Pinstripe Press


Two Brothers: One North,
One South by David H. Jones
By Michael Aubrecht, Pinstripe Press
Date published: 9/13/2008

A month or so ago I was contacted by a historian named David H. Jones, who inquired if I would be interested in reading his novel "Two Brothers: One North, One South." Although my own work keeps me buried in non-fictional books, I do enjoy fictional works for my pleasure reading.

Some of my favorite authors, including Richard Croker and Jessica James, use accurate historical references as the backdrop for their imaginative stories and I appreciate their attention to the details, as well as their creative spins on them.

Despite my busy schedule, I hesitantly accepted David's invitation as I was nearing the completion of some deadlines. Now that I have finished his book, I am very glad that I did.

The synopsis of "Two Brothers" that was provided by his publisher states:

"Exceptionally researched and keenly accurate to actual events, along with the personages that forged them, David H. Jones's novel spans four years in the midst of America's costliest and most commemorated war.

The journey is navigated by the poet, Walt Whitman, whose documented compassion for the wounded and dying soldiers of the war takes him to Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C., and finds him at the bedside of William Prentiss, a Rebel soldier, just after fighting has ended. As fate has it, William's brother, Clifton, a Union officer, is being treated in another ward of the same hospital, and Whitman becomes the sole link not just between the two, but with the rest of their family as well.

The reader is taken seamlessly from Medfield Academy in Baltimore, where the Prentiss family makes its home, to the many battlefields where North and South collide, and even through the drawing rooms of wartime Richmond, where Hetty, Jenny, and Constance Cary are the reigning belles."

After reading that Walt Whitman would be 'navigating' the plotline, I was captivated by the premise of the tale and pleasantly surprised to find that the author did indeed deliver on his publisher's promise.

Far too often, the marketing promotions for books leave the reviewer feeling a bit unfulfilled, but I must say that David Jones has not only presented a highly dramatic and original storyline, but also composed a piece that was meticulously researched for maximum believability.

The characters in "Two Brothers" read very real, because they are. The book is closely based on the true story of the Prentiss brothers of Baltimore. Brother Clifton served in the Federal 6th Maryland Infantry Regiment and brother William served in the Confederate 1st and 2nd Maryland Battalions. Walt Whitman wrote about William in "Memoranda During The War".

A former U.S. Navy officer, the West Virginia-based author was able to combine his military training with his passion for Civil War history to produce the novel.

The concept of "Brother vs. Brother" is certainly nothing new to the Civil War bookshelf as countless families were torn apart during our nation's "Great Divide." That said it is very refreshing to find examples when historians can find a new and exciting way to present these struggles on a personal level.

David Jones has managed to do just that with the highly innovative "Two Brothers: One North, One South."

From its award-winning cover that garnered the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award for design, to the extraordinary tale it contains of a poet and two brothers who found themselves on opposite sides of an American tragedy, "Two Brothers" is a wonderful read that will appeal to history buffs on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

MICHAEL AUBRECHT is a Civil War author and historian who lives in Spotsylvania County. For more information, visit his Web site at


FLS Town & County. Also online at:
One Man's Brave Act (FLS 5/23/09)


Andersonville To Tahiti: The Dorence Atwater Story by Thomas P. Lowry
By Michael Aubrecht, FLS Town & County
Date published: 5/23/2009 CIVIL WAR

ANDERSONVILLE. Perhaps no other name struck more fear into the hearts and minds of Federal soldiers during the Civil War. Much more than a prison camp, for thousands of captured Yankees it was a prolonged death sentence.

Camp Sumter--as it was officially called--was among the largest military detainee sites established by the Confederacy, according to the National Park Service, today's steward of the historic site in southern Georgia.

During the prison's 14-month existence, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined there.

"Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding and exposure to the elements," the Park Service site's Web portal states. "The largest number held in the 26 1/2-acre stockade at any one time was more than 32,000, during August of 1864."

This heartbreaking story sounds notably similar to that of imprisoned Jewish civilians who suffered in Nazi death camps during the Third Reich's reign of terror in the 1930s and early '40s. Another significant semblance of these camps can be found in the heroic stories of those who risked additional misery to help their fellow detainees.

In 1993, movie director Steven Spielberg released a remarkable film called "Schindler's List," which tells the tale of a German businessman named Oskar Schindler who reputedly saved the lives of thousands of refugees. Today, historian and author Thomas P. Lowry--a Woodbridge resident--has contributed an equally compelling story of an imprisoned Union soldier who kept a secret list, hidden in his coat lining, of more than 12,000 deceased prisoners.

