It was two and a half years ago, near the tail end of 1866, that I’d thrown my weight into the grand enterprise. I was still only thirteen then but big for my age, as was constantly remarked, and feisty as any Irish cockerel. I was also a know-nothing, with fists that spoke before my tongue, and for that I’m apologizing.
I was rightly my father’s boy, as everyone was quick to explain; he’d made me in his own image. And when he didn’t come back from the war, I’d had to become him: I laced on his boots, shouldered his harness, and went to work to support Ma and the others. The best work at the...