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Braving the Fire

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Essay title: Braving the Fire

Braving the Fire

I read the book Braving the Fire. It takes place in the year 1863. The book is about a 15 year old boy from Maryland named Jem Bridwell. He lives on a farm with his father, grandfather, and their slaves. Because Maryland was a “border state” during the civil war, it was not considered part of the Confederacy, although most of the people living in Maryland at the time were for the Confederates. Jem’s father, Tom Bridwell, on the other hand had joined the Union Army because he believed in freeing the slaves and keeping the Union. James Bridwell, Jem’s grandfather, was completely against Tom’s being in the Union Army and the Union itself.

After being seriously injured in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Tom Bridwell spent some weeks in a hospital, and then went home to recuperate. Jem liked having his father home, but it seemed that they couldn’t even sit down to dinner without the conversation turning to war. Jem’s grandfather could never understand why Jem’s dad didn’t share his beliefs. Tom suddenly has to leave for the war again. Jem is being torn between the two men he loves. He comes to believe what his father believes in and wants to go fight for Mr. Lincoln, but chores at the farm, his age, and his grandfather is what keeps him home.

A couple days after Jem’s father leaves for the war, their head field hand, Solomon, runs way. So Jem’s grandfather decides to go off for supplies incase soldiers come and take their food. So he departs, leaving Jem in charge of the farm. He supposedly will be back in two days. While his grandfather is gone, Confederates ransacked and burned the Bridwell’s barn house. After a week of watching over the rest of the farm, the house, and doing his chores, Jem’s grandfather still doesn’t come back.

Jem is starting to really hate farm chores. He is being swayed by his best friend, Hank Dawson, into joining the Union Army. He finally decides to runaway with Hank and enlists in the army because he’s so sick of farm chores (He left the farm in the hands of a house slave, Bertie), he wants to be a part of the glory in the war, and he misses both his grandfather and father. They are hardly ready for the true face of battle as they fight the enemy.

They become part of the regiment proudly known as General Barlow’s Boys. The war turned out to be nothing like they expected. All they could think about was the glory they’d have from being apart of the war. But at first, not much action goes on. They start training in Sergeant Evans’ corpse. The brotherly bond that Jem and Hank built over the years in Gaithersburg, Maryland seemed to have been growing even stronger in the camp they were in. They were all each other had. When training was over, they were sent far into Virginia as replacement troops for the Army of the Potomac. Their first battle starts when they cross the Rapidan River. They were entering the Wilderness in Virginia. While fighting in the Battle of the Wilderness, some of the dense bushes catch fire. Jem and Hank hide in their trenches when a shadowy figure on horseback shrouded by smoke rides by. They both lift their rifles to shoot, but Jem drops his weapon because the man looks just like his grandfather. Suddenly the panicked horse gallops away into the woods. Robert E. Lee’s forces outnumbered the Unions, so they were defeated. After fighting in several battles, they begin to slowly advance towards Richmond as General Grant orders. Because Jem is so young, he isn’t quite used to seeing swollen, rotting corpses everywhere. At first, it bothers him to actually shoot at other men, some even his age. When fighting at Cold Harbor, canon bombs of the Confederates’ flood their area, so they have no choice than to dig trenches, even with their bare hands if necessary.

Hank is so fascinated with the war and preoccupied with all the glory, that the war like attitude almost seems natural to him. Jem on the other hand has trouble adjusting to the lifestyle. Although he doesn’t show it to his upper hands, Jem brings out his fear to Hank. At this time, Jem misses

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