A historical novel about a real boy who served as a drummer in the Union Army during the Civil War, from Wisler (Caleb's Choice, p. 978, etc.). Orion Howe, 14, and his younger brother, Lyston, are students when war erupts: The call to arms is a siren song to their father, a cabinetmaker who'd found glory playing the fife ""in the war with Mexico,"" and soon the boys, whom he's taught to drum, eagerly follow in their father's footsteps. While his father first takes Lyston to war, insisting that Orion finish school, the older boy soon joins them through his own cunning. The Howes endure illness, the horrors of battle, the death of comrades-in-arms, and miraculously survive, relatively unscathed, at the war's end. Wisler marshals the facts admirably, offering a brief capsule at the end of how Orion spent the rest of his life, but despite the dramatic potential of the subject, and the legends that sprang from Orion's heroics (he crossed a battlefield with an injured leg and asked General Sherman for more ammunition for his regiment), the narrative never ignites. The war is a noble one when they begin, and Orion's act further ennobles it, making the Howes little more than pawns in a conflict they obviously can't hope to understand.