Review of ‘Bleeding Kansas’

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Quaker farm boy, James Deeter, fled his Pennsylvania home a step ahead of Union army recruiters. He wants no part of war; just wants to head west and live his dream life as a cowboy. Deeter ends up on the Kansas-Missouri border and dragooned into a band of southern sympathizers led by rebel leader William Quantrill. Along with the rest of the bloody crew, when they attack Lawrence, KS in retaliation for Union army actions against their families, Deeter is forced to do the very thing he’s sworn not to do—kill.

Bleeding Kansas by Dave Eisenstark is an interesting fictional take on the bloody wars in Kansas during the Civil War, especially those centered in the abolitionist stronghold of Lawrence, and the story of a young man’s coming of age in a time of violence and bloodshed. Told with wry humor and down to earth language from young James Deeter’s point of view, it introduces actual historical figures, such as the James and Younger brothers, who became famous outlaws after the Civil War, in a non-pedantic way, unfortunately at times, seeming to sympathize for the bloody paths they chose.

The history of the era is also woven credibly into the narrative, told in the way a young farm boy would have viewed it. Actually, a nice way to get your history lesson.

An enjoyable book, which I received as a gift. I give it four stars.


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