Boys of Wartime: Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

Written by Laurie Calkhoven
Review by Colm O’Sullivan Patricia O’Sullivan

Twelve-year-old Will Edmunds daydreams of military glory, but when 150,000 Confederate and Union troops engage in his hometown, Will discovers that the reasons for war are not always black and white and that glory in battle is often tempered with fear and heartbreak. Early on in the conflict Will befriends Abel Hoke, a young Confederate drummer from Tennessee. Will is confused by Abel’s kindness – after all, they are on different sides. But from Abel, Will learns why even Southerners opposed to slavery are willing to lay down their lives for the Confederate cause. As the battle of Gettysburg drags on, Will finds himself risking his own life time after time for the Union, for his family, and for his rebel friend.

This is a fast-paced but thoughtful story about a boy who learns how to be both brave and understanding. With the addition of an informative author’s note, a brief essay on children’s roles in the Civil War, a list of historical characters, a Civil War timeline, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading, this book is perfect for a middle-grade history class.

This book is about a boy, Will Edmunds, who wants to be a drummer in the Union army. Instead, he ends up taking care of the wounded and crossing enemy lines to deliver important messages between Union generals. I liked that the book had a lot of battles, even though they were very bloody. The town of Gettysburg was shelled, but many of the buildings survived, and only one civilian died. Will Edmunds was courageous even though he was young, and though the story is peaceful at the end, I learned from this story that war is really hard on both soldiers and civilians.