Civil War fiction generally depends on the vast amplitude of the national scene for its effect, on battles and political strife in high places. Underneath these, though, as the ultimate cause, lay the many fearful incidents in small communities torn apart by the fury of local enmities. Sometimes one of these episodes is a perfect reflection of the greater conflict, reducing and concentrating the scope into a few excruciating events more readily formed into a powerful story. The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas in 1862 is such an incident, and A Bright Tragic Thing is such a novel.
A Bright Tragic Thing recreates the lynching of more than forty Union men by Confederate extremists, an incident known to history as the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas.