Jesse Bowman: A Union Boy’s War Story

Written by Tom McGowen
Review by James Hawking

Young readers are the target audience of this American Civil War story. Jesse Bowman enlists in the Chicago Zouaves, a colorful unit outfitted in Moroccan style by way of French imitators and noted for complex parade ground drills. By the time Jesse joins, they are wearing ordinary Union uniforms, but they do receive special training in Zouave tactics, enabling them to perform gallantly in a series of gently described bloody battles leading up to the capture and holding of Chattanooga. All action is seen through Northern eyes, but one constant theme is the Union admiration for the courage and tenacity of the rebels. The book is at its best describing how and why the soldiers’ shoes have to fit either foot or how the troops were victimized by shoddy clothing from unscrupulous manufacturers. A generous, well-illustrated final section called “The Real History behind the Story” helps to turn the story into a history lesson.