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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
The title of E. Frank Stannard’s historical novel, Be Bold, comes from the dying statement of Samuel Stannard to his son George on the battlefield; “... be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” As son George, with his floppy hat and beautiful white steed Charger, struggles through his life, he needs to remember these words many times. As a boy, George joined the Canadian Rebellion of 1830, where he witnesses his father shot and killed. Father and son had joined a group who objected to British Canada’s policy of returning escaped slaves from the U.S. to their owners. Later, from the hamlet of Georgia, Vermont, George Stannard is the first volunteer of that state to join the northern forces against the South. Be Bold follows George’s military career and personal life from his boyhood on their farm, through his military training in Washington, his courtship with the beautiful and faithless Helen, and through many battles, most notably Gettysburg and Fort Harrison.
I found the author’s methodology ingenious. It begins with the struggle for Richmond at Fort Harrison where George, then a brigadier general, loses his right arm in the vicious fighting. The first half of Be Bold consists of flashbacks of his life up until that point as he recuperates from his wounds, conversing with visiting poet Walt Whitman and his fellow wounded comrades. We follow all phases of his growth. The author’s research must have been immense, down to the streets of Burlington, the clothing, the tools, the horses, and farms, even a house of ill repute. And, of course, the battles, especially Gettysburg where the once-scorned Vermonters were instrumental in turning the tide of Pickett’s Charge. In a short review, there is simply not enough space to praise this outstanding work of literature. Though General Stannard is not the first hero one thinks of from the Civil War, this book makes me think he should be. My praise not only for the subject but for the power and beauty of the writing is unlimited. If you have any interest in the Civil War or even in nineteenth-century American history, you must read this book. For author E. Frank Stannard, I can only shout, “Huzzah!”