Books — Local history professor explores big questions through fictional account of cousins at odds during the Civil War

Is war ever moral or just? Newberg resident and author Ralph Beebe addresses this and other compelling questions in his new book, “Cousins at War: A Civil War Novel,” published May 3.

“I’ve read over 1,000 letters from Union and Confederate soldiers in order to properly portray life in the Civil War era,” Beebe said. “I want to provide an authentic and scholarly depiction of the American Civil War as well as offer a narrative on familial bonds and the morality of war.”


According to a press release, “Cousins at War” is the fictional tale of two cousins, Aaron and Joel Haskins, living in Maryland during the Civil War. They are best friends who share a birthday and just about everything else. As Maryland begins to prepare for the Civil War, they both must decide if they will fight. The cousins end up making different choices that forever alter their lives.

Aaron decides to join the rebel army while Joel stays home with his new bride. The war slowly brings the cousins further apart as they focus on their own goals. Joel resists war for 18 months until a battle occurs near his home, and he confronts and kills a rebel solider attempting to rape his wife.

Joel discovers that he is capable of killing if the provocation is great enough. Even though his family owns two adult slaves, he feels morally in tune with the Union cause and decides to take up arms. With the two cousins now pitted directly against each other, it is up to them to decide if their love or hate will prevail.

Weaving emotional decisions throughout, the book provides a poignant social commentary about the ramifications of our decisions, our roles in society and our responsibilities to one another. Beebe uses a tragic storyline to question the morality of war and educate readers by presenting an authentic view of the Civil War from both Union and Confederate perspectives.

“Aaron and Joel’s choices separate then, but their love for each other is a bond that can never be destroyed,” Beebe said.

Beebe is a professor of history emeritus at George Fox University and a retired high school teacher. He holds a master’s degree in teaching from Linfield College and a master’s degree and doctorate in arts from the University of Oregon. He has previously authored six books, including “The Worker and Social Change: The Pullman Strike of 1894” and “The Embargo.”

Published by iUniverse, “Cousins at War” is available online through Amazon.

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