Will At The Battle
There is a basic subgenre of coming of age books for boys. The
young hero has a romantic view of war. He encounters the real thing.
His attitude changes markedly. Laurie Calkhoven's Will at the Battle
of Gettysburg is a bright shining star of this type of novel.
As the story opens Will wishes he could have mustered in with
older brother Jacob to fight in the Union Army. He's sure he could
help hold the country together and gain glory. Heck, there are lots
of twelve-year-old drummers. The only problem: enlistees under
eighteen need parental permission. There is no way his mother will
ever sign off on that.
Jacob has been captured by the Rebs and is languishing in a
prison camp. His doctor father is in Washington DC trying to
negotiate a prisoner exchange. Will tries to be the man of the house
and make him proud. Even that small piece of importance is denied him
by bossy older sister Grace.
Unexpectedly the field of battle changes to Will's own town,
Gettysburg. There's shelling on his own street. His home becomes a
hospital for badly wounded soldiers. The actuality of war is nothing
like he thought it would be. "I had not imagined the sharp hot smell
of blood mixed with saltpeter. I had not imagined men running
scared. I had not imagined joy in the killing. The words, 'Got 'em',
echoed in my ears.". That's the point where he is given a vital
mission--to help a wounded officer deliver an urgent communication to
General Meade, the officer in charge of the whole Union Army. He
agrees to do so, even though almost paralyzed by the realization that
that act could be his last.
On a personal note, I had never imagined that any of my children would
be interested in the military. With my brother-in-law enamored with
the Navy I shouldn't have been blindsided. I was. Well my sincere
hope and prayer is that Adam's Navy years are ones in which the United
States has no involvement whatsoever in war. I don't want him to
learn first hand how different war is from promises of recruiters.
A great big shout out goes out to all peace activists. Blessed be!
Julia Emily Hathaway
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