Fourteen-year-old William Easton, a drummer boy without a drum, and his illiterate friend Richard Marnay, twenty, elected lieutenant of their undisciplined militia unit, become rueful heroes in the War of 1812, helping to defeat the British and Indians in the crucial Battle of the Thames and witnessing the death of Tecumseh, who has recently saved Richard from Indian savagery. The captain being perpetually drunk, Richard is compelled from the start to lead his company, but as he has never been trained as an officer and the men don't know how to march, he can only say ""follow me"" when ordered to move his men from place to place. ""Don't forget we're militia,"" one of the soldiers tells an RA colonel, ""We only take orders when we feel like it""; Richard himself maintains admirable control with his fists. But both the company and the lieutenant achieve stature under a new captain, a veteran of exotic wars, who is constantly frustrated by the fatal incompetence of those above him. That there is ""good and bad on all sides"" is both stated and demonstrated in this human and mildly humorous army story with enough action to involve impatient boys and enough moral texture for the reflective.