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Charles Frazier was born in 1950. He grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of the southern Appalachians. He has a PhD in English and taught literature at several universities. He has authored a variety of books and stories. His works include:
Developing Communications Skills for the Accounting Profession - co-written with Robert W. Ingram, a professor in USCís College of Business Administration
Adventuring the Andes - a travel guide
The Geography of Possibility: Man in the Landscape in Recent Western Fiction - Frazierís PhD dissertation
Licit Pursuits - a short story
Frazier turned back to writing in 1990 and his first novel, Cold Mountain, won the National Book Award in 1997. It spent 45 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. Frazier now lives in Raleigh with his wife and daughter. They raise show ponies there.
The main character, Inman, is based on Frazierís great uncle, W.P. Inman who fought in the Civil War in Virginia. He was wounded and left the hospital to walk 300 miles home to the mountains of North Carolina. Frazier researched archives and war records to develop a base for his Inman character. Also, the characters Pangle and Stobrod are based on two real people, a fiddler and a retarded boy, who were backed against a tree and shot by Home Guard. The two lie in a double grave that Frazier came across while walking in the Smoky Mountains.
The characters in the novel are unique because the southern Appalachians have a history that was shaped by the land. Most of the people there were Scotch-Irish immigrants living on land granted to their families generations before. Many were religious non-conformists and the geographic isolation afforded them spiritual independence. They were renowned for their dedication to fighting for their homeland in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. However, by the time of the Civil War their isolation had bred illiteracy due to the inaccessible terrain and economic inadequacies.
Initially during the Civil War the mountain farmers volunteered with a sense of patriotism and loyalty, thinking they were repelling an invasion of their homeland. Even though North Carolina was the last to secede, the state contributed more soldiers to the Confederacy than any other state except Virginia. However, after 1863, when Lincoln directed the war toward abolitionism, and the South had suffered severe losses, compounded by the lack of adequate food and supplies, many soldiers from the mountains became disillusioned. The people in the southern mountains did not own slaves and were not particularly interested in fighting for that issue. Hundreds deserted nightly, going home to protect and sustain their families. Many felt their cause was hopeless and that further sacrifices were useless. North Carolina contributed more deserters than any other state. It seemed they had been caught up in someone elseís battle, a sentiment Inman shares.
The scenes that the character Inman describes in the novel were actual battles from the Civil War. Frazier chose to have Inman witness the most gruesome slaughters of the war to accentuate Inmanís resolve against the war. The battles of Fredericksburg, Sharpsburg, and the Crater at Petersburg are prominent markers in Civil War history. They serve to illustrate the horror, defeated morale and bloodiness behind many of the characters of Cold Mountain.