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When Robey Childs's mother has a premonition about her husband, a soldier fighting in the Civil War, she does the unthinkable: she sends her only child to find his father on the battlefield and bring him home.

At fourteen, wearing the coat his mother sewed to ensure his safety—blue on one side, gray on the other— Robey thinks he's off on a great adventure. But not far from home, his horse falters and he realizes the enormity of his task. It takes the gift of a powerful and noble coal black horse to show him how to undertake the most important journey of his life: with boldness, bravery, and self-posession.

Coal Black Horse joins the pantheon of great war novels—All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, The Naked and the Dead.
Published: Workman eBooks on
ISBN: 9781565126343
List price: $13.95
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I had no idea really what this book was about. We talk constantly about the "good-old-days," things that couldn't have happened "back then." There is no back-then. Humanity has always been warlike and desperate, and this book is a great reminder.more
A story about one young man during the US Civil War, this is a book that needs to be read twice in a row. In the first reading, the story is gripping as Robey leaves his quiet, loving home to bring his father back from the war and then encounters all the dangers, horrors and evils that bred in war. Your chest gets so tight that it aches and you can hardly breathe as he begins to change in order to survive the dangers, both physical and mental, that he encounters along the way. He learns not to trust blindly, to steal and even to kill. He leaves home a young teen, not only in years but in understanding and returns home still a teen in years but a grown man in understanding. And even while you are in the grips of the story you are aware that you are reading a book of exceptional beauty.And that is why you must reread. To savor, to inhale the exquisite prose of this book. I am sure that someone else could have taken this tale and written a 500 page novel that would not leave you as awe-struck as this thin book does. Each word is so carefully chosen, so perfectly placed that a masterpiece emerges and the book enters not only your mind, but also your heart.The book is very graphic in describing the horrors of the aftermath of Gettysburg (in truth, any battle in any war). And well it should be, for the truth of the scene is horror and to tell it less is to take away the need for Robey's changes. It also makes war 'civilized' which it is not and takes away our need to understand that.more
Coal Black Horse is a Civil War story centered around a teen boy named Robey. After Robey's mom has a spooky premonition, she sends Robey off to retrieve his soldier dad who is fighting with the Confederate army. Immediately Robey sets out on his busted old farm horse, but good fortune a la Red Dead Redemption allows him to upgrade to a coal black Hanoverian.And how does a boy find his dad in the middle of a war without a cell phone or MapQuest? Does he grow from boy to man along the way? Where does his all-knowing steed get his mystical powers from? What was the Battle of Gettysburg like? This is the story Robert Olmstead tells in a creative and graphic way.I thought there would be more focus on the relationship between the horse and the boy, but I still enjoyed the story and I appreciated the image of what it might have been like to live or fight in the South during the Civil War.more
This is a beautifully written book about the Civil War, told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy. He encounters some truly horrible things as he searches for his father in the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg. I don't think I could recommend this book to just anyone since it is brutally honest about the horrors of war, but a great coming of age story that truly captures the time and place.more
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Reviews

