86 - Rifles for Watie
Rifles for Watie is a youth novel by Harold Keith set in the War Between the States. First published in 1957, it received the Newbery Medal and remains recommended reading for young teens, particularly boys. I remember indentifying completely with the 16-year-old hero, Jefferson Davis Bussey. I, too, was named for a southern hero – Robert E. Lee – and shared young Jeff’s enormous conflicts over the war. I was a loyal southern boy from a family proud of our involvement in smuggling slaves to safety in Iowa. My town’s Superintendent of Schools was named for Stand Watie, the Cherokee commander willing to side with anybody who wanted to do battle with the U.S. Army. Young Jeff can't wait to leave his Kansas farm and defend the Union – yet is assigned to be a spy to prevent a shipment of rifles from reaching the Confederate general. This tale challenges young readers to realize there's more to war than honor and glory … and that what appears to be black and white may not really be.
~ Rob Kerby