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Rifles for Watie

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  7,934 Ratings  ·  357 Reviews
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 Un
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 15th 1991 by HarperTeen (first published 1957)
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Jun 05, 2010 Joan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Q. Why didn’t I read this in junior high?
Q. Why didn’t my teachers make it mandatory?
Q. Why did I ever read anything out of a text book about the civil war?

Rifles for Watie taught me more about the civil war than any junior high American History book I ever endured. If I were teaching Junior High history this would be MANDATORY. It was exciting and not biased. The author did a remarkable job of showing the good and bad sides of both the Union and Confederate Armies. The protagonist Jeff Bussey w
Nov 19, 2009 Valerie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Valerie by: Cara
There are few reasons why I wanted to read this book. One, it was highly recommended to me by my sister. Two, is historical fiction (about the civil war). And three, it is based in the mid-west which is mostly ignored during the civil war, except when they mention "Bloody Kansas" for one paragraph in the textbooks. It was a bit long and it took me a while to read but it was well worth it.

Hoping to prove himself and defend his home Jeff leaves to enlist as a soldier in the Union Army. He has thi
Jan 02, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical novel fans/Civil War history buffs
Recommended to Ed by: Reread
I recalled once reading Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith when I was a kid probably over my summer vacation. I believed I had enjoyed the experience, so I decided to have another go at it now and hope the historical novel written for teens still holds up. I am happy to report Rifles for Watie still turns my crank. The author Keith had a wonderful knack for turning descriptive phrases of the landscape, battle scenes, and soldiers' camp life. His protagonist of Jeff Bussey from Linn County, Kansas, ...more
Benji Martin
First, let me say that I get what is good about this book. It's unique. There aren't many decent children's books out there that follow a young soldier around through the entire Civil War, and the ones that do exist are all set in the eastern part of the U.S. I didn't know much about what was going on in the west during the Civil War before I read this book. Most of the scholarship or fiction I've been exposed to has all been focused on the other part of the country.

For it's length, it's a very
Aug 12, 2009 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: YA Civil War fiction
A sentimental 4 stars: Rifles for Watie was one of my favorite books when I was young; I don't know how many times I checked it out of the library.

I was pleasantly reminded of it (and another sentimental favorite, The Horse Soldiers) while reading David Donald's Lincoln. I can still remember specific scenes from the book like Jeff's first battle, loading a rifle, the night he spends in a rebel's house, using worthless Confederate dollars to cut out a piece of bread.

Both books have joined the lis
Apr 10, 2015 Kathi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
Five stars for this Civil War historical fiction winner set in Kansas and Missouri, both states part of the western front of the war. Jefferson Davis Bussey, a Union private (despite his name), enters the war after Missouri Bushwackers torment his family in his beloved Kansas. Jeff’s story is believable, from his ignorance of military vocabulary when he joins the Federals to his falling in love with Lucy Washburne, a Rebel Cherokee young lady, as well as from countless details in between. This r ...more
May 29, 2012 Boatemaa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rifles for Watie is a book about a boy named Jefferson Davis Bussey. Jeff goes off to war and fights for the Union after his family is attacked by bushwackers. He works his way up rankings from an infantry to calvary. Soon he meets a lovely rebel girl known as Lucy Washborne. Of course, Lucy is not interested in him because he a Union soldier. Eventually, Jeff is made a scout. He finds out about the reinforcements coming to the Confederates. He also knew that the Washbournes were missing a famil ...more
This was quite a bit better than I thought it would be. I wasn't enthusiastic about beginning it, but do want to read all or most of the Newberrys.

