Daniel's Garden is in Stores Now!
Read about Daniel's incredible experiences fighting in horrific battles as a newbie Civil War soldier with his three best friends!
Gripping Civil War Novel about
losing Paradise and gaining Hell
It's June 1862, the second summer of the Civil War. The battle of Shiloh has already claimed 4,000 casualties and 33 regiments have already left Boston for the war-front. President Lincoln has given Massachusetts a quota to fill - 300,000 more are needed at once!
Despite the war raging around him, Daniel Stuart couldn't care less.
He's a rich kid just trying to get through his freshman term at Harvard. What does war matter when he's worried about passing "Paradise Lost" exams? Well, his three closest college friends definitely have soldier glory on their minds. Andrew urges Daniel to attend a recruitment rally. Matthew goes along with his feisty brother, and David finds a spiritual reason to join the Federal army.
Meanwhile, Daniel's supposedly ideal home life isn't so rosy.
His older brother has career plans for him to become a lawyer, and his mother also urges him to take responsibility for his life. Daniel blows them off by escaping to his garden. Only a young Irish maid seems to understand his turmoil over his life decisions.
The choice becomes stay at home or go to war. Should he stay and commit to a dull career path as a lawyer? Or, should he follow his college friends to war?
What would you choose?
Praise for Daniel's Garden
"The author weaves in climax, tension, emotion and graceful realism to a crescendo; you can't help but feel it. She knows the era and the history--but more importantly, she knows how to deliver a historically authentic tale without getting preachy. Poetic in places and deceptively quiet to start, this sweeping novel delivers one boy's journey through Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and beyond. Battle scenes are depicted with a sharpness that sears the imagination."
- Amazon reader
"The story is well written and depicts a man that, against the wishes of everyone in his family, goes off to find his true self. He and three friends join the Union Army. The story is fast paced, exciting and thought provoking.
All of us have 'a garden', a place of refuge even if it's in our fantasy's only. Did Daniel leave that place or take it with him? Did it serve him well or haunt him? To anyone that has ever longed to set their own course and march to the beat of their own drum, regardless of the consequences, this book is for you."
- Amazon reader
"Beautiful writing, a wonderful storyline. The battles are very descriptive, lots of details."
- Amazon reader
"Meg takes us through the battles of the civil war through Daniel. The book really captured the era, the surroundings, but mostly the readers heart. I can't wait to read other books she has written. A definite read for anyone interested in the civil war era!"
- Amazon reader
Free Sample Chapter
In this chapter, we are right there with Daniel as he experiences his first battle - the August 1862 Battle of Second Manassas. From stubbing his toe to nearly watching his friends getting killed, it's all here.
I dozed against my slatted bed. Dreams and wakefulness intertwined like rivers. Flies buzzed around me, peeked through the boards and whooshed out into the dark. Andrew rested on a hay bale, Matthew snored beside an upturned crate, and David curled at my feet.
“Daniel? Wake up, private. We are here.”
“Here?” I mumbled.
It was Matthew, his insistent grip on my arm. “Warrenton Junction.”
The cattle car had stopped. There was muffled shouting from beyond, orders to sleepy troops. I squinted in the dark, my neck stiff. It was before dawn.
The regiment poured from the cattle cars like dark water from a vessel. We formed into our lines, and in the dark I could make out Andrew’s burly form, the glint of light from Matthew’s spectacles, David’s slight, bird-boned body. Half the buttons were undone on my coat and my rifle banged against my shoulder.
Sergeant Falls shouted to the orderlies scattered in the pale field. We were in a low-slung valley. It was too damn early for conversation, so I heard nothing but our familiar marching sounds. Tin cups banging, brogans plodding through the grass, swishing and bumping of the bayonet holsters. Andrew stepped lively. I felt mired in fog.
“Reports of cannons in the rear!” Falls shouted. “Follow in step, boys!”
His voice was eerily high-pitched. I took one step forward and stubbed my toe hard enough for my eyes to water. I grimaced in pain. My first march out and a God damned stubbed toe.
Warrenton Junction disappeared behind us and we followed the railroad tracks. The first few steps were clumsy, but I found the rhythm and moved along. Beside me were the rail ties, half-buried in the grass like forgotten pieces of kindling.
My toe throbbed with each step. I attempted to turn my foot, then rested more weight on my heel and hobbled forward, but I only succeeded in getting out of step and nearly suffered a twisted ankle. God damn rebs. God damn war. Our first real march and all I wanted was to sit on a rail tie and take my shoe off.
