Book Report: Cold Mountain Cold Mountain is an epic tale of love and loss during the Civil War. The hero of the novel is Inman, a confederate soldier wounded in the battle of Petersburg. The novel opens with Inman sitting in his hospital bed looking out his window to the street below. He doesn't stay there long however. One day he simply leaves the hospital and does not return. Immediately we are shown a very true and accurate portrayal of a civil war veteran.
Inman, like most people in the south, went off to fight the war with the intent that the fighting would be over in a matter of months. He leaves behind only his home on Cold Mountain and a girl, Ada. He probably is not sure of his feelings for Ada, but he becomes disenchanted with the war. Not being a slave owner himself, it becomes difficult for him to find reason to fight and he misses his home and longs for Ada. Ada is the daughter of a well to do minister, who has died and money is running out.
Her home in Black Cove is more than she can manage, for she is not accustomed to working a farm. She is a lady of good background, well read but unskilled in everyday work. Help comes to her in Ruby. Ruby is a young girl, probably around twenty years old, who has raised herself in the hill country surrounding cold mountain. She is unsure of her age because her father, Stobrod never told her when she was born and pretty much let her fend for herself as soon as she was capable of doing so. She comes to Black Cove to help Ada and the two women form an arrangement.
Ada begins to learn how to run the farm and is able to survive only because of Ruby. Stobrod, a lazy sack of a person, leaves one day to fight the war and Ruby has no idea when or if he will come back. She does not much care one way or the other. She figures he will become a deserter at the first chance he gets. Inman in the meantime is headed home.
From where he left the hospital to his home on Cold Mountain is a trip of about 300 miles. A trip which is only safe to take on foot because of the dangers a horse would bring. A horse would mean more food and food was scarce, plus it was hard to hide a horse and hiding was necessary to avoid the Federals who would imprison him or shoot him on sight. He is equipped with a small satchel which holds his food and supplies plus a small but handy pistol. Along the way, Inman thinks about Ada, and what life was like prior to the war. He remembers the few times they embraced, though he is unsure of what to feel, for it has been so long and so much has happened to him, that the days prior to the war seem more imaginary with each passing day.
Inman also runs into various people along the way. One day while walking, Inman came upon Vesey, a preacher who seemed distraught. Inman also noticed a horse with a woman draped over its back. He came to find that the preacher, who was already betrothed, had impregnated the woman and aimed to kill her.
Inman tied up the preacher and took the girl back to her house. He left the preacher tied to a tree with a note tacked above his head and made his way south again. The next Day he came upon the preacher on the road he had been run out of town. Inman decided it would be okay if the two traveled together, so long as the arrangement did not become permanent. At a river crossing they ran into a farmer trying to get a bull out of the water.
The bull was dead and so they helped the man, who later invited them to dine with him, his wife and her two sisters. While the dinner was cooking he made leave of the group and came back later with the federals. Inman was wed to one of the women just before he was taken off in chains by the federals. After a few days of walking, the federals decided not to take the prisoners any further and shot the entire group. Inman was struck in the head and the shot took him down but he did not lose consciousness.
He was buried along side the other prisoners in a shallow grave. When the Federals left, Inman arose and went back to the house of the farmer. His gunny sack remained untouched in the cord of firewood he had thrown it into. He went down to the barn and found the farmer and beat him to death with the butt of his revolver. Ada and Ruby set out for town one morning. In town Ruby spotted a trap.
She figured she would be able to catch whatever sort of creature had been thieving their corn. A few days later she did catch something, her father. In his time away he had become quite a fiddle player. Ruby was slow to welcome him but Ada decided it would be alright.
Inman came upon a farm house in a clearing. He learned that the house was occupied by a single woman whose husband had died in the war, and her baby. She fed Inman and allowed him to sleep in her bed. One morning she woke Inman quickly and instructed him to leave.
Yankee deserters came into the house and looked for something to steal. There was nothing the woman had of value so they made off with her chickens instead. When the men had gone, Inman ran into the house and told the woman to care for her child. He made his leave and followed the Yankees to their camp and killed them all. He recouped chickens and took them home to the lady and her child. Stobrod and his travel companion P angle set out to go into hiding until the end of the war.
Moments after they left Ada heard shots in the distance. Ruby and Ada gathered supplies and made a trip to find the men. The boy had been shot dead but Stobrod was on the move. When Ada and Ruby found him he was severely wounded. They took him to an abandoned Indian village and made camp. Ada was out searching for firewood when she came upon Inman.
He recognized her almost immediately but he thought she looked different somehow. She was not the girl he had left behind four years ago. Ada did not even recognize Inman. He was dark and dirty and did not look anything like his former self.
The two made their way down the mountain toward the village. Inman and Ada decided it would be best if he went over the state line and surrendered to the Union Army. Then, when the war was over, they could start a life together. Shortly after he left Ada heard shots, she took off towards the sound and found Inman lying amongst a group of dead federals.
She held him in her lap as he lay there bleeding. The thing that makes Cold Mountain such a stirring novel is how the characters act and react to their surrounding environment. The novel shows how the south was impoverished by the war. People's money was worthless, land was fallow, and families were torn apart.
The South was built on the economy of the plantation system, but few people owned plantations. Most southerners did not have slaves and though they joined the fight for states rights and for the southern cause, they became wary, because no matter how hard they fought to preserve their lifestyles, life as they knew it was no more. The southern cause was dead. Everyone, rich and poor alike were affected by the war.
The south would have to start anew. Inman made the trip back to Cold Mountain to claim what little part of his former life still existed.