Rifles for Watie

by Harold Keith

Paperback, 1987



Local notes

PB Kei


HarperTeen (1987), Edition: 1st Harper Trophy Ed, 352 pages


The story of Jeff Bussey, a farm boy living in 1861, who joins the Union army and goes on an important mission to discover how Stand Watie and his Confederate Cherokee Rebels are receiving repeating rifles from northern manufacturers.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

352 p.; 4.19 inches


006447030X / 9780064470308



User reviews

LibraryThing member pbadeer
I chose this title as a “2-for-1” deal toward two separate challenges – Newbery and 50 States. [Rifles for Watie] is the 1958 Newbery Award Winner and takes place in the “Western Territories” during the Civil War (primarily Kansas and Missouri, as well as what was then known as Cherokee Territory). Although I chose the book primarily to meet the challenges, I have to say I’m glad I did.

Jefferson David Busse is living in the new state of Kansas – one of the many territories in that area struggling with the decision and the ability to chose to enter the union as a free or slave state. Motivated to action by “bushwhackers” terrorizing his family, Jeff joins the Union Forces. As a young looking 16 year old, he is initially kept away from battle, and he struggles to prove his merit in the field. After being suddenly thrust into action, he discovers there isn’t much “glory” in the glory of battle and also realizes that the reasons for the war aren’t as clear as he initially thought.

Although a youth title, the youth of the 50’s must have been a heartier lot, because this book easily read at an adult level. Admittedly a tale of fiction, the story seemed well researched, and I learned a lot about the western battles of the Civil War and the inclusion of Native American forces in both the north and the south. The sympathies Jeff develops by seeing the war through the eyes of his “enemies” was almost heartwarming when looking back on the conflict with 150 years of hindsight. Highly recommended for all ages.
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LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
This book took time to grow on me. I was initially bored by the over-description and repelled by Jeff's honor-bound character. But as the plot thickened (very, very near the end), I was hooked. I still think the action could have picked up much sooner, and I never got used to the quick scene changes (moving from one to the next so fast!) and long battle descriptions. But this is a solid wartime novel that (1) gives insight into day-to-day soldier life (years of it), and (2) feels authentic and not dated even today.… (more)
LibraryThing member TadAD
The story follows Jefferson Davis Bussey, an awkwardly-named boy from Kansas who joins the Union Army to fight against the raiders who threaten his home. The story moves quickly and is full of action as Jeff learns that soldiering isn't quite what he expected, experiences his first battles as a Union soldier, and then is forced into joining the Confederate Army while posing as a civilian on a scouting mission.

The backdrop of the novel is more interesting that your typical East Coast Civil War novel. Set out in the western war of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, the book highlights the struggle over the question of "free or slave?" for the Territories, and the divided loyalties the issue caused. It also shows the choices and internal fractures confronting the Cherokee, Seminole and other Native American tribes as they tried to maintain some vestige of autonomy.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the book is that there is no "right" side and "wrong" side in the way the war is portrayed; we are shown good and bad in both armies. By the end of the book, Jeff is honestly conflicted over where to give his allegiance. To the North lie home and family, a cause in which he believes, and the Army to which he gave his oath. To the South lie the individuals who have befriended him, men he has come to respect, and the girl whom he loves. In the end, both sides are portrayed just as individuals: tired, hungry, scared and fighting for a variety of reasons that have more to do with protecting families than political posturing back East.

In summary, not a bad read for any young adult readers in your household. Recommended...maybe even strongly once I think about it some more.
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LibraryThing member debnance
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 selected to infiltrate the Southern Army and to bring back information to the Union soldiers. He ends up spending many months with the Southerners and finds they are not so different from his Union friends. My son has raved about this book for years. It was a very powerful book that I am happy to have finally read.… (more)
LibraryThing member nm.fall07.bnoriega
this book is one of the best books i ever read, in the book it describes the war and you feel like your right in there trying to sirvive. i like books like theses beacuse they have lots of action and war and there this one part when they have to amputate this soilder leg so he can survive beacuse the bullets where made out of lead and it infect your whole body. i would recomend it to people out there who like books of action.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
The writing is bad. There's really no getting around that.

Jeff's also kind of an idiot until the very last bit of the book, when suddenly he seems to develope a bit of intuiition.

While there were a few scenes where I was genuinely curious about what was going to happen, for the most part I found it very hard to care. Very hard.… (more)
LibraryThing member br13clma
In the book Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith, Jefferson Davis Bussey is faced with many challenges one of the challenges that he faces is the Bushwhackers who steal things from people. Another challenge the Jeff had was his long distance relationship with Lucy. Lucy was a confederate and Jeff was for the Union. He is also faced with a big question- fight the rebels, or join them?

