Mother's Sons, Boy Soldiers Of The Civil War

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JPK Huson 1863

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David Wood, age 10 upon joining with his father, Samuel N. Wood, more of their story on Find a Grave link.
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=110074583

The official age of enlistment in the Civil War for Northern soldiers was an unsurprising 18. The Confederacy had no minimum age. It is surmised, regardless, 20% of era soldiers were below 18 years of age.

" There were 127 Northern soldiers recorded as being age 13, 330 age 14, 773 age 15, 2758 age 16 "*- these official numbers are of course higher, soldiers even younger than 13 not uncommon. All three of my grgrgrandfathers who fought their way through the American Civil War, all three, enlisted at age 16, Federal soldiers, one a regular army cavalry trooper, lied about their age. And went to war. David Wood, above, was 10. Famous and feisty, 11 year old drummer Johnny Clem shot at a Confederate officer, in the 21st Indiana regiment could be found Edward Black, an 8 year old drummer. 11 year old Charles C. Hay answered the call from Alabama, marching to war and William Black was 12 years old when wounded. A famous photo shows Will, eyes older than his round and youthful face, nursing the sling containing his shattered hand and arm.
*http://www.civilwarhome.com/themen.html

These are some whose names we know. From photographs surfacing out of Time's depths we can be sure that although records are hopelessly inadequate and names are lost, these fledgling men were fully grown soldiers.
 
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James T. Rogers

Residence Rockingham County NC; a 15 year-old Student.

Enlisted on 5/3/1861 at Rockingham County, NC as a Private.

On 5/3/1861 he mustered into "H" Co. NC 13th Infantry
He was discharged for minority on 8/1/1862 (underage)


Other Information:
born in Pittsylvania County, VA
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Yes, well you always hear all about how it was the South conscripting soldiers young enough to be considered children. That may well be the case but that would leave the Union Army explaining how veritable children found their way into the ranks on a volunteer basis? I'm not sure which would be worse.

Sickles, HA! Good one, Southern Blue! You'd have to imagine unlike Johnny Clem this youth was not inspired to make a career out a life in the military. If he did, he'd have been made of even sterner stuff that our amazing Johnny.

In my head all of these boys lived through the way. It's just too unthinkable any did not.
 
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John Hartwell

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People weren't as shocked by the idea as we are today. It was possible back then for a youngster to set out on his own; "run away to sea," "run off to join the circus" are the popular cliches. Stories abound: think Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island. Children weren't assumed to be weak and helpless, much less useless. And, it happened more often in real life than most of us imagine. Youngsters were seen to be capable of something quite close to "man's work" -- it was obvious on farms, on ranches, the frontier, even in the factories and on city streets, at a time when orphans sometimes had to support themselves and their siblings, and 'adventure' untrammeled by adult supervision was a lot less "scary" than it is today. Such ideas were common enough right up through the Depression.

So, when a recruiter, for either side, with his quota to fill, found a suspiciously youthful-looking volunteer before him, he wasn't necessarily shocked or repelled by it. He was supposed to be certain the recruit was of age, or had parental permission; but how was he to be sure with the kid swearing up and down he was 18, and nobody around who could prove otherwise -- nobody had a 'legal-ID'. Besides an enterprising youngster could probably walk into any bar and for a nickle find some old reprobate who would swear to be his father or guardian and proudly give his blessing to the adventurous youngster's enrollment. Nor, for that matter, was genuine parental permission all that that rare.

jno
 

James N.

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I don't know whether he's a soldier or not, but I do know one thing about him: he's NOT from the Civil War! This cap conforms to the m. 1872 forage cap, but more telling are the photographic props and setting: this deliberate rustic look appears in 1870's and later studio shots; during the war, the common studio "look" contains fancy chairs, draperies, and classical columns often with the painted backdrops we all recognize. Here there's a deliberate attempt to create an "outdoorsy" setting with the components roughly combining in the overall effect. The apparent reversed S on his cap possibly relates to a military school.
 
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Patrick H

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These are great photos. I think we have a couple of military school cadets in the bunch. I believe the young man with the 27-button jacket (really more than that--he'd have buttons on the tails of his jacket, too) and the saber is a cadet. At one time, cadets of Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri wore just such a jacket, but that was well after the war. But I do agree that a lot of these boys are soldiers. It's pretty sad, isn't it?
 

Suzanne A

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Thanks for showing us these very affecting photos of the boys in uniform.

I was shocked initially to learn that my great grandfather enlisted in the Union Army at 17 with his 14 year old brother. They served from June 1863 through the discharge of their Company at the end of the War in mid 1865.

In the Revolutionary War, my 4th Great Grandfather enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777 at age 12 with his 14 year old brother. They were discharged in 1782.

I've given this a lot of thought. What kind of parents let this happen? I think the answer in part is that people had different attitudes toward children then, but I also think these families were thrust into these wars and had limited options.

