When I was in school, my history books mentioned major battles in American wars, particularly if the Amricans won, but the accounts of the battles were bloodless and bland. Sometimes hardship was mentioned—Washington crossing the Delaware with all that bad weather, for instance, but the history books didn't dwell on misery. History, it seemed, was all about glorious victory.
I recently finisheded read Sharyn McCrumb
's historical novel, King's Mountain
, which is about victory in a Revolutionary War battle—the Battle of King's Mountain in October 1780. But McCrumb's battle account isn't like the history book ones—hers has plenty of hardship, blood, and difficult choices. While the battle itself actually lasted about an hour, getting ready for it took some time. Frontiersmen had to band together, recruit unpaid militia members, acquire provisions, and travel to where the Tories posed a threat. This battle, while not widely known, was important in America's winning the war.
Reading King's Mountain
took me some time, too, because there was a lot of information to digest. I read a few chapters a day. The cats kept me company while I read.
Sometimes I read in bed at night; sometimes I read outside in the gazebo or under a tree.
I enjoyed the book for several reasons. One is McCrumb's scholarship. It's obvious she'd done her homework. Another is that the King's Mountain battle took place in the Appalachian Mountains and involved settlers on the North Carolina and Virginia frontier, so it chronicles an important part of Appalachian history. And one of the folks involved on the frontier was an ancestor of mine—my 4th great-grandfather, General Joseph Martin.
While Joseph Martin doesn't play a significant part in the book, Crumb does an admirable job crediting Martin with his importance in dealing with the Cherokee as well as dealing with his "marital irregularities
." Here is part of p. 151 where he is mentioned . . .
. . . and more on part of p. 152.
Another reason I liked King's Mountain
is that the story was told in first person using alternating narrators—frontiersman John Sevier and camp follower Virginia Sal, though Tory leader Patrick Ferguson narrates one chapter. The alternating viewpoints give the story more depth and make it more up-close and personal.
The characters—mostly based on real people (except for one who's supernatural)—are complex and face difficult choices. I like how McCrumb handles both description and dialogue. The language flows naturally, and the rhythm of Appalachian speech is evident. Both dialogue and description work to keep the narrative moving while letting the reader understand what's happening.
Because I'm descended from one of those involved at King's Mountain, Sharyn McCrumb sent me a special bookplate.
I enjoyed King's Mountain
, and recommend it to those who enjoy Appalachian literature and historical fiction.
The cats haven't expressed their opinions yet, though.
Labels: Appalachian Lit, book review, cats