Honor Comes A Pilgrim Gray is a US Civil War novel based on an actual Union soldier’s diary using American realist / naturalist school overtones, color, and British gothic romance / horror elements.
The beginning runs c. from (Prologue to) Chapter 1 to Chapter 28, 1860/1-1862/3.
Jonah (“Jack”) Chance Deltlowe begins his journey as a Union soldier from Ball’s Bluff to Fredericksburg (where he wins the Medal Of Honor in a battle of dubious honor). Deltlowe comes from ancient New England king grant landowners who’ve fallen on hard times by the Civil War’s outbreak, nearby landowning families – one of whom is his love interest’s – having swindled the Deltlowes over the centuries. All they have left of Thomas Dellough’s king’s grant is a small postage stamp of land called “The Kingdom” : the family used to own Springs Pond nearby and, crucially, Windemere Pond. Windemere is a pond on the former Deltlowe estate now belonging to the Gantrells which both Ginny and Jack love; the war for it is “on” for the contenders of this lovely property. It is symbolic of the struggle in and between families, societies and rapidly-changing nations in turbulent political times.
Jack’s swept up in the war from his disadvantaged present, to the advantaged love interest’s (Guinneve – “Ginny”) Gantrell’s family and especially to the rich and spoiled anglophilic Brysons – this latter containing the triangle’s competitor to Ginny’s hand, Cameron Bryson. But the Gantrells, too, have fallen on relatively hard times and a promised marriage between Cameron and Ginny will seal fortunes of the scheming Amos Gantrell (Ginny’s father) and Needham Bryson (Cameron’s father) – despite Jack and Ginny’s love. Ginny, who’d hoped to go to the earliest form of what became Radcliffe College is sent to a woman’s seminary instead due to her scheming sister Charlotte’s jealous influence over her father. Ginny is to be used as a pawn to wed fortunes together and nothing more, severely limiting her talents. Another tension-adder to the love interest between Jack, Cameron, and Ginny is the handsome Rafael Falkirk Muir, Jack’s and Ginny’s friend; a romantic soldier, poet and dreamer with a fatal flaw.
Other families like e.g. the Dealys and Osgoodes also have aims to completely finish off the Deltlowes, grabbing land before this “quick war” is over. Subplots of intriguing usurpers such as e.g. Charlotte Gantrell, Ginny’s cruel sister, Needham’s old and vicious father Prebustius Lanham Bryson, and Colonel Spraugue Dundee add to conflict, complexity, and intrigue to gain safe passage for blockade running for their financial empires in the US north, south, and in England. Deflecting from the conflict are Billy, Jack’s younger brother, and their older long-lost brother Luke; Ginny’s faithful servant Auntie Mae who reassures Ginny, the platonic, strongly moral and intelligent Gantrell brother Crane – who also loves Jack – aiming to protect both, and the hapless, fated thieving -if intelligent and noble- Irish immigrant Abdiel (“Pat”) Dolan who sacrifices all. The “big picture” backdrop (backstory) of the war from perspectives of Lincoln, McClellan, Lee, Davis, Grant and others is begun in accordance with actual history from c. 1860-1862/3 (Grant in 1848, thence to 1861).
The middle runs c. from Chapter 29 to 58, 1862/3-1864/5.
Romantic interludes appear where Jack, now a lieutenant, woos Ginny once back home among the rich and influential families he is invited to be among due to his congressional medal. Officers from the rival families have unexpectedly fallen below Jack’s mark, except for the scheming Cameron, buoyed only by his genius for evil, and mostly assisted by Charlotte and Dundee, Dundee the evil southern prison warden-turned-war profiteer. Cameron actually manipulates the mail service so that Jack’s letters do not reach Ginny or hers, him. Mistrust upon ignorance between the lovers exacerbates their agony. Billy, who meets Jack at Antietam as a corporal is killed, and Jack swears to retrieve his body one day. Ginny’s seemingly-delicate brother Crane becomes a Union army officer in the Signal Corps, quitting Harvard. All this goes on through the Gettysburg sequence to intensify the drama, where Jack is wounded, and the travails he endures while conflicting actors still succeed, Jack imagining he sees Ginny on the battlefield, and then actually seeing her. Meanwhile, Cameron betrays a deep love for Ginny.
But the tide is changing and everything from black and white slavery through white class privilege to very private estate ownership south -and north- gets swept away by the land reforms of 1863 along with the Emancipation Proclamation. The mighty estates both north and south days’ are numbered, the tide turns and with it, and the end of America’s first republic is colored in romantic, poetic prose. Pat “Ab” Dolan gets Jack off the Gettysburg battlefield after fourteen grueling days and leaves him a crucial note. Muir’s flaw as a gambler allows him to be blackmailed by Cameron Bryson, which saves the cowardly Major Bryson from the noose when Muir caught for being a coward at Gettysburg.
