Crossing Ebenezer Creek

by Tonya Bolden

On December 9, 1864, the Union Army crossed Ebenezer Creek in Georgia. Former slaves... read more

On December 9, 1864, the Union Army crossed Ebenezer Creek in Georgia. Former slaves traveling with the Union regiments brought up the rear. When a Union general ordered the pontoon bridge on the creek pulled up before all the African Americans had crossed, hundreds drowned or were killed by pursuing Confederate soldiers. That tragic historical event is the impetus for this arresting fictional story. The arrival of the Union Army on the Georgia plantation where Mariah has been enslaved her entire life means freedom, but with nowhere to go she and others attach themselves to the regiment. The commanding officer’s open-mindedness eases their way, but his sentiments aren’t shared by everyone. Greater help comes from Caleb, a Black man who has been with the regiment longer and knows how to get by and whom to avoid. As they journey, individual stories unfold: Mariah’s, Caleb’s, fellow travelers Mariah has known all her life without ever fully comprehending their pain. And Mariah and Caleb fall in love. Mariah is startled when Caleb reveals he grew up among free Blacks in Savannah, but his experience helps her imagine the future. Set over a few weeks, the story is propelled by compelling, finely drawn characters whose daring hope makes the unforgettable conclusion as they arrive at Ebenezer Creek all the more gut-wrenching. A lengthy author’s note provides more information about the Ebenezer Creek crossing. (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2018

show less