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The Northern Homefront

For some children far from combat, war was an enthralling adventure. But for many others, the war meant family separation, economic hardship, and an increase in personal responsibilities. During wartime, the games young people played, the entertainments they enjoyed, and the books and magazines they read were saturated with war imagery.

When rumors of secession arose I became of course alarmed, and was always ready to express my political views to any one who would listen. One of the experiments with me was to send me up to live with a farmer named Sheldon in Peterboro, N. H., who came to Fitchburg [Massachusetts) to drive me home with him. He was so much impressed by my political harangues that he stopped one or two neighbors and set me going so that they could see what a ready tongue a boy could have. He either got tired of it or thought I was not adapted to tending sheep, for after a few days he got me into his wagon again and drove me back to Fitchburg.

So when Sumter was fired on April 12, 1861, I was excited. I remember walking up and down the sitting room, puffing out my breast as though the responsibility rested on my poor little shoulders, shaking my fist at the south, and threatening her with dire calamities which I thought some of inflicting on her myself. I joined the military company at the Orange country grammar school and took fencing lessons. As men began to enlist I wished I were older.

Charles W. Bardeen, who was 13 in April 1861, A Little Fifer's War Diary, 17 18

With the fall of Sumter and Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers, the citizens of New York entered four years of political excitement. To a boy of nine who knew nothing at all about the why and the wherefore of the strife, the sight of a city going to war was most entertaining. I well remember the bustle about the armories as the militia regiments made haste to be off; the great ovation given the 7th Regiment as it marched down Broadway to the Jersey City ferry to entrain for Washington; the passage of the New England troops as they marched from the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Station at Twenty seventh Street and Third Avenue to the Jersey ferry; the great Sumter mass meeting around Union Square and the deafening cheers that rose . . . when the flag that waved over Sumter during the bombardment was held up to view; the calls for volunteers by private citizens eager to form companies, or battalions, or regiments; the recruiting stations, the fifers and drummers parading the streets and urging men to enlist; the display of flags everywhere.

John Bach McMaster, who was nine years old in 1861, in Eric F. Goldman,
Young John Bach McMaster: A Boyhood in New York City, 322

Dan Beard, who was 12 years old when the war began and who would later help found the Boy Scouts of America, grew up in Kentucky. His father and brothers served in the Union army, while his cousins fought for the Confederacy.

We boys immediately got busy building Fort Sumters and firing on them. We made Fort Sumters of mud and wooden blocks, and we put up clothespins for soldiers, ruthlessly slaughtering them with shot from cannons made of old brass pistol barrels fastened to blocks of wood. When the charge of wadding and pebbles struck the clothespin soldiers the splinters flew and there was a terrible slaughter, but no bloodshed.
Next we began to hear talk about Jeff Davis. Poor old Jeff! We thought he was the worst criminal ever born. We made Jeffs of potatoes and put sticks in them for legs. We hung the desperate potato men by their necks and shot them with squibs from firecrackers.

Dan Beard, Hardly a Man Is Now Alive, 151

Patriotism was pumped into us in school. Every morning after Bible reading, the young woman who presided at the piano would sing a war song, the boys joining in, and that done, a second and perhaps a third would follow. To teach the boys the words of a song, the teacher would read a line at a time and require them to repeat it over and over again until the words were committed to memory. In this manner we acquired quite a repertoire, made up of Hail Columbia, The Star Spangled Banner, The Red, White, and Blue, John Brown's Body, In My Prison Cell 1 Sit, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, The Boys are Marching, Marching Through Georgia, We are Coming, Father Abraham, and, of course, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

At home, with other members of the family, I scraped lint from old linen for use in the hospitals, in response to an appeal from the Surgeon General of the Army.

John Bach McMaster, in Eric F. Goldman, Young John Bach McMaster: A Boyhood in New York City, 323.

Everybody was working for the soldiers. There was no Red Cross, but we had a Sanitary Commission to look after the hospitals and wounded men, and in every home and every school, parents, teachers and children were picking lint, which was carefully placed on a clean piece of paper and used by the field surgeons to stanch the blood. We also had Sanitary Fairs, held in the Fifth Street Market House, to which the ladies contributed quilts and fancywork.

