The Scorched Earth

Written by William Gear
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

This is a saga of the Hancock family of Arkansas during and immediately after the Civil War. The father and Butler, one of his sons, join the Confederate army, while the older brother, Phillip, is away at school in Boston, studying to become a doctor. Sarah and youngest brother Billy remain at home with their mother. The war will bring death to the door of their homestead because of the Battle at Pea Ridge. Troops, both Federal and Confederate, continue to ravage the farm of its produce and animals.

Meanwhile, Phillip returns from Boston and serves as a surgeon in the Rebel army. The war alters the lives of all the siblings as they learn to deal with prison camps, rape and the mental anguish of the war. They all become traumatized, faced with guilt and searching for answers. Will the Hancock family ever reunite after the war concludes?

This is a long novel, but I found the story a real page-turner and difficult to put down. Even though the author introduces the reader to several characters, he still manages to develop each one so that you can sympathize with their individual problems. As the story unfolds, the author continues to place his main characters (the Hancock family) in difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations. The author knows the Civil War, especially how it affected the state of Arkansas and its citizens. His battle scenes are well-researched. As the story moves west and reconstruction arrives in the Southwest, the author delves into the difficult problems faced by the Southern sympathizers. This is a well-written book and a worthwhile read.