I had no idea really what this book was about. We talk constantly about the "good-old-days," things that couldn't have happened "back then." There is no back-then. Humanity has always been warlike and desperate, and this book is a great reminder.more
A story about one young man during the US Civil War, this is a book that needs to be read twice in a row. In the first reading, the story is gripping as Robey leaves his quiet, loving home to bring his father back from the war and then encounters all the dangers, horrors and evils that bred in war. Your chest gets so tight that it aches and you can hardly breathe as he begins to change in order to survive the dangers, both physical and mental, that he encounters along the way. He learns not to trust blindly, to steal and even to kill. He leaves home a young teen, not only in years but in understanding and returns home still a teen in years but a grown man in understanding. And even while you are in the grips of the story you are aware that you are reading a book of exceptional beauty.And that is why you must reread. To savor, to inhale the exquisite prose of this book. I am sure that someone else could have taken this tale and written a 500 page novel that would not leave you as awe-struck as this thin book does. Each word is so carefully chosen, so perfectly placed that a masterpiece emerges and the book enters not only your mind, but also your heart.The book is very graphic in describing the horrors of the aftermath of Gettysburg (in truth, any battle in any war). And well it should be, for the truth of the scene is horror and to tell it less is to take away the need for Robey's changes. It also makes war 'civilized' which it is not and takes away our need to understand that.more
Coal Black Horse is a Civil War story centered around a teen boy named Robey. After Robey's mom has a spooky premonition, she sends Robey off to retrieve his soldier dad who is fighting with the Confederate army. Immediately Robey sets out on his busted old farm horse, but good fortune a la Red Dead Redemption allows him to upgrade to a coal black Hanoverian.And how does a boy find his dad in the middle of a war without a cell phone or MapQuest? Does he grow from boy to man along the way? Where does his all-knowing steed get his mystical powers from? What was the Battle of Gettysburg like? This is the story Robert Olmstead tells in a creative and graphic way.I thought there would be more focus on the relationship between the horse and the boy, but I still enjoyed the story and I appreciated the image of what it might have been like to live or fight in the South during the Civil War.more
This is a beautifully written book about the Civil War, told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy. He encounters some truly horrible things as he searches for his father in the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg. I don't think I could recommend this book to just anyone since it is brutally honest about the horrors of war, but a great coming of age story that truly captures the time and place.more
A classic coming-of-age tale set in the horror of the American Civil War.After hearing of the death of Stonewall Jackson, Hettie Childs sends her 14 year old son Robey off to find his father, who is fighting with Lee’s army. A neighbor gives him a magnificent coal black horse and a pistol, warning Robey that he will have to learn much—and by implication mature into adulthood—quickly if he is to survive his quest.So equipped, Robey sets off from what is probably one of the Shenandoah Mountain ranges in West Virginia, heading vaguely east towards the Rappahanock, where he knows that there are armies fighting. Along the way, he witnesses horrors for which his isolation in his mountain home have not prepared him, among which is a rape he could but does not stop.But always missing an encounter with the army, he goes ever northward—to the aftermath of the carnage of Gettysburg. There he finds his father but completes the loss of his faith in God and the trustworthiness of any member of the human race.The first part of the book, Robey’s journey through the wilderness of West Virginia and the beginning of the lowlands, is utterly lyrical, Robey seeming to move through a dream landscape that represents the innocence of his childhood.But as he meets up with the reality of the war, the language changes as Robey loses his naiveté and starts his rite of passage. No longer a beautiful dream, his surroundings take on the quality of a nightmare. As his journey ends, the narrative style becomes quiet, solid—and mature, in that Robey no longer allows events to run his life but makes the decisions and acts as he needs to in order to survive and protect those he loves.This is an excellent book, beautifully written, on an age-old theme. Highly recommended.more
Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead was a story about the physical, spiritual and life journey of 15-year old Robey Childs. When Robey’s mother learned that Stonewall Jackson was killed, she sent her son out to find and retrieve his father. Not exactly sure where his father was, Robey rode a “coal black horse” throughout Virginia, eventually ending up in post-battle Gettysburg, as he looked for his father.Robey’s journey was difficult, encountering danger, violence and crime at every turn. The coal black horse served as a mentor to Robey, literally steering the teenager away from danger when Robey would follow the horse’s cues. And when Robey did not trust his horse, he inevitably regretted it.At 218 pages, Coal Black Horse is a slim book packed with rich language, historical references and interesting characters. Robey’s journey reminded me of Inman’s from Cold Mountain. Both characters saw things that war exposes about our fellow humans – how during crises there are those who will help you and those who will not – and only a smart wit can help you tell the difference.If you like Charles Frazier or Howard Bahr’s writing – or enjoy Civil War fiction – then I would recommend Coal Black Horse to you.more
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