I made a model of a saddlebag loghouse which was very realistic. The landscape and all was about three feet by a foot and a half, and I proudly carried that all the way to the Sanitary Fair. It was sold for seven dol¬lars and a half, which was a severe blow to my artistic soul, because I really thought it was worth about fifty dollars.

Dan Beard of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hardly a Man Is Now Alive, p. 152.

The echoes of the Civil War, as they reverberated over the country, were but faintly heard by the children of our neighborhood. Our parents engaged in excited discussions with friends and neighbors and occasionally we saw women crying. Soldiers in uniform were constantly seen on the streets. We were told that there was a great war in the South. The negroes who now were slaves would be set free. That was our conception of the great war.

The sights and scenes about us found their reflex in child activity. The children donned paper caps in imitation of soldier caps, secured laths and sticks to represent guns and swords, and marched through the alleys and backyards singing: "Hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree." I had a little brother who shouted "Hurrah for Ding Dong." He was too small to pronounce the name of Lincoln.

On Sundays our parents took us on a visit to the several soldier camps located in the immediate outskirts of the city. I remember, too, as a small child something of the excitement manifested in our neighborhood when the news was spread that Abraham Lincoln had died at the hands of an assassin.

William George Bruce of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I Was Born in America, 26 27

. . . I was too young to know what it was all about when the Civil War began. I have a dim recollection of being held up by Father or Mother at the curb to see long lines of soldiers marching down streets proba¬bly Broadway and Fifth Avenue with flags waving and bands playing and crowds cheering, and it all seemed very fine; but a little later, when Father himself decided to go to the front, the war took on a different aspect. He had a wife and four children . . . and might very well have been excused if he had stayed at home; but many other family men were volunteering, Father was intensely patriotic and had the Irishman's love of a fight and so he went.

Eddie Foy of New York, who was six years old in 1862, Clowning through Life, 9

While the battles for the Union were lost or won, while Lincoln lived in agony and Stonewall Jackson prayed and fought, our quiet life was not much disturbed. Our portions of sugar were reduced; we did not get so many clothes as formerly; all stuffs made of cotton soared in price, but we went to school as usual, hearing eagerly of our successes in the field and joining especially in helping, as far as we could, the success of a great Fair held down near the wharf in Washington Avenue. Soldiers moved through the city in trains; we carried coffee and rolls to them, and cheered and heard various opinions of Burnside and Hancock and McClellan and Grant.

We learned, too, that Lincoln was by no means the idol of the people; that he had many critics; there seemed to be a party for McClellan and against him. The boys, however, with a curious insight, seemed always to believe in Lincoln, no matter what their parents thought; though there was a great deal of hysteria at times, there seemed to be little hatred; and the grey uniformed Confederates, when they passed through as prisoners, in the trains along Washington Avenue, were fed and assisted in every possible way.

Maurice Francis Egan of was nine years old in 1861. Recollections of a Happy Life, 46 47

I can recall a night of great commotion in a little cottage at La Porte City, in Blackhawk County, Iowa a night when the entire family, my mother and five small children, were awakened by the barking of our watchdog, a big, tawny Newfoundland. I can remember my mother unbolting and unlocking the door of the cottage and the entrance of a great figure of a man - a giant of a man, preceded by a bounding bundle of energy, the dog expressing his gratification at his master's return, with affectionate demonstration. The man was my father. He was as I have stated almost a giant in stature, towering more than six feet in height with long, bushy locks of black hair, inclined to curl, a full black beard, and bright blue, kindly eyes that sparkled with the joy of his welcome home. He spoke to my mother, and in subdued tones they talked for some minutes. He handed mother a legal looking paper. They read it together. It was an order for my father to report for military service at Dubuque. After several attempts to enlist in the army, followed by rejections because of some slight physical disability, the authorities in charge had at last accepted his tender of services. The time was January, 1864. The enlistment was with the artillery, and father had been assigned to the Third Iowa, or Dubuque, Battery, known better as Captain Hayden's Battery. The orders were to report at once at headquarters of the battery, then being reorganized at Dubuque ....

Mother was brave through her tears, and I can imagine my father going with a lighter heart because of her bravery and unfaltering courage. The parting was final. They were destined never to meet again.

George Gallarno, quoted in How Iowa Cared for Orphans of Her Soldiers of the Civil War, 163 164

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