The Civil War was not the adventure that Thrasher expected. It was much more and much less. It was more boredom, more blood, and more loneliness. It was less glory, less adventure and less fun. And it brought him far-fewer answers than he’d expected.
To the young soldiers who volunteered for it, it wasn’t war, it was a chance for adventure, a chance to prove yourself, and perhaps a chance to be a hero. It was the Boys’ War, the Battle of the Blue and Gray, the War Between the States, the Civil War.
Thrasher was 14 when he tucked a slip of paper with 18 on it into his shoe, so that when asked his age, he responded, “I’m over 18, sir.” Moments later he was sworn into the Confederate army, a member of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, and the company of the Okefinoke Rifles.
But Thrasher wasn’t thinking of adventure or glory or even of death, when he signed up that day. He was thinking about the gator that had almost chewed off his Pap’s leg, while Thrasher stood and watched, frozen with fear. He was thinking of the disappointment in his father’s eyes, as Thrasher failed him yet again. He was thinking that being a soldier, fighting for the rights the Yankees were taking away from the South, would make Pap finally proud of him.
Thrasher couldn’t know then that a gun and a uniform don’t make you a strong grown-up, don’t keep you from being frozen with fear. It’s the person behind the gun and the uniform. You can be a kid at 40, or an adult at 14. Each person has to decide for him/herself.
For Thrasher, war was marching and mud, exhaustion and waiting, foraging for food, talking and learning, baseball games and midnight truces with nearby Yankees, when they shared tobacco and coffee, and knew that if it were up to them, instead of generals and governments, they could settle the war in just a matter of minutes.
In the midst of war, how long does it take for a 14-year-old boy to become an adult? Follow Thrasher into that war and find out.
This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart