Book Reviews

Book Review – Young Heroes of Gettysburg, by William Thomas Venner, Reviewed by Sean Earner, 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.

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.

The Midwest Book Review

“Brilliantly written and historical sound, Young Heroes of Gettysburg is the latest title in the White Mane Books very highly recommended series of novels for young readers set in the years and circumstances of the American Civil War.”

Civil War Book Review

“In Young Heroes of Gettysburg, William Thomas Venner effectively weaves very human situations around the events of early July 1863.” “For many, Young Heroes of Gettysburg will be the book they reference when asked later: ‘How did you become interested in the Civil War?'”

One Response to
“Book Reviews”

  • Larry Eiden says: September 1st, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Hoosier’ honor, 1998, has something wrong on page 140. on page 135, note 7, ‘final rear guard’. need more info if they were the last of the rear guard. Cameron is from town about 12 miles from here.

    Bibliography is very good and maps need lots of help! Add contour lines displaying changing elevations, trees, bushes, etc. Photos, even from today expand the readers knowledge of conditions soldiers faced. But do not despair, gen’l swartzkopf cannot do a map either. I realize it does take time and travel to acquire the detail.

    The acid free binding fell apart.
    Hope you’all have a great September.
    I will go down to Cameron’s local library to see what I can dig up.

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