In the beautiful Southern autumn days, a war was becoming bloodier and bloodier by the day. Howard Bahr’s The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War takes place in the most tranquil time of the year in 1864. Bushrod Carter, a young Confederate rifleman, leaves his Mississippi town to fight in the Tennessee Army under General John Bell Hood. The story follows Bushrod and a few of his fellow Confederates through the months leading up to the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. Bahr writes the story with great historical accuracy and vivid imagery. The story documents the fear, suffering, and close bonds created with fellow soldiers through every part of the battle including the eve, during, and its aftermath. Bushrod’s luck runs high as he has never once gotten seriously wounded or shot. However, he becomes wounded in one of the Confederate charges and he is taken to a makeshift hospital where he comes under the care of Anna Hereford. She has already lost two potential romances to the war, but Bushrod attempts to form somewhat of a courtship even though he is in the middle of a terrible war that will not be settled for sometime.
This type of novel is recommended for anyone interested in the Civil War. Not too many books explore the southern battles, especially from a Confederates soldier’s point of view. Bahr does an excellent job at capturing the essence of the Civil War and its affects on the people involved. The novel was nominated for several awards, earning the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Gettysburg College, won the Book-of-the-Month Club, and was a New York Times Notable Book. The book showed some popularity and sold 10,000 copies, but was heavily overshadowed by another epic Civil War novel that was published in the same year; Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, which sold millions of copies and later became a full motion picture (Kenney).
Born August 3, 1946, in Meridian, Mississippi, Howard Bahr joined in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War in his late teens. After that he worked five years as a railroad yard clerk. Later, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi in the early 1970s in his late 20s and received his B.A. and M.A there. After graduation, he held a long-time position as curator at Rowan Oak museum, located in Oxford, Mississippi (Howard). He also taught literature at the University of Mississippi in his spare time. For thirteen years Bahr taught at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, Tennessee, but then returned to Mississippi to teach creative writing at Belhaven College in Jackson, where he now lives. (Howard). Though Bahr belongs the to the Episcopal Church, he is also a Freemason that served as the Master of the Lodge.
He began writing in the 1970s, publishing historical fiction and nonfiction in magazines Southern Living and Civil War Times Illustrated and co-editing his own publication, Lagniappe from 1974 to 1975. In 1987, he published a...