Reviewed by: Erica
Blood. Smoke. The desperate moaning of the wounded. Dead bodies. Welcome to the brutal Civil War. In the cozy town of Frostburg, Maryland, an intelligent teenage boy yearns to be viewed as a man. In the novel Red Cap, by G. Clifton Wisler, Ransom Powell, otherwise known as R.J., has a difficult time proving his strength due to the fact that he’s only about four feet tall. As R.J. continues to face his frustrating conflict, the United States has his own troubles. The bloodiest battle in American history has quickly begun, and the puny boy, ignorant of the ways of war, joins up as the drummer for Company I. Being a member of the Union Army was working out extremely well for him to prove that he’s as strong as any other warrior; his proud father back in Frostburg can’t help but brag about his courageous son. But then, his plans are spoiled faster than you can say Jefferson Davis. He finds himself in a Confederate Prison with the rest of Company I. While in the gruesome camp, he faces hunger, disease, and something even worse: the horror of seeing people wither away. One by one, his friends pass away, dropping like flies. For many tiring months, R.J. was the one thing that kept his fellow prisoners going on; but R.J. doesn’t know if he can continue life himself. He has a heart larger than any other fierce solider, and a daring spirit determined not to be broken. Ransom is the smile of the horrific camp and will march on. However, death is waiting with open arms.
I feel like this rich historical novel represents the horror in Confederate Prison Camps amazingly well. I’m a big fan of history, and this true story fit my taste perfectly. There were a lot of real people mentioned in Red Cap, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln, Captain Wirz, and, of course, Ransom J. Powell. I was baffled at what went on inside the eerie camps, and because of the writing, I have a fairly clear idea of some of the treatment the weary prisoners received. The author was very descriptive, so that really helped me envision the events that occurred. This novel was a perfect fit for me because of the history, action, and description.
I would recommend this deep and passionate piece of art to readers who hunger for the knowledge of important history, and older students, at least in middle school. The author is very detailed on the disease, death, and hunger in the prisons, so it would be best for mature students. I am astonished at how well the author showed the life of Ransom Powell. It certainly left a mark on me.