March Toward the Thunder

( 4 )


A unique perspective on the Civil War as only Joseph Bruchac could tell it.

Louis Nolette is a fifteen-year-old Abenaki Indian from Canada who is recruited to fight in the northern Irish Brigade in the war between the states. Even though he is too young, and not American or Irish, he finds the promise of good wages and the Union's fight to end slavery persuasive reasons to join up. But war is never what you expect, and as Louis fights his way through battle after battle, he ...

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March Toward the Thunder

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A unique perspective on the Civil War as only Joseph Bruchac could tell it.

Louis Nolette is a fifteen-year-old Abenaki Indian from Canada who is recruited to fight in the northern Irish Brigade in the war between the states. Even though he is too young, and not American or Irish, he finds the promise of good wages and the Union's fight to end slavery persuasive reasons to join up. But war is never what you expect, and as Louis fights his way through battle after battle, he encounters prejudice and acceptance, courage and cowardice, and strong and weak leadership in the most unexpected places.

Master storyteller and acclaimed author Joseph Bruchac tells a Civil War story based on the experiences of his own great grandfather. Chock-full of historical facts and details, this carefully researched book will give readers new insight into some of the untold stories and unsung heroes of the American Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
Louis Nolette is a 15-year-old Abenaki Indian from Canada, but Union recruiters in 1864 are eager to sign him up to fight in the Civil War anyway: they need all the soldiers they can get. For his part, Louis is eager for the money to send home to his mother, but he also despises slavery and longs for the respect he hopes the uniform will provide him, rather than being viewed as a "dirty Indian." He joins the New York Irish Brigade and fights his way south through the hot summer of ‘64 in the Virginia Campaign, alongside some memorable companions. He ends up injured in a field hospital at Reams Station—but determined to fight again. This carefully researched novel is based on the experiences of Bruchac's great-grandfather, as an author's note at the end explains. From lice to scratchy wool underwear, amputated limbs, and the songs the soldiers sing, the many details will give YAs a good feel for what the war was like for those who fought it, with the added perspective of the prejudice experienced by both Native American and African American soldiers. Louis certainly proves his worth as a soldier; however, his overall experience is the focus, rather than just the battles he fights. A good supplement to study of the Civil War, this will appeal to fans of historical fiction. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
VOYA - Jenny Ingram
In 1864, fifteen-year-old Louis Nolette, an Abenaki Indian from Canada, lies about his age to join the Union Army, knowing that his signing bonus will enable his widowed mother to buy land in Quebec. For five months, Louis is a member of the Irish Brigade, fighting the Civil War in Virginia until he is wounded and returns home. The brigade is constantly on the move, and their only high points are a few hours of leisure spent swimming or playing marbles and the periodic arrival of the mail wagon. Louis finally makes a true friend when he meets Artis, a Mohawk Indian who understands how Louis has had to adapt to this new lifestyle. Over time, the brigade becomes more tattered, loses members, and gains inexperienced soldiers. Their return to fight at old battlefields signifies how never ending the war appears to them. Much of the story is technical. Bruchac describes battlefields and tactics as well as the use of equipment, which combined with a map of the battles fought by the Irish Brigade will appeal to boys interested in war. Some history of the Abenaki Indians and their removal from New England is also presented, paralleled with Ireland's colonization by the British, told by characters in the story and also in a historical afterword. Bruchac is clearly interested in history, and his novel will be useful in the classroom. Reviewer: Jenny Ingram
Children's Literature - Darcy H. Bradley
Attracted to the promise of money, new clothes and a modern rifle, Louis Nolette, a 15-year-old Abenaki Indian, enlists in 1864 on the Union side of the Civil War. As a newcomer to a highly-regarded Irish Brigade fighting in Virginia, he experiences friendships that cross racial, ethnic and even gender boundaries as well as the horrors of war. Solid research and a story based upon Bruchac's Abenaki great-grandfather bring a fresh angle to the usual heroes of the Civil War. Louis' strong ties to his family and their traditions as herbalists and basket-makers never waivers as he negotiates the complexities of new friendships and warfare. After six months of heavy fighting and the loss of many comrades, Louis himself is wounded and sent to a field hospital. Instead of getting better, he weakens from the unsanitary conditions and poor care. His mother secures his release from the Army and takes him home to the land she has purchased with their earnings. Over time, Louis is healed through his mother's natural medicine practice. Although he could stay at home, in the end Louis decides there is a higher purpose for re-enlisting. When added to other enduring stories from the Civil War such as Paul Fleischman's Bull Run or Gary Paulsen's Soldier's Heart, Bruchac reminds us that it was a multicultural and multiethnic mix of men and women who endured on behalf