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Rifles for Watie

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  9,881 ratings  ·  513 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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 25th 1987 by HarperTeen (first published 1957)
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Nathan Josiah Yara Yes, it does have a happy ending but it leaves a bit of uncertainty.
Yes, it does have a happy ending but it leaves a bit of uncertainty.

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  9,881 ratings  ·  513 reviews

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Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Luisa Knight

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
Benji Martin
Apr 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Kellyn Roth
Okay, that was cool. :) Might review it further later.
Carol Storm
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! It reminded me of Sunday nights watching THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY fifty years ago. If Walt Disney had ever made an epic movie of the Civil War that was kid friendly but still crammed with unbelievable danger, action, and romance, this would be that book. I loved everything about it, not just the battle scenes but the scenes of camp life and even the fascinating information about hunting, tracking, and cooking in frontier days!

Jeff Bussey is the hero, and he is a really sp
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery
Gosh, Jeff sure was a good guy!
Corn, but Lucy sure was a purty girl!

Too long, with too much of the author's research showing.
Too simplified, with the army men's language and behavior toned down for middle graders.
Too tidy, with people and character traits recurring to tie things up neatly at the end.
Plus all those womenfolks who couldn't plant corn in a straight line, and all those slaves who just loved their masters.
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional Civil War story focused on the West and with authentic empathy for a variety of perspectives of the war. Highly recommended for young readers especially.

The audiobook is breathtakingly well done.
Phil Jensen
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physical-books
Book synopsis:

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 Na-tion fearlessly and successfully on savage raids behind the Uni
Michael Fitzgerald
Long but worthwhile, this story has many twists and turns, and although readers certainly know how the war will play out on the large scale, there is a good deal of suspense regarding individual characters. The details of place, characterizations, dialogue, etc. are first rate, making this stand out from more generic juvenile historical fiction set during the Civil War.

The author manages to deliver a good deal of history and through interesting juxtapositions of the protagonist is able to conve
Nicole Palumbo Davies
This won a Newbery? Maybe in 1957, this was innovative (big maybe), but there are no surprises and nothing to say about war, aside from it's dirty and even your enemies are human, which was not news to me. The main character and his simple-minded friends think war will be great fun and are shocked - shocked, I tell you - to discover that it's a lot more boring and bloody than their childish imaginings. The protagonist is saddled with the name Jefferson Davis Bussey. The supposed irony is that he ...more
The mere fact that it took me two weeks to read this snoozefest tells you everything you need to know.

I am not the reader for this book. When I was in high school, I loathed The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front, so I clearly have a distaste for "combat-centered" books. I find it all terrifically dull - the marching, the strategizing, the riding around on horses. All of it. So boring. So, so, so boring.

At one point, Jeff (the protagonist, who in any given paragraph seems ei
Dec 08, 2018 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Anyway, Keith's acceptance speech isn't that interesting. He speaks of his background as sports publicity director for U. of OK as not being helpful, but as writing workshops teaching him the strategies of putting together a successful story.

There and in the introduction in the book itself he speaks of all the interviews he did with the aged veterans of the war. So, yes, the details of how the boys dealt with being soldiers, etc., do ring true.

In the introduction he admits that the nove
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Read this years ago and recall liking it.
Newbery Winner 1958

This is an exceptionally well written novel. It is the story of a 16-year-old farmer's boy who joins the Union Army after his family survives a brush with Missourian Bushwackers. In preparing for this novel Harold Keith had done an enormous amount of research and even interviewed veterans of the Civil War in the 1940s. In an effortless style he weaves into the narrative a tremendous amount of historical detail. The story is also very realistic in its depictions of the hardship
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
Hooray! I'm finally done with this book!

Anyhow, it actually did move along nicely and turn into an interesting book about midway through. I'm glad I put it down months ago and picked it up again a few days ago when I was ready to finally read another civil war era book. It's got some issues in it, like the N word. It's not as prejudiced against Native Americans as one would assume from the cover. In fact, it points out that many Cherokees owned large plantations and homes and were actually assi
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 rated it did not like it
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
Vel Veeter
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I cannot honestly rate because I’ve read it two dozen times, and first read it in fourth grade. I loved it then, and I love it now, and it’s too close to my reading heart to rate it honestly. So anyway, five stars.

I was assigned this book in fourth grade, and it’s the first book that I opened, read two or three sentences and got super intimidated and put aside. A friend of mine told me he really liked it, so I powered forward, and ended up loving it. My personal c
Juli Anna
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
2.5 rating.
Felt very textbook-ish in parts and even had a couple small historical errors. It wasn't that interesting. There was a lot of information and a lot of 'three months later' 'the next week' etc. and one particular sentence that was kind of ridiculous..."the shape of the cook's head was not unlike that if a full-grown female calf." Apparently the author is not wise in the ways of animals because a calf is a baby cow. A full-grown calf is biologically impossible.
Wasn't that good of a boo
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good Civil War novel! I admit I didn't care for it at first but the story went on and it got better. ...more
Erin O'Connor {If The Review Fits}
If you are a fanatic about Civil War I recommend this book. If you are guy I recommend this book. It was so well written and really hits on some great parts in our history.
Relying on first-hand interviews of Civil War veterans from his master's thesis, Harold Keith wove a beautiful story about a young man named Jefferson Davis Bussey who enlisted with the Union at age 16.

I love, love, LOVED this book! It has been my constant companion the past few days so I could read it during every spare moment. A lot of Newberys tend to focus on coming-of-age stories. And while Mr. Bussey definitely grew up over the course of the war (and the book), he was much older than I us
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Newbery books are a special breed, and this oldie-but-goodie rings true. Beautiful writing that nonetheless is accessible and down to earth enough for junior high readers carries an exciting story of the Civil War seen through the eyes of a 16 year old Kansas boy. Jeff Bussey is an appealing protagonist, a courageous, sensible teenage boy eager to join the Union efforts and gain battle experience. He has no idea what unusual paths his life will take over the next four years. This makes quite a t ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this much more than I would have expected to. I'm not a history buff and don't have much interest in American history, but once I got all the terminology straight I was hooked. Keith's portrayal of war and death are dark and meaningful without being "too much" for older children. Jeff is a great character and his coming-of-age progression is complex and well done. I loved his integrity and his understanding and sympathy for both sides by the end of the novel. And the last 50 or so pages ...more
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Children's Books: The Medal Winner from 1958 - Rifles for Watie - D&A December 2018 18 30 Dec 23, 2018 04:48AM  
2017 Reading Chal...: Rifles for Watie 1 12 Jun 16, 2015 01:46PM  
Rifles for Watie 3 17 Mar 21, 2014 10:07PM  
General 7 27 Oct 08, 2012 06:38AM  

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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.

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