In both cases, the War was with the boys anyhow. Whether they enlisted or not, there was fighting and danger and death near their homes. The Rev. War boys lived near a fort and the Native Americans were joining the British in their area of southwestern VA, so there was great vulnerability for the frontier families and many attacks. The boys joined up along with their father, a blacksmith and gunsmith, and moved into the Fort (Moore's Fort) with him. They probably initially helped him with his work and did not go out with the troops. But they did see action near the end in two battles, when they were then 16 and 18 and quite familiar with Army life.

The Civil War boys were from Magoffin Co. in eastern KY and their family was Union. In their area, there were wealthy Confederate supporters in a majority Union community. There were many raiding forays that damaged and disturbed the homes of Union sympathizers. Some comments by adult residents during this period said there was "guerrilla" warfare in the area throughout the War as well -- it surprised me to see that term in use in 1868.

My grandmother, daughter of the older boy, said there was "fighting in his yard" . I don't know what action she was referring to, but there were a number of military operations in the area at various times throughout the War.

My great grandfather enlisted on his birthday, probably adding a year to his age. I don't know how they could have taken his 14 year old brother, but they did and the boys served in the same Companies together. I should say also that many of their friends and neighbors joined up at the same time -- it was not like enlisting and being shipped off to Syria or Iraq today. They were already in the War zone, they had seen it and heard it and smelled it. They were not alone, they were, at least initially, with friends and family.

From the point of view of child development, it obviously is most unfortunate that these boys spent a lot of their childhood at War, but in some ways that was not their choice or their family's choice, their choice was HOW to spend their time in the midst of War, not whether to be exposed to it.

As with all Wars, the experience marked the rest of their lives in grim ways. I don't know his views, but my great grandfather never joined GAR or attended veterans reunions even though his friends nearby did so. He saw his friends die and suffered for life from poorly healed broken bones in his foot and his shoulder which were partially debilitating. Of course it could have been worse.

The children on the other side of my family lost both their parents during the Civil War in KS. Their father enlisted at the first opportunity and died in Union service and after trying to continue on her own in KS, their mother took the children back to where she and her husband were born in Ohio where she soon died -- struggling on the farm alone with this young family of four children had been too much for her. These children were moved to safety and raised by aunts and uncled. But not every family had relatives to send their youngsters to.

I wish we had a diary of a teenage soldier from this period, as unlikely as that would be. I wish their voices could be heard.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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There's a famous general that I THINK started as a 12(?) year old drummer boy. Can't remember his name.

Johnny Clem! There are a few threads on him- I think I did one then of course discovered there were several previous threads. His brother joined, too. Think he was not just a life-long military man but a great one, sounds like one of the people acknowledged to be well liked? SUCH a cool story!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Thanks for showing us these very affecting photos of the boys in uniform.

I was shocked initially to learn that my great grandfather enlisted in the Union Army at 17 with his 14 year old brother. They served from June 1863 through the discharge of their Company at the end of the War in mid 1865.

In the Revolutionary War, my 4th Great Grandfather enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777 at age 12 with his 14 year old brother. They were discharged in 1782.

I've given this a lot of thought. What kind of parents let this happen? I think the answer in part is that people had different attitudes toward children then, but I also think these families were thrust into these wars and had limited options.

In both cases, the War was with the boys anyhow. Whether they enlisted or not, there was fighting and danger and death near their homes. The Rev. War boys lived near a fort and the Native Americans were joining the British in their area of southwestern VA, so there was great vulnerability for the frontier families and many attacks. The boys joined up along with their father, a blacksmith and gunsmith, and moved into the Fort (Moore's Fort) with him. They probably initially helped him with his work and did not go out with the troops. But they did see action near the end in two battles, when they were then 16 and 18 and quite familiar with Army life.

The Civil War boys were from Magoffin Co. in eastern KY and their family was Union. In their area, there were wealthy Confederate supporters in a majority Union community. There were many raiding forays that damaged and disturbed the homes of Union sympathizers. Some comments by adult residents during this period said there was "guerrilla" warfare in the area throughout the War as well -- it surprised me to see that term in use in 1868.

My grandmother, daughter of the older boy, said there was "fighting in his yard" . I don't know what action she was referring to, but there were a number of military operations in the area at various times throughout the War.

My great grandfather enlisted on his birthday, probably adding a year to his age. I don't know how they could have taken his 14 year old brother, but they did and the boys served in the same Companies together. I should say also that many of their friends and neighbors joined up at the same time -- it was not like enlisting and being shipped off to Syria or Iraq today. They were already in the War zone, they had seen it and heard it and smelled it. They were not alone, they were, at least initially, with friends and family.

From the point of view of child development, it obviously is most unfortunate that these boys spent a lot of their childhood at War, but in some ways that was not their choice or their family's choice, their choice was HOW to spend their time in the midst of War, not whether to be exposed to it.

