In a great sweep through the history of the 1860's, Charley Quinn begins as one of the youngest and toughest Bowery Boys in New York, becomes a drummer boy for the Union Army, and then, after deserting, is the servant of a mountain woman in the hills of Virginia. Finally, he heads west, full of resolution to come back to the mountains some day and settle down. The author appends a chapter containing sources and cases to show that this is not a preposterous odyssey. But she need not have: she has made it believable. Charley comes alive as a scrappy, independent young man, and altogether human. When he deserts the battlefield, he goes through the agonies one would expect; but when he is taken in by Granny Bent, he resents her harping on his ""skedaddle"" from the field. He proves his manhood by killing a mountain lion and rescuing Granny Bent; his mountain friend Sarie calls him a ""knight in shining armor,"" and he heads off well equipped, even at 13, to make his way in the world. What gives this book its shimmer and forward thrust is the rich detail of each aspect of Charley's journey: the bustle of New York, the life aboard a troop ship, the ridiculous expectations that Charley has of war and the reality of the Battle of the Wilderness, the details of being a drummer boy and the contrasting life in the mountains with a ""yarbwoman"" who delivers babies. Especially fine is Charley's comparison of his Catholic church in New York with a mountain foot-washing ceremony. Younger readers will not absorb all the historical and sociological details, but they will love the rousing epic.