#BookReview — Across the Great Divide: Book 1 The Clouds of War by Michael L. Ross
Across the Great Divide:
Book 1 The Clouds of War
By Michael L. Ross
Lexington, Kentucky, 1859. After saving John Hunt Morgan from a puma attack, fifteen-year-old farm boy Will Crump joins Hunt’s militia, the Lexington Rifles. Morgan mentors Will and enrolls him in the local university, where he hopes to study law. As tensions rise between the North and South, Will is torn between his loyalty to Morgan and his love for his family. Will’s father, sisters, and sweetheart follow the Union, while Morgan and Will commit to the South. As part of Morgan’s band, Will participates in ambushes and unconventional warfare until his first real battle at Shiloh. He fights bravely, but increasingly questions what the war is accomplishing, and whether his devotion to honor has led him astray. And where is God in all this killing?
Will’s sister Albinia, friend of the Clay family, becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the slaves. When she finds Luther, a slave she knows, trying to escape, she must decide between her conscience, and her friends. She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves to freedom – but will it cost her love and her freedom?
Will’s other sister, Julia, is approaching spinster status and despairs of ever meeting a man who can give her more than life on a farm until she meets Hiram Johannsen, a son of immigrants who owns a steamship company. They marry and she makes a new life in the North. When Hiram answers the call to fight for the North, Julia runs the steamboat company in her husband’s absence and uses her boats to help Albinia ferry escaped slaves to freedom. Her business relations put her in the perfect position to spy for the North. When the Confederates capture her, will she survive?
Luther is one of the first slaves Albinia helps flee the South after his master cruelly abuses his mother and sister. He escapes with his family, and when war breaks out, he fights for the North as an auxiliary of the Third Ohio Cavalry, alongside Julia’s husband, Hiram, and against Morgan and Will. Luther has to confront the demons of his past, an abusive master, and a slave catcher that kills his little sister. Will the desire for revenge destroy him?
Throughout the war, Will is forced to examine and question everything he believes in—his faith in God, his love for his family, his loyalty to Morgan, and his worth as a human being.
Will and his family must somehow mend the torn fabric of relationships to find peace, and reach Across the Great Divide.
"Perhaps, one day, the color of a man's skin and the money in his pocket will not matter so much as the character in his heart. I pray that day comes quickly. In the meantime, sir, I have met many former slaves with better manners than yourself. Perhaps you could learn from them!"
Fifteen-year-old Will Crump had no idea of what the future would entail for him. After saving John Hunt Morgan from a puma attack, Will is given a chance to fulfil his dreams and become an educated man. There is one catch. If he accepts Morgan's proposition, he has to join the Lexington Rifles.
It is hard to close your eyes once they have been opened. Albinia Crump can no longer remain silent. Her views may be in the minority, but that did not mean that they were wrong, and she would not stand by and allow Luther to be tortured and executed because he dared to try and rescue his family from the brutalisation of their plantation owners. However, this is not something Albinia can fight alone. She needs help, and she needs it now.
Julia Crump is fast approaching spinsterhood, and it is time she settled down and found a husband. However, Julia wants more from life than that of a farmer's wife. Perhaps the handsome Hiram Johannsen will make all of her dreams come true?
From a young man's dream of a golden future to the horrors of Camp Douglas in Chicago, Across the Great Divide: Book 1 The Clouds of War by Michael L. Ross is the story of one family that is torn apart by war, pride, beliefs, and ambition.
Ross has composed a book that is astoundingly ambitious but, in all ways, absolutely triumphant. This story begins at the first muttering of unrest in a country that was not only politically divided but morally divided as well, and it ends with the Confederate surrender in 1865 and the subsequent release of the prisoners of war. In between the pages of this remarkable book is a story of one family who finds themselves on opposite sides during the war between the North and the South of America. It is a tear-jerking story of heroism and tragedy. It is a tale of survival, of fear, hate, and the insufferable torment of the soul that comes from opening fire on your fellow countryman. But this is also a book about forgiveness, mercy, and above everything else, love. Ross has penned an extraordinarily compelling and unforgettable account of one family as they navigated the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).
