Hiram’s Honor: Reliving Private Terman’s Civil War
By Max R. Terman
(January 2010 Civil War News)
Illustrated, maps, references, 239 pp., novel, 2009. Tesa Books, 1350 Indigo Rd., Hillsboro KS 67063, $16.99 plus shipping
Max Terman, a retired professor of biology at Tabor College in Iowa, remembers his father telling stories of a great-uncle who served in the Civil War with the 82nd Ohio Volunteers. Fascinated by these long-ago tales, Terman embarked on a 10-year quest to find out as much as possible about his reticent ancestor. When ready to write, Terman decided to center the account of Hiram Terman in the form of historical fiction.
Hiram’s Honor follows the experiences of Hiram Terman from his enlistment in the fall of 1861 to the end of the war. Real-life personages blend with fictional ones as Hiram learns the basics of soldiering and engages in a series of bloody conflicts leading up to the horrors of being a prisoner of war.
The 82nd Ohio saw first blood at McDowell in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 and then again at Cross Keys. Moving east, they fought heavily at Second Bull Run, then spent time in the Washington defenses before taking the field again in the Eleventh Corps of the Army of the Potomac for the disaster at Chancellorsville.
Throughout his service, Hiram buddies up with two other young soldiers, the very pious Isaiah and the worldlier Seth. They lean on each other for support and camaraderie throughout the fighting of 1862 and 1863 leading up to the fateful first day of Gettysburg where, like so many of their Eleventh Corps comrades, they fall prisoner to the relentless Confederate advance north of the town.
What follows is a nightmare journey of privation as the three men move first to Belle Isle in Virginia and then are among the first to enter the new prison at Andersonville. Life quickly becomes a daily quest for survival against starvation, disease, untrained guards and the dregs of their own army who prey mercilessly on the weak and alone.
Hiram’s Honor is a fast-paced, well written novel that keeps the focus on the excitement, boredom and, at times, horror of being a foot soldier in the Civil War. The characters question the rightness of why they fight, their respect for their enemies, the moral laxness of so many of their compatriots and the constant quest for basic comforts such as food and adequate shelter both in the field and later in prison.
Maps of the general campaigns help place the 82nd‘s movements in various theaters of war and many chapters are accompanied by photos related to the events recounted.
It is not always easy to translate a historical episode into a coherent fictional account. Too often modern ideas and attitudes can intrude into a story. Max Terman, though, has adequately made this leap. Read this novel and you can feel like you are cold, hungry, footsore and afraid just like so many of those young boys of old.
Kenneth D. Williams
Kenneth D. Williams is writing a book on the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers and is doing doctoral level work in American history. He has worked as a park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.