Stonewall Traveler Hinkelman hates his name. He’s not too fond of Civil War reenactments either. He has to be the bugle boy. When he forgets to take his bugle to the annual reenactment at Manassas, his irate father sends him to the sutlers’ area to find a replacement. He ends up in the tent of hippie-like, one-armed Tom, who lends him an old bugle with very fragile instructions. There’s one hitch–when Stonewall blows the bugle the next day he ends up in the real battle of First Manassas. Real war is terrifying enough, but Stonewall isn’t the only time traveler that day. Dupree wants to take down a few more Yankees to alter the course of the war. It’s up to Stonewall to stop him.
As I’ve been to a number of reenactments and battlefields, the premise of this unlikely book amused me greatly. I’d also never thought that national park brochures could be so dangerous. I liked the inclusion of historical figures. It was also fun having places in the book that I’ve been to like outside Henry House and the Robinson House (I still have an I’ve stood there! reaction). The fast pace of the story could appeal to those who find history tiring in a textbook. I think it would also have appeal to readers who enjoyed The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.
Stonewall spends a significant amount of time reacting to the vast differences between his life and that of people in the 19th century, which is to be expected. Popular culture references are scattered throughout the book. While I enjoyed these, I am not sure how many kids would get Back to the Future references. There’s also a rather unfortunate Michael Jackson one in there. Common references from the Battle of First Manassas are used – politicians watching the battle, the mismatch of equipment and supplies, the quote where Stonewall Jackson got his nickname. Civilians such as Mrs. Henry Hill and Mr. Robinson are present. There is an emphasis on the Confederate side, which makes sense given the main character’s home.
There were a few things in the book that bothered me, such as when Stonewall uses his Gameboy to buy things off Wilmer McClean. Coming across Sullivan Ballou and his letter to Sarah was a bit far fetched. as well.