Rifles for Watie

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith

Jeff Davis marches off to Leavenworth from Linn County, Kansas in 1861, on his way to join the Union volunteers. He’s off to fight for the North; his zeal having been fueled by reaction to the guerilla war of “bushwhackers” that was taking place in eastern Kansas. However, Stand Watie is on the side of the South. We meet many soldiers and civilians on both sides of the war, including Watie’s raiding parties, itinerant printer Noah Babbitt and, in Tahlequah, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) the beautiful Cherokee girl, Lucy Washbourne.

Jeff’s story is notable as he eventually winds up fighting for both the North and the South (while on a special undercover mission) at different times during the conflict while making new friends on each side. It is also notable for the detailed depiction of contemporary Cherokee life in Indian Territory, including various tribal political factions. During an undercover mission Jeff finds that Captain Asa Clardy of the Union Cavalry is smuggling new Spencer rifles to the Indian forces of Stand Watie. Keith portrays how Jeff Bussey, in the midst of huge conflicts, had to choose one side or another at various times and how this was not always as simple as it may seem in historical hindsight.

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