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 responsibil¬ity 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.
Bardeen, who was 13 in April 1861, A Little Fifer's War Diary,
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 enter¬taining. 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 Wash¬ington; the passage of the
New England troops as they marched from the New York, New Haven
and Hart¬ford 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 every¬where.
McMaster, who was nine years old in 1861, in Eric F. Goldman,
"Young John Bach McMaster: A Boyhood in New York City,"
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
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.
Hardly a Man Is Now Alive, 151
was pumped into us in school. Every morn¬ing 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 fol¬low. 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 reper¬toire, made up of
Hail Columbia, The Star Spangled Ban¬ner, 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.
Bach McMaster, in Eric F. Goldman, Young John Bach McMaster: A
Boyhood in New York City, 323.
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.
Beard of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hardly a Man Is Now Alive, p. 152.
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
con¬stantly 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 imi¬tation of soldier caps,
secured laths and sticks to repre¬sent 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.
George Bruce of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I Was Born in America, 26
. . 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.
Foy of New York, who was six years old in 1862, Clowning through
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 dis¬turbed. Our portions of sugar were reduced;
we did not get so many clothes as formerly; all stuffs made of
cot¬ton 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
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 par¬ents
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.
Francis Egan of was nine years old in 1861. Recollections of a
Happy Life, 46 47
can recall a night of great commotion in a little cot¬tage
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 watch¬dog, a big, tawny Newfoundland. I can
remember my mother unbolting and unlocking the door of the cot¬tage
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 mas¬ter'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 authori¬ties 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
Gallarno, quoted in "How Iowa Cared for Orphans of Her Soldiers
of the Civil War," 163 164