“Amid the Civil War, a Mennonite boy struggles to follow the path of peace in this debut middle-grade historical novel.
Mennonites like 14-year-old Emanuel “Manny” Weaver and his family—farmers and potters—have strong religious principles, including turning the other cheek, acting as peacemakers, and avoiding worldly affairs. Rather than join the militia in their home state of Virginia, the men of the family have been able to pay a fine instead. But when, in 1861, Virginia votes to secede from the Union, the new Confederacy requires all men between 18 and 45 to enlist in the military, allowing no exceptions. Manny’s Uncle Davy is forcibly conscripted but manages to run off in the confusion of battle. Returning home, he asks Manny to help him hide, bring him food, and swear an oath to tell no one, not even the family, where he is. Manny agrees, though taking his promise seriously puts him squarely in a moral dilemma, especially when his father is taken away to serve in Davy’s place. Working harder than he ever has, Manny ponders questions of morality, such as swearing oaths (biblically forbidden), stealing food for Davy, fighting in the war, and supporting slavery. In her novel, Lindsay draws on family history to set the Civil War in a context not usually explored. She does a fine job of presenting several ethical dilemmas. For example, Mennonites don’t do business with slaveholders, but with the men gone, the Weavers must hire enslaved people owned by a neighbor to harvest the crops. Manny’s growth into a man is convincingly portrayed through his backbone, thoughtfulness, and industry. The novel also deftly describes the absorbing details of farming, pottery-making, and community life.
A rich coming-of-age tale that sheds light on an uncommon Civil War perspective.”
“Not every Virginian is pleased with the 1861 state referendum that allows Virginia to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. There are many Unionists in the state, notably the people in the mountains of northern Virginia, who break away to form West Virginia. Some Unionists, like fourteen-year-old Emanuel ‘Manny’ Weaver’s Mennonite family, living in the Shenandoah Valley, are pacifists and refuse to serve in the rebel army as they take seriously the biblical commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’
Even though their faith forbids them to kill, the men in Manny’s family know they are subject to conscription, and they must either hide from the army or serve but not shoot their weapons at other men. Grandfather Weaver is too old to serve, but Father and Uncle Davy are not, and they go into hiding to avoid compromising their religious beliefs. When the two men are eventually rounded up by the rebel army, Manny finds himself trying to work the family farm with Grandfather, little brother Swope, and the female members of the family.
Manny’s life becomes more complicated when Uncle Davy deserts the army and hides back on the family farm, his presence known only to Manny. Keeping his uncle’s secret tests Manny’s sense of honesty, justice, loyalty, and judgment.
Author Lindsay has thoroughly researched Mennonite history during the Civil War and provides a fascinating and insightful look into how these pacifists risked everything to preserve their beliefs. This novel for young readers is highly recommended.”
—John Kachuba, Historical Novel Society
“The Peacemakers is an engaging piece of historical fiction that will rivet the attention of young readers—as well as adults—while also challenging them to reflect on their own convictions regarding issues of war and peace. Set within 1861 Virginia, at the start of the Civil War, the book illuminates a part of Confederate history that is often overlooked. The story of Anabaptists who are committed to Christ’s way of peace and justice, in the midst of an unaccepting and often hostile response from the broader world, is one that still resonates today.”
RICHARD BLACKBURN, Director Emeritus and Senior Consultant, Lombard Mennonite Peace Center
“The Peacemakers took me back to my childhood when I would immerse myself in books set in early America, when people farmed, and children had many responsibilities.
Manny and his family, their Mennonite community, and how their values shaped their response to the Civil War in Virginia made for a compelling story. Fourteen-year-old Manny had three men for role models—his father, his uncle and his grandfather. While his grandfather was old enough to escape fighting, his father and uncle were tracked down and forced to fight.
Historical fiction is the way to make history come alive—The Peacemakers takes us back to Harrisonburg, Virginia, during President Lincoln’s presidency and the recruitment of soldiers in the south to fight for the confederacy. Slavery, religious beliefs, voting rights, and gender roles are among the issues that make this story ripe for young readers and a school classroom studying the evolution of America.”
CARRIE COOPER, Dean of University Libraries, William & Mary
“An interesting piece of our nation’s history through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy, Manny Weaver. His conflicts with faith, family, and inevitable circumstances of the early Civil War as a Mennonite youth in Virginia, as the state secedes from the Union, brings to light a missing piece of understanding the hardships and struggles of a faith-driven group of peaceful citizens. A must in any middle school library.”
GARRY JACKSON, Teacher, Secondary Literacy/Curriculum Trainer and Administrator, Kenton County School District,
Kenton County, Kentucky
“Rebecca Lindsay has interwoven strong historical research with a compelling story of peaceful resistance during the upheaval of the Civil War in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A captivating read for young adult and adult readers alike.”
BRIDGET B. STRIKER, Local History Coordinator, Boone County Public Library System,
Boone County, Kentucky
“The Peacemakers is a hard book to lay down. It reads quickly, drawing the reader into the thickets of dilemmas that Mennonites faced during the worst days of the American Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Manny Weaver, fourteen, had to watch when both his uncle and father were taken away into the desperate Confederate war efforts. During the war in the Shenandoah Valley, for the peace-minded Mennonites, there were no easy answers of how to respond. They faced excruciating dilemmas of faith and conscience. Manny grew up quickly, growing into a young man in the vortex of war. …
The Peacemakers is a book that youth will want to read, to learn from, and to enter into the story of faith and war-time challenges of a terrible war that ripped the country apart in the mid-19th century. I recommend this book for students and adults alike. It’s great reading!”
ELWOOD E. YODER, History and Bible Teacher at Eastern Mennonite School,
Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Editor, Shenandoah Mennonite Historian