Rifles for Watie Background

Rifles for Watie Background

Rifles for Watie is a 1957 children’s novel about the American Civil War. Unlike most historical fiction works regarding the same topic, Rifles for Watie takes place west of the Mississippi River. The book also includes characters based on real historical figures--most notably, General Stand Watie, after whom the novel is named.

In writing Rifles for Watie, American author Harold Keith did extensive research about the Civil War and how the war varied from state to state and region to region. Keith cites the diaries and journals of soldiers and veterans, as well as personal letters and other texts, as some of his most important informational resources.

Between 1940 and 1941, Keith interviewed “twenty-two Confederate war veterans then living in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and wrote down their reminiscences.” He also interviewed on various occasions an individual who “personally knew General Watie and his son, Saladin.”

For his work on Rifles for Watie, Keith won the 1958 Newbery Medal. Six years later, in 1964, he was awarded the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for the same book.

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