Saturday, December 7, 2019

Fall Reading 2019 Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan's Anishinaabe Sharpshooters

The author uses archival photos, quotes from the letters and records left by participants, and detailed maps to lay out the recruitment, training, and wartime experiences of Company K, First regiment, Michigan Sharpshooters. Those men were the "largest all-Native company in the Union army east of the Mississippi River." Along with the daring deeds of the members of Company K and the fate of the men (where it is known), the book also addresses the possible reasons why they chose to fight. Perhaps they feared that if the Confederacy won, then all those who were not considered white would be enslaved. Maybe they thought their assistance would cause those of European descent to treat them more fairly. It could have been the warrior tradition of their tribes, or other reasons beyond these.

Descriptions of harrowing battles and the number of comrades wounded or killed, as well as the terrible conditions in the field hospitals are not for the faint of heart. Even worse are the horrifying details of the prisoner of war camps such as Andersonville. The final chapter covers the return home of the survivors, and an epilogue talks about the men who joined the Grand Army of the Republic veterans organization. Back matter includes an author's note, roster of all the sharpshooters, a timeline, a description of treaties between the U.S. government and Anishinaabe bands from 1836 - 1855, and a glossary.

This is intended for grades 4 - 7, but it is dense reading for those at the younger end of the grade band unless they are history enthusiasts. Selections from it might be used in social studies lessons about the Civil War, to expand the narrower version of history that is usually covered in class. It has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection, but there are Native American specialists in children's literature who are concerned about biased language within the text and even the title itself. Those concerns should be kept in mind.

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