The Green Soldier

Written by J. Edward Gore
Review by Cindy Vallar

To fight for his country just as his ancestor did, John Gore joins the Union Army in 1861. He hopes to earn a medal or promotion and thus gain the respect of others, but as in civilian life, some soldiers ridicule him because he stutters. He finds solace in writing letters to his younger brother Jimmy and Annie Elzey, a girl he meets. He describes the daily grind of army life, the endless marching – a journey that takes him from Kentucky to Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Ohio – and the aftermath of battle both as a soldier detailed to bury the dead and as a nurse. One day his stutter results in a friend’s death; the consequences come later when he least expects them.

War is never just fought on the battlefield. It affects families left behind, as Jimmy’s and Annie’s letters reveal. Both experience the underbelly of soldiering, but in different ways. Jimmy refuses to be bullied by anyone, be it a boy from school or a Union sergeant. The incidents push him toward joining the Confederate Army, which means fighting against his brother. Annie has firsthand knowledge of just how brutal the rebels are. Understanding the danger John faces, she sends him a token to help keep him safe in hopes that one day he will return it to her.

This is a poignant tale, filled with deep emotions that sometimes bring smiles and other times tears. Woven into the letters are truths about slavery, coping with grief and disabilities, imprisonment, and death. As the story progresses, the characters mature and innocence is lost, while conviction and faith grow stronger. Gore portrays the realities of war with brutal honesty, leaving behind memories that readers won’t soon forget.