J.David Knepper

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J.David Knepper

J.David Knepper’s book reviews

Federal Private John McElroy had the misfortune to be captured by Confederate forces during the War Between The States and spent over a year in several prisoner of war camps, including Camp Sumter near Andersonville, Georgia.

His experiences, recorded for newspaper serialization fourteen years after his release, were apparently typical for prisoners in that conflict. His memories record a few instances of Christian charity in action in a god-forsaken place, but many more instances of men reduced by circumstance to an animal-like existence. Raiders, low-life New Yorkers were such vicious, murderous predators within the camp that the prisoners sought and received permission to arrest and try the leaders of the pack. In consequence, they convicted and hanged six prisoners for murder.

The author is convinced that the Confederate authorities could have done much at very low cost to alleviate the suffering of its prisoners. However, his testimony is colored by his admitted hatred of the Confederacy, its leaders and Southerners, black and white alike. A tedious read.
Herman Melville tells the tale of a weird man in a strange relationship to his employer. At a loss for how to motivate his employee, the employer resorts to threats, entreaties and bribery.

When none of his efforts result in a positive change, the employer closes up shop and opens in a new location, but can't get his strange former employee out of his mind.

The end of the tale is less than satisfying to a reader expecting to know more when he ends a read than when he began. However, Melville's descriptive narrative is worth the price of admission.
Longfellow's work as required text in high school ruined him for many adults. Pity. Evangeline was delightful.

When the king deports the Acadian people from their homes, Evangeline is separated from her fiancee. She pursues her love throughout the North American continent, always seemingly a few days behind him.

Their eventual finding of each other is bittersweet and lovely and worthy of the great poet.
Nathaniel Hawthorne spent many years attempting to track down extant copies of this, one of his earliest works, in order to destroy them. He failed, but his efforts assured the success of the book's republication after his death.

Fanshawe is a romantic tale that includes all the too good and very bad people that you would expect taking all of the contrived paths you would expect.

The end of the novel is less exciting than expected but purely Hawthorne.
Fritz Kreisler was an officer in the Austrian Army when it first met the Russians in World War I. This short account of his time under arms describes the flexibility of people to deal with extraordinary circumstances.

His description of a senior officer's losing his son in battle is poignant. His discussion of how he and his command changed over the four weeks is detailed and very telling.

Kreisler tells how he used his musical gifts to help Austrian artillery find the position of hidden Russian batteries. Very interesting little story.
Writing under the pseudonym Edmund Kirke, James Gilmore makes the case for the abolition of slavery by describing a trip he made through South and North Carolina at the time that Mr. Lincoln forced the states into war by attempting to resupply Fort Sumter following South Carolina's approval of their Act of Secession from the Union.

His hatred of slavery is plain, as it should be. His pontification about how Yankees were better people than Southerners is incorrect. His predictions of how a Yankee descent upon the South would make everything better are imbecilic.

His use of certain terms and words, proper (though denigrating) when written, have become horribly improper since that time and detract greatly from what might otherwise have proven a useful period study.
The story of an Imperial German U-boat in World War I as told by its captain. Highly entertaining and complimentary of the sailors on both sides of the conflict.

During these early U-boat cruises, the crews were highly motivated to destroy enemy shipping but not personnel, unless the mission demanded it. Hence, enemy crews were given warning, time to abandon ship, food and water as necessary to survivors, and even a tow toward home, as long as the U-boat didn't come under attack in the process.

Worth the read.
Hawthorne's classic tale about the effects of unconfessed sin set in Puritan New England reminds us of basic truth.

The seemingly holy man was no better than the person cast out of polite society for committing sin. His adversary's power over him ended the moment he confessed his wrongdoing.

The outcast chose to return to the scene of her humiliation to serve out her life in service to others, showing the possibility of redemption for the worst of us. A surprisingly good book even if not required reading this time.
This little novel by Harold Bell Wright had a profound effect upon the life of the adolescent Ronald Reagan and served to form many of his basic beliefs in the Christian faith.

The noble hero, battered by unsympathetic and uncaring Christians, comes to Christ in spite of hypocritical followers of Christ.

As upbeat as many of the young peoples' novels of its day, and yet with a truly Christian worldview, this book led young Reagan to seek out baptism in his mother's church. Excellent read.
Jane Porter's classic on the life of Sir William Wallace tells the tale of Braveheart a little differently than the movie portrayal.

Deprived of the wife and unborn child of his youth, Wallace defended Scotland at a time when so-called high born folks were so interested in their own accumulation of wealth and power, that they would sacrifice their own country to a usurper.

Wallace was the hero of the age but at the hero of this book, a little too good to be believed.