History has been written many times over and over, yet some authors can bring to life a part of American Heritage that strikes the heart of mankind.
A local author, Jack W. Lewis from Oriskany, will have a book signing at The Emporium on Main Street in New Castle, on Saturday, June 24, beginning at 11 a.m.
“I’m really glad that my first book signing for the novel is at the Emporium with Phil because I love his store,” Lewis shared. “He has a great collection of books, and his reading recommendations are always spot on…I think we’re lucky to have a store like this in our area.”
Jack’s new Civil War novel, Storm Coming, is a historical novel focusing on the first year of the Civil War in western Virginia.
Lewis has four previous books to his credit. However, few locals are familiar with them, as most are engineering textbooks on topics like feedback control systems. He hopes to achieve a larger readership with this one, his first work of general fiction.
It tells the story of Jack’s great-grandfather Alexander Swaney, who joined the First Virginia Volunteer Cavalry in 1861. Jack has long been a Civil War aficionado and, by his own admission, used to consider himself something of an “expert.” However, when he began to peruse the military records of his great-grandfather, Alexander Swaney, he wondered why a southwest Pennsylvania farm boy would join a Virginia cavalry regiment.
Lewis shared that as his research went deeper into the official records of the Civil War, he wondered why there were two different First Virginia Cavalry regiments. As he found out, one regiment, the one his great-grandfather joined, was loyal to the Union (and ultimately became the First West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry in 1863). The other was Confederate.
At first, Lewis said that he was interested in writing about his great-grandfather’s exploits later in the war, because he was Union General John Buford’s orderly at Gettysburg. “But then I became totally fascinated by the early War in western Virginia, which led to West Virginia becoming a state in 1863,” he added. “How West Virginia split and became a state is a complex and amazing tale, and I knew so little about it before I began the research for this book, despite growing up right next to the West Virginia border with Pennsylvania. I wanted to tell that story through the eyes of the characters who lived it.”
As Lewis points out, Virginia is the only state that lost any territory in the Civil War, and how that came to pass is a gripping story involving many of those who later became the major players of the War, including Lee, McClellan, and “Stonewall” Jackson. All of them, along with many other famous military leaders, fought in 1861in the mountainous region that later became West Virginia.
“In 1861, Virginia had its own mini-civil war, as many of the western counties fought to secede from Confederate Virginia—and it was a real slugfest!” Lewis exclaimed. “Loyalties were seriously divided, with towns and counties right next to each other seeing things completely differently.” He said that Craig and Botetourt counties just barely missed making the cut into West Virginia.
“It’s interesting to me that Lincoln finally ‘OKed’ western Virginia seceding from Virginia, but not the South seceding from the rest of the country!” Lewis added.
The specific details in the book, will bring many back to those times. The book will be priced at $15.95 for the print version. However, several drawings will be held for free copies during the book signing on June 24.
Lewis, who just turned 80, plans to continue the story of Alexander Swaney’s wartime experiences in future novels. “I still want to write about Swaney at Gettysburg with Buford,” he said. “And I have a few ideas for more engineering books too.” For additional information or questions, you may contact Carol Lewis at [email protected] or (540) 567-2000.