One reason that I enjoyed this book so much is that most of the action takes place at or near where I grew up. And to think that the fantastic schools never mentioned this in 12 years of schooling. Unbelievable. This is a whole new aspect of the Civil War that I was completely unaware of. When I think of the field trips, the real, hands-on "history ha
Feb 11, 2014 Taylor rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 12 and up
This is a different take on a civil war novel. Longer than most novels awarded the John Newberry Medal, it recounts the tale of a young Union soldier named Jefferson Bussey. Jeff is a good character. He goes through many different situations during the war, different from most civil war books I have read.
This isn't a long description of all the different battles in the war. It does mention several battles, but is based more on the characters and their stories.
The writing style wasn't my favorit
There's a lot to like about this Civil War novel. The young protagonist, Jeff Bussey, is a likeable character, and there's a good portrayal of his experiences as a young Union recruit from Kansas, as he goes from impatience to get a taste of war to eventual disillusionment with the destruction caused by both sides; knowing fear and hardship, forming friendships with good people on the other side of the conflict, and falling in love. The angle of the Cherokee Nation's participation in the war was ...more
My favorite book EVER!!!!!! i am in love with historical fiction books, especially ones set in the nineteenth century and ancient times.... this was an amazing book bc i felt as if i was constantly with jeff bussey as he experienced both sides of the civil war. i also loved how he fell in love with a rebel girl when he was fighting on the union's side and was spying on the confederates. this is a must read for everyone, esp if u are civil war and/or history buff. its great for children, teens, a ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I’ve never read a book about a soldier in the middle of a war. Jeff Bussey is just a boy, but he decides to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. He longs for fighting. Time after time, he gets whisked away to other duties while the other soldiers fight. Finally, he is set up against the Southern Army and he finds it is not the glorious adventure he thought it would be. He makes an enemy of his commander and has to fight not only the Southern soldiers, but his own commander. Jeff is sel ...more
Oct 15, 2012 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery, kids, slow-start
This was a slow start for me, but I ended up really enjoying it. I actually ended up learning a lot about the Civil War that I wasn't familiar with -- especially the role of the Cherokee and other tribes. It was pretty fascinating. Keith did a nice job of sympathetically portraying both sides of the war -- the good and the bad of each.

As with many of these older books -- I find it difficult to maintain a sense of the passage of time as well as holding in my mind the various characters. Other th
Jun 28, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
If I was going to choose a book about the Civil War I would pick this over "Red Badge of Courage" any day (making the comparison because they are the only two Civil War novels I've read). It was interesting, had historical elements, suspense, heroics, adventure, etc-even a love story! It also dealt with some of the issues that make Red Badge of Courage so famous like sympathy for the other side and fear in the face of battle, how you deal with and so on. Plus-the main character actually has a na ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Beca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read this book obsessively in middle school and I'd like to revisit it as an adult to see how it holds up. I constantly think about this story all the time and I'm glad I finally remembered the title
Sacha Head
Mar 23, 2011 Sacha Head rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gave a different perspective of the Civil War than I'd ever read about before. Jeff fights on both sides and understands each. I think that's more reasonable than trying to make one side the bad guy.
May 18, 2011 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, I didn't voluntarily pick this up. I had to read it for a school assignment. but, when I picked it up to read a chapter I could NOT put it down! I love it and have read it twice. I wish there was a modern Jeff for me...
Aug 23, 2011 Jewell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A still timely book. A young man discovers the horrors of war and the humanity of all people (even the enemy). This book also illuminates how the Civil War was fought in the west.
Gavin Hammond
Mar 01, 2017 Gavin Hammond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, actually, I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I did like this a lot. It felt, decently realistic, I mean, not perfectly realistic though, but for what it was, it was very entertaining. I liked most of the book after Jeff became the spy, I came into this book expecting him to be a spy half way through the book at least, but majority of this book, Jeff is in the union army and not a spy for them. And I may be complaining a little bit, but it added a little reali ...more
Juli Anna
This one took me forever! I really dragged my feet at the prospect of yet another Newbery about a boy who fantasizes about the glorious, manly game of shooting things with guns. How many novels can one society write about the disillusionment of war? Not interesting anymore. And, frankly, at least as far as writing style goes, this book was really boring. Keith has an odd habit of skipping days or even months at a time between chapters without telling you he's done it, and the first 3/4 of the bo ...more
Feb 28, 2017 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in fourth or fifth grade, and it's remarkable how entire passages have stuck with me for 30-ish years. I had no idea how much of an influence this book has had on me until I've ha d a chance to re-read it. Apparently I didn't just read it the first time around, I absorbed it. And it stands up well (for the most part) to the test of time. A great read for 9-13 year olds interested in history and adventure.
Mar 11, 2010 Carroll rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-i-read
Rifles for Waite
By Harold Keith

