No announcement yet.

War Short Stories Readalong

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • War Short Stories Readalong

    I have decided to launch a readalong using some short stories based on war. I will do one a month starting with the first - "The Aviator" by Hornell Hart. We'll keep it simple - just read it and chime in.

    Here is the first:

    See you at the end of each month!
    Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 07:40.

  • #2
    "The Aviator" by Hornell Hart

    This is the beginning of my War Short Stories Readalong. So here we go on our journey through some of the best war-related short stories. First up - "The Aviator" by Hornell Hart. It first appeared in a magazine called "Short Stories from Life" in 1916. The story is about a French aviator who is attacking a Turkish fort in 1916. It is apparently based on an incident in the Gallipolli Campaign. A French cruiser is bombardind the fort at night. Meanwhile, the aviator is piloting his monoplane in an attempt to take out the powder magazine in the fort. The refrain "the French Government declines to accept your services" keeps running through his mind. It appears that the hero was rejected by the military (Gen. Joffre) because of some diplomatic blunder. Don't ask what a diplomat is doing flying a warplane or how he got the plane or why he would be using nitro-glycerine as an explosive. Too much carping because the story is actually tres cool. It has a smidge of Luke Skywalker taking on the Death Star. The aviator is on a suicide mission to follow a searchlight to the powder magazine. The story has a superbly ironic ending that is not like "Star Wars", but maybe is more realistic and certainly is more anti-war. The story is very interesting and a good start for the readalong. It is quite short, but you may have to read it twice because it has some subtle elements to it. I read some other reader's views on it and some of them were wrong about what happens in the story.

    GRADE = A-

    Next up: The Battle of Lake Borgne
    Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 07:43.


    • #3
      Battle of Lake Borgne

      The second story in our readalong is appropriately about the Battle of New Orleans. Appropriate because it is the bicentennial anniversary of the famous battle. Here in Louisiana we take that battle seriously and do not buy the bull crap that because it was fought after the Treaty of Ghent was agreed to, it was laughably useless. Would the British have given New Orleans back if they had taken it? Highly unlikely. You know why that is a big "what-if"? Because Andrew Jackson whipped British ass so we did not have to find out the answer to that question. The story is entitled "The Battle of Lake Borgne" by George Eggleston.

      Most people, including Louisianians, don't know that the climactic showdown of January 8 was the third of three noteworthy actions. George Eggleston included the stories of these two neglected actions in his book "Strange Stories from History" which was published in 1886. Eggleston aimed his book of nonfiction short stories at a young audience and they read like adventure stories. Surprisingly, the stories are not "gosh-wow". The two I read as part of this project are on the Battle of Borgne and the "Battle in the Dark".

      The "Battle of Lake Borgne" tells the story of the British assault on a small flotilla of American gunboats that were trying to prevent a British landing on the shore of Lake Borgne. Eggleston does an excellent job outlining the British and American strategies. We understand why the battle took place and the advantages and disadvantages of each side. This builds to the description of the action which has a ring of swashbuckling to it. Eggleston does exaggerate the fighting for his boyish audience (it actually lasted only five minutes), but he does not blatantly tamper with history. He is much more constrained than a movie would be.

      The second story tells the tale of the night assault by Jackson on the British camp. Eggleston refers to Jackson's army as a "posse comitatus of ragamuffins". Possibly the only time that awesome phrase has ever been used in literature. His description of the chaos of the attack is outstanding. I have never read anything better that points out why generals are reluctant to roll the dice on night actions. This passage, more than the main battle of January 8, confirms what a bad-ass Jackson was. Eggleston makes the pitched battle in pitched dark exhilirating. Since most readers will not know the outcome, there is quite a bit of suspense. I loved the description of how units would identify themselves and then wade in if it turned out they were on opposite sides. Needless to say there was a friendly fire issue.

      Eggleston closes the story with an aftermath that outlines the importance of the tactical defeat for the Americans. He only briefly touches on the main battle, but manages to destroy that old chestnut that the Americans used cotton bales as part of their barricades. You the man, Eggleston!

