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The Wrong War by Luke Jackson

Agreeing to spy for the Confederacy, Jean-Pierre Mercier, a bilingual McGill student, survives the Battle of Baltimore to join the hundreds of correspondents who have flocked to Washington to report on the forthcoming War Between the States. 

A balloon ride brings him to Bull Run.  Appalled by the carnage among the green troops on both sides, he follows a Confederate deserter into the hills of Kentucky where he meets the young Protestant girl who will later become his wife.

Rested, he resumes his mission, spying on the disposition of the Union troops at Mill Run and Shiloh.  Assigned to report on holes in the Union Naval Blockade, he travels down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then across the Southern States by train through Mobile, Macon, Savannah, and Charleston.

Captured at Chancellorsville, he is sent to the Federal prison at Point Lookout.  Once he is free, he heads for home, riding to New York with a trainload of draft protestors.

The man who returns to Montreal, hardened by travel, war, and the constant need to live by his wits, is far different from the boy who left. 

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The Wrong War

Rating : parental guidance                                     Price: $2.99   

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from an amazon review:

I don't normally care for war stories but have always been interested in the civil war and its aftermath. This novel written from the viewpoint of a French Canadian takes a surprising turn. There are the usual bloody (and authentic) battle scenes that I don't care for, but the protagonist of this novel, Jean-Paul Mercier, does not appear to care for them either. Following the battle of Bull Run or Manassas (depending one's point of view), he runs away in the company of a rebel deserter. It was this part of the novel I found most interesting. The two live off the land, steal clothes, horses, and row boats as they make their way from Virginia into the mountains of Tennessee. There among the hillbillies, Jean-Paul meets the young girl he will later marry, the pair seemingly as different from each other as two people can possible be. How they communicate, and how the hero is able to communicate with the newspapers for whom he writes is part of the charm of the novel.

Battle scenes alternate with accounts of the protagonist's travels, thankfully, and it is these glimpses into nineteenth century life in the southern states that I found the most interesting. Jean-Paul would have made a worthy, if imaginary, traveling companion for Paul Theroux had the latter been able to ride the rail lines of that period. I also thought I recognized something of the con men described by Twain and Melville in the hero's description of his journey down the Mississippi.

Occasionally, phrases in French appear in the descriptions, but their meaning can usually be guessed at if a French-English dictionary is not at hand.