Billy and the Rebel: Based on a True Civil War Story


This story is based on the life of Billy Bayly, a real boy who lived in Pennsylvania during the Civil War and had an unlikely friendship with a Southern soldier.

During the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, a mother and son shelter a young Confederate deserter. Includes a historical note on the incident.

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This story is based on the life of Billy Bayly, a real boy who lived in Pennsylvania during the Civil War and had an unlikely friendship with a Southern soldier.

During the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, a mother and son shelter a young Confederate deserter. Includes a historical note on the incident.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This exciting tale, based on a true story, will be popular with beginning readers. Billy lives on a farm near Gettysburg when the northern and southern armies converge for the famous battle. Rebel soldiers raid Billy's farm for food and take everything, and one night a young, scared Confederate deserter knocks on their door and begs for shelter. Mama leaves to doctor Union troops, and Billy and the young rebel, whom they call Cousin, must cope alone. In an act of courage, Cousin saves Billy from an angry rebel soldier as the Confederates retreat. Soft watercolors in browns and umber evoke the heat of that long-ago July battlefield, and charming, old fashioned line drawings effectively convey the different emotions as tensions run high. Simple sentences against an uncluttered background make easy reading for newly minted readers, and a nice mixture of long and short paragraphs with frequent chapter headings help break up the text. An author's note at the end explains the source for the story. A clear simple map in the front helps to establish the geographical setting. This heartwarming tale with themes of friendship and kindness helps define the Civil War in a personal context, and is a good introduction to this time period for young children. Part of the "Ready-to-read" series 2005, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Ages 6 to 9.
—Quinby Frank
School Library Journal
Gr 3-4-During the battle of Gettysburg, Billy hears a knock at the door in the middle of the night and finds an unexpected guest. "Cousin" has escaped from the Confederate Army, hungry, tired, and frightened. Seeing that this Rebel soldier is only a boy, Billy's mother takes him in and hides him. This easy-to-read story shows how bravery comes in many shapes. Based on the real William Bayly and his mother, Harriet Hamilton Bayly, it is written as fiction but allows beginning readers and researchers some insight into life during the Civil War. Full-page, full-spread, and spot art, executed mainly in shades of yellow and tan, add detail and expression to this story of courage and an unlikely friendship.-Bethany L. W. Hankinson, Miller Elementary School, Newark, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this upper-level Easy Reader, a young Confederate deserter repays with a courageous act the Gettysburg family that shelters him. As the great battle rages nearby, Billy and his mother huddle anxiously in their farmhouse-joined in the night by a trembling young soldier who begs asylum. Dressed in new clothes and warned not to speak lest his accent give him away, the fugitive silently helps when marauding soldiers demand food, then as the defeated southern army retreats, rescues Billy, who recklessly antagonizes a passing horseman. Floca depicts the young folk and the farm, but not the battle itself, in sketchy watercolors; Hopkinson follows up with a note explaining that the episode is based on a true story. The theme of friendship across lines of antagonism will kindle deep responses in more than just students of the Civil War. (map) (Easy reader. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689833960
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Series: Ready-to-Reads Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 780,208
  • Age range: 6 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of numerous award-winning children's books, including Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the International Reading Association Award, Girl Wonder, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award, and Apples to Oregon, a Junior Library Guild Selection. She received the 2003 Washington State Book Award for Under the Quilt for the Night. She lives in Oregon. Visit her on the Web at

Brian Floca is the author and illustrator of Locomotive, winner of the 2013 Caldecott Medal; Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; Lightship, also a Sibert Honor Book; and Racecar Alphabet, an ALA Notable Children’s Book. He has illustrated Avi’s Poppy Stories, Kate Messner’s Marty McGuire novels, and Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, a Sibert Honor Book and winner of the Orbis Pictus Award. You can visit him online at

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