Within every young man is the desire for adventure and to discover the unknown. What will a teenage boy do when faced with the prospect of going to war when his grandfather disapproves? Will his desire to defend his way of life win out over being obedient to his grandfather’s wishes? Will he find the adventure that he is seeking, or will he find the passage to be more than he ever bargained for? Find out what happens to Sam aboard the CSS Arkansas as he finds friendship, adventure, and danger all while finding out more about himself than he ever wanted.
Sam is a 16 year old boy during the time of the Civil War. He and his sisters are being raised by their grandfather because their parents have both passed away. Sam’s grandfather has been forced to resign from his position of minister because of his anti-war sentiments. Those holding such views have been labeled as traitors to the Confederacy and are targets of scorn and ridicule. Sam attends a private academy where he is labeled an outcast because of his grandfather’s beliefs about the war. One day he gets into a fight with another student, and shortly after decides to join the Confederate Navy aboard the CSS Arkansas. He convinces his best friend Albert to enlist with him. The boys are both underage, so they must secure letters of permission from their parents. Albert’s parents grant him permission to enlist. However, Sam forges a letter from his grandfather in order to gain admission into the Navy. The boys first weeks in the Navy are far from what they had first imagined. They are made to clean out latrines, work in the mess hall preparing meals and washing dishes, and other odds and ends jobs. However, the time comes for them to cast off, and their lives as Confederate Shipmen begin. They are involved in numerous river battles with the Union Navy. Their first few are successful. However, during their last battle, Sam is severely injured and Albert is killed. Sam is sent to recover from his injuries. His leg has to be amputated and he suffers from fever and some deliria. When he recovers, he is sent home where he learns that his grandfather’s farm is often raided by Confederate soldiers who are stationed in the city. During one of these raids, Sam’s grandfather is tarred and almost hung. However, Sam convinces the soldiers to let him go. The book ends with Sam and his grandfather reconciling their differences and finding a mutual love and respect for one another.
This book is probably suited for a reading audience anywhere from the eighth to tenth grade. It is more geared toward boys, but girls may find it enjoyable as well. There is some crudeness because of the nature of the naval dialogue. However, there is nothing really inappropriate. It contains great lessons of adventure, making choices, friendship, loyalty, conflict, love, and maturing. Both of Sam’s parents are deceased, so that is another area where students may be able to relate to. The action is well paced and it is pretty interesting throughout. The historical accuracy is also good from what I can tell. This was a very well written book, and I would recommend it to boys who are not necessarily interested in reading or anyone else who is generally interested in historical fiction. - MM