Title: Who Comes with Cannons?Who-Comes-with-Cannons
Author: Patricia Beatty
Pages: 186
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Who indeed?

The Story.

Truth Hopkins is not wanted. Her mother died when she was young, and now that her father has gone to a sanatorium in California, she has been cast upon the mercy of her cousins the Bardwells. And they do not want her. She can tell. And she’s even heard her cousin Robert telling his mother why he does not want her. Something about a secret – and danger from the law…

When Truth discovers that the Bardwells are a stop on the Underground Railroad, she is ecstatic. So this is why Robert worried! Well, she’ll show them that a Quaker from Indiana is as trustworthy as a Quaker from North Carolina! And so, she gains their trust.

But trouble is afoot. The war has begun, and Truth’s cousins, Robert and Todd are in danger of being pressed into the army. They must escape!

Can Truth and the Bardwells continue with their bold operations? And will Robert and Todd escape the cruelties of war?

Discussion.

Truth and her family are Quakers. They attend First Day meetings where the men and women sit on opposite sides of the building and wait for the Inner Light to inspire them to speak. Women as well as men may share in the meeting. When Truth acts courageously, Mrs. Bardwell says, “The Lord must have prompted her. Did thee feel the Light?” [pg. 59]

At the end of the story, after a long adventure, Truth returns home and to the First Day meeting.

She took her seat and fell silent, but the strange feeling didn’t leave her. It continued to grow, filling her. She waited. Then she saw one of the elders nod and the old woman beside him smile slightly.

Tabitha Ruth Hopkins rose. Standing, she said in a clear, low voice, “I am too young to speak to thee, I know, but there is something the Lord has done with me as his poor servant. As the instrument of his grace, I feel the need to share my experience with all of thee. . . .” [pg. 178]

There is also an appendix that includes a section on the Quaker’s religious practices.

The Quakers often pray for God’s help and wish His blessing upon each other.

Although the Bardwells are initially anxious about Truth and how her presence will affect their lifestyle, they soon welcome her with open arms. Truth responds wholeheartedly and behaves as a daughter/sister. They have wonderful relationships with one another. Mrs. Bardwell, especially, is a wise woman, and gives Truth good advice.

There are a few romantic attachments in Who Comes with Cannons? The first is between Todd and Lucy, whom he marries just after the war begins. Another develops between Truth’s cousin Robert and friend Martha. Truth herself becomes fond of the local schoolteacher. Each of these is mentioned several times, but they are treated soberly, not as something to giggle and be silly about.

There are a few ‘oh-come-on’ moments, such as when Truth meets both Frederick Douglas and Mrs. Lincoln whilst traveling in the North. However, Ms. Beatty properly describes the Emancipation Proclamation as freeing only the slaves in Confederate states. She also describes the ill-feeling towards blacks that existed in many northern cities. But what I found to be the most fascinating occurrence, and one which Ms. Beatty claims to be an accurate one, is when Todd and Robert are captured and forced to walk in front of the Confederate troops to serve as ‘cannon fodder’. The idea was that, if they refused to fight, they could at least block a couple of bullets for the ones who were fighting!

People tell lies to protect runaway slaves.

‘Dickens’ is used once.

Conclusion. Solid and interesting, Who Comes with Cannons? tells the story of the War Between the States from the perspective of the pacifistic but deeply involved Quakers.

Review © 2012 Laura Verret

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