His Name is Jacob Harris

by J.J. McFarland with Wm. Francis Herlehy III

This book, His Name is Jacob Harris, is historical fiction at its best. It approaches the subject from a different perspective than the typical subject of slavery. The historical background covers many areas that will be surprising, such as the Confederate Navy, connections to Canada and England, secret societies, and the financing of the Confederacy. All this is woven into a love story about a spy in love with two women. Along the way it gives a moving description of the families of those involved and the sacrifices they made. It is an interesting book well worth the read. Many of our families had ancestors on both sides of this conflict. This book speaks to the commitment and loss of people on the losing side.

Sharon Sinner, a descendant of Jacob McFarland on whom the character Jacob Harris is loosely based.

His Name is Jacob Harris is an accurate depiction of times during and immediately after the Civil War. Having personally participated in fifteen Civil War reenactments at Gettysburg on Little Round Top hill, I can attest to the author’s description of the terrain and disposition of forces on the face and at the bottom of hill. More important, it well portrays the evacuation of Southern forces as they fled to their staging areas and evacuated towards Richmond. The latter part of the book which describes the difficulties facing the disheartened Southern soldiers returning home to uncertainties and a myriad of emotional decisions is particularly noteworthy.

Tony Casey, Company B, 9th Virginia Calvary, Boerne, Texas

Although the author’s title of His Name is Jacob Harris, a Confederate spy torn between his love for two women suggests a romantic plot, don’t be scared off if you aren’t into romances.  The main character of the book, Jacob Burris (Harris), is loosely based on the great-great grandfather of the author. Jacob’s brother Lorenzo is also portrayed in this book of historical biographical fiction.

While Jacob’s devotion to both his wife Annie and his lover Lillie is an integral part of the story, it’s only one part of the story. The backdrop of the romance is the Civil War and the Confederacy’s attempt to keep the Southern way of life.

Jacob and Lorenzo’s adopted father is a wagon maker and benevolent slave owner. When the Civil War begins and Virginia starts recruiting soldiers for the Confederacy, both Jacob and Lorenzo eventually enlist in the 51st Virginia Infantry. By then each was married and had a family.

Early on we find the brothers at Gettysburg. They are separated from their unit, but recruited as snipers in the battle of Little Round Hill. McFarland describes the terrain of the battlefield and it’s easy to visualize the carnage each army inflicts upon the other in the attempt to take the hill. After the battle, Jake and Lorenzo are given a furlough and decide to stop in Charleston before heading home to their farms and families. Charleston had always been a favorite place and they often came there with their adopted father to buy sailcloth and slaves. It was also here on an earlier trip that Jake had met Lilly, the daughter of a wealthy ship owner.

Jake and Lilly team up as spies and aid General Beauregard in his defense of Charleston. In the story we are introduced to many aspects of the Confederacy’s attempts to win the war. We learn about their naval threat against Union shipping and the smuggling of arms from Liverpool to the port of Charleston. We also learn about the Confederate Secret Service’s subversive activities in Canada to get the northwest states to secede from the union. We discover secret societies such as the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Sons of Liberty and the Copperheads Order, and how they sabotaged northern transportation networks and even national elections. We are introduced to historical figures such as Jesse James and John Wilkes Booth, as well as many Civil War generals.

McFarland’s story is more than romance, spies, Confederate organizations, and the conflict of opposing armies, however. It’s a tale about people and the choices they make, about families separated by war and what that sacrifice means, and about men and women trying to rebuild their lives after the war. It’s also about loss, as well as acceptance. His Name is Jacob Harris is a book that might surprise you.

Kendall County Genealogy Society

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