New Civil War novel for children available in September

GRAFTON — The Grafton Historical Society is introducing another new children's book at the end of this month entitled "The Grafton Cavaliers." It features the adventures and episodes of the New England college boys who formed a cavalry unit in the Civil War.

This will be the second book in a series of historical novels by Thomas E. Fontaine that the society has produced in the last year. Like Fontaine's first book, "The Messenger Boy of Grafton, Vermont," it depicts the impact of the Civil War on some of its young village residents.

"The Grafton Cavaliers" is based on the adventures of two Grafton young men, Samuel B. Pettengill and Wilder Luke Burnap, who volunteered for a cavalry unit in June, 1862, for three months. It was to become the Union Army's only cavalry unit composed of all college students, and thus was known as the "College Cavaliers." The unit included students from Dartmouth, Amherst, Williams, Union, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Norwich colleges.

In the late spring of 1862, President Lincoln called for 40,000 men to volunteer to defend the city of Washington for three months as the Confederates pushed north toward Maryland. A dedicated young junior at Dartmouth College, Sanford Burr, was inspired to gather as many students as possible to form a volunteer unit of cavalry soldiers for those three months. This unit became Troop B of the 7th Squadron of the Rhode Island Cavalry. Pettengill and Burnap were two of those volunteers.

Samuel Pettengill later in 1880 wrote and published a small book about his tour of duty with the group and his experiences in the Shenandoah Valley fighting. Author Fontaine has taken the information in that book and created a children's historical novel about those adventures. The people, places, and military events in the book are all part of the actual history. For its contribution, the Grafton Historical Society provided a number of original photos of the people and places in Grafton.

The book is written for the sixth-grade level reader and attempts to relate the early events of the Civil War for a child's level of understanding.

Author Fontaine first became interested in how to relate history to his students when he was a teacher at Grafton Elementary School in the 1980s. At that time he wrote for his students, "The Messenger Boy of Grafton." He left to teach at Kurn Hattin Home School in Westminster, where he is now a teacher, and gave the book to the Grafton Historical Society. It languished in the society files until 2016 when the society decided to publish the book as part of its children's book collection. Now Fontaine has added a second book, "The Grafton Cavaliers," to his first effort.

The new book will go on sale for the first time at the Grafton Historical Society on Main Street.

A sales event, Sept. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will be at its museum where Fontaine will be on hand to sign the books and discuss the focus of his teaching through history efforts.

For further information contact Maureen Fletcher at the GHS office 802-843-2584 or at


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