“Josh! Did you hear the news? We fired on Fort Sumter. Josh, it means that the war has begun!”
With those words, Josh and Monte rush out to sign up in the Confederate Army. Two young men, hardly more than boys, whose main goal is to bloody the noses of the enemy. Who that enemy is, they have only a dim idea.
Like so many young men on both sides of the conflict, they don’t have the details of why they are at war with their countrymen. All that matters is that their homes, families, and way of life are being threatened. And the idea of a bit of glory and bragging rights also figure largely in their eager decision to march off to battle.
For awhile, it’s all they had hoped for: excitement, pretty girls giving them adoring stares when they rode through town, nighttime conversations around the fire. Even the first battle doesn’t seem all that real. But when the months drag on far beyond the six months the boys had assumed would be the extent of the war, they gradually realize that this was not some little rout of an annoying group of interlopers.
Loss of friends, battle wounds, and loss of family take their toll on Josh. When the war is finally over, he finds himself wandering, unable to settle down and unable to hold a job for long. The war became his life, and many times he had hoped it would become his death. It did finally take him, but only long after it was over.
The author, Jim Carey, wrote in the Forward to “Echoes from Home”: “Very shortly into the writing, I found that I was no longer telling the story through Joshua, but rather he was telling the story through me.” And I can certainly believe that.
So poignant, so honest–the story goes right through the reader. You can almost smell the gunpowder and see the smoke of battle. The times in between action, marked only by drill and patrol, are told just as honestly as the stories of the skirmishes and clashes.
The gradual decline of the Confederate Army fortunes and supplies are shocking to Josh and his fellows: the inability to get food or medicine, soldiers without shoes during the cold of winter, the new recruits and unsuited officers, as the war approaches its climax. And when it is over, another sad leg of Josh’s life journey begins.
Having known nothing but war and fighting for so long, Josh is ill-prepared to fit back into society. Mr. Carey goes into what Josh’s life was like after the conflict is over. Interestingly, he tells it first through Josh’s eyes, then through the eyes of his freed slave, Little John. I really thought the end was well-written and very satisfying; a closure of sorts for all concerned.
Even though this book is a work of fiction, the war was not. And this book showed the dire truth behind those battles we read about in history books.
Thank you, Mr. Carey, for pointing out what we need to remember. There is no glory in war, only death. I’m sure Josh is grateful too.