Jeff Andrews, author          
  The Freedom Star
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The Freedom Star

The Freedom Star immerses readers in the lives, dreams, and sufferings of two families, one slave and one master, bound together by the tobacco fields of South Boston, Virginia.

Isaac yearns for the freedom that Henry McConnell, his friend and owner’s son, takes for granted. After false promises, failed escapes, imprisonment, and the sting of his master’s whip, Isaac’s only hope of fleeing slavery and reuniting with the woman he loves lies in accompanying Henry and the Confederates on their march north. When Yankees wound Henry and take him prisoner, Isaac finds himself behind the Union lines, free, but with a choice: continue north toward his dream or return to slavery to save his friend. 

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Writing The Freedom Star

I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, writing
The Freedom Star or doing the research. Every step involving words on paper challenged me to grow as a writer, while exploring the farms, towns, and battlefields where the story would have taken place was one adventuresome getaway after another for my wife, Mary Lou, and me. We enjoyed nineteenth century bed-and-breakfasts, antebellum tobacco farms, Civil War battlefields, a few bottles of fine wine, and long weekends immersed in history—could life get any better?

 The Freedom Star takes place during the Civil War, but it isn’t about the war. My focus was on people, not events. What I’ve tried to depict was the tapestry of life—particularly slave life—on a Virginia tobacco farm of the 1860s. Toward that end, we were fortunate to discover a terrific three-day conference on African-Americans During the Civil War (May, 2005) hosted by the National Park Service, Pamplin Historical Park, Virginia State University, and the city of Petersburg, VA.

An unexpected benefit of my research was locating the grave of my great-great grandfather, James Coleman, a private in the 19th Mississippi Infantry who died of typhoid fever at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, VA on June 13, 1862. He was buried in a numbered, but otherwise unmarked grave in Oakwood Cemetery, along with casualties of the Seven Pines battle. After years of anonymity, James now has a marker on his grave and a cameo appearance in my book.

In addition to James Coleman, several other actual historical figures appear in The Freedom Star. Without knowing their true personalities, my only means for drawing out their characters was through my own imagination. I pray I haven’t dishonored them in any way. In chapter thirty-five, Henry mentions Reverend Jasper, a slave who routinely held services at Chimborazo Hospital for the wounded soldiers. As well, the Union and Confederate officers mentioned by name were real people holding the billets as depicted.

By far, my favorite historical character in
The Freedom Star is Thomas Day, the free black master carpenter. Thomas Day was a renowned artisan and an economic force in mid-nineteenth century North Carolina. He not only owned slaves, but also employed many whites—both examples of an antebellum reality far more complex than our twenty-first century perceptions of that time. Thomas Day’s house in Milton, NC is undergoing a major restoration and is now open to the public (weekends only, I believe). 

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