Jefferson Davis Bussey is a sixteen-year-old boy living in the Kansas Territory in 1861. His father had served with Jefferson Davis during the Mexican War, and had named his son after an honorable man. When Jeff Bussey joins the Union army, his name becomes a problem for the first time, but when he has to serve in the Confederate Army as an undercover spy his name becomes a bit of a saving grace. Raised to be honest and respectful of others, Jeff has a hard time r
“Honor on Both Sides”

Keith presents the Civil War from a different perspective: that of a Missouri boy who joins the Union Army mainly to protect the family farm from the Bushwackers who threaten them across the border. Like Michael Shaara’s KILLER ANGELS (Pulitzer Prize winner focusing on
the protracted Battle of Gettysburg) this book presents a fair portrayal of conditions and mindsets on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. There are no clear cut military antagonists in opposing uniform, so r
Phil Jensen
Jun 22, 2014 Phil Jensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One child out of a hundred will love this book above all others. The other 99 won't make it through the first chapter. Although I already knew an awful lot about the Civil War, I learned a little from this book. More importantly, the way the main character was written gave me a new perspective on what I already knew. I was also glad that Keith didn't wimp out on the action, and described it with realism. I think he had me after first mention of lice.

This is very well written. In fact, it's proba
Peter Hayes
Feb 26, 2017 Peter Hayes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was obsessed wit the Civil War as a young teenager and this was one of my favorite books on that time, along with 'The Killer Angels' and 'The Red Badge of Courage'.
Sep 27, 2016 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
inthralling and intriguing
Mar 31, 2011 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-medal
Good story, but long-winded. I think someone who has an interest in historical fiction would find this story more engaging than I did. I did find it interesting to learn about portions of the Civil War that I didn't even learn about it AP US History class. I'm almost embarrassed to admit I didn't even know the war extended into Kansas.

"Weer's Union army didn't stay long in the Cherokee nation. The weather continued hot, the grass burned to a crisp, and the supply train from Kansas was long over
Marcus Anderson
May 22, 2016 Marcus Anderson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When Rifles for Watie was dumped on my junior high school desk in 1971 I didn't get past the title before deciding I was not going to read this book.

The previous year was the height of the Vietnam war and after seeing the televised execution of a handcuffed prisoner only 12 months earlier, aged 11, I had already decided I wanted to have nothing to do with war, let alone supporting Australia's involvement in a fabricated offensive against a neighboring country at the direction of the USA, neithe
Apr 10, 2015 Katheryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith is a fictional story that educates the reader about the Civil War. This story gives the reader a unique perspective from the side of both a Confederate and a Yankee. The story also illustrates what it is like to lose a close friend.
The story begins as Jefferson Davis Bussey is plowing the fields on his family farm. He is working hard when confederate bushwhackers approach his Kansas family farm and threat to kill his father. Jeff offers his own life to protect h
Adrian Hebard
Aug 23, 2016 Adrian Hebard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In every way, this is a boys’ book. The protagonist, Jeff Bussey, is a Union soldier in the Civil War’s western theatre, and he is such a gentlemen as to be obnoxious. For example, when he first goes to the McComas, a woman with her children whose husband is in the Confederate army, Jeff helps with chores; he does the same for the Washbournes, when he helps to milk the cow, chop wood, and get a heifer to nurse its calf.

The value of the book is to introduce us to the fighting in the Kansas / Ark
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Harold Keith lived his entire life in Oklahoma, a state that he greatly loved and which served as the setting for many of his books.
Perhaps his best known story, the historical novel "Rifles for Watie", was first released in 1957. It went on to win the 1958 John Newbery Medal and the 1964 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.
In 1998, Harold Keith died of congestive heart failure, in Norman, Oklahoma.
More about Harold Keith...

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