When the American Civil war raged between the North and the South many slaves took the opportunity to leave their places of cruel bondage and join General Sherman’s march through Georgia. Many made the journey into a new life, many did not. History as is often the case records the journey and the men, many who were far from the status of the hero history now records them as having been.
Crossing Ebenezer Creek is the tale of freedom, the high cost of leaving slavery and all that had been familiar, through the eyes of young slave girl Mariah as she grabs an opportunity to escape, taking with her two much younger children in Zeke and Dulcina, both struggling to comprehend the world of everyday, for vastly different reasons.
As Mariah joins the caravan to freedom, she meets Caleb, a coloured man trusted by Captain Galloway, a true gentleman and believer in freedom and rights for all peoples, to drive the wagon and collect whatever supplies available as Sherman’s army moves steadily across the land.
Caleb and Mariah find they have much in common and enjoy each other’s company so much so, they both begin to dream of journeys end with a new beginning on a piece of land where they could grow their own crops and raise their children.
That is until the Army reaches Ebenezer Creek after days and days of torrential rain. The water in the creek is steadily rising requiring a pontoon bridge to be built to get wagons and troops across, but when it comes time for the huge army of coloureds to cross, the order is given for the bridge to be hauled up after the last wagon has crossed.
Today all that remains of this tragedy is a marker at Ebenezer Creek which captures only a small remnant of the cruel history of the area, but the locals do say “when a driving rain drenches an early December day, bald cypresses seem to screech, tupelos to shriek, Ebenezer Creek to moan. They say it is the ghosts of Ebenezer Creek rising, reeling, wrestling with the wind. Remembering.”
Tonya Bolden has captured brilliantly the hopes, dream and despair of the people who grabbed the chance to escape from slavery with dreams of a better future, only to discover more betrayal and tragedy lay waiting for them.
A spare and clever use of language, almost in a style of poetic metre, allows this tragic but little-known time in American history to be rediscovered, offering to a new generation an understanding of the people who did create history, as well as the myth and often incorrect legendary stature that surrounds them.
A brilliant walk through a small slice of history created from award winning author Tonya Bolden, designed to tell a tale which is suitable for both young readers and adults.