Boys of Laurel

An interview of James W. Freeman by Janet Freeman Auman

"The Boys of Laurel" is a novel by James W, Freeman, a native of Laurel County, Kentucky. This historical narrative set during the Civil War focuses on why young men of Laurel took up the Union Cause, although culturally linked to their southern neighbors. The gripping stories of love, loss, and hardship center on the boys from Laurel and their families during this trying time in history. Although written as historical fiction, their stories are based on actual events and real people and represent more than twenty years of research.

When did you decide to write the book?

When I began the research, I wasn't thinking about a book, but it became a calling in the end. My first interest in the topic came from stories told to me by my grandfather, White Freeman. As a youngster, he told me about his father George and uncle White in the Civil War. Although I knew that his uncle White Freeman, after whom he was named, did not survive th war, I knew very little about their exploits. As a child, we often visited my great aunt, who still lived on the farm and in the house that George Freeman built and raised his family after returning from the Civil War. He and his wife Martha Parker Freeman are buried there, and the inscription on his gravestone reads, George W. Freeman, Lieutenant, 24th Kentucky Infantry.

As an adult, I begin to research the 24th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army, and this research became a hobby. I spend a lot of time in Washington, DC as part of my work. While in Washington, I retrieved a lot of information from the National Archives, including individual service records and pension papers of soldiers or their families. I also contacted Brandon Slone, the Kentucky Military Historian at the Kentucky Military Museum. He oversees many Civil War records, including Kentucky regiments, which he allowed me to review. In addition, Mr. Slone put me in contact with Leonietta Milner, an avid researcher of the 24th KY, and she "educated me" on researching Civil War regiments. Over the years, I collected volumes of data and records and began to think about writing a book.

The book is written as historical fiction. How much is factual, and are the characters based on real people?

I first thought about writing a historical review of the 24th Kentucky Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. As I put together research, I realized that I was more interested in the individual soldiers and the impact of war on themselves and their families. I am related to several of these soldiers and therefore had an interest in their lives. The military events and actions described in the book are based on factual records. The soldiers and people in the book are all real, except for a few names given to people who were not relevant to the story. The non-factual aspects of the writing mainly lie with the individual characters' personalities and their private conversations, which I used to develop the storyline.

Can you tell me a little about the storyline?

The story focuses on Company A of the regiment, a group of boys recruited mainly from Laurel County, KY, organized and commanded by Hector Scoville. The story is told through three young men, George, his younger brother White and White's best friend and neighbor Endeman Tussey. At the beginning of the novel, George was 22, and White and Endeman were both only 16. The story began months prior to the start of the war when when they organize as a local militia unit (Home Guard) that would first fight at the battle of Wild Cat Mountain, and from there, they were mustered into the Union Army. The horrors and hardships of war would soon become apparent, including the battles at Shiloh, Perryville, Knoxville, and the campaign from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Unfortunately, many of the boys of Laurel would not survive the war, and the story chronicles the impact this had on families and loved ones.

How do you purchase the book?

You can purchase the novel at the website Later this summer, electronic versions will be available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple Books. You can also check it out of the Laurel County Public Library.

James White Freeman Ph.D
Lexington, Kentucky

Resaca, Georgia Historic Battlefield. The 24th Kentucky Infantry. Company A. was pinned down in this area during the battle. Photo By: Janet Freeman Auman.