Stories of the Confederate South: A Review

A Review of Stories of the Confederate South

This review was published recently in Louisiana Libraries Spring 2009, pp. 41-42  A review by Christy J. Wrenn, Magale Library, Centenary College of Louisiana.

Winner of the 1998 Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition, Rickey Pittman teaches freshman composition at Louisiana Delta Community College. Currently, he finds himself writing freelance, editing, singing, playing guitar, and writing songs for Angus Dubhghall, a local Scots-Irish band that performs at Celtic festivals in the South.  He is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp Thomas McGuire, in West Monroe. Pittman also has the titles of Civil War reeanactor, public speaker on the War Between the States, and an original musical performer of Civil War period music.

Pittman’s love for Civil War history and his devotion to Southern Heritage led him to write this collection of eleven exceptional short stories on the subject of the South and the Southerners he found during his research of diaries, biographies, and specific historical events.

Rickey Pittman is an impressive teller of Civil War stories. Within all of them, Pittman pulls bits of details of Civil War history out of time, past or present, to create stories of passion and character to let his readers in on a secret or two that may never have crossed their mind. In the first contemporary story,  “Just Another Confederate Prisoner,” the author introduces us to Joseph, a young man whose father just died in Afghanistan. His mother finds a new boyfriend from Iowa; consequently, Joseph is removed from his beloved Louisiana where he is a senior playing sports for the West Monroe Rebels and active in a Civil War reenactment group where his father was a member. Joseph is dropped into a new place where he has difficulty fitting into their anti-Confederate culture.  His introduction to a new Sons of Confederate Veterans group opens his eyes, and gives him the endurance to stay in school until age 17, when he becomes emancipated by his mother to move back to Louisiana.

In “The Taking of Jim Limber,” a young Yankee soldier tells the narrative of soldiers who invaded the home of Jefferson Davis in Savannah, Georgia. The soldiers transported Davis to Fort Monroe and returned to his home to places his wife and children under house arrest. Captain Hudson, a Union official, was not comfortable that the Davis children had an African American playing companion, a boy named Jim Limber. Hudson believed the child to be a “bastard slave child of Jefferson Davis.”  Hudson began a plan when he said, “Maybe I’ll give him to someone who will teach him to hate you and the South.” Jim Limber became the story of a beaten slave that once belonged to Jefferson Davis as Captain Hudson toured through several major cities to put Jim on display.  When it was time to end the sideshows, one night the Captain and the young narrator Yankee soldier came back from the river without Jim. Was it guilt, or Jim’s ghost that later haunted the young soldier?

“Manhunter” unfolds the story of an expert tracker and marksman named Chicolithe and his special tracking dog Nimrod.  A young guard from Camp Ford delivers a summons to Chicolithe to help find six Federal prison escapees during an electrical storm.  He knows that this is not just an escape: the prisoners will have weapons, food and a route planned, but Chicolithe would have six blood hounds and his dog Nimrod, whose name means “mighty hunter of men.”

Rickey Pittman has the most matchless technique for taking a powerful theme of the Civil War and illustrating it with an explosive twist.  For example, in “Freedom: An Allegory,” James, a seven-year-old slave, lost his mother to fever death and his father to a bullet shot by a Federal Calvary man.  His good friend and his Master’s son, William, gives him a rabbit which James names Freedom. On a requested trip to the neighbors for the Mistress of the house, he sees an eagle, “the bird of freedom,” perched above on a pine tree. He lets the rabbit go and is please to set the bunny free, until the eagle swoops down and gives the rabbit true “Freedom” as it carries it north.

This short story collection would be a recommended addition for any public, school, or academic library shelf.  Pittman has proven himself as a unique writer for this Civil War historical time period.  He has also written the book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House.