Missing May
October 5, 2016
October 5, 2016

Rifles for Watie

Quick Glance



This is the total number of incidents in this 352 page book.

*As personal standards vary, please see the breakdown to determine what matters to you.

Author: Harold Keith
Key Words: Fiction, Teen, Newbery Medal, Historical Fiction, Civil War

Buy the same edition we reviewed, here On Amazon

Book Description:

Jeff Bussey walked briskly up the rutted wagon road toward Fort Leavenworth on his way to join the Union volunteers. It was 1861 in Linn County, Kansas, and Jeff was elated at the prospect of fighting for the North at last.

In the Indian country south of Kansas there was dread in the air; and the name, Stand Watie, was on every tongue. A hero to the rebel, a devil to the Union man, Stand Watie led the Cherokee Indian Nation fearlessly and successfully on savage raids behind the Union lines. Jeff came to know the Watie men only too well.

He was probably the only soldier in the West to see the Civil War from both sides and live to tell about it. Amid the roar of cannon and the swish of flying grape, Jeff learned what it meant to fight in battle. He learned how it felt never to have enough to eat, to forage for his food or starve. He saw the green fields of Kansas and Oklahoma laid waste by Watie's raiding parties, homes gutted, precious corn deliberately uprooted. He marched endlessly across parched, hot land, through mud and slashing rain, always hungry, always dirty and dog-tired.

And, Jeff, plain-spoken and honest, made friends and enemies. The friends were strong men like Noah Babbitt, the itinerant printer who once walked from Topeka to Galveston to see the magnolias in bloom; boys like Jimmy Lear, too young to carry a gun but old enough to give up his life at Cane Hill; ugly, big-eared Heifer, who made the best sourdough biscuits in the Choctaw country; and beautiful Lucy Washbourne, rebel to the marrow and proud of it. The enemies were men of an-other breed - hard-bitten Captain Clardy for one, a cruel officer with hatred for Jeff in his eyes and a dark secret on his soul.

This is a rich and sweeping novel-rich in its panorama of history; in its details so clear that the reader never doubts for a moment that he is there; in its dozens of different people, each one fully realized and wholly recognizable. It is a story of a lesser -- known part of the Civil War, the Western campaign, a part different in its issues and its problems, and fought with a different savagery. Inexorably it moves to a dramatic climax, evoking a brilliant picture of a war and the men of both sides who fought in it.


Purchase through us and help keep our Library growing! Get your copy here on Amazon.

Children's Bad Words

Mild Obscenities - 50 Incidents

corn, by jack, shut up, jeepers, darn, darned, dad-gummed, cripes, shucks, stupid, shoot, dang, gosh, gallinippers, heck, h*ll (once)

Name Calling - 21 Incidents

chronic croakers, Free State scum, n*ggers (three times), dom (dumb), big lout, fool, Yankee swine, Yankee liar, foot-sloggers, Buttermilk Rangers, crazy dumb, cowardly swine, stupid, bugger, gray devils, bl**dy-minded shikepokes

Scatological Terms - 7 Incidents

bl**dy (as in lots of blood - 4 times), bl**dy (swear word - 3 times)

Religious Profanity - 19 Incidents

goshallmighty, for God's sake, Godforsaken, Jeez, Bedad, Bejabez, wish it to God, gawsh, gosh, Lor', praise God

Religious & Supernatural - 1 Incident

When a boy sees the reality of war, he prays and vows to always go to church if he lives.

Violence - 2 Incidents

The main character is in his first battle. He sees a man with both legs sheared off. (This excerpt is an example of how other battle scenes are described).

A man “deliberately ground his heel into the helpless rebel’s eye. They dying man’s mouth flopped open. There was a slow rattling in his throat, and his hands clawed and twitched. Then he lay quiet.”

Romance Related - 21 Incidents

At a hospital, boys are told to strip to the waist for examinations.

Boys and men strip to get lice off.

“Got himself a purty gal, too - the blacksmith’s daughter. He’s still wearin’ his wedding suit.”

