When his story begins, in the summer of 1862, Micajah “Cage” Carew is a professor of literature at Ohio University, in Athens, living just a few miles north of the Ohio River. The Civil War is one year old, and the river is the boundary between North and South. It is the waterway that escaped slaves coming North called the River Jordan, their last hurdle to freedom. The county is a busy one for slaves fleeing bondage, and many of Cage’s friends and family are fervent and active abolitionists, even secretly acting as conductors on the busy Underground Railroad.
However, Cage, an admitted soft-handed academic, remains aloof beyond dispassionately discussing the massive casualty counts coming in from the battlefields. While quaffing a few cold ones at the local saloon, he he listens to the long-winded debates of national affairs by the local wags, but more for amusement than any stirrings of patriotism or militancy.
Cage’s carefree life is abruptly interrupted when he discovers an escaped slave hiding on his property. A group of ominous slave-catchers, led by Francois Devol, soon appears, revealing an unsettling amount of personal information about Cage, and issuing dark threats. When Cage’s fiancee, Ardent, arrives from out of town, Cage discovered she has had threatening encounters with Devol in the past.
Soon, Ardent is found viciously murdered, and Devol has disappeared deep into Dixie. Convinced that Devol is the killer, Cage swears revenge. Cage’s friends, already considering joining the Union Army, are also outraged by the murder. Together they conclude their best chance of locating Devol in the South is with the Army, and they all enlist in the regiment of the Gallant Dan McCook, the 52nd Ohio Infantry. Col. McCook has named his regiment “The Avengers” because he has sworn his own vengeance against a Confederate bushwhacker, Frank Gurley, who murdered McCook’s defenseless brother Robert as he lay wounded in an ambulance.
They are assigned to the Company of Captain Lyman Dunnock, a career British Military Officer. A veteran of brutal mountain and jungle warfare since the age of 15, Lyman is a survivor of many battles and is an expert in guerrilla warfare and close combat. With the blessing of Col. McCook, and the assistance of Hiram Berdan’s Sharpshooter’s, he arms his men with Sharps Breech loading rifles and they discard their muzzle loaders.
Lyman has seen many men die as a result of military command blundering, and under his guidance the company becomes an elite team of scouts and snipers who travel light and far away from the main Union Army. Cage forges a close bond with the older officer and learns the ways of a warrior as he pursues Devol through the bloody guerrilla warfare that ravaged the South.
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