Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War

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Penguin Books, 1999 - Fiction - 525 pages
5 Reviews
Widely acclaimed, with comparisons to Margaret Mitchell and Shelby Foote, Jacob's Ladder is a rich and poignant novel. It is the story of Duncan Gatewood, seventeen and heir to the Gatewood Plantation in Virginia. Duncan falls in love with Maggie, a mulatto slave, who bears him a son, Jacob. Maggie and Jacob are sold south, and Duncan is packed off by his irate father to the Virginia Military Institute. As a cadet, Duncan guards the gallows of John Brown; as a man he will fight for Robert E. Lee and the South. Another Gatewood slave, Jesse -- whose love for Maggie is unrequited -escapes to freedom and enlists in Mr. Lincoln's army; in time he will confront his former masters.

Permeated with a wealth of scrupulously researched historical detail, McCaig conjures up the interlocked lives of masters and slaves so skillfully that he has gained praise from African American historians and the descendants of confederate veterans. Jacob's Ladder, lauded by the Virginia Quarterly as "the best Civil War novel ever written, " is an epic tale that resonates with all the bitter glory and deep human shame of America's greatest war.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ShouldIReadIt - LibraryThing

Multiple characters' stories are told in different chapters, which can be a bit confusing but, overall, an excellent portrayal of the war from the South's perspective, specifically, Virginia. Read full review

JACOB'S LADDER: A Story of Virginia During the War

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A large, ambitious, carefully researched novel tracing the impact of the Civil War on a Virginia slave-owning family, their neighbors, and their slaves—with enough melodrama and subplots to fill ... Read full review


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About the author (1999)

Donald McCaig was born in Butte, Montana in 1940. He received a BA in philosophy from Montana State University in 1963 and completed postgraduate studies in shepherding and sheepdogs. He won the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for Jacob's Ladder and Canaan. His other works include Rhett Butler's People and Ruth's Journey, which were both authorized by the Margaret Mitchell estate. He also writes about his experience raising sheepdogs in Mr. and Mrs. Dog: Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies.

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