Book Review: The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot
February 21, 2014
The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot Genre: Historical Publisher: Tyndale House Publication Date: February 1, 2014
Every day Dance Pickett watches over Andersonville Prison. He sees men living under horrible conditions and he watches them struggle to survive. It has served to grind away at him until he feels like he’s the one imprisoned these terrible circumstances. The only thing that helps keep him sane are thoughts of the beautiful and fiery Miss Violet Stiles.
Violet Stiles is a full on southern belle. Raised in polite society, she understands all of the ins and outs of what is expected of her. It’s all underscored by her father’s position as doctor in their small town of Americus, Georgia. She takes her role as a leader very seriously and that quality is about to turn her entire world upside down.
Emery Jones is a man of honor. Whether you’re wearing blue or gray, he’ll treat you with respect and dignity. When his duties involve escorting a Yankee soldier into Andersonville, he has no idea that it likely means the man’s death. Upon his arrival, he doesn’t take long to swear an oath that he’ll get the man out of prison no matter what.
All three of these people are about to take on the cause of a lifetime; convincing people in the deep south to offer aid and assistance to Yankee soldiers. The very Yankees that murdered their way of life and, in some instances, their own family members. Any way you look at it, that’s an uphill battle.
Tracy Groot has crafted an incredible journey into history that is sure to change the way you perceive the Civil War. I grew up in Pennsylvania. Civil War history was all around me. I even dated a Civil War re-enactor for a while. So it was with no small amount of history and knowledge that I approached this read. And still I was shocked with everything I didn’t know about Andersonville and its history. I had known enough to know that it wasn’t exactly walk in the park, but I hadn’t realized how horrifying it was.
With carefully researched history, Groot plots the lives of these characters (some who are actual historical figures and others who are pure fiction) to give us an incredible glimpse into what life must have been like not only IN Andersonville, but in the surrounding areas as well. Overcrowding, no sanitation, and starvation haunt every moment of a prisoner’s existence within the walls of this prison. These are stories we may have heard or read about previously, but it takes a writer’s skill and experience to bring these things to vivid, full color life for the reader.
Another aspect that I appreciated was the perspective of those outside the prison. Where most people would concentrate wholly on the prisoner’s perspective, Groot demonstrates in this book what the dichotomy would have been for people living nearby. How do you show love to someone that might have murdered your child? What should we, as Christians, do about something like this when the people inside are your sworn enemy? None of these are simple or easy answers, but Groot handles them all with a deft hand and a touch that isn’t light but doesn’t overwhelm with heaviness. She allows the reader to step back and ask the hard questions not only of the characters she’s created, but of themselves as well.
I enjoyed the Sentinels of Andersonville more than I had expected. In fact, I’m considering adding this to the reading list for my eldest in school this year as we begin to tackle the difficult topic of the Civil War.
Two thumbs up on this one. It’s not always an easy read, but it’s immensely satisfying and well worth the time.