Road to Antietam
The reality of war for Daniel and Christopher Galloway is mostly marching back and forth or digging ditches. The rebels stay one step ahead of them and are gone when they arrive. Daniel, the older brother, focuses on doing the right thing to be a hero so he’ll finally get permission to court his girl… maybe. But Christopher tends to get into trouble, which shines a poor light on Daniel.
Christopher just wants to be a good soldier but is easily frustrated. He also drinks and, while stationed in Virginia, goes with a friend to a makeshift drinking establishment. But the provosts are on their way and the friends get separated. Christopher is captured by bushwhackers, who take him to jail where he’s imprisoned with a handful of others, one of whom is a violent bully. The torment Christopher suffers eventually drives him to do the unthinkable, an action that haunts him long after his release.
This book encompasses April 1861 through September 1862. It follows the Galloways through boot camp to seeing the elephant and enduring the bloodiest single day of fighting during the war. Along the way we get a taste of camp life, cowardly leaders, and life as a POW in Libby Prison. Hicklin does a commendable job depicting the brutal reality of war. While occasional scenes – such as Daniel’s dream or the pastor who gives up his place in the prisoner exchange to save Christopher – evoke strong emotions in the reader, the author maintains a distance between the events being recounted and the reading experience. At least, the depiction of the Battle of Antietam provides a powerful and memorable ending.