The fourth, and possibly last, book in the Starbuck Chronicles, begins with a bloody skirmish in a cornfield. That is hardly unusual, since the entire Starbuck Chronicles are laced with battles. After this particular one, though, Starbuck is whisked away from the Faulconer Legion and sent to command the Yellowlegs, a battalion which, after fleeing a field of battle, has come to be known as cowards.
Feeling rejected and uncertain of his own courage, Starbuck returns to Richmond to attempt to make the Yellowlegs worthy of battle. When he gets there he finds that the majority of the battalion's problems come from the cowardice of the officers more than the cowardice of the men.
Deception, both uncovered and unknown, plays a prominent roll in this book. Nate's new command of the Yellowlegs brings a whole new set of friends and enemies into the story, adding new emotional ties and uncertainties. There are also old characters who are given a new importance, including the escaped slave Lucifer and the infamous Billy Blythe.
Nate once again makes his way through adventures that test and create friendship and loyalty. He and the Yellowlegs fight together to win redemption, while suspected but unconfirmed to Nate two of his Captains and an ex-Sergeant are plotting not only his murder but the murder of his allies among the battalion.
Finally, during the intense last quarter of the book that is the horrific battle of Antietam, the plotters begin to strike. Bernard Cornwell portrays this action-packed and stressful sequence as both awful and heartbreakingly beautiful, moving deftly from broad accounts of the battle to raw personal moments. One would assume at this point that Nate and his friends have near to no chance of survival, but yet those who have read the rest of the Starbuck Chronicles will recall a quote: "It ain't over till the hog stops squealing." Starbuck and his friends are still very much squealing.
Title: The Bloody Ground