Buried Together

A Story of Quarantine and a Question of Conscience


Buried Together: A Story of Quarantine and a Question of Conscience is a work of historical fiction based on the true story of Silas Mercer Beasley Jr., a Civil War conscientious objector. Silas Jr.’s brothers fought for both sides (Union and Confederacy) and a few questioned Silas’ courage. Following the war, he and his Union veteran brothers faced threats of death from local Southerners. Silas gathered his family and left Georgia in pursuit of his missing brothers and safety. All but Silas fell ill during this exodus due to the pandemic (i.e., smallpox, typhoid fever, measles). They sought refuge in a cabin in Tennessee where they quarantined through these troubling times. During their quarantine, Silas’ mother told the story of the Cherokee Removal and the infamous Kilakeena Elias Boudinot to help her son keep vigil so that he might protect the family from marauders. Surrounded by danger, Silas Jr. was faced with more than one life and death decision and more than one heart-breaking loss.

This historical novel speaks to contemporary issues. Based on archival documents and Silas Jr.’s published diary accounts of the Civil War times and beyond, readers learn of conscription, bi-racial families, and voter suppression. With respect to the Cherokee Removal, readers learn about the culture as depicted through the ethnographic work of James Mooney. They further learn of various Generals’ opposition to the Cherokee Removal and political strategies of Jackson and Van Buren. But more than this, readers learn of the life experiences of one family, and of one man; the heartbreak they endured and the resilience they displayed.

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R. P. Clair is a Full Professor at Purdue University, Fellow to the Center for Artistic Endeavors, and received two Outstanding Book of the Year awards for research. She has published two prior social justice novels: Zombie Seed and the Butterfly Blues (Sense, 2013) and Blood into Water (Brill | Sense, 2021).
"In this compelling and cleverly constructed novel, author Robin Patric Clair uses her own family’s story and the contested landscape of the eastern Tennessee mountains in the Civil War’s immediate aftermath as a device to illuminate, through flashbacks, the Cherokee saga in nineteenth-century America—especially the processes, agonies of, and resistance to removal westward in the infamous Trail of Tears. I would recommend this tale not only to anyone searching for a gripping work of fiction to read, but also anyone anxious to probe Native American cultures in their complexities and nuances. The fast-paced story, reinforced with informative notes, is so enlightening on Cherokee government, factionalism, medicinal practices, sacred principles, and legends that it is an educational primer of sorts, a trigger to the inquisitive reader. And yet, the ethical issues Clair raises about dissent in wartime, pacifism, killing, racial attitudes, and family and tribal loyalties have universal applications that transcend the particulars of Native and Confederate history that she relates." – Robert E. May, Professor Emeritus, Purdue University, historian and author of Yuletide in Dixie: Slavery, Christmas, and Southern Memory

In Robin Clair’s most recent novel, Buried Together, she cleverly reminds us of how individuals aspire to conjure up memories in order to make sense of their lives. By doing so, we learn of a deeply sensitive man’s life history. Her writing has a tone and nature that mimics the quality of orality; when we put down the book, we feel as if we have just listened to a remarkable oral history. That’s a true gift to the reader. As in her past work, Clair finds pithy story lines to link the reader’s thoughts to current social ills. Woven throughout her story we experience an epidemic, religious divides, slavery, discrimination against Native Americans, and failed leadership. In Chapter 16, she introduces the reader to a native prayer aimed at providing individual strength in troubled times. It’s in the spirit of this prayer that Clair tells the story. That makes Buried Together a highly worthy read." – Leonard Cox, Columbia University, Center for Oral History

"As a work of historical fiction and as a social justice novel, Buried Together offers truths and insights that have been left unrecorded in official documents. Through rigorous research and imaginative reconstruction, Clair marvelously weaves together her family's history with Cherokee history and culture, as well as American Civil War history. Her novel makes the past come alive on the page, and as I read, I felt as though I were present in the cabin with Silas Jr. and his family in 1865, dealing with one agony after another, held in the grip of riveting storytelling.
Intriguingly, the novel reveals how Cherokee removal, the Civil War, and outbreaks of measles, typhoid fever, and smallpox afflicted the Beasley family in the nineteenth century, and in so doing, the novel speaks to our present moment as well—a moment when we are facing a terrible pandemic, at a time when America is deeply divided and when cruel inequities abound. Buried Together is powerful storytelling, combining aspects of literature, history, ethnography, philosophy and ethics, public health, and social justice in a way that makes it a valuable text for classes in literature, history, Native studies, and American Studies." – Nancy J. Peterson, Professor of English at Purdue University, author of Against Amnesia: Contemporary Women Writers and the Crises of Historical Memory

