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In the book Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, is recognized as one of the best novels written about the Civil War. Although this book does not talk about specific battles, it shows a point of view of the Civil War era that most authors do not talk about. His book shows the good, bad and ugly sides of the Civil War without going into detail about a single battle, which makes this book so much different than ordinary Civil War books. The Civil War era in North Carolina is expressed in this book by the use of the Home Guard hunting down deserters, women showing great perseverance while their husbands and sons are away fighting, and the physical and mental traumas caused by the war.
The Home Guard were groups of Confederate soldiers that searched for deserters and either brought them back to fight, or killed them for their crimes. Inman encountered the Home Guard on various occasions throughout the book. The first encounter Inman had with the Home Guard was when he met Junior. This encounter happened after Junior got Lila to drug Inman and then tell Veasey and Inman that he fetched the Home Guard. The book then went on the say that the Home Guard pays Junior, “five dollars a head for every outlier I turn over.” This gives people incentive to turn in any deserter they see since they were all very poor at this time. Inman spent the next few days, “walking tied at the wrists to the end of a long rope with fifteen other men.” This is showing how these poorly men were treated during the Civil War era for not fighting in the war. Inman had his last encounter with the Home Guard in the final chapter of the book. This happened when Inman and Stobrod were traveling and were spotted and trapped by the Home Guard. Inman then decided to, “charge straight at the disordered party of scouts, … in full stride, he shot one rider from the saddle, … the two remaining riders were bunched together, one of the horses was down and squealing, its rider was grabbing at his own leg, … Inman cocked back the big pistol and the charge took Teague in the chest and opened him up.” Inman knew that there was a high possibility that these men were going to shoot and kill him and Stobrod, so he did the only thing he could in order to protect them. This wasn’t over yet, one of the riders got away and Inman noticed that he was just a boy, and wanted to spare him, but the being scared ended up shooting and killing Inman. The Home Guard was ruthless in finding and killing deserters, and Charles Frazier shows this part of the Civil War era very well in the book.
Cold Mountain shows how women during the Civil War quickly learned and took on roles that husbands and sons usually did. These roles were running their farms and hunting for food. Ada had just recently lost her father, and was left with his farm to tend, which she did not know how to do. A woman by the name of Ruby came to the farm one afternoon while Ada was sitting on her front porch and asked if she needed help saying, “if you’ve got a horse I can plow all day.” This is in response to Ada saying that the help she needs is very strenuous and is implying that it’s a man’s job. Ruby is showing a change that is happening to women during the Civil War era. This is when women are learning that they have to do the strenuous labor if they’re going to survive the war. The book also shows this when Ada, “raised the gun slowly sighted on the trailing birds, she fired and to her amazement the pair fell.” Ada went to go shoot turkeys for the first time, which was something a man typically did. Women had to learn to survive during the Civil War era by doing things for themselves and Charles Frazier shows just how important this was.
Inman faced many traumas throughout the book, that was a result of the war. When introduced to Inman, he is in the hospital with a neck wound he got while fighting in the war. During his first few weeks in the hospital, “he had been hardly able to move his head.” It is later told that he suffered this wound during the Petersburg battle, while he was fighting in the war. Throughout the book, Inman seems to be very distant minded, in that he does not talk about himself much. Inman starts recalling all the horrific things he’s seen while being away from Black Cove, “he’d seen men shot in every part there was to shoot, and he had seen every result of being shot that there was to have, from immediate death to screaming agony.” Inman had to witness many terrible things during the Civil War era, and told Ada, “I’m ruined beyond repair is what I fear.” Charles Frazier is showing that the war was not just tragic because of all the blood lost, but instead that it was tragic for the men who survived and had to live with the thoughts and memories of what they saw during the war.
Charles Frazier’s book shows an alternative side of the Civil War that many people do not typically write about. Instead of focusing on the battles, he instead showed the reality of what the Civil War era was like for those people not fighting, and the aftermath of those who fought. It might not be the typical Civil War novel, but it is rightfully named one of the best Civil War novels for a reason. He showed the horrific things the Home Guard did to deserters and sympathizers, women’s perseverance during the Civil War, and mental and physical trauma caused by the war.
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