This remarkable 1984 novel takes place near Trenton, NJ during the American Revolution. It covers just over 24 hours in time, but details events that will change young Jonathan forever. The war has been on for some time, Jonathan’s brother is fighting with Washington, and his father fought and was injured, so has returned home. He and Jonathan are planting spring crops, but all Jonathan can think about is whether he will have a chance to prove himself in battle. When he learns that a militia group is gathering in a tavern nearby, he sneaks away to see if they will have him. Despite the warnings of many, 13-year-old Jonathan joins the motley group of farmers turned soldiers led by a devious Corporal who seems anxious to take the fight to some Hessian soldiers moving through the area. When they do, it’s a disaster, and Jonathan is captured by three Hessians who seem lost. They take refuge with their prisoner in a farmhouse and spend a long, frightening night trying to understand each other, and the child found in the house. The Hessians speak only German, and Jonathan speaks none. When Jonathan escapes at dawn and finds his Colonel, the triumph he hoped to achieve turns to an even worse disaster.
The writing in this book is tense, cinematic and real. Jonathan’s dreams and illusions are shattered as he confronts the truth and horror of war. Recommended.