of a United States, the one we have today. Reviewer: Darcy H. Bradley, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10- In the summer of 1864, Louis Nolette, a 15-year-old Abenaki Indian from Canada, is living in New York when a Union recruiter convinces him that it's worth the bounty to join an Irish brigade marching from New York to Virginia. Bruchac fills the account of their battle-filled march with logistical and practical information about tactics, fortifications, and the daily life of soldiers, and some insight into Louis's family and past. Despite its setting, however, the text is remarkably devoid of conflict. Though he is the sole Indian in his regiment, Louis endures minimal chiding from his peers. Almost every battle scene is described in retrospect. Readers experience little action along with Louis, and no central plotline urges them forward. Fellow officers and soldiers are largely one-dimensional, and many characters (including an Irish sergeant, a woman dressed as a soldier, a captured Reb, and a member of a Negro unit) provide token wartime perspectives. Abe Lincoln, Indian General Ely Parker, Walt Whitman, and Clara Barton all make unnecessary appearances. Louis himself, who is predictably described as strong, silent, and valued for his animal-like hearing and vision, shows depth of character only in interactions with another Indian he meets along the march. He is ultimately rescued from a saw-happy field doctor by his mother, who has heard from "the trees" that he needs her. With an unconvincing resolution to an unremarkable narrative, this title will likely be used only by teachers needing a fact-filled supplement to Civil War lessons.-Riva Pollard, American Indian Public Charter School, Oakland, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Fifteen-year-old Louis Nolette, an Abenaki Indian from Canada, enlists to fight with the Irish Brigade in the Civil War. Based on Bruchac's own great-grandfather, Louis proves to be an able soldier in the Virginia Campaign of 1864. Ultimately, as in most wars for most soldiers, it isn't politics or a cause, but the band of brothers forged on the killing fields of Virginia that makes Louis feel he belongs. The author's extensive research is evident. In fact, Louis becomes something of a Civil War Forrest Gump. He meets General Ely S. Parker, the highest-ranking Indian in the Union army; receives treatment from Clara Barton; greets Walt Whitman; sees President Lincoln and Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant visit his camp; discovers a fellow soldier to be "a lass"; and befriends Thomas Jefferson of the United States Colored Troops, whose disconcerting dialect mars the scene. But Louis is a likable character and readers will follow him with interest, learning much along the way. (maps, author's note, further information on the Irish Brigade, bibliography) (Fiction. 10 & up)
Steve Bickmore
Through the summer of 1864, Grant's Union army mounted a campaign that taxed Lee's Confederate troops to the limit. Lee's army inflicted severe casualties, but suffered from the inability to resupply and recruit more soldiers. Grant pushed forward, assured of a continued source of supplies and troops. In this context, fifteen-year-old Louis Nolette, an Abenaki Indian, accepts a payment bonus to join the Union army. This money allows his mother to buy and maintain land in New York. Louis is assigned to the Irish Brigade, one of the Union's most decorated units. Bruchac's historical novel depicts the tragedy of war in the midst of courage, brotherhood, sacrifice, racial strife, and death. Louis's first-person narrative of a boy in battle reminds us not only of the horror of war, but of the ever-present role that Native Americans have played in the unfolding story of American history. Reviewer: Steve Bickmore
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803731882
  • Publisher: Dial
  • Publication date: 5/1/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Bruchac is a highly acclaimed children's book author, poet, novelist and storyteller, as well as a scholar of Native American culture. Coauthor with Michael Caduto of the bestselling Keepers of the Earth series, Bruchac's poems, articles and stories have appeared in hundreds of publications, from Akwesasne Notes and American Poetry Review to National Geographic and Parabola. He has authored many books for adults and children including Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, Skeleton Man, and The Heart of a Chief. For more information about Joseph, please visit his website

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 23, 2010

    one of the best books

    It is action filled and will keep you on edge

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2014

    Though it sometimes drags on a bit to long, and there are a few

    Though it sometimes drags on a bit to long, and there are a few cliches here and there (abiet not as many as many other books or movies have), the few lesser bits are definitely outweighed by the excellent characters, unique storytelling, believable moments of realism, heroism, and heart-pounding action that it has to offer.
    Unless you REALLY have short patience (as I stated, it sometimes stalls a bit), or hate the topic as much as your coworker who always gets the promotions without working hard, then you should definitely pick it up. I'm quite glad I did!  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2014

    Dissappointing read

    Thought it moved too slowly and found civil war topic boring. Dont waste your money on this its a piece of junk.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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