Naming The Stones
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A Moment in Civil War History
Witnessed by a New England Boy
For a twelve-year-old boy from New Bedford, Massachusetts, the fighting down south seems far removed from the day-to-day realities of life. Until now, he has passed his time watching whaleships come and go from the ports of the Whaling City, dreaming of magnificent adventures at sea, and visiting his Uncle Zoeth’s farm in nearby Dartmouth. But this is the Civil War, and that changes everything.
Today he watches from shore as the great whaleships leave New Bedford on a mission of sacrifice. The twenty-four ships are heavily loaded with stone and manned only by skeleton crews. They are bound for Charleston, South Carolina and Fort Sumter, where they will be sunk in an attempt to blockade this key Confederate port.
With his father standing beside him, tears in his eyes as he calls calling off the names of each ship in a final salute, one New England boy learns the tragic realities of war. Naming the Stones, based on an actual episode of the Civil War, resonates with themes that are relevant today, reminding us how war engenders fear, sorrow and patriotism.
“Clara Stites provides a charming account of a little-known episode in Civil War history demonstrating both the ingenuity and patriotism of the citizens of Massachusetts. It is the quintessential American story.”
— H. G. Jones, The North Caroliniana Society
“History is everywhere in this story, but it comes to us sidelong, beautifully rendered through the eyes of a New Bedford boy who is trying to decipher both the workings and the costs of war. Clara Stites has written a moving and important story that will live long in the mind.”
— Elizabeth Graver, Author of Unravelling and The Honey Thief
“It was a celebrated event in New Bedford’s history. Ms. Stites has charmingly evoked an image of the people involved in this ambitious undertaking.”
—Elton W. Hall, Executive Director, Early American Industries Association
and former curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum