I like history.
I’m not a history buff in the sense that I can name every Battle of That Guy Bridge or the Raid On This Guy’s Stuff. That emphasis on memorizing battles out of context has no appeal for me.
What I enjoy is learning about how real-life people lived through crazy experiences.
Civil War stories usually don’t grab my attention, to be honest. Normally it’s random battles and dysentery.
Basing it on the true story of one of Bruchac’s relatives, Louis Nolette is a young boy who volunteers for the Union army even though he does not meet the age requirement. He’s big enough to pass, and they’ve lost enough soldiers, that he is able to enlist.
Throughout the story Louis interacts with real soldiers expressing real concerns – things like questioning orders of distant generals, not wanting to make friends that will die soon enough, and what it’s like to leave family behind. One great scene is an interaction between Ely Parker, a Seneca chief/Union officer, and Louis, an Abenaki youth.
The battles play out from Louis’ perspective. My only complaint was that they usually occurred in flashback, so we knew Louis made it out okay before we read the battle. Not as much danger as losing a character we’ve related to.
The issue of race is dealt with in an interesting manner: Louis joins up with the Irish Brigade. Frequently they were thrown into the front lines of combat, resulting in more casualties. The book points out the segregation between the units, despite the fact that they’re fighting on the same side. Even the infantry hates the cavalry because of a class difference.
These issues are handled in a way that adds to the narrative and contributes to a well-paced story.