The Children's Civil War

The Children's Civil War

The Children's Civil War

The Children's Civil War


Children--white and black, northern and southern--endured a vast and varied range of experiences during the Civil War. Children celebrated victories and mourned defeats, tightened their belts and widened their responsibilities, took part in patriotic displays and suffered shortages and hardships, fled their homes to escape enemy invaders and snatched opportunities to run toward the promise of freedom.

Offering a fascinating look at how children were affected by our nation's greatest crisis, James Marten examines their toys and games, their literature and schoolbooks, the letters they exchanged with absent fathers and brothers, and the hardships they endured. He also explores children's politicization, their contributions to their homelands' war efforts, and the lessons they took away from the war. Drawing on the childhoods of such diverse Americans as Jane Addams, Booker T. Washington, and Theodore Roosevelt, and on sources that range from diaries and memoirs to children's "amateur newspapers, " Marten examines the myriad ways in which the Civil War shaped the lives of a generation of American children.


"One need not be a grown-up to imbibe the peculiar feeling that hangs over everything in time of war," wrote Hermon DeLong nearly fifty years after the war ended. "It was something like that sensation that goes about when a contagious disease suddenly breaks out in a peaceful community and the infected houses are placarded and streets barricaded. Young and old felt it weighing down like an incubus, and . . . our happy town seemed suddenly to grow grim and forbidding." Hermon was a northern boy who never heard a shot fired in anger, never feared invasion, and barely felt wartime hardships. But in his enthusiasm and participation in his country's war effort, he speaks for all Civil War children.

Although Hermon and his friends, tucked safely away in a small New York town, realized the magnitude of the crisis, they could be "just boys," taking pleasure from the excitement and drama of enlistment drives, the "awkward squads drilling on the public square," and the departure of recruits for the seat of war. Hermon fondly recalled war rallies, where bands played, "our most eloquent citizens" delivered "fervid speeches," and enlistment bounties crept higher as recruits "became more reluctant." At meetings of the local chapter of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, "young and old would meet and pick lint and sew bandages, singing at our work those sad old war songs such as 'Tenting Tonight,' 'Dear Mother, I've Come Home to Die,' '[The] Vacant Chair.'"

Hermon and his friends became avid politicians, "about equally divided between . . . Black Abolitionists and Copperheads." The latter wore Indian-head pins cut out of big copper cents, "while . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.