The Battle of Port Royal, which took place on November 7, 1861, was a pivotal Union victory during the Civil War. The successful capture of Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard led to a naval blockade of Port Royal Sound. Afterward, 10,000 slaves remained behind as their masters fled.
Leavell crafts a plausible inspirational story about these people. He combines fictional characters with historical figures including Lincoln, Secretary Chase, Sojourner Truth, author Edward Pierce, abolitionist Laura Towne, and others who provide realism. The story centers on Tad, a fictitious slave owned by Dr. Jenkins on his South Carolina plantation. Tad is taught to read by Collin, the doctor’s son. As Collin’s friend, his life is carefree and unrestrictive, but one day, Tad learns the harsh reality of enslavement after Collin lies to him. As he is whipped, he glares at Collin, calling him Judas. Gideon’s Call follows Tad on his quest for freedom and land ownership as he eventually becomes a leader for his race.
Gideon’s Call makes reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, Fugitive Slave Act, Freedmen’s Bureau, Port Royal Experiment, 54th Massachusetts Black Regiment and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which enhance and lend credence to the novel. A satisfying and historically rich read.