      At first I was a little upset that the story was nonfiction. I assumed all the stories would be fictional. I read enough nonfiction already. However, because of the nature of Eggleston's style and the audience he was writing for, the story reads like fiction. Since I have a bit of the fourteen year old boy in me, I really enjoyed it. It has a certain verve to it. More importantly, Eggleston is quite complimentary of the British. He is not just stoking the flames of patriotism. He credits bravery when he sees it. Not only is the story entertaining, but it does a better job on the history of the battles than I found in several encyclopedia entries.

      GRADE = A

      Next up: The Boy Commander of the Camisards
      Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 07:47.


      • #4
        The Boy Commander of the Camisards

        Our March story is again by George Cary Eggleston. Eggleston was a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War and wrote a memoir after the war. This short story comes from his book entitled “Strange Stories from History” (1886). The book was aimed at juvenile boys and has a “you’ll never believe what happened next” quality to it. Eggleston is an above average writer and he brings some flair to his stories. I have not read the book, but based on this and the February reading, I would have to say he does manage to get some interesting history lessons in while enhancing the entertainment value of the nonfictional elements. His stories read like an episode of Disney’s “History for Young People”.

        “The Boy Commander of the Camisards” is “based on a true story” (if it were a movie, you would see that disclaimer). In background, Eggleston explains that during the reign of Louis XIV there was a geographically isolated region of France named Cevennes. Cevennes was heavily Protestant (Huguenots) and when Louis decided to force the conversion of the region to Catholicism, a revolt broke out due to the severe repression conducted by the King’s forces.

        The star of the story is Jean Cavalier. Although just a teenager, he becomes one of the rebellion’s leaders. He convinces the rebels to use a strategy of dividing their forces and using them to harass the oppressors at widely separated targets. This prevents the superior royal forces from concentrating on destroying the rebels. Most of the story deals with some amazing vignettes from Cavalier’s career. He is a master of disguise – not just himself, but also his troops. I was reminded of Alfred the Great versus the Danes. Cavalier does not always avoid battle and does not always win, but he does always live to harass another day. The vignettes are entertaining even if you are not a fourteen year old boy, but Eggleston does have a tendency to lay it on thick. Jean is too good to be true. The only wart mentioned is that Cavalier routinely killed prisoners or gave no quarter. This is excused by way of the old “both sides did it” argument.

        I love stories that seem fictional, but when you research them they turn out to be surprisingly accurate. I also love stories that open up a door to a fascinating historical character or event. I figured there was no such person as Jean Cavalier. It turns out that the basics about the rebellion and the “boy commander” were founded in reality. Eggleston has buffed up and boyed up the story and conveniently left out some negatives. As a sop to his audience, he has reduced the age of his hero. Cavalier was actually 21 when his military career began. The military genius label was not far off, however. The strategy and tactics are pretty realistic. Eggleston never uses the term “guerrilla warfare”, but Cavalier was a practitioner. If you don’t know how it was practiced in the 18th Century, this story will give you a tutorial. It previews the Peninsular Campaign in the Napoleonic Wars and the Philippine Insurrection after the Spanish-American War. Eggleston alludes to, but sugar-coats the extreme atrocities by both sides. The biggest flaw is that in order to put the cherry on top, he has Cavalier signing a treaty with Louis that guaranteed the people of Cevennes religious freedom. In fact, Cavalier did not insist on that guarantee and accepted a king’s commission. Now you know why his friends rejected the treaty and Cavalier had to continue his warring elsewhere. I do not think Eggleston ever seriously considered using the word “traitor” in his panegyric. Oh well, I don’t tell my students Francis Marion hunted Cherokee Indians and was mean to his slaves.

        grade = B

        April's Story: British Gunners as Cave Dwellers
        Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 07:52.


        • #5
          APRIL: British Gunners as Cave Dwellers

          British Gunners as Cave Dwellers

          Our April selection is a primary source about the Royal Artillery on the Western Front in WWI. It is a story by Corporal E.H. Bean. He served in combat until he was wounded and invalided back to blighty. The story takes him from England through his return. It is basically a collection of vignettes that give a taste of life in the artillery. One day he is England, the next day he is at the front. It happened that quick for many British soldiers. Now that I think about it, that was not that different than what American soldiers sent to Vietnam went through.

