The Dakota Trail
Ralph Compton novel by Robert Vaughan
Blurb: After the Civil War, Dick Hodson returns to his home of Windom, Texas, the lone survivor of all the men who left to fight against the Union. He finds the former cattle town destitute, for there were no able ranch hands to drive the herds, and now the few ranches that survived are on the edge of ruin.
To save the town, Dick plans to drive the remaining cattle north with a trail party made up of raw greenhorn children. But the unforgiving trail is the least of their problems. A gang of merciless cutthroats is waiting for them - hired by the evil Bryan Phelps, whose fortune rests on the failure of the desperate cattle drive.
Now, with little more than his own cunning and the blind courage of his young crew, Dick Hodson is going to war...