Home Lifestyle McGee’s ‘Cartledge Creek’ based on Civil War stories

McGee’s ‘Cartledge Creek’ based on Civil War stories

Sam McGee hands over a signed copy of his debut novel "Cartledge Creek" during a book signing Thursday afternoon at Pattan's Downtown Grille.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The tales passed down by family members over the past century served as the inspiration for Sam McGee’s first novel.

McGee, a Charlotte attorney with Richmond County roots, signed copies of “Cartledge Creek” at Pattan’s Downtown Grille on Thursday.

The narrative follows the journey of Jim Dockery from Civil War battlefields to Union prison camps and eventually back home to Richmond County.

“The stories that I heard, primarily from my grandma — sitting on the same front porch where her grandma, who lived through the stories, told them — I just couldn’t help but  want to bring it to life the way that you can do through fiction,” he said.

According to McGee, most of the events in the book actually happened.

“But things like what my two triple-great uncles said to each other during the Civil War are lost to history,” he said. “So, you take what you know from oral tradition from family and what you can find through research and what you know about their personalities … filling in the gaps where you have to, but trying to stay as true to the real story as you can.”

It’s a story McGee said he’s wanted to write since he was a teenager.

“Just hearing grandma tell those stories, I always knew it was something I wanted to do, always thought it was an amazing story, would make an incredible book,” he said. “Somewhere along the way I decided I should be the guy to write it.”

McGee said he almost tried to write it nearly 25 years ago, but decided he wasn’t ready.

“I needed to get better at writing, I needed to have a little more life experience,” he said.

But then the Yale graduate got busy with life, raising a family and running a law practice.

“I started thinking, ‘If I’m not careful, I may never do this,’” he said. “So I just buckled down and did it.”

Something else he wanted to do was own the family house on Cartledge Creek Road, which is featured on the cover of the book — and has for the past 15 years.


The main character, Jim Dockery, was the youngest son of Gen. Alfred Dockery to fight in the Civil War.

“He had a really compelling path,” McGee said.

Dockery fought his way through Virginia and spent time in a prison camp — only to be released, join the battle at Gettysburg, and get sent to another prison camp in Elmira, New York, according to McGee.

Dockery’s cousin, Ben Covington, fought at Fort Fisher and, as fate would have it, wound up at the same prison camp.

“It’s really cold in Elmira in the winter and there was about a 30 percent mortality rate …it was really tough to survive the winter there,” McGee said. 

Although the war ended in early April at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, Dockery and Covington remained imprisoned for several more months.

“Then they were kinda left to their own devices to get home … from New York to Rockingham, which is a pretty long ways to walk,” McGee said.

This is McGee’s second publishing venture.

He co-authored “Sidelines and Bloodlines: A Father, His Sons and Our Life in College Football,” with his father, Jerry McGee, and brother, ESPN’s Ryan McGee.

The book, released in 2020, was about the patriarch’s 36 years on the sidelines as a college football official.

But, if all goes according to plan, “Cartledge Creek” won’t be his last, as McGee has a lot of ideas kicking around in his head — including more historical fiction and a children’s book.

“I’m going to write as many books as I can write,” McGee said, jokingly adding, “and hopefully someone will publish them.”




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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.