What a soldier I was!
The chill vanished and dawn peeped over the land. Next to the tracks appeared the bluish outline of a squat building, and we reached it at a steady pace. An acrid scent of wet burnt wood wrapped its arms around it. Singed bridges over two runs sent billows of smoke into the blurry morning, and the building’s perimeter was shrouded in a misty vapor.
“It must be Jackson.” A New Hampshire volunteer, curly red hair peeking from under his cap. I didn’t know the man’s name. He poked Andrew in the shoulder. “He up and come through here, ye know.”
“Jackson? From Bull Run?” Andrew spit a wad of tobacco juice. A fitting breakfast for him.
“This is Catlett’s Station.” The New Hampshire man cast a haughty glance at it. “Welcome, my friends. Ye know, I ain’t been here in nigh on a year now.”
“You fought at Bull Run?” Matthew’s eyes bulged.
“I done my share,” the recruit lobbed back at him.
We skirted the remains of the wreckage and continued, keeping those railroad ties in view when our division followed the track. Sunlight burned the remainder of the dew and we fell into a rhythm. An easy, toneless rhythm of marching. Our band began a joyful ditty, but the brassy sounds grated my ears.
“If only they’d shut up,” Matthew muttered, and I liked him even more.
“Easy, boys! The enemy has been sighted!”
The column veered towards a distant grove of pretty clumped trees. We were heading into a painting, for all the danger it possessed. The railroad tracks disappeared into the gold-tipped meadow. The sun was bright, the field was bright. I winced from my throbbing foot and loped along.
We reached an orchard, the trees hung with green fruit that would be ripe within weeks. A fresh and earthy scent of ripening apples. My mouth watered, but we soon passed into a cornfield. Papery stalks brushed against the blue wool on my chest, and the Indian corn ears bumped against my rifle and my knees. We kicked through the stalks, the fallen ears, the sticky strands.
We came at last to a little brown creek, a tiny river. Nearby a bridge burned, and its smoldering wood crackled over the brown water and the green grass. It smelled good, like an autumn bonfire.
“It must be a raid,” the New Hampshire man was saying. He spit in the grass. “Well, what do you think, boys? Ain’t so bad, now is it?”
Fireworks exploded over his head. His cap flew by me and sailed like a wool bird into the grass. I stumbled backwards, caught David’s arm, and we tumbled.
Strong arms lifted me, pulling me above the body at my feet. The fallen volunteer stared from the grass, shrapnel embedded in his jaws and cheeks. He stared, shocked by the fireworks that killed him.
“Daniel!” Andrew righted me upon my feet. David was up, too, looking shaken but not hurt. “Daniel!”
I wanted to say his name. I wanted to say something.
And the world erupted into a concert of thunder and fireworks. Shells burst overhead, spraying their deadly spittle upon us. I stumbled again and couldn’t keep my balance. My rifle felt like a leaden lance.
Somebody shouted: “Forward!”
My palms stung with the slapping of my rifle, and my legs were weighted with rocks. And the noise! The roaring music of grape shot and cannon. It drummed into me until I felt the bass through every organ of my being. My throat burned with labored breath. I licked my lips and tasted powder.
“Form a line! To your ranks!”
The order was far off, as if heard from a deep well. We stopped. I panted, dizzy and lightheaded. I braced my foot to keep my balance and the intense pain of my toe brought the world sharply into focus.
I grabbed a cartridge, tore the paper. My lips were dry and the paper stuck to my lips. A man near me poured powder down his gun, paper on his lips, too. He looked at me, and a red star bloomed on his forehead. White eyes rolled skyward. He fell, crumpled like torn paper. Shaking, I poured the powder down my gun and shoved the bullet in deep.
I swung the gun to my shoulder, using its weight for leverage. It was like tossing a poker. I spat the paper away and cocked the rifle.
“Fire down the line!”
I squinted into the smoke, aiming into vapor. I pulled the trigger. The blast shuddered through me, the groaning jolt of the weapon.
I switched my weight to my other foot, propping my throbbing toe upward. Blood streamed towards the rear of my shoe. I loaded the cartridge, rammed the bullet, put the cap on, cocked the rifle.
My bullets disappeared into the shroud of smoke before us. If I hit a man, I didn’t know. If I hit a tree, I didn’t know.
“Advance on them, boys! Steady now!”
We started to move, a shifting moat of crouched blue wool and jabbing rifles. My toe throbbed like a drum banging in my brain. I tore another cartridge and rammed another bullet.
