--In the Civil War, a Texican fights for The Union at the Battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville--
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Jake Baker is a Texan who fights as a sharpshooter for the Union during the oxymoron called the American Civil War, serving with Berdan's Sharpshooters at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. But there is one fight remaining. It is when the night comes to the spirit and the past invades the violence of the moment. There’s a lot of bloodshed in C.D. Phillips novel. But the blood sometimes seems like a metaphor in a house of contradictions or ambiguities. Our bloodied hero, somewhere near the Texas-Mexico border, becomes haunted by his German Lutheran heritage. Much later, when he meets a pacifist colony of Brethren in war-torn Virginia, that ambiguity begins to lift out of the fog like death or rebirth. And we understand the theme of Phillips' sharpshooters is no less than the abolition of war and the humanity found among men and women when their bodies and soul are on the line.

“The skirmishers were still killing at a distance but their own men, comrades, were dying nearby. They screamed, gurgled, or fell silently. They died in as many ways as they lived. Some died with resignation and sadness. Others died spitting at the world and a God they thought deaf to their pleas. Some never knew they died. One moment they were sighting down the barrel of their rifle, and the next moment a minie ball entered their forehead …. Berdan’s men were not strangers to death, but they were strangers to this type of mass death at close-quarters, and it unsettled them.”

This grim account of when the very existence of our nation was on the line is told in simple, compulsively readable fashion. Like the streams of Antietam, the palpable feel of war is almost too palpable to read. For a while, I thought, The Sharpshooter 1862-1864 was too narrow, too bloody to contain the immense saga of our nation’s most terrifying times. The aim of the shooter seemed so simple; the backdrop of names too awesome to be contained. But like the flowing red blood rivers, Sharpshooter had a more deadly aim. In the humanity of rebels and Yankees, talking to each other across enemy lines, or the split-second decision whether to fire and kill, or not … when life and death is on the firing line, as close as the trigger finger, there is a moral lesson that Jake learns. It is a lesson we all must learn and the teachings, rather than narrow, become a universal truth.

“On the battlefield, death wore no ceremonial cloak. Here they moved the dead out as fast as possible to make room for the dying.”

Among this backdrop, Charles Phillip has created an American classic about the Civil War. I believe it will be considered unforgettable, singularly focused, top-shelf fiction. The battlefields are alive with death and glory, and the ambiguity of killing. The tension created, not when death is meted out, but when it is delayed or ignored for a higher principle, is what makes this book a “sure shot.” Charles Phillip has become the new sheriff in the town of historical fiction.

Robert Rubenstein, Author of The White Bridge & Ghost Runners

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