________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number V . . . . July 14, 1995

Without Shedding of Blood

Block, Kevin James
Winnipeg: Wildflower Communications, 1994
185pp, paper, $12.99.
ISBN 1-895308-17-8. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Canada-History-War of 1812-Fiction.

Grades 10 and up/ Ages 15 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson


"Samuel Beamer, I will come right to the point. We have called you here to offer you a choice: either you abandon the militia or you will be dismissed from the brotherhood. But Samuel, before you make your decision, consider well. Consider what this will mean. Remember that the church has the keys to heaven and hell. Samuel, repent of your sin and return to the law of love. Think of Jesus who, though He could have called an army of mighty angels in His own defense, merely said to Peter: `put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.' Think of your own situation. If you choose to live by the sword, you, Samuel, who have been one of us, will die spiritually because of the sword that you will not cast off. Think too of the example you are leaving your descendants. Think of their exclusion from the brotherhood if they decide to follow you. And do not think that we will be excluding them, but you yourself will be sending them out because you refuse to submit."

During the War of 1812-14, Samuel Beamer, a Mennonite Carpenter from Newark, a small "Canadian" community on the shores of Lake Ontario, finds his religious values in conflict with what he perceives his duties as citizen to be. Having enlisted in the militia, Samuel must appear before a meeting of his fellow Mennonites where he is given an ultimatum: resign from the militia or be `shunned'.

Believing his religious peers to be hypocrites for "accepting protection but rejecting our duty to protect others," Samuel spurns their counter-argument that "a soldier must obey another's absolute command to do anything he says, whereas our absolute allegiance belongs to God."

A participant in the May 27, 1813 Battle of Fort George, Samuel, still guided by his religious upbringing, initially aims high, but eventually, swept up in the heat of the battle, he kills a young American soldier during hand-to-hand combat. Throughout the remainder of the book, which concludes just prior to the December 18, 1813 Battle of Fort Niagara, author Block, himself a Mennonite pastor, has Samuel engaged in a spiritual search as he must continue to participate in the war's events. Block also offers another perspective on the book's theme through Samuel's wife Rachel who, originally opposed to her husband's decision, later wants vengeance when the Americans' burning of Newark leads to the death of their three-year-old daughter.

Written for adults, Without Shedding of Blood, with its numerous Biblical references, would find some audience among senior school readers, and could be used as an additional resource in ethics or Canadian/American history courses.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in Children's and Young Adult Literature at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364