When I replaced the ramrod, something squished beneath my pained foot. I looked down and screamed. It was a hand! The bones crunched beneath my brogan. I pulled my foot away quickly, too quickly, for I tripped and stumbled again.
“Keep firing, boys! Pour it into them!”
I bumped into a tree and steadied again in time to see the soldier directly in front of me take a bullet to the groin. I stepped in front and away from him. My heart slammed, but I couldn’t stop. Forward. Forward. Ground inched beneath me.
The smoke cleared and I spotted Matthew. His hands moved faster than I had ever seen. In the thick of battle he could load! He was driven by the singular intent to load and shoot as humanly fast as possible. A bullet zipped into a nearby sapling. I gasped so loud I shrieked. I turned from Matthew and fired into the trees and the smoke. My throat burned, my eyes burned.
Soon, I was in the cover of shade, cooling my neck, my cheeks. I reloaded the gun and jammed a fresh bullet down the shaft. Strange light speckled upon my chest. I could see little red dots, like red stars on a midnight sky. My sweaty temples were chilled. We had reached the clump of trees.
All of a sudden, I saw a splash of gray. The enemy. I fixed the cap on my gun. I would try for this one. I dropped to my knee, slapped the gun into my palm, aimed, waited.
The gray disappeared, swallowed by smoke and blood and screams. Did I hit him? I strained, leaned forward. I jammed another cartridge in the gun. I saw nothing. Nothing but the round arms of advancing smoke.
Suddenly, like the parting of a sea, the woods split open. Beyond was a huge sunlit field sprinkled with men. The scene was one of utter chaos. Several Union regiments chased a mass of gray troops out into the open. Officers on horseback shouted and waved pistols at the advancing blue soldiers. Cannon lumbered across the field, pulled by men the size of mice. They loaded and fired, shell bursting into a thousand invisible fragments.
“We’ve got ‘em!” Sergeant Falls screamed.
The rebs were fleeing! We were winning! Matthew loaded his gun. Blood flecks colored the vision through his spectacles. He wiped the lenses and the red smeared. He pointed to a shadowed building beyond the field.
“It’s Bristoe Station!”
“Onward! Follow those men!”
I coughed dust and plunged into the sunlight. Sweat collected around my collar and ran slick and salty down my temples. Forward. My armpits and thighs rubbed wet and raw against my wool coat and trousers.
I felt pain in my groin, a dull pinch. I shifted my rifle as best I could and tugged at the wool. Forward.
We double-quicked across the field. My toes throbbed and my feet squelched bloody socks as I charged across the golden valley. I ran after the gray men. Some turned and shot at us. Some pitched forward and never moved again. Our line broke into pieces, clumps of blue. Smoke draped like a fog. Our pace slowed when the field blurred and grayed.
Andrew was excited, his wide grin leering. Matthew gripped a paper cartridge, squeezed the nose of his rifle. David was breathing so heavily his entire body shook. I joined them and we all looked at each other.
“The rebs are gathering over there!” Andrew pointed to the left of the field. “We’ve got to get them!”
Sergeant Falls screamed from behind us: “Regiment! Form the line!”
We stood shoulder to shoulder, lined up abreast.
The smoke dissipated and swaths of blue light sliced through. The field was wide.
“Pour it into them, boys!”
I slapped my rifle into my palms. I tore the cartridge, poured the inky powder, rammed the gun, fumbled for the cap, cocked the hammer, hoisted it up on my shoulder. I stared down the snout and squeezed an eye shut.
I saw grass. Startled, I yanked the gun away. I was staring at land. The ground sloped upwards! And the enemy had that ground! I tilted upwards and aimed at the top of the slope. I yanked the trigger.
My bullet blasted upward. The solid weight of the gun shook. It tingled through my fingers. Beside me Andrew shot up towards the slope. Rebs were up there, perched like falcons on that ridge. They stared greedily down upon us and their rifle mouths aimed down upon Andrew.
They wouldn’t hit him. They couldn’t hit him.
He dropped his rifle, grabbed his canteen and held it in front of him. The bullets rained upon him, a thunderstorm of lead. He hit the sod and scrambled for his rifle. I screamed and bolted in front of him. My rifle jutted like a flag.
Andrew was on his knees in the grass, the mangled canteen falling to the ground. Tears streamed wet and dirty down his face, but his green eyes blackened.
To my shock and utter amazement, he grabbed his gun, bolted up the slope with the energy of the Furies, and launched into the gray mass.