As the author of numerous studies, including "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War" and "Tarnished Scalpels: The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Surgeons," Lowry has once again revealed a highly original and neglected tale that reads very much like a Hollywood movie script, but is every bit a true story.

His plot line recalls the experiences of a young man of humble origins who enlisted in the army to preserve the Union, but ended up taking a far different journey. His name was Dorence Atwater, and today he is heralded as one of the unsung heroes of the Civil War.

As a private in Company D of the 2nd New York Volunteer Cavalry, Atwater was captured by Confederate forces near Hagerstown, Md., in July 1863. At the time, his troop was pursuing the Army of Northern Virginia, which was retreating south after its devastating defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg.

The 18-year-old horseman was first taken to Belle Island Prison in Richmond, but was eventually relocated to the stockade at Andersonville. Upon his arrival, Atwater was assigned to the camp's hospital and tasked with recording the names of those who did not survive. This gruesome position became known as the "Clerk of the Dead."

Because of the overwhelmingly deplorable conditions at Andersonville, Atwater believed that an accurate list of deceased Union soldiers would never be made available to the public following the war.

From the time of his arrival in Georgia in 1863 until his prisoner exchange in February of 1865, he recorded a separate list containing the names of Northern dead.

This roll was later confiscated by the federal government and used as evidence against the prison's commander, Capt. Henry Wirz, who became the only Confederate officer hanged for war crimes.

In the late summer months of 1865, Atwater returned to Andersonville with Clara Barton and helped to identify the graves of thousands of Union dead who had been haphazardly buried outside the camp walls. Because of the incredible accuracy of his secret document, all but 460 of the plots were properly marked.

After completing the task, Atwater refused to return the list to the War Department. He remained absolutely sure that it would be buried in the bureaucracy.

Despite the threat of incarceration, he dedicated himself to sharing his register with the entire country.

Atwater was then arrested by his own government, court-martialed and sent to the Albany Penitentiary.

Several public figures came to his aid and petitioned for his release. Among his advocates were Barton and Horace Greeley, the prominent newspaper editor and politician. Greeley agreed to publish the list and, on Feb. 14, 1866, Atwater's efforts graced the pages of the New York Tribune.

Suddenly, he became a national hero.

After his release from federal prison, Atwater was recognized for his selfless humanitarianism. Although he refused payment for his efforts, he accepted an appointment as the U.S. consul to the Seychelles, a nation of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. He was later reassigned to the consulate in Tahiti.

There, he became a successful dealer in pearls and precious metals, as well as a respected gold speculator. Atwater established himself as a pillar in the community and married the lovely Princess Moetia, who was of British and French Polynesian descent. They continued to live on the island until 1909, when an ailing Atwater traveled to San Francisco, where he died.

At his request, his remains were returned to Tahiti, where he was buried at a picturesque churchyard in the village of Papara. Today, Atwater's traditional tombstone bears his native moniker--"Tupuataroa"--which, translated, means "a wise man."

Atwater's tribute was not limited to the Pacific islands. His home state of Connecticut also erected a monument in his honor that reads, "This memorial is dedicated to our fellow townsman, Dorence Atwater, for his patriotism in preserving to this nation the names of 13,000 soldiers who died while prisoners at Andersonville, Ga."

Much like his list, this once-poor soldier left a lasting impression.

Lowry's account of Atwater's affairs is a fine narrative that does a wonderful job of depicting both the ugliness of prison life and the beauty of the islands. The dramatic contrast between Dorence Atwater's war years and his golden years clearly illustrates the potential for highs and lows that can occur during a lifetime.

The author also does a good job of establishing the importance of his character's plight. We are literally pulled into the stockade with Atwater, and we begin to understand the significance of something as simple as making a list.

Because of Atwater's initiative, thousands of families were able to find closure and mourn the deaths of their loved ones. His act became a precious gift.

You cannot help but applaud the efforts of this courageous young man as he overcomes atrocity and injustice at the hands of his enemy and comrades alike. In a genre that is far too often guilty of romanticizing the war, the focus of this book remains solely on the human element.

Tom Lowry is the author of 11 books and co-creator of a 90,000-name, multiple-variable database of Civil War courts-martial.

In an e-mail interview with me, he explained how he discovered Dorence Atwater. "My wife and I had read and computerized all the Union Army's court-martials, 75,000 approximately," he said. "There he was. With the basic story, the rest was research, research, research. We even looked for his grave in Tahiti."

"From Andersonville to Tahiti" will appeal to a wide audience, as it combines history, adventure and romance to portray the amazing life of an American hero who selflessly held the memory of strangers in the highest regard.

MICHAEL AUBRECHT is a Civil War author and historian who lives in Spotsylvania County. For more information, visit his Web site at

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