          Two things stand out in his tale. One is that it sucked to be an artillery horse. Bean makes it clear that horses were very vulnerable to artillery barrages. Another memorable passage was the genesis of the title of the story. His unit spends five days billeted in some caves near Soissons. It was an eerie alternative to the trenches. The overall vibe of the story is typically British. Bean and his comrades have stiff upper lips throughout. He even says “the British soldier has the happy knack of making himself at home in all kinds of odd places…” When he is wounded he remains cheery.

          If the story was fiction, you would be groaning at times. It is not very exciting, but it is educational. You learn about the Royal Artillery and what it was like to be a horse pulling the artillery pieces.

          GRADE = C
          Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 07:53.


          • #6
            hey thanks very much for sharing these!


            • #7
              Actually I've really been enjoying reading these. I just wanted to say that you should really consider turning it into blog of some sorts. There's big history blogging communities online. I see you're using shortstory archive but I think there's nicer platforms out there, just even aesthetically! Just make a blog website or something. There's tonnes of sites that have really nice designs like wordpress or whatever. I really enjoyed reading them that's why I'm suggesting you use something else! That way if writing is a passion of yours - which I'm gussing it is - you'll have something more professional to present as well. Anyway, great stuff, I hope you keep updating!


              • #8
                Originally posted by generalok View Post
                Actually I've really been enjoying reading these. I just wanted to say that you should really consider turning it into blog of some sorts. There's big history blogging communities online. I see you're using shortstory archive but I think there's nicer platforms out there, just even aesthetically! Just make a blog website or something. There's tonnes of sites that have really nice designs like wordpress or whatever. I really enjoyed reading them that's why I'm suggesting you use something else! That way if writing is a passion of yours - which I'm gussing it is - you'll have something more professional to present as well. Anyway, great stuff, I hope you keep updating!
                Sorry it took me a while to respond. Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate your suggestion and it makes sense, but I already have a blog where I review war movies. You might want to check it out at:

                The reason I have set up this thread is I have participated in war novel readalongs and wanted to host something similar. I decided that a community like ACG might be interested in short war stories. I searched the Internet to find stories that were easily accessible and ran across the Short Story Archive which fits my purpose admirably. I would have preferred a collection like some that I have in book form, but you have to go with what is best for the community.

                Thanks for participating. I would love to hear what you think of any of the stories you read.


                • #9
                  The Canoe Fight

                  Our latest short story is “The Canoe Fight” ( by George Cary Eggleston. It is subtitled “An Incident of the Creek War” and first appeared in Eggleston’s Strange Stories from History for Young People. Eggleston had a knack of finding little-known incidents and heroes to highlight in his stories. This story is set in the War of 1812. The British had enlisted Indian tribes to wreak havoc on frontier settlements. This included the Creek Indians in the Alabama / Mississippi area. Frontier families often took refuge in forts, abandoning their farms to depradations.

                  In the story, word that the Indians are preparing to lay waste to crops causes Capt. Sam Dale to lead a force of 72 frontiersmen to preempt the Indians. Dale was already a noted figure in the region. He was well acquainted with the Indians, having spent a lot of time with them. There can be no doubt where his loyalties lay, however. His mission was to inflict pain on the Creek. “The smallest naval battle ever fought in the world” took place when most of Dale’s men crossed the Alabama River and the rearguard led by Dale were caught on the opposite bank by a large body of warriors. Vastly outnumbered, things got much worse when a large canoe carrying eleven Indians suddenly appeared to take them from behind. Believing the best defense is a good offense, Dale and three others went to meet the huge canoe in a much smaller vessel. The ensuing battle became the stuff of legend.

                  This is the third story by Eggleston in the readalong. It is much simpler than the other two because he has chosen a minor incident. It makes for an exciting little tale that comes off as being fictional, but in fact is factual. Dale was a fascinating individual and had a colorful life. Although Eggleston plays up Dale’s friendship with the Indians, his career was anything but friendly toward the Indian cause. Since the story was originally published in 1888, it is a look back to a time when Indian fighters were unambiguously the heroes. Although I hope for more fictional stories in the future selections, I do appreciate Eggleston introducing me to an interesting historical event and personage that I was not aware of.

