In A Hard Road to Travel, Jack Trundal and his Meason cousins represent a real life family that eagerly joins Abraham Lincoln’s Northern Union Army to fight against the Southern Confederates who support slavery. Jack is just 20 years old when he enlists. As privates, he and his cousins earned $13.00 a month. If they survived they would earn a bonus of $100.00 at the end of the war or their three-year enlistment period. They found themselves, ultimately, fighting under General Ulysses S. Grant and General Sherman with Brigadier General Thomas L. Crittenden as their commanding officer. Assigned to Company K, Captain Martin Jefferson Roark was in charge of the unit.
This historical fiction by author, Patty Tyson Wilson, is written as a third person narrative that also makes effective use of first person voice to truly reveal her characters. Jack Trundal is becoming a man, and a soldier as he and his cousins leave their family farms to fight on the bloody battlegrounds of their home state of Kentucky. They also fight battles in Tennessee, and Georgia. The author tells us “each of these military battles, places, units and officers are real and details are taken straight from the pages of history.”
In between battles, Jack and the other soldiers learn to drink whiskey, chase women, and play cards. This numbs the reality of the horror of war and the battlefields, at least for a time. The soldiers and General Sherman live in camps and move about from place to place. General Grant operates from his mansion headquarters in Savannah. Jack and his cousins will eventually fight with General Sherman in the Siege of Atlanta in 1864. After that Jack’s enlistment period, ends. He and many of his friends and family are discharged. They return to what is left of their families and their farms. They try to build their lives back. Jack finds himself fighting for years to get his disability veteran’s pension. He finally gets it when he is 66 years old. Like most of the soldiers who fought in the war, Jack tries to live a normal life; he marries Mattie the woman he loves and has a family. He’s lost a lot to the war, but being a proud man he survives and does the best he can.
In A Hard Road to Travel, author Patty Tyson Wilson gives a long introduction of the fictional family’s that represent true life people who lived in Kentucky during this time in history. Moving forward the story is sad as all accounts of war are sad. Jack Trundal is a character you come to care about and you hope he will be successful. This small volume can be read in one sitting and includes a love story sure to get the attention of women as well as men. This is a book for those who love American history and those who like historical fiction. What I learned from this story was that life during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1864 was A Hard Road to Travel for everyone who lived it.