Tucson Knights, by Robert C. Mowry ISBN 9780996036528
Four out of five stars
Aged Parson Justin Stone has served his nation well over his many years, it shows physically and he has a wooden leg. The setting is the American Civil War and his childhood friend Abraham Lincoln has a critical mission for him, a difficult one that he would rather not do. The Arizona Territory is currently under control of the Union, but there is significant support for the Confederacy through an organization called the Knights of the Golden Circle. Stone is given the task to leave Washington D. C. and go out to Arizona in support of Arizona Territorial Governor Goodwin, a man that has made enemies due to hos strong pro-union position.
Stone goes armed in many ways, he has three letters, one restoring his old Army rank of Colonel, another giving him the position of an Army Chaplain and the third from Lincoln giving him unlimited powers to requisition materials and supplies. Finally, there is his US Martial star as well as his service revolver.
Due to the raging conflict between the states, Lincoln cannot spare any other men or resources, but he is desperate to keep the Arizona Territory in the union. It is a wild place, the Apaches control most of the territory and there is a conflict between the established settlers that want law and order while there are men that wanted the Confederacy and great profits for themselves. The Arizona Territory was created in 1863 after forces of the Confederacy has operated there in an attempt to seize it for their side and the timeframe here was seventeen years before the famous gunfight at the OK corral.
Stone has one advantage in the sense that the only one of his armaments that are publicly viewed is his credentials as a preacher. He is also a tough old bird, willing to whack a man with his cane when he considers him too disagreeable.
Stone’s son Buck had joined the Confederate Army to escape some trouble and when his hitch was up, he mustered himself out and traveled back to the Arizona Territory in order to reunite with his Hispanic sweetheart. The story bounces back and forth between the adventures of Stone and his son Buck before the are united in what becomes a common cause.
The story is a work of historical fiction based on a lot of facts. It holds your attention and generated enough interest in me that I did a little research about the role of the Arizona territory in the American Civil War. While it was truly a sideshow front in that great conflict, the stake were nevertheless high. Given how sparsely populated the region was, the Confederacy could have taken over land all the way from Texas to the Pacific in southern California.
I enjoyed the book, there is not a great deal of western-style fighting and shoot-em-up action, the emphasis is on the roles the main male characters are playing in the shaping of the west. Mowry attempts to generate tension, but he is not always successful. The climactic fight scene is predictable.