Birch is the youngest member of Teague’s Home Guard and the one who eventually kills Inman. His white hair, pale skin and icy blue eyes make him seem inhuman. He is exactly what Inman is afraid he has become: a man without a soul.
The Blind Man
The blind man sells roasted nuts outside the hospital where Inman recovers from his war wound. He seems able to see things as they are, even though he has been blind from birth, which, he tells Inman, is better than being struck blind after being able to see. His words make Inman realize that no matter what he has witnessed, he can still turn to his memories of Cold Mountain.
Blount is a man whom Ada met at a Charleston party on the eve of war. Caught up in the glamour of war, Blount had enlisted, but he confessed to Ada that he was afraid. Ada later learns that was killed.
The Boy from Georgia
The boy from Georgia is one of the outliers who takes up with Stobrod and Pangle when they leave the outliers. Hidden in the bushes, he watches helplessly as Teague and his men shoot Stobrod and Pangle. He marries Ruby, and they and their children live with Ada at Black Cove Farm.
The captive is a deserter imprisoned by the Home Guard. From his jail cell in Cold Mountain, he tells about the brutality of Teague and his men and proclaims that such an unjust world “won’t stand long.”
The Girl at the Ferry Crossing
The girl at the ferry crossing takes Inman across Cape Fear River. Like other characters he meets, she acts out of selfish motives, charging Inman an exorbitant price to cross the river.
The Goat Keeper
The goat keeper is a reclusive old woman who finds Inman almost dead in the mountains after his escape from the Home Guard, and feeds and heals him. Content to raise goats and study the natural world, she has no interest in the war. She offers Inman a glimpse of what it is like to entirely retreat from the world, something Inman has contemplated. He decides, however, that her loneliness is a big price to pay for such solitude.
Inman is the main male character in Cold Mountain. After being wounded in the neck at Petersburg and spending months in a Confederate hospital, Inman decides to desert and to make his way back to his rural home in Cold Mountain, North Carolina, where he hopes to put his broken spirit back together. The violence he has witnessed on the battlefield has changed him so much, however, that he fears he cannot be healed and that the woman he loves, Ada Monroe, will find him too changed to marry him. Like the Greek warrior Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey, Inman confronts obstacles, illnesses, and evils on his journey, but his images of Ada and of Cold Mountain keep him going. Through each trial, Inman shows that he still possesses a deep sense of what is good and right, despite being tarnished by his war experiences. His spiritual connection to nature contributes to his natural goodness.
Junior is a one of the self-serving, immoral characters Inman meets on his journey. After Inman and Veasey help him remove a cow carcass from a creek, Junior invites them to his home, promising food and shelter, but instead brings the Home Guard to arrest them. Inman later returns to kill Junior for his treachery.
Mrs. McKennet is a friend of Monroe. When Ada and Ruby visit her in town, she is full of platitudes about the glorious Southern cause in the war.
Monroe is Ada’s father. He appears in the novel only in Ada’s memory, as a loving yet overindulgent father. He moved Ada to Cold Mountain when he sought a better climate for his consumption, and as the preacher of church there, he often shocked or offended the residents with his unconventional ideas.
Ada Monroe is the main female character in Cold Mountain. Every other chapter focuses on Ada as she struggles to survive at Black Cove Farm during the Civil War. Coming from a sophisticated education and a privileged background as a minister’s daughter in Charleston, Ada finds herself unequipped to deal with farm life after her father passes away and all the servants abandon the farm. She refuses to go back to Charleston, where she never truly fit in to society’s expectations of her, but neither does she feel at home among the rural, superstitious people of Cold Mountain. Yet Cold Mountain draws her; it is a solid presence in her chaotic life. With the help of Ruby Thewes, Ada is able to change herself from a useless debutante to a woman who understands the land and people around Cold Mountain.
Odell is a peddler with whom Inman shares a room at an inn. He was a planter’s son and heir, yet he gave it all up because he loved a slave girl, Lucinda. He wanders the South now, looking for Lucinda. He wants no part in the Confederate cause to uphold slavery.
Pangle is a fat, simpleminded, kind young man whom Stobrod met among the outliers, who took over the cave in which Pangle lived. Stobrod teaches him to play the banjo and to accompany him in a musical duo. His execution by Teague and the Home Guard shows the way many innocent people were destroyed by a war in which they had no stake.
Sara is the young widow of a Confederate soldier. She lives alone, valiantly raising her baby in the face of certain starvation after Federal raiders have taken her livestock and burned down her barn. Despite her poverty, she offers Inman food and shelter. When she asks him to simply lie beside her, Inman does not touch her; he listens as she grieves for her husband. Sara touches his scar, and that touch reminds Inman that he is still human, not just the killer he has had to become to survive.
Esco and Sally Swanger
The Swangers live near Black Cove Farm. They are true rural people, deeply connected to mountain folklore and superstitions, yet also fundamentally religious. They do not support the war, but they have allowed their sons to join the fighting; like so many others, they simply wait for the war to end. Ada turns to them for companionship in her loneliness, and they in turn send Ruby to help Ada survive. Sally Swanger is the person who introduces Inman to Ada.
Swimmer is a young Cherokee man whom Inman met in the mountains one summer. Inman recalls his Cherokee spells and tales on his journey.
Teague is the leader of the Home Guard, a group of men charged with keeping order on the home front and hunting down deserters. Just as Solomon Veasey twists religion to excuse his immoral acts, Teague uses his authority to justify torture and murder. His brutality in the name of war exemplifies how justice can be distorted in times of war.
Ruby Thewes is a rough, uneducated, plain-spoken young woman who has survived on her own in the mountains since childhood, when her alcoholic father frequently abandoned her to pursue his own interests. Ruby possesses a vast knowledge and deep understanding of nature, in contrast to Ada’s extensive knowledge of books and music. She also has a big heart, and despite resenting her father’s treatment of her, she aids him when he shows up at Black Cove Farm after deserting the army.
Stobrod Thewes is Ruby’s father. When Stobrod deserts the army and appears at Black Cove Farm, he is not the drunken, irresponsible man that Ruby knew growing up. In his newly discovered passion for fiddle music, he has become more introspective and humble. He acknowledges that he did not do right by Ruby. He also asks for her help. Since deserting, he has lived in a cave on Cold Mountain with other outliers, but he does not wish to remain with them and take part in their lawless activities. While Ruby grudgingly agrees to help him, Ada admires him; she is encouraged to see someone who once had no purpose, like herself, transformed into someone useful. Stobrod survives being shot by the Home
Big Tildy is a prostitute at the inn in which Inman and Veasey stay for one night. Although she is a black woman, she is not a slave.
Veasey is a hypocritical preacher. Inman prevents him from murdering his pregnant mistress, Laura Foster. Once Inman sees that Laura is safe, he leaves Veasey to answer to the townspeople, who promptly kick him out of town. He crosses paths with Inman again and travels with him, and Inman finds him not only a thorough hypocrite, but also a fool. His rash acts and inexperience in the wilderness lead the two men into several scrapes, the last of which costs Veasey his life. Veasey is a man who professes faith, yet acts immorally, while Inman has lost faith, but retains a sense of morality and justice.