1862: The Elephant

Now I’m writing novels based on Salisbury family history. The first American Salisbury and his oldest son killed an Indian on June 20, 1675, and started King Philips War (This is true. There are facts in the novels.) That war still remains the bloodiest on north American soil. One of every five colonists – that includes men, women and children - was killed; half the Indians were killed or sold into slavery. Three days later the two Salisburys had their heads cut off by Indians, and put on stakes. Their tongues were cut out. That sin – the father commanded his son to shoot – is the beginning of a long cycle of Salisburys going to war. Daniel Salisbury, a Vermont militia man called away to the Revolution. Lieutenant Reuben Salisbury in 1812. Then three successive generations in America’s three biggest wars. Three men wounded.

Civil War soldiers asked each other: "Have you seen the elephant?" which meant, "Have you seen combat?" Before the war, an elephant was the strangest thing anyone had ever seen.

The man pictured on the right, Moreau Salisbury, saw the elephant. Many Salisbury fathers told sons to shoot.

Whatever karma works itself out through these generations and wars finds a voice, a tongue, however awkward, in these novels. I’ve just completed the first.

A portion of the novel appeared in the Spring 2005 Ploughshares as "The Great Cheese."