During the Civil War, many children participated in the war by joining the army as drummers or soldiers. Many others did not participate in the war and supported the household by helping mothers out when his or her fathers were at war. For those who were left behind at home, they did underground work and were the leaders of the family. Children of all ages stepped up to the plate and helped the war effort, some even joined the army. If it were not for the children’s help, the war would have played out differently.
The children from the North and the South in the Civil War played important roles because they managed the household and participated in the war, attended schools of different kinds, experienced the horrors of war and helped the war effort. In the North, the children helped out at the home when their fathers were gone during the war and when their mothers were too busy. While in the South, even though some boys were in the war, others stayed home and took on their father’s roles in the family.
Children who lived in the farm had to take on different tasks in the household and on the farms. Farm children carried wood, built fires, milked and fed cows, worked in the garden, and washed dishes. They sometimes cared for younger brothers and sisters and helped with laundry,” (Graves, pg. 26). Children who lived in the farms had to basically run the whole farm when their parents were gone. Another example is when city children of all ages did their chores and found other ways to earn money for their families. “City children helped at home with cooking, cleaning, and caring for younger siblings.
Some children also had part-time jobs to help support their families,” (Graves). In the South, the children led the family as well, but experienced the war more because many of the battles of the Civil War were in the South and they needed to support it. “Girls rolled bandages for injured soldiers. They sent boxes of soap, writing paper, and facecloths to the boys in the gray uniforms of the South,” (Ransom, pg. 20). The quote shows that even girls were helping the boys in the war effort even though they were not directly involved in the war and could not participate in fighting.
Another way that children helped their mothers out, was by taking care of younger siblings. “I got up early this morning and cleaned up the house for Mama. I nursed Sister while Mama got dinner,” August 8, 1864 (Berry). Children of all ages found ways to help the household and some were the leaders of the family. Children in the South also had to do things that their fathers did when they were there. “Farm children had to take on more of the farmwork that their fathers and older brothers once did. They helped plow, harvest crops, cut firewood and tend farm animals,” (Boyd, pg. ). This quote shows that children of all ages helped the family out through rough times during the war and did whatever it took to help the family out. When most children were busy at home, others went out and enlisted into the army. Since nearly half the population was under the age of the 19, many youths enlisted into the army each side where they participated in battles, experienced what war was and its living conditions.
Many boys joined the army as drummer boys or flyers. For example, Johnny Clem, a drummer boy, joined the Union army at 11 years old. In Tennessee, a cannon shell destroyed his drum. Johnny picked up a musket and began shooting,” (Ransom, pg. 14). He was soon promoted to sergeant and given a silver medal. “Drummers were such a vital part of battle communication that they often found themselves the target of enemy fire,” (Murphy, pg. 40). One of the easiest ways to join the army was to become a drummer and drums were a vital part of battle communication which lead to a huge impact on the war. “There were many ways boys could get around the age limitations for enlistment. The easiest way was to lie about their age.
When officers were pressured by officials, recruitment officers did not really care about the age of soldiers to fill their quotas,” (Schwartz). Since there was a shortage in men who joined the army, young boys were the solution to filling up the recruitment officers’ quotas. “Children could easily join the army because there were no identification cards back then a fourteen-or-fifteen year old could easily blend into a crowd of men and slip through in the hurry to form a unit,” (Murphy, pg. 8). This quote show that the boys were motivated to join the war and did whatever they could to get a spot in the army.
Throughout the war, boys also experienced the results of war which lead to an emotional toll to the boys. “Living everyday with so much death took an immense emotional toll on the boys in the battlefield,” (Murphy, pg. 33). Even though boys did not fight often, they often experienced many horrible scenes such as the one described by Thomas Galway. “We passed over the old battlefield of the Manassas. The rains of two years have uncovered many of the shallow graves. Bony knees, long toes, and grinning skulls are to be seen in all directions,” ( Murphy, pg. 34). “Fighting in a war changes any soldier …
When they had enlisted, they were naive, undisciplined, and used to doing farm related chores. Given several months of drilling and experience in the battle, these boys had turned into true soldiers,” (Murphy, pg. 33). Fighting in any war would give any soldier an emotional toll. They experienced things they never saw before. In addition to all the gruesomeness of the war, living conditions of the young soldiers were not easy. Thomas Galway’s experience showed that “I lay down on the wet ground to sleep but would get so cold that I would have to get up and hover over the smoky fire,” (Murphy, pg. 6).
The boys in the battlefield experienced the gruesomeness of the war, and also were part of the action and the background work. During the war, even though some children joined the war, other children still had to continue their education in most parts of the United States. Children of the North and South had a different school systems and school organization. Since most of the war was fought in the South, many children there did not attend school or had few opportunities to do so. “In the mid-1800s, there were few opportunities for schooling in the South.
North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama had public schools, but most Southern states did not have organized school systems,” (Graves, pg. 10). This was because many schools in the South were used a hospitals for wounded soldiers, which led to few opportunities for schooling during the war. Even though the majority of the South did not attend schools, the wealthy still managed to get their children to attend schools. “Wealthy families in the South provided their children with a full education,” (Graves, pg. 11).
Girls went to their own schools which were different than boys. Girls often attended boarding schools. They studied drawing, music literature, and history. Many girls took classes in singing and dancing. They also studied foreign languages,” (Graves, pg. 18). Boys joined their own schools too, which were different than the girl academies and were specific to the careers of boys. “Some Southern parents sent their sons to military academies. These schools taught engineer and military strategy in addition to general school subjects,” (Murphy, pg. 13). Schools in the North and South had specific academies for each gender which were more career oriented.
Outside of school, children helped fundraise and support the war. Children from the North and the South had different ways of supporting the war effort. Since most of the war was fought in the South, the southern children had to find ways to support the war. “Children raised money by holding fairs or musical concerts. They sold hand-knit mittens and socks, embroidered items, and homemade cakes and Jellies,” (Graves, pg. 19). “Many children helped the war effort by raising money and making supplies. They often scraped linen cloth to produce lint, which was then made into bandages,” (Graves, pg. 19).
Southern boys were also used at home to protect their homes. “In the later years of the war, teenage boys became part of “Home Guard” units. These soldiers patrolled their towns to protect citizens from Union troops,” (Graves, pg. 19). The Northern children also helped support their children through different ways than the South. “They sent packages and letters to relatives who were away at war. ” Northern children also raised more than $16,000 for the Union selling photographs of President Lincoln,” (Graves, pg. 27). Children lead a huge role in funding for the war and it was their way of participating in it.
Children of different ages took on their parents tasks and helped fund for the war. These events show that children were a vital part of the war. Although many boys joined the war as soldiers, others children stayed behind and helped out at home. Through many different means they helped support the war and took care of their homes while their fathers or older brothers were in war. Children were part of the war effort through the many different and creative means that they did to support it. Without the help of the children in the war, the Civil War would of been much different.