Through Many Dangers – A review
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Kenneth Kolk, retired history professor and independent scholar, reviews Through Many Dangers, by P. M. Kuiper.
Photo by Gene Braaksma.
Through Many Dangers is a historical novel in two parts. It is well written and keeps the attention of the reader, even one who already knows the story of Company I of the 25th Michigan Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.
Following the First Battle of Bull Run it was clear to both the Union and the Confederacy that the Civil war would not be a quick war. First the Confederacy and then the Union passed laws which allowed the states to use the draft to fill the individual state quotas of new enlistments set by the central governments. In July 1862 Lincoln signed the first Northern Draft orders. Although Michigan had enough volunteers to fill its quota by August 12, Rev Van Raalte held an enlistment rally in Holland, Michigan on August 14 calling on the young men in the Western Michigan Dutch Kolonie to enlist and fight for their new country. In a few days enough men had enlisted to form a Company (around 100 men). Most of these men were first generation Americans who had been born in the Netherlands and whose first language was Dutch (Nederlands).
Mr. Kuiper uses this Dutch Company (Company I) and their experiences during the war to tell the story of how their religious beliefs were challenged and strengthened as they left the relative security of the Kolonie and went to war to save the Union and end slavery. He follows four fictional friends who represent composites of the men who actually served in this unit. Beginning with their enlistment in Holland, MI, their gathering and mustering in Kalamazoo, and through the three years of war, he shows how the Grace of God and their strong faith sustained them “through many dangers, toils and snares” and brought most of them safely home again.
The reader follows them as they won a “Miracle Victory” at Tebbs Bend, Ky on July 4, 1863 over Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and as they took part in a successful campaign against Confederate General Braxton Bragg in Eastern Tennessee. In 1864 they participated in the series of battles in General Sherman’s Campaign to capture Atlanta, and they marched across Georgia and Alabama with General Thomas in pursuit of John Bell Hood, finally defeating him during the defense of Nashville. Late in 1864 they were sent to Washington, DC, and they finally rejoined Sherman in North Carolina at the surrender of the last Confederate army in 1865.
The story of Company I of the 25th provides the framework for Mr. Kuiper’s exploration of how these young men dealt with being in the army and away from home and family. They faced numerous temptations, often failing to live up to the moral standards they had been raised with. He shows how these men, known as the Company that held prayer meetings and sang psalms in Dutch, stayed true to their faith. When one or more of their members fell to temptation, they were forgiven and welcomed back into the fellowship.
Taken as a whole, Through Many Dangers is a story of how faith nurtured in children and young people becomes the rock to which they hold during times of trial. It also shows the impact a community of believers can have in preserving an individual’s faith and in the formation of a moral compass. In the end, this two part novel is really the story of the perseverance of the saints and of God’s grace. As such, this novel about young men at war can be used for study and reflection by men and women of all ages who are interested in exploring what it means to live a life of faith in difficult and unfamiliar circumstances.