J.J. McFarland

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

It is during the Civil War. Two brothers, Jacob Jake Harris and Lorenzo Dow Harris, decide to join the army. They are quickly assigned to the 51st Virginia Infantry Regiment. The farmers and business people in the southern states had to work hard to support the troops at war. The Confederate States of America army was disadvantaged. The Confederate army was smaller and had lesser ammunition than the Union but was determined to win the war. To them, any resolution that meant preserving their Southern lifestyle and dignity which included the right to own slaves would be victory. In the end, both the Confederate and Union Forces suffered heavy losses.

In His Name is Jacob Harris, the author intertwines many themes to create a fascinating story. The characters were adequately developed. There are numerous characters in the book, but all of them had specific roles to play. The story is narrated in the third-person point-of-view hence making it possible to follow every action as it takes place and also monitor the characters as the story progressed. Jacob and Lorenzo were already married back at Burke’s Garden Virginia. However, in the course of their visits to Charleston to acquire slaves, they came across two beautiful ladies. At first, their relationships seemed casual. As time went by, it was easy to notice how Jacob was becoming drawn to Lilly more than his wife. Jacob had always thought his relationship with his wife would remain intact. Many secrets are to remain hidden by those who know them in this book. ‬‬

The plot of the story was also well built. All the events flowed in a way that was easy to understand. On the other hand, there were moments when the transitions in time were poorly executed. This is for example in an instance where many years had passed and yet this could not be easily told until one read in the story. I felt this could have been done better than the way it is currently. The use of vivid description in the story was mind-blowing. The depiction of Burke’s Garden Virginia was so superbly done that I felt like visiting the place. This was not the only place where description was done well. It occurred in every instance where the author was describing anything. Some illustrations and maps were also included. They complimented the descriptions well.‬‬

The themes handled in the book were able to reveal the effect of war on the lives of ordinary people even those who were not involved in the war. Many young men to volunteer to serve in the army. This showed the level of sacrifice people were willing to pay so as to preserve their way of life. The love relationships between Jacob and Lilly and also Lorenzo and Lucy made the book more interesting as well. Ultimately, there is something for every reader in this book. The book was well edited. I found only one misspelled word. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I enjoyed reading it a lot. The number of turns and twist were few but were amazing. They caught me off-guard all through. ‬‬

‪The author, J.J. McFarland, has visited Burke’s Garden Virginia several times. He has also been an avid reader of spy novels since his teenage years. Backed with his experience of working in the intelligence community, this book is bound to capture one’s attention from the first page. I recommend this book to all fans of historical fiction books. Those who do not enjoy stories set in the eighteenth century might not fancy reading this one.‬‬

An Official Review by Kibetious of Onlinebookclub.org

His Name is Jacob Harris by J.J. McFarland is a historical biographical fiction novel that gives a detailed narration of the Civil War of the 19th century. The sophisticated motor industries we have today were not in existence then and therefore, the transport business was done by trains and ships. The Civil War included an ocean-going Naval threat against Union shipping and the smuggling of arms into the Port of Charleston from Liverpool.

J.J. McFarland has been in the intelligence business for nearly 20 years. His experiences while attached to various departments helped a great deal in the writing of this book.

The fact that the main character in the book is actually J.J. McFarland’s great-great-grandfather ignites the fire in reading the book. The story begins in 1841, Burke’s Garden, Virginia otherwise known as The Thumbprint of God owing to its distinctive silhouette and magnificence. Jacob and Lorenzo’s parents: James and Mary Buress, had moved and settled into the garden in the spring of 1827. In the fateful morning of 1841, the brothers visited the Wolf Creek for fishing and to fetch water. On their return, it was sad to realize that the Indians had raided their home, killed their parents and kidnapped their younger siblings. The McFarland family adopted the two brothers, who later joined the 51st Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. Whether or not they survived the War, this book describes the happenings in detail.

This book demonstrated to me that I actually knew nothing concerning the Civil War and the slave trade of the 19th century. It’s hard to imagine how the soldiers and civilians survived in a world where access to food and health services seemed to be a luxury and would take several days. It’s amazing how the author conducted intense research dated to over 150 years ago to bring about the thrilling effect in the book. It’s a piece of work that deserves a prize.

Betrayal, conspiracy, romance and adventure are the themes portrayed in this awesome narration. I liked it that the author is keen to capture the historic moments during the Civil War for the reader’s benefit. I have read a few historic genres but this one seems to surpass all. I also liked the fact that the soldier’s family lives and the hardships they face away from their families for extended periods of time are not left out. Although some of the military terms used are somewhat hard to pronounce or understand, the author is careful to use a simple language relatable to all readers.

While the book is an appetizing one, there were errors that would pop up here and there. I encountered grammar errors and also several missing articles. For example, the author wrote: “…fair-minded man who he treated his slaves with respect…,” “…Jacob, are not trying to me something?” “…he tended to tune out them out…”

The book also ends on a cliff-hanger with no promise of future continuation leaving the reader with vital unanswered questions. I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. This book is good for historical researchers and those who would like to learn about the slave trade and the 19th century Civil War. However, there are horrible battle scenes that may not be favourable for some readers.

An Official Review by mumoscar of Onlinebookclub.org