By the Sword

By the Sword by Selene CastrovillaBy the Sword

by Selene Castrovilla
Publisher: Calkins Creek Books
Publication Date: April 1, 2007

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Meet Benjamin Tallmadge, a young teacher in the midst of Revolutionary America. Spurred by the cry for freedom and the blood spilled at the battles of Lexington and Concord, Benjamin sacrifices his career and his dreams to enlist in George Washington’s army. Follow Benjamin and his beloved horse, Highlander, into fiery combat at the Battle of Long Island. Hear cannons blast, smell gunpowder, watch the enemy barrel forward as Benjamin must fire or die. Witness grisly war as Benjamin grapples with the realities of being a soldier, and see whether he and the rest of the battered Americans can escape from Brooklyn unscathed. Selene Castrovilla has woven Benjamin Tallmadge’s own account with additional details from primary-source documents and extensive research to deliver this thrilling narrative of one of American history’s most harrowing moments. An action-adventure story with heart, BY THE SWORD will have you rooting for Benjamin as he gives his all for his country, and for his horse.

Teachers, visit the By The Sword website for the teaching guide and reading companion.

Awards & Honors


NEW YORK STATE READING ASSOCIATION – Recommended Intermediate Reading


A Kansas Reading Circle Selection

Praise for By The Sword

“…Castrovilla does an admirable job of portraying the tension and dread an unweathered soldier would feel in the face of battle without resorting to the grisly details of blood and death… Farnsworth’s oil-on-canvas paintings, which have an aged, worn look, mix the muted browns of battlefield muck with the diffused grays of early morning fog to heighten the action of flint striking gunpowder and cannonballs raining from the sky.”
— Ian Chipman, Booklist

“The visceral narrative captures Tallmadge’s involvement in that battle, from his first shot at a fellow human being to his return to the battlefield to retrieve his horse, and also limns the emotional state of an untried soldier as he begins to square his beliefs with the reality of their cost. Farnsworth’s oil on linen canvas illustrations are likewise thoroughly researched and do a sound job of depicting conditions and the times…this is an excellent introduction to the use of primary-source material to create a plausible historical narrative that also adds a human face.”
— Ann Welton, School Library Journal

“[It’s] a book that moves and touches, and makes one think!”
— Josephine Nobisso, author of John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire & In English, Of Course.

“…it is the body of language that gives the book strength…It’s all there – voice, pacing, attention to historical detail and to sensory detail, characterization, and precision use of language, particularly in [the] selection of nouns and verbs – the dynamic forces behind all story elements. Even time shifts and mood shifts are handled deftly without ever jarring the reader from the content of the tale.”
— Brian Heinz, author of The Wolves & The Monster’s Test

Pre-teens in particular will benefit from the history lessons in two books from Calkins Creek, a Honesdale, PA publisher. Both are by Selene Castrovilla. By the Sword ($17.95) is about the Revolutionary War and the adventures of a young teacher who sacrifices his career to join George Washington’s army, engaging in the Battle of Long Island. Beautifully illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, it is a great way for a young reader, aged 7-10, to learn about the Revolution while being entertained by a first class story. Her other book, Upon Secrecy ($17.95) deals with the end of the Revolutionary War as the French fleet is soon to arrive and bottle up the British at Yorktown. Keeping it a secret, yet knowing of their arrival is essential to Washington and trusted spies aid him. Illustrated by Jeff Crosby and Shelley Ann Jackson, this too is history at its best for the younger reader.
— Book Reviews by Alan Caruba


Benjamin Tallmadge had never killed before.

The twenty-two-year-old lieutenant had never aimed a musket at a fellowman. He’d never known the dark thoughts now flashing through his head as he steadied his weapon, touching smooth wood and cold steel. He’d never considered how he would feel eye to eye with the enemy, sweat beading under the collar of his uniform, forced to fire or die.

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