Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War
Jack Matthews, author
Over the decades, author Jack Matthews collected memoirs and personal correspondence by actual U.S. Civil War soldiers. Eventually this interest led him to write a group of stories from the vantage point of teenage soldiers. Told in an accessible, humorous and even old-fashioned way, these stories have a philosophical bent and give readers a sense of how 19th century young Americans must have pondered their world.
This excellent posthumous collection by Matthews (Gambler’s Nephew) is inspired by memoirs and correspondence from Civil War soldiers and ranges from dreamy to nightmarish in its penetrating descriptions of lives lived between the battles. Deceptively ordinary language (“Sometimes it seems we’re in better health when we’re on a march and dead tired and desperate and hungry... it’s almost like you just don’t have the time or energy to get sick”) reveals thoughtful insights from young soldiers who witness and participate in the atrocities of war. Highlights include “The Silver Link,” in which a sweet exchange of letters between young, illiterate lovers in 1863 leads their friends, who are reading and writing for them, to fall in love; “Johnny Kincaid,” in which a soldier is haunted by a ghost after burying one of his comrades in a grave dug for an enemy; and “The Killing of Old Mortality,” about two soldiers ordered to kill a prolific and deadly sharpshooter. Throughout, fully realized characters enliven the themes of war and survival and elevate these stories above standard Civil War fiction. Matthews’s fans will be well satisfied with this collection, and new readers will discover an alluring storyteller. (BookLife)