Review by Michael Aubrecht, Historian & Author, Pinstripe Press
Two Brothers more than just another Civil War novel
A month or so ago I was contacted by an author 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 historical-fiction 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 Some of my favorite authors, including Richard Croker and Jessica James, use accurate historical references as the backdrop for their imaginative stories and I appreciate their attention to detail, as well as their creative spins on the subject matter. 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.