                  GRADE = C

                  Next month's selection: "Chasing a Major-General"
                  Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 07:58.


                  • #10
                    German point of view of D-Day

                    I am currently reading Joseph Balkoski's series of books on the 29th Infantry. Excellent books. i am looking for suggestions on books on the German perspective of D-day. Any suggestions would be welcomed.


                    • #11
                      "CHASING THE MAJOR-GENERAL"

                      WAR SHORT STORY – June, 2015: “Chasing the Major-General”

                      “Chasing the Major-General” is a short story by the famous artist Frederic Remington. Remington is the artist most associated with the West of the Indian Wars. His paintings of cowboys, Indians, and the cavalry helped establish our image of the Old West. Most people do not know that he also fashioned himself a writer. This particular short story was for Harper’s Weekly. Remington’s presence was requested by Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles. Miles was one of the more well-known Indian fighting generals. He had made a name for himself in the Nez Perce (Chief Joseph) campaign and the capture of Geronimo. The story is set in a mission by Miles to escort an Indian commission to negotiate with the Northern Cheyennes. Miles had a dream of becoming President and saw Remington as a means to that end. He had to put up with Remington’s excessive drinking which ironically held up the commission on occasion, but the flattering story was worth the trouble.

                      The story is about Remington trying to keep up with the gung-ho general. Although not meant to be comical, the image of the portly general galloping ahead of his column is the big take-away from the story. Miles is the model of a general who leads from in front – far in front. The weird thing is that Miles was not conducting a campaign to catch and defeat hostile Indians. So what was the hurry? Personality is the key. Speaking of which, we get a good impression of Remington from the story. He was known as “The Soldier’s Artist” because he idolized the cavalry and lionized them in his paintings and writings. (He later would justify Wounded Knee as the soldiers defending themselves.) He has some very interesting opinions that come through in the story.

                      Remington declares that there are two types of cavalry generals in the West – wagon-men and horse-men. Wagon-men rely on wagons for logistics and horse-men travel more quickly by packing supplies on horse-back. Or rather mule-back. Miles was a horse-man. Obviously Miles also believed in a general riding on horse and setting the standard for his men. This could be dangerous especially at night. One unlucky step into a gopher hole or one unseen ravine could result in death. Riding like a maniac brings questions as to Miles fitness to lead a nation, but apparently Remington and Miles felt the story bolstered his chances. One also wonders about the attitude of Miles toward the horses. Remington describes the horses as inferior. He criticizes the military for paying $125 for $60 horses. It’s clear that the profligacy of the Pentagon is not new. And these horses were expected to gallop sixty miles in a day! And in the case of Remington, carry a 215 pound artist attempting to ride in the “European style” with legs tucked to his chest. He humorously describes trying to ignore the catty comments of the Westerners. Remington does seem to know horses. He offers the interesting opinion that “while you can teach a horse anything, you cannot unteach him.”

                      Remington also has some interesting things to say about the Army. He is scathing in his comments about the reason for the poor support from Washington. His theory is that by the time a soldier reaches the higher ranks and go off to the capital, they feel they have earned the right to slack off. This results in the leadership of the Army being conservative and cheap. He specifically had some opinions on the Battle of Little Big Horn when they visited the site. Not surprisingly, Remington blamed the defeat on the lack of initiative of Reno and Benteen. He opines that the role of these subordinates should have been to march to the sounds of the guns. When in doubt, go in and fight until you drop. Best to end up a “dead lion” than a live survivor. He has insights on the officers as well. He describes them as being cogs in the machine except when their individuality comes out in battle and before breakfast.

                      The piece is well-written. I did not expect Remington to be competent as a writer. I was very familiar with his paintings as I am a big fan, but I was only vaguely familiar with his literary endeavors. He has a booze-flavored style to his writing. I did not find about his fondness for the bottle until after I read the story, but it makes sense. The story has a sense of humor typical of a genteel toper. He doesn’t mind poking fun at himself. The story is excellent at portraying the personalities of two famous men. Although nothing particularly exciting happens, the story is charming and worth reading.

