Book Review: Deeds of a Colored Soldier During the Rebellion

Deeds of a Colored Soldier During the Rebellion I confess that I am absolutely enchanted. Through a fictionalized character, F. W. Abel has captured the heart of what it was to be a black man during the Civil War. In a drawling, first-person narrative, Jedediah Worth tells a reporter about his youth. How he set off to war alongside his master, Wade Wentworth, escaped, joined a colored regiment in the North, and fought for the cause of freeing his people.

Jedediah himself is what sucked me into this story. You know me — I’m a character girl. Whatever I read, regardless of genre, if you give me a solid character I want to cheer for then I’m right there with you. I haven’t read much historical fiction (maybe I should get into it), but I am so glad that I happened upon this particular book.

This book is what I like to call honest. It’s not poetic, it’s real. And Jed, well, he doesn’t cut himself any slack when he tells the story of his own life. He’s not a perfect man, and even though I disagree with him that he didn’t deserve the Medal of Honor, I can understand why he says he didn’t. After all, he was just in the right place at the right time.

I find a lot of books on war and the military to be inaccessible to me as an average citizen of the world who has never seen that horror. It’s one of the reasons I shy away from it, but there was something in this that bridged the gap and brought the situation to life.

After the book establishes its frame (a reporter relaying this story to us shortly after Jed’s death, based on reports from the man himself), we go back to Kentucky in the days when people thought the war would be short and two boys riding off to it thought it would be a grand adventure. When Jed went along he didn’t even know what an abolitionist was, nor did he have any thought of running away. Honestly, he’s treated very well by young Wade (who is an easily likable character who does Jed a great kindness). And though I know slavery was at times a cruel institution (you see plenty of that side too), I very much respected the author for choosing this scenario for Jed. The reason is simple: It made the desire for freedom about something more than the need to escape a terrible situation. Jed wasn’t in a terrible situation. He was in the position of being a very well-cared for horse. But still, a horse.

This is one of those books that will make you think, laugh, cry, shudder, and cringe.

I rarely recommend books to absolutely everyone, but in this case I’m going to make an exception. Even if this isn’t normally your thing, give it a try. This is a rare gem.

Rating: 5/5

Title: Deeds of a Colored Soldier During the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamauga

Author: F. W. Abel
Published February 5, 2014

Posted in Book Reviews.