Silent We Stood

Written by Henry Chappell
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

This novel is based on a true event: a fire occurring in Dallas, Texas in July 1860 in which three slaves were accused of arson and hanged without a proper trial. In Dallas, there are a number of abolitionists working in secret to help escaped slaves flee across the border into Mexico. Joseph Shaw, an undertaker, along with his freedman assistant Samuel Smith, helps to hide the slaves at his home and transport them south using his coffins as “human carriers.” Ig Bodeker, a local preacher, and his wife, Rachel, assist his endeavors. Other major characters include an African-American named Rebekah, along with a one-armed runaway slave who helps move escaped slaves to Dallas.

Filled with suspense and human drama, this novel could become a classic work of pre-Civil War America. Chappell is a superior writer of literature in his use of language, blending in historical characters with his fictional ones with great success. Throughout the tale, the reader remains on edge, unsure when or if the abolitionists will be caught while feeling empathy for the blacks fleeing slavery and traveling the Underground Railroad. The abolitionists, who must not voice their opinions, are constantly faced with negative attention by those in the community who favor slavery. This is historical writing at its best, a must-read for Civil War aficionados.

This novel has all the breathtaking cruelties and valor a lover of historical novels can hope for. Highly recommended.