                      GRADE = B-

                      Self-portrait of Remington on horse-back. (Note: he has shed a few pounds due to artistic license.)

                      [SIZE="3"][B][COLOR="Red"]You can read it at:

                      The July reading is "The Colonel's Ideas"
             ideas&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWlea24O3MAhVM04MKHWt8 AcAQ6AEINjAE#v=onepage&q=the%20colonel's%20ideas&f =false
                      Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 08:09.


                      • #12
                        July, 2015: The Colonel's Ideas

                        Our July story was by Guy de Maupassant who was a popular French writer in the 19th Century. He wrote around 300 short stories and is considered to be one of the fathers of the modern short story. Many of his short stories (including this one) are set in the Franco-Prussian War. His common theme was the futility of war and its negative impact on civilians.

                        This particular story has a French colonel in the Franco-Prussian War ruminating on the role of women in war. He expounds that Frenchmen love women and they fight harder when women are involved. This philosophizing is brought on by the dilemma his unit is trapped in. They are caught behind enemy lines and are in bad shape. The men are exhausted and their morale is low. To make matters worse, it is cold and snowy. Most of the men do not want to go on. It’s too bad they don’t have a woman to motivate them. But wait… They encounter an old man and his pretty daughter. Suddenly the spirits of the men soar. They have something to live for and something to fight for. The timing is perfect because they soon run into a unit of Prussian lancers. They dispatch the horsemen with rifle fire. It is assumed that if that pretty girl had not been with them, they would not have put up much of a fight. It’s a shame the French army in 1940 was not issued a pretty girl for each regiment.

                        I don’t know what to make of this story. I assume Maupassant had a great sense of humor and the story was written tongue in cheek. Then again, he may have been accurate in his assessment of what it takes to get the French to fight. The story certainly is comical given France’s track record since he wrote the story. Perhaps he was lamenting France’s performance in the Franco-Prussian War. He does mention that the outcome of the Battle of Sedan might have been different if a woman had been involved. After all, French men are “cavaliers of love”. You would think that would make them lovers not fighters, but the colonel suggests that if you combine the two, look out.

                        I have to say the story was a disappointment. It’s not much of a war story and I felt it was a bit on the silly side. I’m no fan of the French army in recent history, but the story seemed to be kicking a dead horse. I know that is not what Maupassant intended, but it does have a lot of irony flowing from it. It is a fun read, however. One of the soldiers actually says “confound it”. How 19th Century. Better yet, another proclaims that “there is nothing like a woman to make you feel queer from head to foot”! Insert your own comment here.

                        GRADE = D

                        August Story: The Conscript
                        Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 08:10. Reason: added stuff


                        • #13

                          "The Conscript" is a short story by Grace Greenwood. It is set in the Napoleonic Wars around 1804. It leads with the fact that most conscripts were taken from the French working class. They were forced to fight for "they scarcely knew what, with people against whom they had no ill-will." One of those reluctant warriors is the local blacksmith Jean Moreau. He leaves behind a mother and an adopted sister named Marie who he is betrothed to. On the march to join the army, he meets a nobleman whose son is a captain in the army. He hopes Jean will encounter his son, Captain De Lorme.

                          Sure enough, Jean is assigned to De Lorme's unit and in the Battle of Austerlitz they have a mad moment under the eyes of Napoleon himself. De Lorme rescues a captured standard and Jean rescues the wounded captain. They end up in the same hospital and Jean loses his arm while De Lorme almost loses his life. Eventually both return home. Jean's journey home is plagued with fear that Marie will not want him any more now that he is disabled.

                          "The Conscript" is a predictable story that one might tell as a bedtime story in France. Greenwood writes as though the story is aimed at a boys' magazine. There are no insights into warfare other than the above quote that unoriginally points out that draftees don't know what they are fighting for and have to kill similarly clueless draftees on the other side. The story relies on the clicheish "it's a small world" trope by having the main characters meet in a climactic moment. This builds up to a satisfying climax that could not have been more pat unless Napoleon himself had appeared at the wedding.

