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Tuesday 4 June 2024

My Coffee Pot Book Club tour guest: the Shire's Union Trilogy by Richard Buxton

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About the Book
Trilogy consisting of:
Whirligig (Book #1)
The Copper Road (Book #2)
Tigers in Blue (Book #3)

Series: Shire’s Union
Author: Richard Buxton
Publisher: Ocoee Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction

Shire leaves his home and his life in Victorian England for the sake of a childhood promise, a promise that pulls him into the bleeding heart of the American Civil War. Lost in the bloody battlefields of the West, he discovers a second home for his loyalty.

Clara believes she has escaped from a predictable future of obligation and privilege, but her new life in the Appalachian Hills of Tennessee is decaying around her. In the mansion of Comrie, long hidden secrets are being slowly exhumed by a war that creeps ever closer.

The Shire’s Union trilogy is at once an outsider’s odyssey through the battle for Tennessee, a touching story of impossible love, and a portrait of America at war with itself. Self-interest and conflict, betrayal and passion, all fuse into a fateful climax.

Written by award winning author Richard Buxton, the Shire’s Union trilogy begins with Whirligig, is continued in The Copper Road, and concludes with Tigers in Blue.

Buy Links:

Universal Buy Links for individual titles: 

Trilogy Amazon Buy Links:


Author Bio: 

Richard lives with his family in the South Downs, Sussex, England. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University in 2014. He has an abiding relationship with America, having studied at Syracuse University, New York State, in the late eighties. He travels extensively for research, especially in Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio, and is rarely happier than when setting off from a motel to spend the day wandering a battlefield or imagining the past close beside the churning wheel of a paddle steamer.

Richard’s short stories have won the Exeter Story Prize, the Bedford International Writing Competition and the Nivalis Short Story Award. His first novel, Whirligig (2017) was shortlisted for the Rubery International Book Award. It was followed by The Copper Road (2020) and the Shire’s Union trilogy was completed by Tigers in Blue (2023). To learn more about Richard’s writing visit

Author Links:

Amazon Author Page:

Read An Excerpt

Camp Cleveland, Ohio – December 1862

In the center of the square, under the American flag, a loose halyard slapped the pole, out of rhythm with the swirling wind. The gritty snow, sharp as sand, had taken up residence in the air and sucked the color from the scene. To Shire, the surrounding brown barrack huts, a tied bay mare, the blue uniforms, were all shaded towards grey. If ever the snow met the ground, it was soon collected into short-lived eddies and whipped back up to prickle his hands and face. He half closed his eyes against the sting, tried not to lick his cracked lips; it only made them colder. It still felt strange to be marching beneath that flag.

‘Right face!’ shouted Sergeant Bluffton.

The whole of Company B swiveled ninety degrees.


Half the men – the ‘ones’ – stood still, while Shire – a heartbeat late – and the other designated ‘twos’, stepped forward and to the right of the man in front. The company was magically converted from two lines for battle into four lines of column.


Step off with the left leg. Keep your distance constant to the man in front. Don’t give Bluffton any excuse. Shire could feel the shape of his scar. The freezing wind defined it for him. The rest of his face was raw, a dull ache under the skin, but the scar itself felt wet. He recalled a kiss from his mother in some other life, long ago.

Could he call it a scar yet? Had it finished healing? At first the burn had wept a clear but constant discharge. But by the time he’d travelled with Dan from New York to Dan’s parents’ home in Medina, Ohio, it had crusted red and yellow. He’d tried not to pick at it but it itched, inside and out. The scab had only yesterday come away completely, leaving a glassy red tear, the size of his thumbprint.

‘Left wheel – march!’

Don’t try to anticipate; Sergeant Bluffton mixes up the orders. To think at all was ill-advised. Just drill until your body did whatever Bluffton said. March, turn, stop, present arms, march again and try to forget it was Christmas Eve.

A lone, lanky soldier was standing outside the commissary store, watching them. What was he about? Bluffton halted the men. The bay mare, tied outside the officers’ mess, defecated wetly, steamy warmth wasting into the air.

‘Fix bayonets!’

Shire pulled his bayonet from the sheath attached to his belt. His numb fingers vaguely registered the deeper cold of the barrel as he slipped the bayonet ring into place.

‘Shoulder arms!’