"Dr. Robin Clair’s gripping, exquisite prose helps us feel as though we are alongside this family, in time, journeying into their lived experiences and like them, searching for connection inspired during moments of isolation. Clair’s novel positions us all within the complex interconnectedness of religion, culture, social relations, economics, politics, and policies that has shaped our lived experiences over time… before, during, and after the Civil War era in the United States. Clair’s historical novel brings to mind pressing social issues of the past that remain today, such as the forced migration of the silenced, the erased, in the United States and around the world. Clair invites us to consider epistemological, ontological, and existential questions all the while captivating our interest in what is unfolding on the written page. What does it mean to be a 'real member of [a group]'? What does it mean to be? What does it mean to be silenced and how can that happen with or without our knowledge? Through Silas and his family, we are encouraged to interrogate power relations, the overt and the subtle, that permeate society and the so many ways they have done so throughout U.S. history. We cannot help but ask: Who gets to speak in the U.S., and for whom? How do policies and legislation make some people present in society and others absent? Through Silas, we question what it means to be free, and whether freedom is possible for everyone in a democracy.
Clair’s message is of relevance to those who study and do peacebuilding for it speaks to the power of narrative and storytelling in peacebuilding scholarship and practice. The three main questions Clair addresses are central to peacebuilders: 'By what right do any of us take a human life? How has ethnic and racial divisiveness wrenched humanity apart? How do everyday actions promote policies of peace, or thwart them?' Through her account of Silas and others, Clair reminds us that we have much to do in the United States of America. That to heal and to emerge as a more just society, we must remember and act. For to do the work of peacebuilding, we must be at peace with ourselves, our choices, and our actions. Through Clair’s account of Silas Beasley, Jr., the conscientious objector, she reminds us that everyday people can and do choose peace despite monumental political, economic, cultural, and social impediments to that choice. In this way, Clair’s historical narrative is timeless." – Stacey Connaughton, Ph.D., Director, The Purdue Policy Research Institute, Director, The Purdue Peace Project, Professor, Brian Lamb School of Communication, Purdue University, Associate Editor, Journal of Communication, and co-editor of two books: Transforming Conflict and Building Peace (2020) and Locally Lead Peace Building (2019).
Academic Introduction

Part 1: The War That Follows

Chapter 1: Sister Sun and Brother Moon: Recalling the Night of December 17, 1865
Chapter 2: Refugees at The Mercy of Marauders: The Morning of December 18, 1865
Chapter 3: A Sickness Takes Hold: Afternoon of December 18, 1865
Chapter 4: Remembering the Different Directions of 1861: Late Afternoon of December 18, 1865
Chapter 5: Brave Women: The Night of December 18, 1865
Chapter 6: Meeting Julia’s Convictions: December 18, 1865
Chapter 7: A Rifle, a Locket, and Combs: December 18, 1865
Chapter 8: My Father Sits Sentry: December 19, 1865
Chapter 9: Kilakeena: The Night of December 19, 1865
Chapter 10: Blazes: The Night of December 19, 1865
Chapter 11: I Am Free: Night to Early Morning of December 19, 1865
Chapter 12: A Promise to Keep: December 20, 1865
Chapter 13: Sparks in a Nation: The Night of December 20, 1865
Chapter 14: Tension Stokes the Flame: Later the Night of December 20, 1865
Chapter 15: Negotiations: Late during the Night of December 20, 1865
Chapter 16: The Bear Man Story: The Night of December 20, 1865
Chapter 17: My Cousin Betrayed Me: Late Night of December 20, 1865 and on into the Morning
Chapter 18: My Darkest Hour: The Morning of December 21, 1865

Part 2: Snowbirds

Chapter 19: Great Buzzard and the Beloved Woman: A Long, Long Time Ago … Willie’s Grave—December 22, 1865
Chapter 20: The Turbulent Times: Remembering May, 1836
Chapter 21: Behind the Prison Wall: Remembering August 1836
Chapter 22: Even White Men Can See: Remembering August 1836
Chapter 23: Uphill, Uphill: Recalling the Summer of 1838 … While Still Sitting at the Foot of Willie’s Grave
Chapter 24: Upstream, Upstream: Recalling the Summer of 1838
Chapter 25: Beloved Woman, War Woman: Recalling the Events of the Summer of 1838
Chapter 26: The Bravest Confederate I Ever Knew: December 22, 1865
Chapter 27: Only Tsali Knows the Answer: Recalling the Late Summer of 1838
Chapter 28: Tsali’s Answer: Recalling the Events of the Autumn of 1838
Chapter 29: Thunder and Lightning: Recalling the Winter-Spring of 1839
Chapter 30: The Trail of Tears: Resurrecting the Trail of Tears 1839
Chapter 31: Tsiskwa’gwa: Reliving the end 1839
Chapter 32: Bloody Cove: Recalling a Desperate Day and Night in the Spring of 1839
Chapter 33: She Belongs to the Mountains: Remembering the Events of 1839
Chapter 34: Blood Law: Remembering Mid-Summer 1839
Chapter 35: The Seventh Generation: Remembering Coming Out of the Caves in 1839
Chapter 36: A Beloved Woman Is Born: December 22, 1865

Part 3: The Final Battle

Chapter 37: Seven Boys: The Night of December 22, 1865
Chapter 38: Pine Trees: Midnight Hour of December 22, 1865
Chapter 39: A Screaming Decision: Night Turns to the Morning of December 23, 1865
Chapter 40: A Reality More Dreadful Than Dreams: December 23, 1865
Chapter 41: Grieving in Time: December 24, 1865
Chapter 42: The Last Battle: December 24, 1865
Chapter 43: Remembering Nate Butler: December 24, 1865
Chapter 44: Malachi: December 25, 1865
Chapter 45: Why? January 3, 1866
Chapter 46: We Do Move On: January 4, 1866
Chapter 47: A Few Final Thoughts: From an Old Man, 1908
Chapter 48: Epilogue: March 2020–March 2021

Discussion Questions
A Final Note
About the Author
All interested in Civil War history, the pandemic and quarantines that followed, Cherokee culture (1800s including the Cherokee Removal) and the morality of each era with relevance for today.
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