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Private Hercules McGraw
(S. Thomas Summers)

In Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War, poem by poem, Private McGraw, each poem’s speaker, shares with us his journey through the landscapes of the American Civil War. McGraw, a Confederate soldier and racist, steps into the War in order to assure that slavery will exist long enough for him to purchase a slave with hopes to impress his love, Martha. As McGraw treks through the blood and mire, experiencing both triumph and tragedy, he begins to transform into a man of peace and compassion – a man who no longer sees a black man or a white man; he simply sees a man – a fellow, a brother. (Amazon.com)

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So last night I sat down and read S. Thomas Summers’ (S. Thomas Summers: Writing With Some Ink And a Hammer) book Private Hercules McGraw. I must apologize for dog-earring so many pages! But there were many parts I wanted to remember. I was so impressed by how “human” the story, the writing was. It came alive for me, especially because we have spent a couple extended visits at Gettysburg.

I had a real “moment” on the battlefield the first time we were there. “Rest in Peace” seemed so familiar to me.

`Night came on, so hell seeped back
into the earth for a time. Dragged all the hoot
and holler with it, all the pop and bang…

I knew what that felt like because as I stood there on that battlefield that first visit, I heard all that hoot and hollerin’ echoing there in the strong breeze that day, as well as all the moanings and cries.

One other verse that quite affected me was from “Damn Good Day.”

He says, When we get ourselves to Glory, you and me will
have a talk. I got a lot to tell you. He wrapped his
fingers tight around mine and smiled…

There was something about that shared moment that stirred in me the realization that our culture today is such that heaven is a hope alien to so many of our soldiers these days. That made me very, very sad.

When I bought the book, the idea of writing it in poem form seemed so foreign to me. But then I had to stop and realize that so much of our classical literature IS written in poem for. Beowulf, for example! Reading Private Hercules McGraw opened that door back up for me. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. Am looking forward to reading S. Thomas’ next book, The Journals of Lt. Kendall Everly, which I also bought.

If you love poetry, you’ll love this book and the story it tells. It’s like reading a letter from a friend… And be sure to stop by Writing With Some Ink And A Hammer and see what S. Thomas is up to now!


(Picture Credits: S. Thomas Summers — www.northjersey.com / Book Cover — www.amazon.com)