By Max R. Terman
It is the dream of most genealogists to travel backwards in time and interview their ancestors. I suspect Civil War reenactors share a like dream of traveling through time to experience the life of a Civil War soldier as it really happened. In his novel, “Hiram’s Honor,” Dr. Terman, a retired zoology professor, relives the horrors of the Civil War through the eyes of his great uncle, Hiram Terman, a private in Company F of the 82nd Ohio Infantry.
Based on ten years of research Dr. Terman assumes the personage of his great uncle, and uses a first person narrative to tell Hiram’s story. From Hiram’s enlistment, and battlefield experiences, to his capture by the Confederate Army during the first day of Gettysburg, and imprisonment in such notorious Confederate Prison Camps as Belle Isle and Andersonville, Dr. Terman has unearthed the bones of Hiram’s military service and clothed them with his years of research to build a fully fleshed out narrative of what Hiram Terman’s Civil War experiences may have been.
Early on Hiram meets two friends, Seth who wears his religion on his sleeve, and Isaiah, an agnostic. On the religious scale Hiram seems to float somewhere in the middle. Throughout the novel the debate over religion, and the beneficence of God is a constant theme.
I found the first half of the novel a bit tedious as Hiram and his pards see action at McDowell, Cross Keys, Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg where the three friends are captured on the first day of the battle as they retreat through the town. The strength of Dr. Terman’s narrative grows in the second half of the novel, as Hiram and his friends are sent first to Belle Isle, an island prison camp in the middle of the James River, and then to the living hell of Andersonville. It was compelling to read how Hiram and his friends learned how to survive, and it instantly reminded me of MacKinlay Kantor’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1956 novel and the 1996 film which it inspired, as well as John Ransom’s Andersonville Diary. That is high praise indeed!
Published by Tessa Books (I could find almost no information about them on the internet), this book has an amateurish look to it. The formatting is not what I would expect from a quality publisher; the text is a small, I would guess 9 or 10 point font, leaving very little “white space” on the books pages, and the book contains numerous photographs and maps, and the end of each chapter that would serve the reader better if they were interspersed throughout the text. But these are very minor complaints.
All in all, despite its few minor flaws, if Dr. Terman, has not managed to make time travel into a reality, he has done something very much like it.
ISBN 978-0615278124, Tesa Books, © 2009, Paperback, 242 pages, Maps, Photographs, Illustrations, Historical Notes & Acknowledgments. $16.99. Click HERE to purchase this book.