The Civil War: 'Young Heroes of the Confederacy,' a perfect book for middle school students

What adolescent readers will appreciate most is that the author does not talk down or “write down” to the younger reader. Photo: Statue of Sam Davis, "Boy Hero of the Confederacy," stands on Tennessee's capitol grounds

VIENNA, Va., December 26, 2012 — Interesting books on the Civil War, which would appeal to the middle school student are few and far between. When I was sent a review copy of a good, well-written one, I snapped it up, eager to check it out. “Young Heroes of the Confederacy” by Debra West Smith is both readable and full of the real life experiences about young people from the Civil War years and yet would spark the interest of present day young people.

“Young Heroes” is well-illustrated with actual old photos of various people and places, wood cut drawings, diagrams, and maps, all put together in a concise manner to draw the reader from one historical person to the next.

Harriet Bailey Bullock wrote about her own life.

Among the 12 subjects Smith devotes full chapters to are the “Boy Hero of the Confederacy,” Sam Davis from Tennessee who was executed for spying;  Harriet Bailey Bullock, who wrote about her life as a child on an Arkansas plantation; Charles Read, who ran away from home as a teen to join the Navy, sent home to his mother and ran away again, ending up on an ironclad; and John Hanger, who lost a leg in the early fighting and locked himself away at home until he had fabricated an artificial leg, which could bend at the knee and ankle.

What adolescent readers will appreciate most is that the author does not talk down or “write down” to the younger reader but rather lays the facts out, including various bits of trivia to interest the middle school reader, and little by little draws them into her charming web of history about that happened 150 years ago.

Other than a few diaries primarily by older young women, there has been little published that directs itself to the younger reader. That age group frequently first encounters the Civil War as a part of social studies or history, so they are the perfect target group for a book like this.

Published by Pelican Publishing Company in Gretna, La., it also includes a full bibliography, a mini dictionary of unusual terms, and a list of acknowledgements for her sources.

Available from for $12.65 , it’s well worth the money. If Santa forgot someone on your list, this is a book that the kids will both enjoy the adventures and learn some history at the same time.

Debra West Smith is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and was named to the Louisiana Artist Roster for her excellence in presentations on local and state history for schools and libraries.

[“Young Heroes of the Confederacy” carries ISBN 978-1-4556-1684-8 for the paper edition, and ISBN 978-1-4556-1685-S for the e-Book.]  

Full disclosure: I am listed under the book’s acknowledgements, since I was the source of the  basic information on James Hanger and his prosthetic invention.

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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."


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