Rifles for Watie

by Harold Keith

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1. In the opening pages of the novel, Jeff and his family are attacked by bushwhackers from Missouri, and later one of Jeff's commanders is a former Jayhawker from Kansas. Using history books, investigate the guerrilla warfare between the slaveholders from Missouri and the abolitionists from Kansas. How did this struggle influence the allegiances of citizens in both states?

2. Jeff Bussey learns a little about the Cherokees' form of government through his contact with Stand Watie. Research and describe the Cherokee government in the 1860s. How accurate is Keith's account?

3. Joe Grayson, one of Jeff's friends in the Union army, says that much of the political conflict between the Watie and Ross factions can be traced to their different reactions to the enforced Cherokee removal to the West, the march called the Trail of Tears. Research and describe the events leading up to the march, the march itself, the justifications given for it, and its effect on later American history.

4. Most of the people Jeff meets in the Oklahoma Territory are at least part Native American. Many well-known Oklahomans, including the humorist Will Rogers, have Native American ancestry. Using biographies, histories, and other reference sources, describe the life of Will Rogers or some other famous Oklahoman of Native American descent.

5. Most accounts of the Civil War describe the warfare in the East, but in the West, the strategy, personnel, and weapons were somewhat different. Read an account of a campaign in the East, and compare it with the types of fighting Jeff experiences. Describe an important battle in the West.

6. Throughout the Civil War, Jeff fights with a single-shot Springfield rifle, but Keith says that some Union troops used Spencer repeating rifles late in the war. Using military histories, describe the kinds of weapons that were used by each side, the period in which each was used, and the effectiveness of each.

7. At the end of this novel, the Cherokee Nation is about to sign a treaty with the U.S. government. Using history books and other reference sources, describe what has happened in the governmental affairs of the Cherokee Nation since 1865.

8. One of the most famous Civil War diaries was kept by Mary Boykin Chesnutt. Read this diary and compare her experiences with those of the women in the Jackman and Washbourne families.

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