When James W. Freeman was a young man, he would sit and listen wide-eyed and intently to the stories his grandfather would tell.
Stories about the Freeman family from Laurel County, and about friends and neighbors from the area, as they lived through the turbulent times that led up to and through the American Civil War.
Young James grew up, received his degree in experimental pathology and spent more than 30 years as a professor of oncology and cancer researcher.
His grandfather's stories, and the sentiment they instilled, stayed with Dr. Freeman and eventually he began researching and putting his thoughts in writing.
He faced a great challenge, because he wanted to make the novel historically accurate, yet convey the intimate tales of four unique souls (George Freeman, White Freeman, Endeman Tussey and Hector Scoville) who would join what became the 24th Kentucky Infantry Regiment. Dr. Freeman is related to three of those men.
Dr. Freeman wanted to try and explain the strong allegiance to the Union by the people from the Appalachian regions of eastern Kentucky. These people almost unanimously supported the Union while holding strong cultural affection and commercial ties to their southern neighbors.
As a person who had a direct connection to the men and women who lived with honor, sacrifice and grace through the hardships and pain of the Civil War, Dr. Freeman felt that such things should not be easily forgotten. Future generations, he feels, should have a better understanding of the Appalachian Americans and their contributions to preserving the Union.
Consider these words from the preface, written by Donald C. Storm, Major General, USA, Retired.
"In reading 'Boys of Laurel', I am constantly reminded of the incredible sacrifice of those who answered the CALL to preserve our Union during the Civil War. Dr. Freeman successfully documents the historical perspective of service rendered by the 24th Kentucky, while clearly illustrating the character and desire to solidify further the very essence of God, Family, and Country."
This is the story Dr. Freeman hoped to convey in writing about those "Boys of Laurel."