The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814 by Charles E. Sowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At the time of the time of the War of 1812, wild Indians may have “raised commercial crops, owned slaves, and bred racing horses” but that did not make them less wild. Jack Merrell lived with his young wife and infant son on the fringe of the Creek Nation. Zealot, Josiah Francis, AKA The Profit, and William Weatherford, AKA Red Eagle, threatened war against the white settlers encroaching on their land. The threat posed by the warlike Creeks, known as Red Sticks, moved Jack to sign on for a six-month stint with the militia. While he languished idly in one of many hastily erected forts, the Red Sticks attacked his and the surrounding farms while most men were preoccupied with tending their fields. Women and children were clubbed and scalped by the murderous savages and left for dead. News of the massacre reached Jack by the slow and unreliable mail system of the time. He, naturally, lapsed into a deep depression, however, neither his wife, Sarah, nor his son, William, died. Both were slowly and painfully nursed back to health. Jack, on the other hand, threw himself into the quest for revenge with careless abandon. He sustained nearly mortal wounds in a desperate attempt to drive the Red Sticks out of Alabama, but he also did not succumb to his injuries. Just as in the case of her own near brush with death, Sarah only received word that he had died. Neither received what should have been the happy correction. What transpired over in the next few years was as tragic as the near mortal wounds themselves.
The Merrell Saga is the novelized account of family history. Mr. Sowell did years of genealogical research before composing his excellent account of the disastrous chain of events that befell his ancestors. As a lover of historical fiction and family history, this book struck a sympathetic chord in me. If this story had not been true, one would be tempted to think that the unthinkably cruel coincidences that befell the characters were the result of the twisted imaginings of a deeply troubled author. The prose may lack a little sophistication, but it does not detract from an excellent, and moving, tale.
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