Sally’s Rating: 2.5/5
Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith follows young Jeff Bussey as he enlists with the Union volunteers in Kansas during the American civil war. Throughout the war, Jeff rises up the ranks to become a scout and gets involved in a dangerous mission.
The pacing in this book was fairly odd. The first third of the book follows Jeff’s enlistment and first year with the volunteers. The second portion involves a bunch of traveling and battles, where Jeff bemoans the fact that he never gets to see a battle. This leads to him finally becoming a scout. The action finally picks up in the final third as he is forced undercover with the confederate troops under Watie. Despite the book title featuring Watie’s name, he is pretty much a non-presence throughout the book – his name being mentioned a couple of times before we finally meet him.
Jeff Bussey is the typical American go-getter soldier. Always getting into arguments with his superiors, he is impulsive, passionate and a softie for animals. I wish his commanding officer Clardy had been a bit more fleshed out so Jeff could be up against someone who wasn’t simply a two-dimensional hard-headed soldier. I also felt his romance with Lucy happened a bit fast and resulted in their relationship being a bit of a letdown for me.
Despite this, the book captured the spirit of the civil war era. The various dialects being used were fairly easy to follow, though I got irritated with how often he repeated exclamations of “Corn!” and “Goshallmighty.” The slang was used consistently and really immersed me into the culture of that time period.
Throughout Rifles for Watie, Jeff travels around a lot and tons of places get mentioned. A map is conveniently included with the book so young readers can follow the action. Otherwise, I feel like this book covers a lot of battles in such a short period that it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
While this book was a decent view into the life of a soldier during the civil war, it felt like it was a hundred pages too long. Readers who are interested in traditional war stories might find this book interesting and should take a look, but it’s definitely not for everyone.