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Curious how to pronounce the title? It’s CAN-all-ers. It’s what boatmen on the C&O Canal called themselves.

Just about everyone else said, “canallers,” but canawlers had an accent. They also had a challenging and dangerous job during the Civil War. Canawlers brought coal and other goods 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown. All the while, they traveled along the Potomac River within sight of the Virginia shore and the Confederate States of America. The C&O Canal ran along the border of two warring nations, the canawlers were caught in the crossfire.

Hugh Fitzgerald is a proud canawler. For nine months a year, he and his family live on their canal boat, working hard to get them through the lean winter months.

The year 1862 was a hard year to live on the canal, though. To this point, the Confederacy has stayed south of the canal, but now the Confederate Army intends to go on the offensive and take the war into the north.

Not only are the Fitzgeralds’ lives endangered by the increased activity of warring armies and raiders on the canal, but the Fitzgeralds’ secret activity as a stop along the Underground Railroad only endangers their lives all the more.

Then fate takes Hugh away from his family, leaving his wife, Alice, to hold the family together. With the help of her children; Thomas, George, and Elizabeth; Tony, an orphan from Cumberland; and David Windover, a disillusioned Confederate soldier, they will face the dangers presented by the war, nature, and the railroad together.

Once you finish Canawlers, you can continue the Canawlers series with:

You can also read true stories from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Secrets of the C&O Canal: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History Along the Potomac River.