Title: To Live and Die for Dixie
Genre: Historical Fiction– Drama
Setting: The Civil War, 1861-1865: Richmond, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Vicksburg, Mississippi
Plot: As civil war engulfs the United States, sixteen-year-old Christian Baxter finds himself torn between his mother, a proud Southern aristocrat, and his father, a Yankee mill owner, and between family and his burgeoning love for his brother's fiancée, all as the Union army comes charging to destroy everything he once knew./
Author's Note: I am fully aware that this has been a slow set of chapters, because, with the influx of characters in Book II, I need to do some character development, as well as ease into life at Claver Academy. Rest assured that this is the last of those chapters; in chapter six, Christian begins actively seeking Genevieve again,and later,takes a position with the Claverian, to be explained in this chapter.
To Live and Die for Dixie
Book Two: September 1861 to May 1862
Chapter Five: "Mr. Gallagher's Class"
The start-of-term banquet was nothing to boast about; the food was as good as I heard it was–perhaps even better. We had roasted lamb as a main course, doused in mint jelly–a bit too much jelly for my taste, but I was able to scrape much of it off to suit myself. Apparently it was tradition to start the banquet with a specially seasoned cod from Massachusetts, but due to the war, and cod being in short supply, as well as unpatriotic, lamb was substituted; these lambs came from Tennessee, or so we were told. No one minded much; the lamb was delicious, and it was devoured quickly by the student body.
The headmaster, Mr. Peter Manasseri, a friend of Mr. Beaumont, made a speech, rather long and drawn out; I lost interest rather quickly, and sat there, my head in my hands, watching Mr. Manasseri drone on endlessly. Apparently Manasseri was notorious for his long speeches–I didn't know this, of course, at the time. By the end, everyone was ready to leave.
My first class of the day was with Mr. Gallagher. Mr. Gallagher had some large shoes to fill, I gathered over dinner; Mr. Channing, the reveled English instructor who had retired at the end of last year, commanded his students with a booming presence. He expected the most from each of them, and was not afraid to fail multiple essays that he viewed to be inferior; he was famous, as I was told, for telling his students that they wrote like immigrants–I suppose he would have gotten complaints if the students at Claver had not been, for the most part, multi-generation Southerners. His frankness, his boldness, and his expectancies won the respect of the students–those who didn't worship him at least respected him. His other job, in addition to teaching English, had been to oversee the management of the Claverian, the school-wide newspaper that was released every Sunday. It was not a large newspaper–just several pages–and didn't report any real news; no student could possibly cover the battles better than a real reporter could. Instead, it was a group of philosophical editorials, and was widely read by both students, the numerous alumni throughout the South, and the educated set in Charleston; I had read it once, for Mr. Beaumont, an alumnus of Claver, received it weekly. It was quite good, very organized, and very insightful. I thought it would be a privilege to work on the newspaper staff.
Gallagher never had the respect of the room, from the moment he stepped into his room. Sutton and Ryan, seated behind and next to me, respectively, were among the many to comment quietly on his slicked red hair, his green eyes, his pale and freckly skin, his boyish face, and the gold crucifix around his neck; Catholic Irishmen were not well respected at Claver; every other instructor at the school was an Protestant Anglo-American.
"Look at that paddy," Ryan muttered to Sutton, in a reprisal of the comment he had made when he first met Gallagher. "I didn't know Irishmen could even read, let alone teach us anything."
"A half-dollar says that all we discuss today is St. Patrick," Sutton answered, speaking in just above a whisper; Gallagher shuffled through papers at his desk, as if he didn't hear, but I saw him flinch a bit when Sutton spoke; he heard everything that was being said about him in the room.
"Not safe enough of a bet for my taste," Ryan told him. "No–there isn't enough on St. Patrick to discuss for a whole class. Perhaps we'll progress to Jonathan Swift or Thomas Aquinas. He ought to love those."
"Perhaps, instead of an apple for the teacher, we send him a potato," Pembroke chimed, from in front of me.
"He could sell it and be richer than all of Ireland put together," quipped Norwood, from the other side of me.
The three of them laughed wickedly.
Gallagher had, by this time, stood up at the front of the room. I was in the second row, behind Pembroke; I was the only one not talking about him. It wasn't any moral issue regarding Irishmen; I thought they were a dirty breed of popish men as well–but I felt bad for him, since it was his first day of class at Claver. It was probably because he had helped me with my trunk on the train; I felt as if he deserved a bit more courtesy than the rest of the class was giving him.
He cleared his throat and, slowly, the class came to moderate attention, though whispering still remained rampant. "Hello, class," he said, his accent leading to a sharp increase in the whispers. "I am Mr. Fallon Gallagher, and I will be your English instructor for this term. My understanding is that, last term, you engrossed yourselves with Anglo-Saxon and Medieval literature–Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales being the predominant works that Mr. Channing cited. This course will focus on the English Renaissance and beyond." With a half-smile, he added, "And since, unfortunately, St. Thomas Aquinas was a Neapolitan, we will not be discussing him in this course."
"You aren't going to tell us about yourself?" Ryan called, without being asked to speak by Mr. Gallagher. "Mr. Channing said that, in order to respect an instructor, we must get to know him first."
Gallagher rolled his eyes discreetly; he knew that everyone was expecting him to replace Mr. Channing adequately, but I could not expect Mr. Gallagher to take on such a commanding persona; based on my experience with him, that was clearly as opposite as could be.
"There isn't much to tell, I'm afraid. I am twenty-nine years old, and I was born on a farm in Cork, Ireland. I was educated in the humanities at a monastery for several years after my sixteenth birthday, with the ambitions of becoming a priest, but left to be married. My wife passed roughly eight years ago, so I emigrated to Boston, where I taught Latin for several years, then came here to teach English literature. And I'm quite scared of you all today, because it has suddenly become apparent that Mr. Channing has left a very large place for me to fill." He gave another one of his half-grins, his lips locked together and puckered a bit, aimed directly at Ryan. "I hope that is adequate, Mr. Reynolds?"
"Quite," Ryan answered.
Sutton raised his hand to speak; he didn't call out as Ryan did.
"A question, Mr. Sutton?"
"Will you be managing the Claverian this year?"
"Quite a good question," Gallagher told him. "Yes, I will. And I will be admitting three new columnists to the staff this term, judged off of your first writing assignment for my class–which I will get to now, I suppose. We haven't read anything yet, so this assignment will be without many constraints; it is simply to write a two-thousand word creative composition. Consider this a warm-up for the writing to come, if you will–and it is a good way for me to judge the quality of writing in this class; I need to make sure you can all write proficiently, of course."
"I didn't know the Irish could even read proficiently," Ryan whispered.
And they all laughed.