1. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was considered by many to be the greatest of all the Confederate generals. He died on May 10, 1863, the day when Coal Black Horse opens. Why do you think this event led Robey's mother to send him on this mission?
  2. Robey's journey takes only a few months (early May to late summer). Compare his character at the beginning of the story versus at the end of the story; in what ways has he changed?
  3. If placed in the same situation, is it likely that a 14-year-old today would have the same independence and strength that Robey exhibited
  4. In traditional 'hero's quest' stories, the hero is given a talisman, undertakes a journey, and gains wisdom and courage before returning home. Would you say that Coal Black Horse fits that description? What other stories can you think of that also fit that description? What about The Wizard of Oz?
  5. Are there elements of the supernatural in this book? Do you think that these elements served as literary devices in order for the story to move forward?
  6. The novel offers great contrasts between people whose actions might be called 'good' (Robey, Morphew the merchant who loaned him the horse) and people whose actions might be called 'inhuman' (the scavengers, the preacher). After witnessing such brutality, what prevents Robey from becoming brutal himself? Or, would you say that he does become capable of brutality, out of necessity?
  7. Has this book had an impact on your understanding of the Civil War?
  8. Is it difficult to keep our own, modern-day experiences from influencing the reading of historical fiction? Can we imagine what life was really like for these characters?
  9. Does the book have a hopeful ending?
  10. Would you recommend this book to other people?