Book Review: Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run
by Jonah Begone
Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run
Authors: Sam Riddleburger and Michael Hemphill
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Dial (April 2, 2009)
I really tried to like this book. It has an interesting premise and the title character seems fun. Let's face it, we can all relate as kids to having to suffer through parents' control and enthusiasms which we do not share. But this work overplays the gulf between young Hinkleman and his parents - and historical re-enactors in general. (Full disclosure: I am a Civil War re-enactor myself - Union.) Stonewall seems to hold his parents in contempt.
The author never spares his criticism of re-enactors, who, in this book, are overweight, constantly out of breath, contemptible, loutish, overbearing and foolish for wanting to re-enact battle in the first place. I will admit that I have come across some re-enactors who seem crazy, but, by and large, they - we - are more interested in simply getting Americans to appreciate their heritage and sharing what we know. I, for one, am not high-minded about the hobby at all: I like to camp out with my friends and visit historic locations. Members of the public I have met who view our re-enacted battles and visit our camps are always grateful for the effort we put forth. Must this be cast by the writers as such a contemptible exercise?
The story also has the requisite amount of 21st C. political correctness; the authors have apparently written this book with the elementary school educator crowd - and their simplistic agenda about the complex politics of the Civil War - in mind. It can be easily summed up: Southern = bad. There's even an apologetic Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on hand, which, I suppose, might be possible if the man were around to express "evolved" views these days... but frankly I think this is really pushing it.
On the whole, I found this work to be mean-spirited and disappointing.
A much better modern work about the Civil War for young readers is Bruce Catton's Banners at Shenandoah: A Story of Sheridan's Fighting Cavalry, from 1955. Find a copy of that instead.
This book has a girl Stonewall's age who seems to detest her apparently evil father: one fellow throws a knife into his neck and she expresses very little regret. Isn't that harsh? The relationship between the girl and her neo-Reb father is one unpleasant feature of this book I really didn't care for.