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Sons of Abraham

Over two dark and bloody days, in the north Georgia woods near Chickamauga Creek, the Union army came to the brink of a disaster which could have changed the outcome of the war.  Had the Confederate army struck a decisive blow on the afternoon of September 20th, as George Thomas held fragments of the army in place for hours across the crest of Snodgrass hill, desperately waiting for sunset . . . had the Confederates aggressively followed the broken and demoralized Union army into the streets of Chattanooga . . . the Union's western army might well have been destroyed.  The Atlanta campaign might well have been impossible, and without the timely fall of Atlanta, the 1864 presidential election might have turned out differently.

Sons of Abraham tells the story of those days through two relationships in crisis.  Aaron, Judson and Billy are young Kentuckians.  Judson has followed Aaron into the Union army, where Aaron has risen to command of a company.  When the story opens, Judson believes in old-fashioned notions of honor and glory.  Aaron is ailing, not yet recovered from a summer's bout with typhoid, but he knows that the war has changed him.  Aaron has become so immune to the violence and death that surrounds him every day that he compares killing in battle to slaughtering hogs on his farm.  The brothers are plagued by nightmares - Judson's about the death of their young brother Joshua at the Battle of Perryville eleven months earlier, and Aaron's about the encounter of his young wife Nannie with Confederate marauders just before Perryville, a confrontation which led to the stillbirth of Aaron's son.  But their brother Billy has chosen a different path.  Refusing to fight against "his people" - even though Kentucky has never seceded - Billy has joined the Confederate army, where he now serves as a staff aide to Confederate General Benjamin Hardin Helm, who also hails from the brothers' home town.  As the novel opens, Aaron and Judson realize that for the first time, they will be across a battlefield from their young brother.

The second story is another triangle, this time of three professional soldiers - Union generals George Thomas and William Rosecrans, and Confederate General Braxton Bragg.  Thomas, a Virginian, has rejected his old life and risen to corps command, but he has paid a heavy price; early in the novel, he receives a letter from his beloved sister disowning him, and in an endorsement to a letter sent through the Union lines, his old friend Bragg calls Thomas a traitor to his state. 


General Rosecrans confidently drives his army into battle with the serenity of a man who has never faced defeat, but within hours, he suddenly comes face to face with overwhelming and inexplicable disaster.  Bragg, on the other hand, has lived his life believing disaster was always around the corner.  Faced with the stress of an all-out battle with the future of the South at stake, will Bragg finally break?