Article, Booktalks

An Innocent Soldier Booktalk

  • Grades: 6–8

In the hell that was Napoleon’s march to Moscow, two teenage soldiers struggle to stay alive.

November, 1811: Napoleon has decided to attack Russia and needs an army to do it. All across Europe, men and boys are being forced into the army. And even though he’s only sixteen, Adam is one of them. The farmer he works for tells the recruiters that Adam is his son Georg, who’s been called up. The recruiters are hungry for men, and soon Adam is a private in Napoleon’s army, and Georg is safe. Adam is good with horses, so he joins a horse artillery unit, caring for the horses that pull the cannons. It wouldn’t have been a bad life, except for Sergeant Krauter. He’s had it in for Adam, now called Georg, since he first saw him. He bullies him every chance he gets, and since Adam’s one of his privates, he gets lots of chances. Whenever it rains, Adam marches through puddles for hours, until he’s coated with mud from head to toe. When it’s not raining, he goes around collecting balls of horse dung, picking them up one at a time with his bare hands, and taking them to the dung wagon.

But all that ends the day he accidentally splashes mud on a lieutenant’s spotless white britches. After yelling at the sergeant for making Adam march in the mud for sheer maliciousness, the lieutenant decides to make Adam his personal servant and moves Adam out of the stables and into the officer’s quarters. Instead of taking care of horses, he’ll be taking care of Lieutenant Count Karl Lammersdorf.

It was the beginning of a relationship that was to see them through the hell that was Napoleon’s march to Moscow. Summer uniforms were little help against the bitterest cold that the soldiers had ever experienced. Supply wagons couldn’t keep up with the fast-marching regiments, and soldiers either starved or looted the countryside. Many, including Adam’s lieutenant, developed dysentery after drinking polluted water, and Adam had to struggle to keep him alive. If the lieutenant died, Adam would be sent back to the artillery and to the sadistic Sergeant Krauter.

War is always hell, but for the soldiers who marched through Poland and Russia on their way to Moscow and back in Napoleon’s army, it was particularly terrible. Will Adam survive? Read this gripping adventure story and find out.

This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart
 

  • Subjects:
    Bullying Experiences, Challenges and Overcoming Obstacles, French Revolution, Determination and Perseverance, Friends and Friendship, Survival
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