cover image PRIVATE CAPTAIN: A Story of Gettysburg

PRIVATE CAPTAIN: A Story of Gettysburg

Marty Crisp, PRIVATE CAPTAIN: A Story of Gettysburg

Set during some of the most decisive days of the Civil War, Crisp's (Buzzard Breath) contrived historical novel thrusts a ragtag crew on a seemingly impossible quest. Twelve-year-old Ben sets off secretly from Lancaster to find his older brother, Reuben ("fifteen years older than Ben, and more like a father than a brother really"), an officer in the 106th Pennsylvania Company A, and bring him back to run the family store after their father's death. Ben is joined first by Reuben's dog Captain, an extremely loyal and capable hunter with "the best nose in three counties," quickly followed by Ben's "pesky" 11-year-old cousin Danny, a spoiled only child, and a runaway milk cow. This obtrusive cast's search becomes ever more daunting. They encounter burning bridges, shooting, kindly Rebs and menacing Rebs, deserters, and wounded and battle-scarred boys not much older than themselves. All the while they head into the Battle of Gettysburg, where they realize the enormity of both armies and the human costs of the war. Unfortunately, much of the dialogue feels stale: "Wait! Lookee here," says a Confederate soldier as he spies Ben and Danny. "They swum that there river to git to us."Crisp lessens the impact of the Gettysburg sequences with a not especially believable subplot hooking Ben up to Civil War photographer Mathew Brady and an overly neat wrap-up built on Captain's super-heroic feats. Despite the promise of the action-packed story line, the execution is slack. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)