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It is July of 1859, a month of sweltering dog days and feverish emotional bombast. Life is good for widower Rundell Ingram and his hazel-eyed, roan-haired son, Hamilton. Between the two of them, they take care of Moccasin Hollow, their rustic dogtrot ancestral home, a sprawling non-slave plantation in the rolling farming country outside Queensborough Towne in east Georgia. Adjoining Ingram lands is Wisteria Bend, the vast slave-holding plantation of Andrew and Corinthia Greer, their daughter Sarah and son Benjamin.
Both families share generations of long-accepted traditions, and childhood playmates are no longer children. Against this rustic idyll of hard work and gracious living comes inflexible discord and divided loyalties that mutilate ties of blood and bond, tearing at their lives as smoke and battle no longer so faraway crashes and maims ever closer. Ahead of the on-coming ranks of Blue, foragers and bumlers burn, loot, scavenge and kill. Hamilton faces agonizing sacrifices with dreadful consequences. With little else than his wits, he tries anything to protect Sarah, their unborn child, his sickly father, and Sarah's family.
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Rundell liked munching raw potatoes. He favored the smaller fresh-dug ones he called new potatoes. He'd use the bent kitchen knife that'd lost its handle on the withered moldy ones that hadn't been taken. Sometimes he didn't peel them, just rubbed off the dirt and gnawed away.
The Hollows had been spared, but damn little else had. Growing up a gangly towhead on the sprawling acres of Moccasin Hollows, Hamilton never gave much notice to outside goings-on. On his seventeenth birthday near four years ago, he got his first notion of the world beyond.
Rundell usually kept his feelings close to home, seldom using strong language, but that day his disgusted papa'd remarked, "Damn few prudent heads among the lot of them," as he flung down the Augusta newspaper. "Constitutionalist editors and those pigheaded politicians. They couldn't get off a water moccasin if it was chewin' on their big toe. Fools got no idea what they're stirrin'. Most likely don't care neither."
"What happened?" Hamilton had never seen a turmoil fret his papa so.
"I suppose it's gettin' to me more'n I thought. Benson Crouder stopped by, that's what. All gussied up in his top hat and new attire like some up-town Beau Brummell, that fancy rig of his hitched with his matched bays, their mane and tails all curried. Cain't figure some folks. Let them get money in their pockets, they act like their sweat don't stink. All fired up, heading into Queensborough for the big meet, asked if I was going. I told him I didn't see no point to another meetin'. Far as I could tell too many done decided they were finished with talk."
Not many days went by before Rundell swallowed his distaste for politics and got knee-deep in the middle of the commotion at the capital in Milledgeville. Hamilton harnessed and hitched the buggy for him.
Reins in hands, Rundell looked at his son. "Don't figure my bein' there'll make much difference. Suppose it cain't do no harm neither."
"I'll handle things. Things'll be fine here however long you need to be gone."
Hamilton would remember that day, watching Papa drive off, and how at the time the day hadn't seemed different. When he thought back, he could think of no one thing which seemed to've change, except he recalled the yellowish-orange morning light seemed sharper with a change to the air.
For way too many folks stench and fear rode the breezes, carrying the smell of char and ashes. Each day had become a hunt for food and shelter. Tending the meager gardens at the Hollows barely managed enough food, but it was food. The lawless churning mayhem, moving far and near, sometimes too close to the Hollows for Hamilton's liking--his wife and son, their unborn, Papa, Mother Greer and Sarah's brother, Benjamin. Gaunt chimneys haunted the ashes of Wisteria Bends, Hamilton's second home, the grand plantation manor where Sarah and Ben had grown up. Without money there was no point going into town. Except for land speculators, gold jingling in their pockets, there wadn't that much food to be had in Queensborough nohow.
A blizzard of thunder and hell-hot hate had smashed most homes in the countryside around Queensborough Towne. With Sherman and his army gone, worse than carpetbaggers and a lot more dangerous were the lawless bands of white trash infesting the countryside. No questions asked, easier to kill anyone that happened in their way, and get on with the stealin'. Human locust pillaging what they could get their hands on, torching homes, farms, what was left of the Queensborough courthouse. With parish land records in ashes a fair number of low-lifes claimed land which was never theirs.
About the Author:In addition to professional articles and texts on chordate neuroembryology, Hawk MacKinney has authored several works of fiction—historical love stories, science fiction and mystery-thrillers. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award, details the family bloodlines of his protagonist in the Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series: Hidden Chamber of Death, Westobou Gold, Dead Gold, Curse of the Ancients, and Blood of the Dragonfly.
Hawk’s science fiction novels include The Bleikovat Event, Vol I in The Cairns of Sainctuarie Science Fiction Series, followed by Vol II, The Missing Planets, and Vol III, Inanna Phantom.
Hawk MacKinney served in the US Navy for over 20 years. While serving as a Navy Commander, he also had a career as a full-time faculty member at several major state medical facilities. He earned two postgraduate degrees with studies in languages and history. He has taught postgraduate courses in both the United States and Jerusalem, Israel. He now makes his home in Augusta, Georgia, where he writes full-time.
Buy Links: https://www.amazon.com/Moccasin-Trace-Hawk-MacKinney-ebook/dp/B0CB24VY52
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