MAJOR THEMES of Dee Ann Miller's


Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863

Slavery took center stage in the Civil War, especially after the Emancipation Proclamation. It deserved center stage. Yet many other issues competed for attention. Change was in the air. It had been for three decades before the war began.

There's something we tend to forget whenever war or terrorism takes center stage in our thinking. Many other problems get neglected, yet they are simmering on the back burner, crying for our attention. Education suffered greatly during the Civil War, for instance, just as it does today.

Far more than most young adult, historical novels for this era, Just Following Orders offers readers the opportunity to experience the rich tapestry of ideas that most certainly were on the minds and in everyday conversations of many in spite of the war. They include:

Violence and terrorism outside of combat
Civil rights
Animal rights
Property rights/issues of imminent domain
The peace movement
Voting rights
Separation of church and state
Abuse of power
Conflict resolution

How many of the above fill our newscasts today? Have we learned to cope with any of them better than people did in the 19th century?

Of course, at times of extreme stress, like the Carters faced along with everyone caught in Order No. 11, mere survival was paramount out of necessity. Not every family has the skills that we see in Joshua and his loved ones. They teach us all the advantages of:

  1. Having a strong, supportive family
  2. Cultivating good, open communication
  3. Taking time to grieve
  4. Accepting what one cannot change or predict
  5. Possessing a good sense of humor

Like so many of today’s youth who stand in the place of an absent parent or one unable to cope with life’s demands, Joshua Carter must step up to the plate even while he’s grieving deep losses, taking on adult responsibilities in a world that’s totally out of control. He’s not off fighting in the war like so many of his peers, but he has his own internal battles.

Yet more fortunate than many, he’s also got the benefit of strong role models. They’ve encouraged his love for learning, instilled in him a deep empathy for others, and are still helping him sort out the complex, political issues of his day. Meanwhile, new characters add to his learning as he quickly comes of age long before things start to settle down.