Cover image for Private Captain : a story of Gettysburg
Private Captain : a story of Gettysburg
Crisp, Marty.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Philomel Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
293 pages ; 22 cm
In 1863 Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Ben and his dog Captain set off in search of Ben's brother, who is missing from the Union Army.
Reading Level:
750 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 10.0 46290.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.7 16 Quiz: 24962 Guided reading level: S.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Ben was determined to look for his brother Reuben on his own, to bring him back from the Union Army before the big battle came. Wherever that was! And now he finds himself trekking through Pennsylvania with a big yellow dog, a pesky little cousin, and an old Jersey cow named Mavis. But dodging rebel soldiers and fording the Susquehanna River in the middle of the night is dangerous work for one boy alone. Together, the motley crew just might make it before the big battle comes and takes Reuben away forever.

Marty Crisp weaves a powerful Civil War novel with an unlikely group of heroes, including the courageous dog, Captain, who kept them alive through it all

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-8. When 12-year-old Ben hears that the Confederate army has crossed into Pennsylvania and a big battle is coming, he sets out to find his brother Reuben in the Union army to tell him that their pa has died and to bring him home. With his two unexpected companions, his younger cousin Danny and Reuben's faithful dog, Captain, Ben fords a river and walks for many miles, meeting Rebel and Union soldiers along the way, and is finally taken in by townsfolk in Gettysburg. During and after the battle, he pitches in as they tend the wounded and bury the dead. Crisp is more willing than most children's authors to write about the grisly details of the battlefield, but her treatment of the subject is never sensationalized. Rather, it is humanized by her use of a believable protagonist and his dog, a strong character throughout the story. Readers, particularly those who enjoy a good animal story, will find this exciting, yet reflective historical fiction. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set during some of the most decisive days of the Civil War, Crisp's (Buzzard Breath) contrived historical novel thrusts a ragtag crew on a seemingly impossible quest. Twelve-year-old Ben sets off secretly from Lancaster to find his older brother, Reuben ("fifteen years older than Ben, and more like a father than a brother really"), an officer in the 106th Pennsylvania Company A, and bring him back to run the family store after their father's death. Ben is joined first by Reuben's dog Captain, an extremely loyal and capable hunter with "the best nose in three counties," quickly followed by Ben's "pesky" 11-year-old cousin Danny, a spoiled only child, and a runaway milk cow. This obtrusive cast's search becomes ever more daunting. They encounter burning bridges, shooting, kindly Rebs and menacing Rebs, deserters, and wounded and battle-scarred boys not much older than themselves. All the while they head into the Battle of Gettysburg, where they realize the enormity of both armies and the human costs of the war. Unfortunately, much of the dialogue feels stale: "Wait! Lookee here," says a Confederate soldier as he spies Ben and Danny. "They swum that there river to git to us."Crisp lessens the impact of the Gettysburg sequences with a not especially believable subplot hooking Ben up to Civil War photographer Mathew Brady and an overly neat wrap-up built on Captain's super-heroic feats. Despite the promise of the action-packed story line, the execution is slack. Ages 10-14. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-Crisp manages a remarkable feat here: she melds the well-rounded characterization and vivid attention to detail common to classic writers of historical fiction with the more colloquial and leaner writing style of more recent authors. Twelve-year-old Ben runs away from home to find the 106th Pennsylvania, Company A, and his older brother, Captain Reuben Reynolds. Their father has just died, and the boy wants Reuben to come home, take over the family store, and make things as right as they can be. Reuben's dog-the "Private Captain" of the title-and cousin Danny tag along on the quest, much to Ben's displeasure, but the younger boy's often graceless and foolish behavior becomes an important element of the story, as well as of Ben's growing up. The two meet up with Confederate and Union soldiers, see good and bad in places they might not have predicted, and come to understand the dangers and grim harvest that war brings with it. Some episodes are quite strong-including Ben's help in tending to the bodies of the dead after the battle-and are sharply rendered. However, this novel is also a story of the indelible bond between a dog and his owners, and the undergirding power of family love. Crisp deserves praise for telling the story at the length and depth it deserves.-Coop Renner, Moreno Elementary School, El Paso, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.