Everyone who mattered was so far away. He imagined his friends at Ridgmont; the church with the nativity set out, the farm with the horses all stalled, the school empty for Christmas – Father alone at home.

No letters. It was hard sometimes to feel the same impetus with which he’d set out to keep his promise. He’d tried not to let this show in his latest letter home. And he’d written that he’d enlisted for nine months, not for the three years which was the only option. The war couldn’t last that long.

‘Order arms!’

Three years. Fighting a war that wasn’t his, to keep a promise made sitting in a tree when he was seven. He moved his rifle to his right hand and rested the butt beside his foot, holding the barrel lightly. A clatter of tin came from the kitchen hut, followed by some prize cursing. Bluffton scanned the line, daring anyone to so much as smile without his permission, then turned his back. Shire relaxed. At last he’d got through a drill without a mistake, despite his wandering mind. Perhaps that was the trick.

Someone behind kicked the butt of his rifle. Shire dropped it on the hard dirt. He heard laughter and spun round on a burst of anger. Cleves was wearing a stifled smile in his weasel face. It was always bloody Cleves. When he turned back, Bluffton’s face was barely an inch away, his brown beard almost up to his scowling eyes. Shire felt as if he was about to be mauled by some great bear.

‘Extra fatigue duty,’ Bluffton spat. ‘You must be getting good at digging latrine ditches. Let’s see if you can hang onto a shovel better than a rifle.’ The sergeant turned away.

More hours out in the cold. Shire picked up his rifle and wondered how many more weeks Cleves and Bluffton would keep this up.

The sergeant called over the soldier outside the commissary store. The tall man had no rifle and his uniform was too short, an inch of pale skin showed above his boots. He had an odd gait as he walked, rather than marched; his lower legs and forearms appearing to swing past the usual stopping point, as if a vital ligament was missing. He came to a stop, arms relaxed by his sides, slightly hunched as if he were sitting back on a fence rail.

‘This one’s from Kentucky,’ said the sergeant to Company B. ‘I don’t know why we can’t fill this company from Ohio, as it should be. And I don’t know why this boy hasn’t seen fit to join up with his own kith and kin. What I do know is I ain’t got the time to teach him the drill. Stand to attention, boy.’

The Kentuckian, untidy dark hair under an ill-fitting cap, straightened himself; though to Shire’s eye it wasn’t a stance that came naturally to the man. He gained two or three more inches in the process, a proportion of which translated to his trousers and showed off more skin.

The sergeant looked down. ‘You planning on turnin’ heads with those pretty white legs?’

There was laughter in the ranks.

‘Commissary store didn’t have a fit, sir. Said they’d see what they could do.’

‘You address me as Sergeant. Corporal Lyman!’


Amazing how the corporal could strip any hint of energy or enthusiasm from a single word.

‘This man will replace Rittman in your section.’

Rittman had deserted with his sign-up money a week ago; bounty jumping they called it.

‘You’re to teach him the Manual of Arms and the drill.’

Lyman’s heavy sigh didn’t carry past Shire. ‘Yes, Sergeant.’

‘And take him back to the commissary hut and get him some gaiters or longer socks. Our Kentucky boy might be feeling the Ohio cold.’

There was more laughter, tolerated by the sergeant. Shire smiled too. The new recruit was shown to the spare place in the section, immediately to Shire’s right, still drawing amusement both on account of his height and trousers.

‘Shoulder arms!’

He was keeping a neutral face, and Shire felt for him. But he was sick and tired of being the company’s whipping boy. It was time for someone else to take a turn.

‘Left face!’

The poor man was facing straight at him. Despite a nugget of guilt he couldn’t quite escape, Shire broke into full-throated laughter along with the rest of Company B. He looked up at the hapless man, received a thin smile and a raised eyebrow. Only then did Shire realize the Kentuckian was facing the same way as everybody else.

Follow the tour
Twitter Handle: @RichardBuxton65 @cathiedunn
Instagram Handle: @richardbuxton63 @thecoffeepotbookclub

Hashtags: #ShiresUnion #AmericanCivilWar #Historical Fiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Tour Schedule Page: 

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  1. Thanks so much for hosting Richard Buxton today, with such an enticing excerpt.

    Take care,
    Cathie xx
    The Coffee Pot Book Club


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