On the Eve of Conflict opens in the spring just as the war begins and the boy’s father departs to disappear into the fabric of the distant conflict. During the summer, with his father away, Duane, his mother, his dog Pounder, and his friend Jamie share a season of uneasy calm into a summer of unexpected violence toward a winter of loneliness. Finally, in the spring of 1862, Duane sets out in search of his father whose last letter came from somewhere in western Tennessee.
Up from Corinth continues the story as Duane’s search for his father carries him into the conflict and battle at a place called Shiloh. The circumstances of battle land him with the Union Army in the care of an army surgeon and his teenage ward who treat his wounds and conceal his identity. The story of that battle and the months that follow continues through the summer and fall of 1862 as the Army of the Ohio moves into Tennessee and Kentucky. Skirmishes with elements of Confederate cavalry, illness, and the hardships of life in an army on the move, culminate in full battle at Perryville. Finally, in the winter of 1862-1863, in the aftermath of a bitterly cold and bloody battle at Murfreesboro, Duane is able to begin his trek back to the Confederate Army.
Across the Valley to Darkness continues the story as Duane’s decision to set out on his own to join Bragg’s army at Tullahoma proves to be a mistake. A rapid chain of events carries him from capture along a snowy road by a renegade band of Union cavalry, to near death in a blizzard in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in its winter camp around Fredericksburg. Late winter is a time of reprieve from war as the boy joins a company from Alabama. The beginning of spring sees the reopening of warfare in the battle at Chancellorsville. As 1863 stretches into summer, the army moves north into Pennsylvania. Duane finds himself crossing the valley at Gettysburg in a great charge against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge.
Toward the End of the Search concludes the story of Duane’s experience. Reunited with his friends in the Union Army during the months following the battle at Gettysburg, Duane accompanies them to become part of General David Birney’s division of the Army of the Potomac. The spring campaign of 1864 beings with the horrible slaughter during the weeks from The Wilderness, to Spotsylvania Court House, to Cold Harbor. There, events and a letter about his Pa, send Duane from the war. The 13-year-old veteran of two and a half years of combat, travels with Jonah Christopher, the son of a suttler, toward home and journey’s end.