‘One of Watie’s rebel corporals threatened to cut off Mitchell’s red curls and send them to his rebel sweetheart … “so she’d think he was flirtin’ with a little redheaded gal in Dixie.”’

“Mitchell peeled off his drawers and, standing naked by the fire, dropped them into the open kettle. Huge splotches of pink freckles covered his entire body.”

“Naked as a jaybird, he emerged from the woods and limped up to the fire. His nude body was reddened from running through the shrubbery.”

A boy sees a girl and thinks she’s very pretty.

A boy wanted a chance to see a girl again.

When a girl walks by, soldiers eyeball her from head to toe and whistle seductively at her, saying “I hain’t hugged a gal fer so long I’m outa practice.”

“A girl that beautiful was sure to have her front porch full of suitors.”

“I’ll bet Miss Lucy’s got rebel beaux swarming all around her…”

“Lucy Washbourne’s beauty was breath-fetching.”

As his fingers touched hers, a shiver of pleasure shot up his arm. He looked at her, but she sat down silently on a settee… opposite.”

“He felt miserable. He guessed he was head over heels in love with Lucy.”

“He thought of Lucy and her dark beauty, and an intolerable longing assailed him… maybe he could make her like him.” (He thinks about her often throughout the book).

A boy’s heart is thumping and he’s breathless as knowing he’ll see the girl he loves. They hold hands for a moment.

A boy doesn’t want to wait until after the war to court a girl. They kiss.

A family all kiss a boy goodbye.

A boy and a girl hold hands and they speak of marriage. They kiss and hold each other.


The word "breast" is used a few times - not sexual.

Attitudes/Disobedience - 14 Incidents

A boy brings his dog to bed with him after his parents told him not to.

A boy won’t tell his father he’s leaving to join the army because he knows his father does not want him to.

Another boy won’t tell his mother he’s leaving to join the army because he knows she won’t let him.

A boy is teased for his name but he gets back at the person and “felt repaid.”

A boy is asked to help steal confiscated watermelons. He doesn’t want to but gives in to peer pressure.

A boy doesn’t want to go home during furlough because he’ll “just have another big brawl with Pa” for joining the army.

A boy gets homesick so deserts the army.

A boy gets into a fight with his mother when she won’t let him return home and makes him join back up with the army.

It mentions that a boy didn’t like officers.

A boy lies about his age, saying he’s older than he is, so he can stay in the army.

A boy shoots himself in the hand so he won’t have to be in the front lines and lies about it.

“Never again, he told himself, would he obey an order that took him away from his comrades.”

A boy hates his commanding officer because he is arrogant and a bully.

A boy is ashamed of his father’s ugliness so never returns to see his father.

Conversation Topics - 11 Incidents

Mentions Negroes throughout the book.

It mentions drinking alcoholic drinks a number of times throughout the book.

Men smoke pipes, cigarettes and cigars and chew tobacco throughout the book.

Throughout the book it mentions that someone cursed, but don’t provide an exact word used.

A man has an American flag tattoo.

Men gamble their pay away. Mentions card-playing.

A boy is ordered to confiscate livestock from civilians. He doesn’t like it but must obey orders.(He defies the orders later by returning one of the cows to a family).

Confiscating/Stealing from civilians: “Gradually Jeff was beginning to learn the army’s careless regard for the private property of civilians, especially food.” (This is a reoccurring act throughout the book).

A man is so hungry he admits that he probably would have killed the man if he hadn’t given him food.

The main character takes some hard apple cider and gets drunk.

“In the Jackman home everything possible was done to teach the girls good breeding. They had to learn to sing, dance, play the piano, ride horseback, read the classics and flirt with boys without seeming forward or immodest.”

Parent Takeaway

This is a good book for showing the realities of war without getting too graphic for children/young adults. It has a few battle scenes and shows how morals sunk as the war continued and what some desperate men did. Throughout the war the main character manages to hold (mostly) to his morale code and does not sink like the other men. Most of the bad words (shown in the report) are substitute words; there are not many actual swear words.

parallax background

The Library


See what other titles we have packed into our Library.
You'll be sure to find something for every reading mood.

Browse Here