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Dr. Robert Judson Cole travels from his ravaged Scotland homeland, through the operating rooms of Boston, to the cabins of frontier Illinois. In the wilderness he befriends the starving remnants of the Sauk tribe, who have fled their reservation. In the process, he absorbs their culture and learns native remedies that enrich the classical medical education he received at Edinburgh University. He marries a remarkable settler woman he had saved from illness. The details of how their deaf son manages to become a physician also, despite his handicap, and the story of how the Cole family is sucked into the bloody vortex of the Civil War and survives, makes an exceptional reading experience.