We have become huge fans of Heirloom Audio Productions' series, The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. Their third release, With Lee in Virginia, was a much-anticipated edition here. Not only did we recently study the American Civil War, but we were literally going to be "with Lee in Virginia" this summer -- we were heading to Appomattox Court House National Park. The timing couldn't have been better!
|McLean Home Parlor|
Lee wrote surrender terms on the marble-topped desk on the left as Grant waited on the right.
We also get to experience the war from the perspective of a Cavalry youth. The hero of our story, Vincent Wingfield, is fifteen years old and a plantation heir. Yes, he's a slave owner, but one with a conscience. He refuses to allow another owner to beat a slave, and even does the unthinkable -- he buys that slave's wife and toddler son, to prevent them being separated, and later aids the man in escaping to Canada. I think Heirloom has done a nicely balanced presentation. Is slavery wrong? Absolutely. Was there horrible mistreatment at the hands of owners and overseers? Again, absolutely. But Henty's story shows that while slavery is wrong, the politics of it aren't as simple as "just let them go," nor was every slaveholder a monster. When young Vincent is finally old enough to go off to fight, he goes not as a slaveholder, but as a Virginian fighting for his state's ability to govern itself. He also is a bit starry eyed, like many of the boys in his regiment; patriotism runs high and they've not yet seen the blood running deep. Almost immediately, we know the blinders come off when his dearest friends are shot down in the heat of their first battle, and by the time Lee surrenders, Wingfield yearns for nothing more but to return to home and peace.
Henty's writings have a decidedly Christian undertone that is honored in the audio drama. Frequently, there were times where the characters were engaged in prayers for the success of their campaign and that their lives would be spared. As we listened to Lee pray for guidance throughout the two hour story, a slack-jawed Luke gasped and repeated this passage of Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration speech that he had studied.
|Lee's Arlington Home, overshadowing the grave of |
President John F. Kennedy
In addition to the two disc, two hour audio program, we received a downloadable study guide containing biographies of the real life main characters in the story, as well as historical maps, photographs, and drawings. The study guide helps facilitate discussion of challenging topics like slavery and towns and even families divided by Northern and Southern loyalties. We decided it couldn't have been easy -- even the first family was fractured when Mary Todd Lincoln's Kentucky-born brother-in-law fought and died as a Confederate soldier. The audio program is recommended for ages six and up, and the combination of audio plus study guide makes it a very good section of Civil War unit study for an older student. Politically, the Union was ultimately victorious, but With Lee in Virginia humanizes the story of the South's fight and shows Confederacy was comprised of rebels, not monsters. One side wore blue, one side wore gray, but both bled red.
In our past editions of The Adventures of G. A. Henty from Heirloom Audio Productions, we've marveled at the feeling of being part of the action through the riveting dramas, and With Lee in Virginia was no different. If anything, knowing that this story wasn't just "old history," but our history, made it more special and important to us. We very highly recommend this program, and can't wait for the next in the series to be released! You can also read other reviews by clicking the banner below, or connecting with Heirloom Audio Productions on social media.
With Lee in Virginia
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