In my opinion the book is written in great detail. It is in great detail when it says “Lucy, a pitchfork in her hands, jabbed again at the man in blue trousers”. It is written in such great detail that you can imagine what it would be like fighting the rebels. Also, I learned things about the war like what type of guns they used. Some soldiers bought repeating rifles to fight with, then the confederates sent out a huge order of repeating rifles which only a fraction of them got to the soldiers got them. Those are some of the things that I found interesting while I was reading the book
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LibraryThing member dswaddell
A fictional first person account based on actual experiences, writings, and memoirs of the Cherokee who fought with Watie and the confederates during the civil war. a good read.
LibraryThing member drmaf
Read as a child, this book kindled my never-extingsuished passion for the Civil War. Its a very accessible story for children and adults alike. The characters are likeable and their thought processes accurately reflect the times, rather than being awkward 20th century transplants. The book should be of great interest to all Civil War buffs, because it gives a very accurate portrayal of a part of the Civil War which has been all but ignored by the authoritatitive histories, the campaigns in the Far West and Indian territories. Recommended for kids, adults and Civil War tragics alike.… (more)
LibraryThing member mirrani
An amazing look at what life in the Civil War was like for one boy from Kansas. Yes, he makes friends and he looses friends and some of the soldiers he meets wanted to be in battle and some were told to be, some were as young or younger than he was and some were adults, but beyond the typical stories of a soldier we learn what life was like in the area at the time. We don't just live the life of a soldier, we live with families from the Western Band of the Cherokee Nation, those who were sent on the Trail of Tears and forced to resettle. We learn what it was like to be a family member whose house was looted by soldiers who were starving and didn't want to do what they did, but necessity changed their character from kindly requesting food to simply snatching it over the course of a few months.

Freedom and equality are still being fought for to this day, so the ideas behind this book are hardly old or worn. Often as I was reading current events were brought to mind that I never would have thought to compare with times like these, where half of the country demands one right and half insists on the other. This is an excellent opportunity for young readers to learn of history, to learn of what it is to be a soldier, and to learn what it is to believe in something so deeply that you are willing to fight for the right to continue to hold that belief. Young readers might also be reminded of the politeness and mannerisms of the time, as that aspect is written so well I have found myself almost calling people Mam and Sir long after having finished the book.
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LibraryThing member Mihalevich
Harold Keith
Rifles For Watie
Harper Collins
1957, 1987
Pages 332
Summary: Jefferson Bussy is a 16 year old boy that cant wait till he gets enlisted in the Civil War. The year is 1861 in Linn County Kansas. Jeff is one of five children. Jeff and his family is a strong supporter of the union. Jeff defends the union against colonial Watie, who is the leader of the Cherokee Indian Rebels.

Content theme of the book: Chapter two is called Bushwakers, the reason is because in this chapter Bushwakers try to come and kill Jeff's father because of his beliefs. Jeff fights the Bushwakers, they left. While his father was still staying strong. This is when Jeff decides to join the Kansas volunteers. Chapter 6 7 and 8 does a great job of showing some of the important content of this book and has meaning to the subject headings because these three chapters are called March ch 6. Battle of Wilsons Creek ch 7. and Hard Lessons which is ch 8. In chapter 6 Jeff started his march to Springfield. At Grand River Jeff and his company met with General Lyons. Jeff and Lyons group marched together. In chapter 7 everyone was saying how close it really was till the Battle of Wilsons Creek. A turning point in this chapter was when Jeff gets arrested because he didn't get permission to shoot his gun. He was taken to Captin Clardy and forced to be put on night sentry duty as punishment. Chapter 8 is called Hard Lessons because this chapter is where Jeff finally saw other men die and get hurt in the battle and was with Ford as he wa getting his leg amputated and on page 71 it says "Jefferson's heart is in turmoil, his stomach felt weak and throat dry'. As the book goes on Jeff falls in love with Lucy who every time Jeff is home he sees her. Jeff doesn't lie to go a day without seeing Lucy if he can keep from it. Lucy is not a confederate and that causes problems between Jeff and her. Now the war is over and Lucy has been waiting for him but at the en of the book we see that Lucy and Jeff doesn't get back together.

Response to the book: I liked the book. I kind of felt like I was reading s book for History class though. but I felt that there were many strengths about this book, for example the description of the battles and the pictorial descriptions of the people that got shot and how the people were laying, also the description of when Ford was getting his leg amputated and how well the dialogue of that was. I could picture in my mind all of that very well. What I didn't like was the end and closure of the book. There really wasn't a closure and the book ended like I didn't think it was going to I thought Lucy and Jeff were going to get back together and get married but that didn't happen. Overall a good book and a good read.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
What a great look at the Civil War from a less seen perspective. The historical details of this novel make it particularly interesting, and the storyline is exciting. Jeff is likeable and has a character that is open and questioning, so that he can appreciate people for who they are on whichever side of the war they are on.… (more)
LibraryThing member melydia
Jeff joins the Union Army in Kansas and fights in the Civil War for a few years. Stuff happens, of course, but that's the gist of it. This book took me forever to read. Not because it's long - it isn't, especially - but because it just didn't really hold my interest. I think I've just read too much about The Civil War. I did like reading about the Native American involvement, which is something that doesn't come up much in a lot of the narratives. But I already knew a lot about camp life and battles from that era, and I was not comfortable with the slave characters, who all seemed to love their masters so much. That said, if you want to read and otherwise fairly realistic depiction of the Civil War out in the western territories, this is a decent read. Just be sure to read other stuff to give it the proper context.… (more)






(127 ratings; 3.9)
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