Love and War by John Jakes
This epic component, the second part of the author’s Civil War trilogy, is about the Hazzard and Main families. It shows us how war affects everyone and is seen through the eyes of each member of these families. Attitudes evolved and the livelihoods of those involved were affected both negatively and positively.
The war itself was fought for many different reasons. Mainly, the issue of slavery was the main one. Second, the war was fought to keep the union intact through an imperfect arrangement at the time. For whatever reason, this conflict caused families to tear themselves at the seams, with different ideas and different alliances. Friendships were broken and neighbors fought with other neighbors.
George Hazzard and Orry Main were very close friends, although they were both on opposite sides of the war. George was from PA and Orry from SC. George’s younger brother Billy was a union soldier and Orry’s cousin Charles Main was a Confederate soldier. They had been friends at WestPoint, but now they had taken sides and nothing would be the same again. Brett Main had married Billy Hazzard, but now this southern girl lived up north with Billy’s relatives. They were deeply in love, but Billy was a union troop fighting his southern neighbors. Meanwhile, Orry Main, who had lost an arm in the Mexican War, was now fighting on the side of the Confederacy.
Brett had to adapt to the attitudes of the Northerner who didn’t like him just because of his Southern origin. They knew who she was by her accent and how she dressed. However, the Hazzard family liked him very much and knew that he was a kind and sweet person. Brett’s attitude about slavery changed dramatically after he met former slaves and helped those fleeing his native south. She was learning to understand. She had grown up with slavery on her family’s plantation and did not see the damage that was being done, as she was always good with the hands of slaves and treated them fairly. Now, he was beginning to see the injustice in the practice of slavery. Her husband Billy learned to be more compassionate after being captured and spending time in Libby’s prison. They learned from their experiences in a positive way.
Stanley Hazzard was a war profiteer. He and his wife bought a shoe factory and made inferior boots to fulfill a contract he had obtained through his political cronies. Ashton Main and her husband invested in a boat with the help of her lover. The ship would sneak past enemy lines and bring in goods that they could sell for incredible profits. The war didn’t teach Stanley or Ashton much. It was something that fit perfectly with their imperfect personalities.
A villainous character, by the name of Elkanah Bent, was an upper-class pupil of George and Orry at West Point. He had an incredible hatred for them from his school days after they had pointed out their faults to others. Bent then spends his entire life trying to get revenge on Hazzard and Main in any way he can. He’s even looking for young Billy Hazzard and Charles Main. Bent places them all at various times throughout the story, and his mischief and unusual behavior grows worse and worse as he tries to ruin their lives. His military career is not going well due to his extreme manners and his bad thoughts regarding the soldiers under his command. He seems to blame Main and Hazzard for all his misfortunes in reaching his goals. Always think of them negatively instead of considering your own bad deeds as the reason for your failure.
George lands a military post in the nation’s capital while Orry serves the confederation. Orry is killed in battle and his love, Madeline, tries to keep the family plantation going. Slaves are excited at Mount Royal as they are at other southern plantations. The unruly workers make the place difficult to manage, but she does a good job anyway. She is determined to take care of her home as if it were still a part of her life.
Everything was progressing favorably until a former runaway slave, holding a grudge against Orry’s father, returns to the area just as the Union Army enters and begins looting houses. When the time is right, this angry slave attacks and sets Mount Royal on fire. Many of the remaining slaves, who are loyal to Madeline, try to help. They stay and try to support and protect Madeline. Unfortunately, the main house burned to the ground in the same way that other houses nearby had been.
This book shows how the Civil War had a profound effect on everyone, regardless of their different personalities. It offers a clearer insight into the lives of these two families on both sides of the war. Jakes creates some vivid characters that help attract him and keep him satisfied and interested.