HIRAM’S HURRAH / Local author releases second Civil War novel based on his great-uncle

College biologist turned historian and author, Max Terman impersonates his great-grandfather, Hiram Terman, to describe his ancestor?s experiences in the Civil War as part of a Lifelong Learning presentation Friday. Terman?s new book, ?Hiram?s Hope,? is a sequel to his well-received first novel, ?Hiram?s Honor.? Free Press photo by Don Ratzlaff
College biologist turned historian and author, Max Terman impersonates his great-grandfather, Hiram Terman, to describe his ancestor?s experiences in the Civil War as part of a Lifelong Learning presentation Friday. Terman?s new book, ?Hiram?s Hope,? is a sequel to his well-received first novel, ?Hiram?s Honor.? Free Press photo by Don Ratzlaff
Four years after completing his first historical novel, ?Hiram?s Honor,? Max Ter?man has added to the legacy of his great-uncle with the release of his Civil War-era sequel, ?Hiram?s Hope.?

In the first book, Terman, who is professor emeritus of biology at Tabor College, chronicled Hiram Ter?man?s exploits from an idealistic military volunteer to survivor of several notable battles, including Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

Hiram?s great hardship came when he was captured at Gettysburg and spent 17 months as a prisoner at Belle Island and then infamous Ander?sonville, where almost 13,000 Union soliders died within 14 months.

?At the end of ?Hiram?s Honor,? his best friend, Isaiah, is left dying there in Andersonville,? Terman said. ?A lot of people asked me, how does Isaiah ever make it back? That was the first motivation for a sequel.?

Terman said there was so much more of Hiram?s story to tell?which he discovered when he acquired Hiram?s 120-page pension file from the National Archives and Records Administration.

?The National Archives has available documentation on Civil War soliders if you can supply their regiment, and company?and I was able to do that,? he said.

The file contained numerous depositions written by Hiram, his comrades, fellow soldiers, people from his home town, and his relatives?all written to convince the government that Hiram was worthy of a $15 monthly pension.

?The thing that came through (in the file) was that he was much worse off than I thought he would have been,? Terman said. ?He really had a hard time?financially, physically and spiritually.

?The thought was, OK, I have to put something out there about how bad he had it, and then how I think he came out of it. That?s where ?Hiram?s Hope? comes from.?

Hiram?s perspective

As he did in ?Hiram?s Honor,? Terman steps into his great-uncle?s shoes to tell the story?and this time he exercised a bit more literary license with the plot.

?This (sequel) is a little more fictional than ?Hiram?s Honor,?? he said. ??Hiram Honor? is basically non-fiction. This one is half non-fiction and half fiction. But it?s based on plausible things that could have happened.?

Isaiah?s eventual escape from Andersonville is a case in point.

?There were ladies of the night down there?that was the only way they could survive there,? Terman said. ?One of the guards owed a life debt to Hiram?Hiram had saved his life in battle. So this guard and a boy help Isaiah play dead and get out him of the pen.

?This boy?s sisters is one of these ladies of the night, and Isaiah is taken there. He?s a religious sort on the first order?praising God even when he?s almost dead. He works on her, and eventually they fall in love…and they eventually marry.

?That kind of thing actually happened there frequently,? Terman concluded from his research.

In ?Hiram?s Hope,? Isaiah?s struggles weren?t over yet. After recovering his health, he boards the Sultana, a Mississippi side-wheel steamboat, to return to his home in Ohio. Over?loaded far beyond her capacity with Union soldiers, three of the Sultana?s four boilers explode, killing some 1,800 of the 2,427 passengers.

But Isaiah survives the disaster, and Terman?s book goes on to describe Isaiah?s efforts to reunite with his wife, whom he initially had to leave behind.

Terman has dedicated ?Hiram?s Hope? to the memory of those who endured Andersonville and the tragedy of the Sultana.

Inspiration to write

Terman said it took him about four years to complete the sequel. Discovering the pension file was the match the lit his fire to start writing.

?One of the things I learned while writing the first two books is that you wait for something to happen that just propels you into it,? he said. ?Like the first one, it was meeting an expert on the 82nd Ohio (Infantry, Hiram?s regiment). Then the second one was getting the pension file.?

But discovering the pension initially made Terman nervous.

?I said, oh boy, I?m going to find out that what I wrote (in ?Hiram?s Honor) is not even close,? he said. ?The thing is, I was a little off, but most of it was right on.?

Terman already has a third installment in mind to complete the triology. He has tentatively titled it,?Hiram?s Heart.?

?I don?t know what is going to propel me with this third book,? he admitted. ?I?m still waiting. You get inspiration for what the human drama will be, and I?m kind of waiting to see what that will be.?

A story worth telling

In the meantime, Terman said he feels it is his calling to tell the complete story of his great-uncle, who, despite his difficult life, lived to age 84 before he died in 1926.

?The fact that he could live through all those battles, live through Andersonville, and then die at 84 years old? he had a hard time of it,? Terman said. ?I think his wife died early because of all his nightmares, and the problems he caused. He chased off one of his (two) sons?he really had a hard time.?

But Terman believes his great-uncle found peace before he died, which is the conclusion of ?Hiram?s Heart.?

?Right toward the end (of Hiram?s life), I found that my grandmother and grandfather signed a lot of his documents for him,? he said. ?My grandmother was about as evangelical of a Christian that you could ever have. Whenever she met anybody, she always asked them how their soul was doing. I know that she got on (Hiram), too.

?I have hope that right at the end he probably came around.?

Terman believes his ancestor?s story is dramatic enough that it might inspire a movie someday. But he?s not counting on it.

?In this day and age, there are thousands and thousands of books coming out,? he said. ?Its just a matter of luck or good fortune if anything else happens.

?My main goal is tell that story. If you don?t tell it, it?s forgotten. It?s too good a story not to have somebody put it out there.?