(8/20/12 Web Exclusive Civil War News Book Review)
The Surrender: The Last Cavaliers: Three. By Gilbert Morris. Novel. 320 pp., 2012, Barbour, www.barbourbooks.com, $14.99 softcover.
Gilbert Morris is a prolific writer — he has generated more books than has 20th-century novelist John Jakes. Morris writes books in a series format, and has written over 25 multi-volume series with 6.5 million copies in print. His fiction has two characteristics —they reflect Christian values and they are told from a Southern perspective.
Morris, born in Arkansas, was as a pastor prior to becoming a professor of English at Ouachita Baptist University. He began writing novels for adults and children in 1985. He is best known for his 40-volume House of Winslow series and his novel Edge of Honor, which was a 2001 Christy Award winner.
The Surrender (2012) is the third and concluding novel in the three-volumeLast Cavaliers series. The other books in the series are The Crossing (2011) and The Sword (2011).
The Surrender has a well-developed, multi-faceted plot and several main characters, although two are the novel’s main focus. It begins with the courtship, marriage and early life of Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee. Lee appears not as the impenetrable marble man portrayed by historian Thomas Connelly, but as a happy family man who is devoted to his invalid wife and who dotes on his children although his military duties often cause him to be absent from home.
One of the main protagonists, Morgan Tremayne, does not appear until a party at the Lees’ home in Arlington, Va., in Chapter 5. Tremayne is a horse trader with an estate in the Shenandoah Valley and a second residence in Fredericksburg. He becomes a close friend of the Lee family, especially with Mrs. Lee.
When the war arrives, Tremayne, a pacifist, is torn between his personal Christian ideals and his attachment to his state of Virginia. An honorable man, Tremayne takes in a young girl, Jolie DeForge, made homeless by the death of his close friend and neighbor. A beautiful octoroon, she evolves into a young lady as the war progresses. She is the other main character of the novel.
Eventually Tremayne volunteers as a private in the Confederate quartermaster division and serves as an aide to General Lee. Many of the chapters depict the war through the eyes of Tremayne, who was usually close to Lee during the conflict. A severe injury tests Tremayne’s faith and his value system.
The Surrender is a nicely related tale with numerous connected sub-plots woven together in a realistic manner. It is a story of love, bigotry, courage and faith. Gilbert Morris has written a very readable and well-researched historical novel.
While some may find it overly romantic, The Surrender is recommended for those who enjoy this style of book. The novel and its conclusion may surprise the reader and do provide a somewhat different view of Southern life during the Civil War era.
Michael Russert, a member of the North Shore Round Table of Long Island and the Company of Military Historians, has a MALS plus 60 hours in American Studies.