As with all Wars, the experience marked the rest of their lives in grim ways. I don't know his views, but my great grandfather never joined GAR or attended veterans reunions even though his friends nearby did so. He saw his friends die and suffered for life from poorly healed broken bones in his foot and his shoulder which were partially debilitating. Of course it could have been worse.

The children on the other side of my family lost both their parents during the Civil War in KS. Their father enlisted at the first opportunity and died in Union service and after trying to continue on her own in KS, their mother took the children back to where she and her husband were born in Ohio where she soon died -- struggling on the farm alone with this young family of four children had been too much for her. These children were moved to safety and raised by aunts and uncled. But not every family had relatives to send their youngsters to.

I wish we had a diary of a teenage soldier from this period, as unlikely as that would be. I wish their voices could be heard.

There's a book, wish I had a good enough memory to go dig up a link- about ' child soldiers' or ' boy soldiers'. cannot remember but think there's a few diary entries. Thanks very much for this post and all the information- most welcome, and welcome to the forum!

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I don't know whether he's a soldier or not, but I do know one thing about him: he's NOT from the Civil War! This cap conforms to the m. 1872 forage cap, but more telling are the photographic props and setting: this deliberate rustic look appears in 1870's and later studio shots; during the war, the common studio "look" contains fancy chairs, draperies, and classical columns often with the painted backdrops we all recognize. Here there's a deliberate attempt to create an "outdoorsy" setting with the components roughly combining in the overall effect. The apparent reversed S on his cap possibly relates to a military school.

Very cool information, thanks very much- o not Civil War but at least military school? I was fooled by the cap, which is the clue telling an expert he is certainly not Civil War, how funny, and rats! The photographer's background I just thought would have been one of so many we see they used for soldiers, you know? He does seem awfully young- although there are drummer boy photos, you'd have thought even for those days must have cost Mother a pang to part with.

That kid is David Wood, who began his service at the age of 10 along with his father, Colonel Samuel N. Wood. Has his entry on findagrave.

Wow and Thank You! Am going to go back and edit while this is still fresh in my mind- TEN! HOLY Gee Whiz. Incredible!

People weren't as shocked by the idea as we are today. It was possible back then for a youngster to set out on his own; "run away to sea," "run off to join the circus" are the popular cliches. Stories abound: think Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island. Children weren't assumed to be weak and helpless, much less useless. And, it happened more often in real life than most of us imagine. Youngsters were seen to be capable of something quite close to "man's work" -- it was obvious on farms, on ranches, the frontier, even in the factories and on city streets, at a time when orphans sometimes had to support themselves and their siblings, and 'adventure' untrammeled by adult supervision was a lot less "scary" than it is today. Such ideas were common enough right up through the Depression.

So, when a recruiter, for either side, with his quota to fill, found a suspiciously youthful-looking volunteer before him, he wasn't necessarily shocked or repelled by it. He was supposed to be certain the recruit was of age, or had parental permission; but how was he to be sure with the kid swearing up and down he was 18, and nobody around who could prove otherwise -- nobody had a 'legal-ID'. Besides an enterprising youngster could probably walk into any bar and for a nickle find some old reprobate who would swear to be his father or guardian and proudly give his blessing to the adventurous youngster's enrollment. Nor, for that matter, was genuine parental permission all that that rare.

jno

Yes, I guess we do forget ' those days' and the expectations not just parents but society had for children. Every so often one of the tests for school aged children shows up here on the forum and it's always a massive eye-opener. Geography, language, History, World History- even ' basic' English- they're just intensive, really tough! A farmer wit a small family was to be pitied because he had less help, children milked cows before going to school, took a hot baked potato then walked the miles there.

There's a school for instance, not a lot of miles from here. Dad told me, the children walked down the long, long hill, to foot of mountain, half way up- mine entrance. Went into mine, got on ladder, climbed down ladder, bottom of mine, walked through shaft to other side of mountain, climbed UP long, long ladder, out of the mine which was of coure half-way up the other side of this mountain, down it and into the small village on the far side, to the school. Back at end of day. If you wished to visualize a more interesting trip, we still have bobcat and bear here, 100 years ago plus there were l mountain lions.
 

donna

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I recommend book, "The Boys' War" by Jim Murphy. This is the story of boys both North and South that served in the war. It is based on diary entries and letters of some these boys. The book tells about their war, why they joined, what they wore, how they lived, what they ate and if they survived or didn't

The author has a bibliography in back of his book. As he states some boys did write about their experiences, but most were published privately and never received the acclaim given to books by older men. These books are now starting to be studied.

One I think that JPK Huson would like to read, ""Respects to All": Letters of Two Pennsylvania Boys in the War of Rebellion", ed. by Aida Craig Truxall, Pittsburgh, 1961.
 
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donna

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