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Book Review - Young Heroes of Gettysburg, by William Thomas Venner, Reviewed by Sean Earner, Age 10, McLean, Virginia

The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 3, Number 10

Young Heroes of Gettysburg is based on the lives of real people who met at the Battle of Gettysburg. There were three Indiana teenage soldiers and two teenage cousins who really lived in Gettysburg, Annie Taylor and Rachel Kendall.

The book opens with the Union soldiers marching into Gettysburg. Three friends, Johnny Baker, Ben Ellis, and Sam Bradshaw, find themselves in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Johnny is wounded in the leg in a skirmish, which fulfills a dream that Ben had the night before. He is removed from the battlefield. Since his injury leaves him crippled, the army sends him back to Indiana.

Ben and Sam continue to fight. Ben's right hand is badly wounded in an assault by the Confederates. He has to seek refuge among local citizens of Gettysburg because he is told that his injuries are not serious enough to be treated at the makeshift military hospitals.

Annie Taylor and Rachel Kendall take Ben Ellis into their home to nurse him back to health. They have to sneak him in past Confederate soldiers. The book shows how the girls experience the war taking care of the wounded and also caring for their younger siblings.

A Confederate soldier then comes to the house asking if they saw any Union soldiers. The girls say no. The Confederate soldier has his teenage son with him who is sick from malnutrition. The cousins take them and some other Confederate soldiers into the house and feed them. The cousins talk to the Confederates. Among other things, they learn that only a few Southern soldiers owned slaves. The others are fighting because they want a nonfederal government, or they feel strong loyalty to their state. This is one way the writer of the book explains the complexities of the war.

Sam Bradshaw and the rest of the 19th Indiana dig trenches in preparation for possible artillery bombardments by the Confederates. By this point in the book, after losing his two friends to injuries, Sam feels anxious and scared. At the same time, Ben is still at the cousins' house. He talks to the girls about his war experiences. He tries to comfort them during the bombardment that was taking place nearby.

The book was a very good account of the war from the experiences of these brave young heroes. Both young men and young women are given credit for their contributions, patriotic spirit, and brave hearts.

I think this book shows an excellent picture of the lives and roles of the people who fought so hard for what they believed in. I recommend this book to all young readers. You will learn more about the human perspective of the Gettysburg battle, and more about the daily struggles and actions that shaped the young heroes.

Young Heroes of Gettysburg, by William Thomas Venner, White Mane Publishing, Shippensburg, Pa, 2000.

Our thanks to Sean for volunteering to write this book review. We give him an A++, and lots of extra credit for this excellent report. We hope this is just the start of a continued interest in the Civil War for Sean. There may be an opening on our E-Mail newsletter staff very soon!