I seized a cartridge, spat the paper, rammed the ball. My knees were soaked, my feet hurt, my back in pain. I smudged dirt across my face and went after Andrew. Matthew and David were beside me.
We were outnumbered and alone. The officers left, the cannons too slow, the horses gone. I stumbled up the slope, sliding on soil slick with blood. I tripped and fell over the dead and wounded. Forward. Forward.
Andrew shoved his bayonet into the soft underbellies of the enemy. Bristoe Station stood guard above the yellow smoke. The wounded fell. The rebs pushed back, harder and stronger and louder and fiercer. The river of gray multiplied, as if every dead spirit morphed into two living.
I took a step back. No! Forward! Took another step back. Forward! We were losing. Retreating.
No! Sergeant Falls was wrong. Were we regrouping? Would we push again! I aimed and fired a desperate bullet. Damn it, no!
David’s bloody face appeared in the smoke, floating near me. Blood smeared his cheeks and the blue wool of his coat. He jabbed me with the butt of his gun, jabbed until it hurt. Toes throbbed, my fingers cramped on my rifle.
I squeezed a helpless trigger and the click was hollow, a click of nowhere. Step back. Step back. We were soon running, double-quicking back across the field, away from the slope. Loss bubbled up within me, a fount of desolation. I wept when I retreated.
Breezes cooled my face. Again I was in the shade of the trees, the edge of the dappled forest. I plunked my rifle in the grass and knelt against it. I felt a hot pounding in my ears.
“I can’t find him, Daniel.”
Brogans paused next to me, sky blue trousers. It was Matthew. He took off his forage cap and let it dangle by his side, fingers brushing the speckled band. His hair was wet, plastered to his skull. His cheeks were streaked with sweat, his spectacles and eyelashes sprinkled with droplets. He looked away and out at the field.
“I can’t find Andrew.”
I immediately rose to my feet, a cold knot of anxiety gripping my stomach. Words evaded me and I searched the field in vain. Matthew was frantic.
“He ran right into their lines. He must have been hit. There’s no way he couldn’t have been hit.”
The fighting weakened and a feeble scattering of musketry fire pocketed the scene. Cannons shuffled across like sleepy cattle, the gray troops had slowed their swarm, and the fallen lay like ink splatters on a grassy canvas.
I stumbled from Matthew, found a sapling and retched dry heaves into the grass. Foul-tasting water bubbled from my stomach, burning my nose and throat. I coughed and gripped my knees.
“Well, if it ain’t the mighty Daniel Stuart.”
I rose and wiped my mouth. Smirking, Andrew held my rifle out to me. I glowered at him and snatched my gun away. I hoisted it up onto my shoulder in one perfect motion and cradled its hot end in my palm.
Matthew stared at his brother, then suddenly burst into sobs. “You stupid bastard!” he screamed. “You could have been killed!”
Andrew propped his rifle against a tree, walked over to Matthew, and gently wrapped his enormous arm around Matthew’s thin shoulder. David and I looked at each other, both in awe. Matthew soon quieted, and Andrew gave his hair a ruffle.
Our regiment gathered its scattered troops. The field looked like a messy child’s nursery, dead and wounded scattered like dropped dolls. And we lost this field. We ran from it like dogs.
The regiment formed back into columns and began to march, ending up on a roundabout path. I smelled wood burning when we passed Bristoe Station. Flames licked up to the late-afternoon sun. The enemy had abandoned this place, nowhere to be seen. The regiment skirted the edge of the trees and came at last to a clearing. In the near distance, perhaps a hundred yards from our new path, cornstalks waved their yellow leaves.
Matthew pointed in the grass. “Look.”
The railroad tracks! We had come back to the railroad? I craned my neck down the snaky black tracks. Bristoe Station burned in the distance and a line of scorched baggage cars lead away from it, like a fiery tail. Somebody had been busy while we were fighting.
Twilight descended and we rested in the clearing. Blankets unfurled like wool flags in the grass. I was hungry and glad to sit before a small fire. I took a seat next to David, too tired to put up the shelter tent. We sat on the blankets in the orange shadows of the rail cars. Crimson flames were silhouetted against the periwinkle-hued sky, faint scent of wood smoke, buzzing cicadas. I looked over at my schoolmates. Their faces were bathed in orange light.
“We made it,” David said.
“Of course we did,” said Andrew. “I say we do it again tomorrow.”
“You can’t be serious,” Matthew said. But then he started to laugh because he knew that his brother was definitely serious.