1780: on the Revolutionary War circuit in North Carolina. Cornwallis is lopping off the southern states, Gates is marking time at Hillsborough, and Washington, impatient, sends ace courier Pettigrew with a dispatch adjuring action; in British-held Charlotte, fearing interception, he slips it to schoolboy Clay Henderson, sixteen, with instructions for reaching Gates. Clay's rebel sympathies are his only qualification but he keeps his head and holds his tongue, gets himself and papers past three bantering girls and their loyalist father, through an encounter with looters, British regulars and Rebel irregulars at a gutted homestead, and meets up with Pettigrew again to deliver the dispatch. Realizing that Gates has turned coward, they turn their attention, and mounts, to the west where frontiersmen, successful in sporadic attacks, face British counterattack. They're in on the kill at King's Mountain, whereupon Clay, at Pettigrew's insistence, returns to school -- temporarily: a letter from the girls welcomes a return visit, the reappearance of Pettigrew promises further forays. Continuous, clipped action, some interesting strategy, military and psychological, few ornamental trappings and little posturing, make this better than run-of-the-battle if not a major engagement; it should, however, have been mapped.