The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War

Written by Howard Bahr
Review by Robert B. Gold

In November 1864, General John Bell Hood ordered the army of Tennessee to perform a frontal assault against a secure Union defensive position outside the town of Franklin. Howard Bahr’s novel begins the morning before the battle and ends with its aftermath. It tells the story of Bushrod T. Carter, a young Confederate foot soldier seasoned by almost three years of fighting. Bushrod and his two friends deal with the internal struggle of men who wish to live, but realize they are likely to die. Wounded in battle, Bushrod is removed to a nearby farmhouse being used as a temporary hospital. There Bushrod meets Anna, a relative of the family that owns the farm. She tends his wounds and follows him in his search for his comrades. The Black Flower is not a love story, but the feelings that develop between Bushrod and Anna provide a vivid contrast to the overwhelming carnage that surrounds them.

The Black Flower is meticulously accurate, with historical detail woven into every page. Superbly researched, the scope of description ranges from the infamous Battle of Franklin to a foot soldier’s accoutrements. The emotions of those involved in the brutal conflict are artfully conveyed. Evocative and powerful, the horrors of war are shown through the eyes of several characters. Character development is rich and detailed, even for those tangential to the story. The author has a fine literary style that manages to fall short of being overwritten. This is an impressive first novel which is highly recommended.