Opening as Sherman's soldiers win the Battle of Atlanta, Of Love and War: 1864 follows Billy Leidig, a young Georgia Militia deserter, as he searches for Lenora Moffat, the escaped slave girl he loves. The graycoat private blunders into a firefight and gets captured by her. Now disguised as a man and enlisted as bluecoat sergeant in the U. S. Colored Infantry, Lenora leads a wildcat black squad on one flank of Sherman's march from Atlanta to the sea. They free slaves at plantations the army itself will not reach. Despite doubts about her mission, Billy dons the uniform of a fallen Union lieutenant and joins them. At one plantation they free shackled and starving slaves hidden by their master to forestall emancipation by Union troops. The seven squad members confront a 40-man platoon of Confederates "refugeeing" a coffle of 300 slaves, marching them on a chain out of Sherman's path. The squad ambushes the platoon and emancipates the slaves-at heart-rending cost to themselves. But the sheer joy of breaking slave shackles with a cold chisel converts Billy to Lenora's cause. Hopeless about their future together, she nevertheless woos him. She teaches squad members to read by quoting sexy verses from the Song of Solomon and gazing into Billy's eyes. This book focuses on Emancipation, the great prize the North won in America's most tragic conflict. It challenges the view of most Civil War novels that gallant fighting even for a bad "Cause" is admirable. And yet the callous act of a Union general at Ebenezer creek as the novel ends foreshadows how the North, too, in coming years will fail the freed slaves.
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