Thursday, August 13, 2009

Read: "Camp Ford" by Johnny D. Boggs

Read: Camp Ford by Johnny D. Boggs, 2007, 9780843958386. Paper version.

Not quite a western. A real good story.

Win McNaughton was 11 years old in 1858 when he was introduced to baseball. His pharmacist father grabbed him from downtown and took him to watch a game in their Rhode Island town. Win loves the game and plays whenever possible. When his abolitionist father moves the family to West Texas to praise abolitionism Win brings the game with him and gets other kids to play.

The family moves back to Rhode Island after the war starts and Win's dad enlists in the artillery. His father is killed at Gettysburg. Win enlists to revenge his father and to escape the accountant's life his mother has planned for him. Win and his best pal are captured in the failed Red River campaign and end up in a TX prison camp called Camp Ford.

Win's unit is trying to tunnel their way out but are caught after an informant tells the rebels. Win and other federals have begun playing baseball in the camp and the rebel guards have started to play baseball among themselves. Win's commander comes up with a plot to challenge the rebs to a ball game outside the camp at the rebel's field. The federals will have 18 players armed with bats and the plan is to bash some guards, grab their weapons, and escape.

The informant is found out, they find the new escape plan is known, but challenge the rebs to a real game. The climactic game ends with Win running for home plate with the vicious reb playing catcher getting distracted by a horseman tearing across the field announcing Lee's surrender.

A really good story. I'm not a fan of either baseball or Civil War history but really enjoyed the story. Neat period details about baseball rules, Joslyn carbine, cavalry, baseball equipment, prison camp life, varying relationships between federal prisoners and reb guards, period slang, etc. The secondary story line between Win and his former best pal he enlisted with was a nice touch.

EDIT: Boggs, or someone else from NM, bopped over here. I looked at Boggs' website and just found out that Camp Ford won the Spur Award in 2006. No great surprise, it's a good book. I also noticed that Boggs will attend the Jesse James days in Northfield in Sep, '09. I looked at that website and saw that there will be a "vintage" baseball game. Boggs will be in heaven.

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