Savage Wounds

The True Story of the Ruined Men

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
322 Pages
Reviewed on 10/16/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Savage Wounds: The True Story of the Ruined Men by Sam Knupp is an incredibly powerful and moving story of the aftermath of war and the horrific injuries experienced, especially in the American Civil War where so many men were left “ruined”; missing arms, legs, blinded, deafened, or disfigured. Goliath Entwhistle was a colossus of a man, close to seven feet tall and massive in every way but with a gentle and fair soul. A farmer from West Virginia, when the Civil War broke out, Goliath enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy, not because he supported slavery; he was vehemently opposed to it, but simply because he had to fight to defend his home, his family, and his community. After the Battle of Gettysburg, where Goliath was horrifically wounded, with most of his face destroyed, it seemed there was no future for him or indeed for many of the other wounded or “ruined men”. President Lincoln, however, had other ideas for these men. Goliath was asked to command a group of over three hundred ruined men and lead them to somewhere they could settle down and live out their lives in dignity and usefulness without the stigma of being ruined. The families of these unfortunate men would be told their loved ones had died at Gettysburg. The 1st Gettysburg Invalids would carve an indelible name for themselves in the annals of American history and achieve amazing feats of bravery and courage that few could ever have imagined.

Few books have stirred my soul, roused my ire, and plucked at my empathy quite as much as Savage Wounds. Author Sam Knupp has created a scenario here that is as fantastic as it is believable. His writing is so sincere, so impactful, and so deeply realistic that the reader is left wondering if this did happen and if this is a historical record rather than historical fiction. Immense kudos is due to this author for achieving that reaction in readers. The author’s beautifully descriptive and flowing prose draws the reader along in a whirlwind of emotions from page to page. I particularly enjoyed that the story was told not only from the perspective of Goliath but also from that of his beloved Laura who refused to believe that Goliath had died at Gettysburg and set out in the middle of a war zone, with Rhinoceros, a freed slave, to search for her love and to bring him home, regardless of how horrible his injuries might be. She was as certain he was alive as she was that their love could overcome any physical handicaps he might possess. Gratifying, as a reader, was the author’s often philosophical musings on the futility and waste of the Civil War, in particular, but on the conflict between men, in general. The idea and absurdity of a brother raising weapons against a brother and families split asunder by the violence was threaded beautifully throughout the entire narrative. This is a difficult book to read, given the violent nature of conflict and the horrific injuries of those involved, yet it is impossible to put down and truly did reach deep into my heart and soul. One of the best books I’ve read this year and one I can highly recommend.

Manik Chaturmutha

Savage Wounds by Sam Knupp is a historical fiction novel set during the American Civil War. The book follows the aftermath of the Gettysburg battle and the soldiers permanently injured during it. The action at Gettysburg was the turning point in the American Civil War, with thousands of casualties on both sides. One comes across many literary works regarding the event, but they do not describe what happened to the soldiers who were disabled by the war and denied the privilege to return home. This book tells the story of these unsung heroes who made a difference from the sidelines of the battle. Every chapter turns a new leaf in the story of the hectic lives of the soldiers. With a new threat, new challenges, and an ever-growing list of people to grieve for, this book delves deep into the emotions of the shattered men as they faced the world every day, knowing it could be their last. They act as a source of inspiration for others, stating that physical disabilities do not cripple a man unless he chooses to.

The author's writing style creates an almost realistic image of the conditions during the war and the scenery during a battle. The gruesome descriptions of the battlefield and the state of the corpses will send a chill down anyone's spine. The book describes the conditions with utmost accuracy and gives readers a glance at the life of people in the late 19th century. Although confusing, the beginning of the book describes the conditions in detail, which helps readers understand the characters' motivations and why they followed through with a specific course of action. The presence of quotes at the end of each chapter is also commendable. Overall, the book makes for an engaging and exciting read for historians and history lovers alike. However, themes such as violence, sexual assault, and murder make this a preferable read for adults. Savage Wounds by Sam Knupp is highly recommended to people curious about the inner lives of the soldiers torn by the war and historians looking for an accurate historical description of the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg.

