It is the spring of 1861 and the serenity of Smith County, Mississippi has been shattered by Abraham Lincoln's declaration of war on the South. Young and old are taking up arms and marching off to war. But not ten year-old Frank Russell. Although he is eager to enlist in the Confederate army, he is not allowed. He is too young, too skinny, too weak. After all he's just "Shanks," the baby of the Russell family.

War has a way of taking things away from a person, mercilessly. And this war takes from Frank a mighty sum. It's nabbed his Pa and older brother. It has robbed Frank of a simpler way of life, food, his boyhood. And gone are his idealistic dreams of heroic battles and hard fought victories. Now all that replaces those images are questions: Will I ever see my father and brother again? Why are we fighting this war? Are we fighting for the wrong reasons? Will things ever be the same around here?

Questions that whisper in Frank's ear. The whispers grow louder as Frank meets Tempy, a Confederate army deserter, who is fed up with fighting for something he doesn't believe in. And louder still as his friendship deepens with Buck, the family slave. Frank knows that soon a time will come when he too will have to look within himself and act on his beliefs.

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