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May 14 , 2009

A Court for Owls


The son of a Baptist preacher, Lewis Powell joined the Florida Jasper Blues to fight for the Confederacy in 1861. He soon had a fateful encounter with John Wilkes Booth and was drawn into the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. In 1865 he was tried as a conspirator in the assassination of Lincoln, during which Powell attacked and wounded Secretary of State William Seward. From these facts and other scattered details of the life of Lewis Powell (alias Lewis Payne), Richard Adicks has constructed a historical novel that moves us into the heart of the war between the North and the South and into the crosscurrents of idealism and fanaticism. Rich in the color and detail of the Civil War, this tale moves from rural Florida to Powell’s baptism by fire in the early battles of the war. Wounded and captured at Gettysburg, he serves as a prisoner nurse in a field hospital until he escapes to Baltimore. There he falls in love with Mary Branson and soon becomes mired in fringe regiments doing the dirty work of the faltering cause. By 1865 he is pulled deeper into Booth’s mad effort to avenge the defeated Confederacy.

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