                          Grace Greenwood is the pseudonym of Sara Jane Lippincott. She was an American poet and writer. Not surprisingly she wrote for children's magazines. She was also a reformer who campaigned for abolitionism and women's rights. Some of her passionate poems indicate a lesbian relationship at a time (the mid 1800s) where that would have been quite scandalous. She does not seem the type to be writing war stories, but this particular story is a bromance and romance set in a war.

                          I am beginning to wonder about this list of war movie short stories that I have committed to read. I just wish I had been able to find a web site that had stories equivalent to the books I have that have truly outstanding collections of stories. Of course, many of the stories are polarizing, but there would be more to rant about. Oh well, I'm not going to give up on this project just yet. Plus no one is reading along anyway, so it's not like I'm catering to anyone.

                          GRADE = C

                          Next up: The Crime of the Brigadier by Arthur Conan Doyle
                          Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 08:14.


                          • #14
                            The Crime of the Brigadier

                            “The Crime of the Brigadier” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

                            “The Crime of the Brigadier” is a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from a series about a fictional French officer named Brigadier Gerard. At the time of the story he is serving in Spain during the Peninsular War. This particular story first appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in December, 1899. An alternative title was “How the Brigadier Slew the Fox”. Doyle modeled his protagonist after the light cavalry hero Baron de Marbot. Marbot first made a name for himself on the peninsula and went on to further distinction in the Russian campaign. He was a brigadier general by the time of Waterloo and was wounded in the battle. Doyle’s version of him inspired the Harry Flashman character in the George McDonald Fraser novels. He is not the coward that Flashman is, but he does exhibit the vainglory. He may be a supreme egotist, but he is an excellent and brave warrior and quite the ladies’ man. He doesn’t mind telling you. Doyle uses him to satirize not only the French, but also the British. In this particular tale, he is poking fun at the upper class British officers.

                            Doyle hooks the reader immediately by identifying Gerard as the only officer the British army had “deep, steady, and unchangeable hatred”. This is because he committed a crime “which was unspeakable, unheard of, abominable; only to be alluded to with curses late in the evening”. I’ll bite, what did he do? The year is 1810 and the French have pushed Wellington back to Portugal. With Lisbon in sight, the French are rudely confronted with Wellington’s defensive line of Torres Vedras. The French commanding general Messena has a bright idea for a reconnaissance and who better to conduct it than the dashing Gerard? Gerard cannot dispute Messena opinion that he is the greatest horseman in the army. He gives him the best horse in the army so he can ride around the British lines and scout out the weak spots.

                            Gerard tells the story in flashback from retirement as a cabbage farmer. Things start off satisfactorily until the greatest horse is felled by a sentry’s bullet. Gerard hides in a stable, but manages to get an upgrade horse-wise when he steals the best horse in the British army. The scout continues until the new horse hears the call of a fox hunt and cannot be deterred. What happens next earns Gerard the undying enmity of the entire British officer corps.

                            “The Crime of the Brigadier” is the best story so far. I had no idea Doyle had written this series. Being a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, it is no surprise that he could successfully delve into a different subgenre. The story is very well written and thoroughly entertaining. It is satire at its wittiest. Doyle would have us believe that British officers even in a siege, cannot do without their fox hunts. The fox hounds have been brought over from England by special ship. Gerard lucks into a thrice weekly hunt. He may be pompous, but his foes are upper class twits. I prefer Gerard to Flashman. He may have a giant ego, but there is some reason for it. He is quite the braggart warrior, but not a buffoon.

                            The best thing about the story is you can’t wait to find out what terrible act Gerard has committed. When it becomes apparent (and it is unpredictable), it is a cracking good punch line. I definitely will read more of the series.

                            GRADE = A

                            Next story: "A Daisy-Chain of Bandoliers"
                            Last edited by warmoviebuff; 22 May 16, 08:15.


                            • #15
                              I'm guessing he kills the fox...........


                              Latest Topics