Rufus is sixteen but, because of a physical condition from when he was younger, is not able to join the Southern army. He has some troubles at home so goes to the relatively nearby town of Fredericksburg and ends up staying on a farm, befriending a black worker there. He goes into town and meets the Rebel soldiers who are there. The Union Army has gathered on the other side of the river from the town, and it seems a major fight is brewing.
Fortunately for the Southern forces, Robert E. Lee arrives along with other generals and troops. Burnside, the Union commander, has pulled the wonderous trick of having to cross a river and forgetting to bring along the pontoons needed to cross the same river. The Union Army thus has to stay on the other side of the river for days, giving the Southern forces time to entrench themselves and to gather their forces together.
Rufus is writing down all that he sees, especially as the attack commences. He notes the terrible amount of killing that goes on, with thousands of soldiers on each side dying. His own life is in danger as the battle rages.
The story gives the reader a good idea of how terrible the fighting was without, at the same time, making the story too gory for younger readers. As usual in this series, a historical section is included after the story, helping to put everything that happens into proper perspective.
Back to main home page index