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Sue Mundy

Sue Mundy: A Novel of the Civil War

Series: Kentucky Voices
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Sue Mundy
    Book Description:

    October 11, 1864. The Civil War rages on in Kentucky, where Union and Confederate loyalties have turned neighbors into enemies and once-proud soldiers into drifters, thieves, and outlaws. Stephen Gano Burbridge, radical Republican and military commander of the district of Kentucky, has declared his own war on this new class of marauding guerrillas, and his weekly executions at Louisville's public commons draw both crowds and widespread criticism. In this time of fear and division, a Kentucky journalist created a legend: Sue Mundy, female guerrilla, a "she-devil" and "tigress" who was leading her band of outlaws across the state in an orgy of greed and bloodshed. Though the "Sue Mundy" of the papers was created as an affront to embarrass Union authorities, the man behind the woman -- twenty-year-old Marcellus Jerome Clarke -- was later brought to account for "her" crimes. Historians have pieced together clues about this orphan from southern Kentucky whose idealism and later disillusionment led him to his fate, but Richard Taylor's work of imagination makes this history flesh -- an exciting story of the Civil War told from the perspective of one of its most enigmatic figures. Sue Mundy opens in 1861, when fifteen-year-old Jerome Clark, called "Jarom," leaves everyone he loves -- his aunt, his adopted family, his sweetheart -- to follow his older cousin into the Confederate infantry. There, confronted by the hardships of what he slowly understands is a losing fight, Jarom's romanticized notions of adventure and heroism are crushed under the burdens of hunger, sleepless nights, and mindless atrocities. Captured by Union forces and imprisoned in Camp Morton, Jarom makes a daring escape, crossing the Ohio River under cover of darkness and finding refuge and refreshed patriotic zeal first in Adam R. Johnson's Tenth Kentucky Calvary, then among General John Hunt Morgan's infamous brigade. Morgan's shocking death in 1864 proves a bad omen for the Confederate cause, as members of his group of raiders scatter -- some to rejoin organized forces, others, like Jarom, to opt for another, less civilized sort of warfare. Displaced and desperate for revenge, Jarom and his band of Confederate deserters wreak havoc in Kentucky: a rampage of senseless murder and thievery in an uncertain quest to inflict punishment on Union sympathizers. Long-locked and clean-shaven, Jarom is mistakenly labeled female by the media -- but Sue Mundy is about more than the transformation of a man into a woman, and then a legend. Ironically, Sue Mundy becomes the persona by which Jarom's darkest self is revealed, and perhaps redeemed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7162-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. ix-1)
    (pp. 2-4)

    Several likenesses of Marcellus Jerome Clarke, aka Sue Mundy, survive him. All are daguerreotypes taken during the war years, most between 1864 and the early months of 1865. The best presents a boyish figure seated—slumped, really—on a simple chair, right leg crossed over left knee, booted ankle resting forward on the cap of the knee, too far forward for comfort, strained momentarily for the eye of posterity, obviously a pose. The impression is studied repose, the upper half relaxed, the lower self-consciously and rigidly fixed in an attitude just short of swagger. The arms, superfluous before the camera,...

    (pp. 5-142)

    Uncle Nether led the way through woods a mile from any path Jarom knew. The old man shambled like a bear, his bulk borne forward in an easy rolling motion lighter than his years. He was thick, ageless as the stump in the Tibbses’ kitchen yard, his caramel-colored skin free of creases and hair, the mappings of age. Crossing the wide bottom, he led Jarom through what seemed to the boy an ocean of nettles, acres of black silt that flooded and bogged each spring like the Nile, the river in Egypt he’d read about in Woodbridge’sModern Geography.The...

    (pp. 143-341)

    Something unexpected happens when Jarom and Papaw enter the pond. Off to the left there is a splash, the wallop a bass makes against water, silence a moment, then another wallop. In rapid succession come more splashes, this time like gloved hands clapping. Jarom scans the surface for jumping fish but sees none. Whatever it is, he thinks, must be jumping from the banks. As he and Papaw move deeper in, something closer plops, his eye catching motion but no mover. Not a reptile, not a fish. A diving bird, a kingfish, say, would reemerge from the water.

    Then something...

    (pp. 342-348)

    As the procession was forming outside the military prison at Tenth and Broadway and before the guards brought Jarom from his cell, a tremendous bull suddenly appeared in the middle of Broadway. Apparently alarmed by the music, the throng of people in the street, and so much turbulent movement, the animal jumped its fence in a nearby field. According to a witness, the bull put his head down and pawed the earth with his forefeet, throwing clouds of dust over his shoulder. Fearing danger, some citizens in front, pushed forward by those behind, pulled out their pistols and fired at...

  8. [Map]
    (pp. 349-349)