Rafael Muir’s Confederate opposite number and look-alike, John James, who intrigued with Jack earlier in the story, kill each other at Spotsylvania Courthouse. A body mixup sends Muir to Maryland and James to Massachusetts. The irony of the opposite burials intensifies the terrific tragedy of the war, Ginny grieving over the body of a strange man. Charlotte Gantrell, Prebustius Lanham Bryson and Spraugue Dundee run the blockade for Needham Bryson in the north, furthering the ill gotten gains of the Brysons whilst Amos Gantrell – secretly hoping for his daughter’s happiness – dithers. It is starting to look desperate for not only the south, but also for the fortunes of the Gantrells, Brysons, the Osgoods, Dealys and others. But the light at the tunnel’s end isn’t seen yet by Jack and Ginny. The “big picture” backdrop (backstory) of the war from perspectives of Lee, Grant, Lincoln and others is continued in accordance with actual history from c. 1862/3-1863/4/5 as Grant takes total command of the Union army.
The end runs c. from Chapter 59 to 87 (to Epilogue) 1864-1866 / 2009.
War has improved the economy of Jack’s threadbare family in Massachusetts. Getting back in the army after recommissioning, Grant’s Overland Campaign sends Jack Deltlowe headlong into southern prisons upon his capture at Cold Harbor. For nearly ten months he is on the run from various officer prisons in Georgia, South Carolina, and elsewhere. Staying faithful, escaping again, Jack is suddenly captured by Texas Rangers acting as military police in Georgia; the Rangers’ sergeant is none other than Jack’s long-lost brother Luke. For awhile, Spraugue Dundee and even Charlotte Gantrell take turns punishing Jack at recapture as they squeeze likely captured Union officers routinely for booty and influence – cruel Charlotte revealing her strange love for Jack. But Jack manages to get away again with Luke’s unexpected help.
Grant’s using prisoners of war to laden the southern logistics command guaratees a speedier end to the war as Charlotte, Prebustius Bryson and Spraugue Dundee’s plots come to nought while the southern economy collapses. Dundee is caught and is used to lure Cameron Bryson by now-brigadier general Crane Gantrell, risen to the judge advocate’s general due to his probity. Crane is on to all of Cameron’s and the other plotting families’ plots. Crane, revealing the scheme of the blockade runners into his own family after finding mail fraud from Cameron (witholding Ginny and Jack’s letters) captures the agents behind the blockade running ring, including Needham, his own father – and brother (Bret).
Jack is finally released from Confederate prisons in March, and spends time recuperating in Connecticut. Charlotte who feigned sucide in South Carolina reappears seeking Jack in Connecticut. Cameron Bryson escapes with Dundee, the plot to catch him using treasury agents by Crane failing (they flee west and south respectively). Prebustius and Needham are killed. Amos, protected by Crane, is reunited with Ginny. The rest are in jail.
Jack is mustered in and out of the army twice, is afraid to return to Massachusetts, but once he does, finds that Ginny, Crane and Amos have lost their estates (as have the Brysons and others) him thinking like Crane that Cameron is dead. Jack, going through his military things, finds Pat “Abdiel” Dolan’s Gettysburg note on his pilgrimage to retrieve Billy’s body in Pennsylvania (with the plan to visit Ginny and Crane at Crane’s duty base in Washington). He discovers that the note is actually a treasure map showing where war-booty from the fleeced dead and wounded at Gettysburg is buried. The “big picture” backdrop (backstory) of the war from perspectives of Lincoln, Lee, and Grant ends in accordance with actual history from c. 1863/4-1865.
The 1866-2009 sequence stops with Jack’s getting the unclaimed booty with Luke’s unexpected help. The reader recreates in their imagination how Jack and Luke help bolster the Deltlowe family due to telescoping into the future, where ancestor Ann Deltlow in 2009 is introduced. The 2009 (Epilogue) shows Jack’s great granddaughter, Pennsylvanian Ann Deltlow – an army officer – further tracing her “old Yankee” roots in Massachusetts. As she does so, she reconstructs the life Jack and Ginny lived (at The Kingdom, and Windemere Pond, which they presumably purchased back in 1866) sees the nearly vanished “Kingdom” and the Deltlow graves, the Gantrell manor home they renamed “Dolan House” and – scarily – the military-historian Ann’s mistake when reading poetry off a civil war grave!
Please ask any interested parties to review it online at Amazon.com.
Steven Haywood Yaskell