Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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May 20, 2014

War brings Bullard man closer to family

BULLARD — War has a history of tearing families apart -- and no conflict destroyed more American families than did the Civil War -- but for one Bullard resident, researching the War of Northern Aggression actually brought him closer to his family, both past and present.

Earlier this year, Gary Cole published his second novel, 12 April, which follows his great-great grandparents' lives through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The book is a history of those events as seen through the eyes of Richard and his family and offers a partial history of the 5th Mississippi Cavalry, the 22nd Mississippi Infantry and the 30th Mississippi Infantry.

"All but one member of my family moved to Cherokee County, from Alabama in 1849," he shared. "That one member, Richard Westly Cole, lived in Blackhawk, Mississippi, during the war. It's his family the novel follows."

The book also details the pre-war sentiment in Cherokee County and recruitment of volunteers in the county, including the Confederate military service of nine soldiers from Larissa, one of whom was the first soldier from Cherokee County to die during the war. It also extensively discusses the dedication of the Confederate Monument on the south side of the courthouse lawn in Rusk on Oct. 31, 1907.

Cole is no stranger to geneology or his family's history, having published his first novel "Across the Frontier - A History of the Cole family from the 13th Century," in 1973.

"We had information on all our family members, except for Richard, at the time," Cole said. "And about seven years ago, I was contacted by a lady who called herself my cousin."

That cousin, Nancy, was able to provide a record of the death of Pvt. Richard Wesley Cole at the Battle of Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864, and with the help of other cousins across the South, the novel 12 April, was born.

"We had several joint projects going on and have built tremendous relationships while working on this," Cole said.

One interesting coincidence, Cole said he learned while writing the tome, was the relevance of the date April 12 -- at least to his family.

"The Civil War started on April 12, 1861; Richard Cole died on April 12, 1864; then General Lee formally surrendered on April 12, 1865," he recounted. "That's where the book's title comes from."

Cole said he wanted to illustrate the hardships both soldiers and their families suffered through the period.

"It wasn't like Richard's wife, Eliza, could just turn on Fox news and learn about what was happening," he said with a laugh. "All she had were letters and newspapers. It was a very difficult time for all.

"I would like readers to gain a greater appreciation of the terrible carnage of the Civil War and the hardships experienced by those left at home."

The book is currently available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and will be available at more than 2,500 other online book retailers later this summer.

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