K.C. Finn

Savage Wounds: The True Story of the Ruined Men is a work of fiction in the alternative history and speculative subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience due to distressing themes and scenes of wartime violence and was penned by author Sam Knupp. In this work filled with a unique perspective and raw, unfettered emotion, Knupp explores the history of the American Civil War with a postmodern critical eye and tells the tale of Colonel Goliath Entwistle at the Battle of Gettysburg. What results is a new twist on history that also teaches keen lessons about humanity’s capacity to conquer, overcome, and endure suffering.

Author Sam Knupp really takes American history by the scruff of the neck and gives it a good shake in this exciting new take on the Battle of Gettysburg. The drier areas of American history are revamped with fresh ink by this engaging narrative style. Although there’s a heavy dose of artistic license in the storytelling, I felt as though the core elements that U.S. history teaches were firmly in place as the foundations of what became a highly credible and realistic tale for the most part. As such, the sharper, more modern perspectives on war, suffering, and violence are highlighted by the artistic choices and changes that Knupp makes, and in his development of the key protagonist Goliath. The dialogue is as epic as the actions and consequences of those that speak it, with many a quotable line floating around in the reader’s mind long after you put the work down. Overall, I would highly recommend Savage Wounds to history fans, but perhaps especially those who aren’t usually history fans as this is a work that will surprise you.

Asher Syed

Savage Wounds: The True Story of the Ruined Men by Sam Knupp is a speculative historical novel that revolves around the Civil War and an unlikely band of brothers led by a man without a face. Knupp writes the novel in vignettes in an omniscient point of view that frequently leans toward the third-person, and occasionally alternates timelines between the war itself and the time before it, providing insight into the life of Goliath Entwhistle. Goliath is a staggeringly tall man whose facial injuries suffered in battle are so severe that he is rendered faceless, a horror, and too ruined to return home to the woman he loves. A second call to service is commanded by President Abraham Lincoln, commissioning Goliath to lead an army of others too injured to go home after the Battle at Gettysburg: The 1st Gettysburg Invalids.

Savage Wounds is nothing like I expected when I picked it up as I assumed it was a novel written in a traditional format, but was delighted to find a far more creative approach to storytelling by Sam Knupp. The writing itself is clean and tight and the words feel as if they jump out at each line, almost punching through the page. There is a perfunctory quality that is clearly intentional and beautifully executed. Colonel Goliath Entwhistle is portrayed as neither an honorable nor dishonorable man, only as a ruined man who has made choices that some might understand and others will not. This is perhaps the greatest part of Knupp's character arc in that it is left to the reader to absorb the atrocities of war, its ruined men, and what to make of it “..., and at the end of all things, may Heaven open its gates to these wounded warriors. God bless the Invalids. Fight on.” Highly recommended.

Pikasho Deka

Set during the American Civil War, Savage Wounds by Sam Knupp is a tale of loss, resilience, and the indomitable will of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. The war has taken everything away from Colonel Goliath Samuel Entwhistle. Severely disfigured and ravaged by injuries, Goliath, a Southern son of Shenandoah Valley, finds himself in charge of a battalion consisting of wounded, disabled, and crippled soldiers, calling themselves the 1st Gettysburg Invalids of the Union. Assigned by President Lincoln himself, the 1st Gettysburg frees the town of Martinsburg from the clutches of the Hatefuls (Deserters), catching the eye of the nation. Meanwhile, Laura, Goliath's lover, embarks on a harrowing journey to reunite with Goliath alongside the freed slave Rhinoceros, putting her at the direct crossroads of a dangerous man who never hesitates to commit atrocities of unimaginable depravity.

Author Sam Knupp perfectly demonstrates the horrors of war where, no matter which side wins, the soldiers and the people caught in the midst are always the ones to pay the ultimate price. Savage Wounds showcases the brutal realities of war where there is no glory to be found or songs to be sung, only death, destruction, and despair permeating the lives of the people long forgotten in history. The narrative is relentlessly bleak at times, with no hope in sight. But considering the subject matter, it is not only understandable but also necessary to make the impact of war felt by the reader. The characters feel like real people who have been thrust into circumstances they had no control over. A gripping war story I highly recommend it.