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Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
"Hammer Come Down" begins in Alabama in the 1830's. President Andrew Jackson has ordered Native Americans to relocate from their eastern and southern American locales to the Western territories. Jason, an African-American bondsman to Tolin Cobb, returns with Tolin from the Seminole wars in Florida to their home in Union Springs, Alabama, which is southwest of Montgomery, only to find that Tolin's plantation home has been burned and everyone they know has disappeared or has been killed. It seems that soldiers killed the blacks who fired upon them from the Cobb plantation and the local Creeks then headed to the western territories with horses and whoever was still living, Jason's beloved Louisa among them. Tolin is heartbroken as is Jason, so Tolin sells the land or what is left of his home, while Jason, trained as a blacksmith, creates a sign for the cemetery where the Cobbs and their beloved African-American bondsmen are buried. Then Tolin and Jason head for the western territories and Fort Laramie. Tolin gives Jason the papers declaring him a freedman as they begin their adventures in a land where the only settlers are "trashy renegade white men, crackers without money and, niggers with a rope waiting for them."
"Hammer Come Down" is a brilliantly written account of the western territories of the United States in those few decades before the Civil War. With realistic dialogue and believable action it tells of the variety of immigrants like African-American Jason and white southern Tolin who try to settle there along with a few nefarious characters and also the Cheyenne, Crow, Creeks and other Native Americans. Jason, his friend Tolin Cobb, the abolitionist Johnston family of Maple Lane, Louisa and her adopted father Oneechee, Jason's adopted orphan Philip and all the other characters are believable. The portrayal of the historical time period is perfect. The plot line is multifaceted and complex as Jason and Tolin make their way out West as well as into their adult years when they decide to live the life they really want. "Hammer Come Down" is an incredible read that should go on every reader's list of "must reads" today.