Such a population will naturally eschew efforts toward integration. Sherman’s actions will only create additional reason for the Southern states to remain in defiance, in heart and mind if not in action, long after the cessation of combat. This is incompatible with the best interests of both a defeated South and a victorious North.
Further, perhaps least important to those carrying out General Sherman’s orders and possibly to you, Reader, this campaign impugns the honor of these men, and indeed the Union Cause itself. Assuredly, men given free rein to indulge their basest instincts will never be inclined to mercy toward their eventual countrymen, even with the Southern population vanquished. It is with great sorrow I predict continued atrocities against the populace long after the cessation of military hostilities. There is no telling what form this violence may take, but it is certain such punishment will be swift, terrible, and long-lasting.
I have not been a centrist in many months, and this remains true even with knowledge of Sherman’s troubling tactics, but I am justifiably concerned for the future of a unified nation. A Union victory is inevitable, as it has been since the first shots of the war, and the pillaging of the defeated Southern homeland serves no purpose but the unbridled terror of the conquered Confederate states. This has been the goal of nearly every military conquest in history, but in this instance, will only result in an irreparable tear in the loosely woven fabric of this new American nation.
As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?
The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.
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