Rifles for Watie

by Harold Keith
322 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by catwhowalksbyhimself

Compelling, well researched Civil War story.


Jefferson Davis Bussey, a teenager living during early part of the Civil War, joins the Union Army after Confederate sympathizing thugs attack his home and family. Through a unique set of circumstances, he ends up seeing the war from the perspectives of both sides, participates in major battles, and stops a Union traitor from getting vital military technology into the hands of Confederate General Watie and his army.


The book accurately depicts some of the abuses that can happen at times of war, such as mistreatment of civilians of the other side, looting, and mistreatment of lower ranking soldiers. Slavery is also depicted, if fairly briefly. The main character, however, remains above all these things and serves as an example of right behavior, observing the evils around him and trying to do what he can to change them, when it is possible. (Which, as in real life, it some times is not.)

Spiritual Content

There is little spiritual content, although the character asks an orphan at one point if he knows who Jesus is and tells him that only Jesus can save him. There are other brief mentions of God and church, but mostly in passing.


As this is a war story, there are several major battles vividly described. There are also some more minor incidents of violence, such as looting of civilians, that are depicted. None of the violence is gratuitous, however, and is tastefully written, even if it is appropriately horrifying at times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Some brief references to alchohol, particularly to it being a problem among the soldiers, but nothing of significance.

Sexual Content

Soldiers talk to a girl seductively. Some kisses.

Crude or Profane Language or Content



Rifles of Watie is a compelling, well-researched historical novel which gives the reader a unique and balanced perspective of the Civil War. The story is very well crafted, allowing the character to see the war from multiple perspectives and from both sides, in a unique twist that readers will enjoy. Readers not only get a good story, but a history lesson, which is, I suppose, the mark of good Historical Fiction.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 2 stars
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