With astonishing attention to the historical detail, Ross, it seems, has a visceral understanding of the era this book is set in. He also has a novelist's skill to breathe life into people who have long since died. The hours of research that has gone into this book is self-evident — no one can write such crystalline prose without such dedicated devotion to the period. The battle scenes in this book are exceptionally well drawn and were brought vividly back to life — I could smell the blood, and feel the abject terror of the soldiers. I also must mention the depiction of Camp Douglas. — the horrors and the poverty the prisoners of war endured was portrayed with a great deal of skill and diligence to the historical facts. This book is, without a shadow of a doubt, a monumental work of scholarship. It is utterly splendid and a reward for any fan of quality Historical Fiction.
With an almost tangible realism, Ross has given us a protagonist that feels deeply, who is torn by his sense of honour, and who suffers terribly because of his choices. Ross introduces us to a young and to an extent idealistic William Dorsey Crump (1844–1940). Ross has stayed as close to the document history of Crump as he can, but he has also used a little creative licence to resurrect this fascinating character who served under Confederate General John H. Morgan (1825 – 1864). Will is immensely likeable, and like many soldiers on both sides, he doesn't really have much of an opinion on emancipation. He believes he is fighting for his home, and for Morgan. He follows Morgan into Hell on more than one occasion and continues to do so throughout the length of this novel. Will suffers greatly in this book, and he witnesses things, and he does things that haunt his days and torture his nights. Ross has not glossed over the horrors of war, for we see them through Will's eyes, and nor has he neglected the mental toll that such terrible circumstances can have on a person. I was fascinated by Will's journey. It is one of youthful enthusiasm which slowly becomes disenchantment when he loses friends to a brutal and seemingly pointless conflict. Ross has captured the very essence of what life must have been like for a Confederate soldier during this time. Kudos, Mr Ross. Kudos, indeed.
Albinia Crump is a reckless, rash young woman who cannot abide to witness the wickedness of slavery. Many may well justify their rights to own slaves with passages from the Bible, but Albinia knows in her heart that it is wrong and so she must risk everything and she must be prepared to lose everything if she is to stay true to herself. Ross' depiction of Albinia is utterly sublime. Not only has he given his readers a morally good character, but also one that is willing to make many sacrifices because she knows that what she sees is wrong and she cannot stand by and do nothing. Albinia faces many challenges and terrible hardships in this novel, and it would have been very easy for her to retreat into herself and give-up, but her tenacious determination to see this through to the end made her story not only compelling but utterly irresistible.
Julia Crump's story is one that is almost eclipsed by her brother's war and her sister's work with The Underground Railroad, but it still emphasised the lack of empathy that people felt towards slaves and those who had escaped bondage when it came down to economics. There is a genuinely heartbreaking scene in this book where a slave is being beaten very cruelly, but everyone ignores her plight. When Julia questions her mother-in-law why someone is not stopping it, her mother-in-law simply answers that it is "…not our business." Julia may not be as skilled as her sister, but she does try to do her part in undermining the South — although with no formal training as a spy, Julia is a walking disaster, but again this strong sense of doing the right thing makes her a protagonist that a reader can really get behind.
I have to also quickly mention the portrayals of General John H. Morgan and General Basil W. Duke. I thought the depiction of both of these men was marvellous, and once again it showed how much research has gone into writing this book. One more character that deserves recognition as well is Luther. Luther is an escaped slave, and oh my goodness what a terrible journey he finds himself on. Luther's story is utterly heart-rendering, but it also demonstrates the difference one person can make. I thought Luther's depiction was majestic and very real in the telling.
I cannot praise this book enough. Across the Great Divide: Book 1 The Clouds of War by Michael L. Ross is fabulous from start to finish, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Book 2 of what promises to be an unforgettable series.
Fans of John Jakes', North and South trilogy, will find something endlessly fascinating about this novel.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Pick up your copy of
Across the Great Divide
Michael L. Ross
Amazon bestseller Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories. He’s a retired software engineer turned author, with three children, and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of 39 years. Michael graduated from Rice University and Portland State University. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas. He’s written short stories and technical articles in the past. “Across the Great Divide: Book 1 The Clouds of War” is his first novel