Action at Aquila is a Civil War novel that breaks the mold.
On his first leave four years into the war, Colonel Nathaniel Franklin is appalled by the “hang the rebels” sentiment of his pre-war Pennsylvania neighbors. Having to execute Sheridan’s scorched earth policy in the Shenandoah Valley had drained his desire for revenge.
Back at camp in the Southern Shenandoah, Franklin befriends a confederate family whose home he had torched at Sheridan’s orders.
When the rebels attack Aquila, Franklin’s careful planning lets his men repel the vastly larger force with a minimum of bloodshed. Then Franklin, a cavalry man, blunders. Unwilling to let artillery decide the battle, he attacks. It’s a bloodbath.
Hervey Allen enlists reader’s sympathy for Franklin from the start. He’s smart, brave, kind, but a soldier. In battle he does what he is trained to do, almost at the cost of his own life.
The plot appears predictable, but at the last minute Allen twists it to keep readers guessing. He tops off the story with a romance, and oddball characters that made me laugh out loud, and musings on how the Civil War changed America.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better evening’s entertainment than Action at Aquila.Action at Aquila
By Hervey Allen
Farrar & Rinehart, 1938
1938bestseller # 10
My Grade: B+