Children and Youth during the Civil War Era (review)
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Reviewed by
Children and Youth during the Civil War Era. Edited by James Marten. (New York and London; New York University Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 282. $25.00 paper)

Children and Youth is divided into four parts: Children and the Sectional Conflict, Children of War, Aftermaths, and Epilogue. Documents: Through the Eyes of Civil War Children is an additional section. Steven Mintz’ s brief three-page foreword succinctly ties together the four parts, placing each reading in context. Likewise, Marten’s introduction and the preface to each part make it easy for the reader to navigate a book rich in variety. The thirteen essays reveal how the field of Civil War history and children has mushroomed in ways that most scholars in children’s history never imagined. The titles of the essays indicate the breadth of the material covered: “A Rebel to [H]is Govt. and to His Parents,” “Good Children Die Happy,” “Love in Battle,” “Free Ourselves but Deprived of Our Children,” and “Orphans and Indians.” The theme that ties the collection together is that children were not just acted upon; they were actors.

The essays are uniformly very good, but several stand out. Lisa Frank’s “Children of the March: Confederate Girls and Sherman’s Home Front Campaign” demonstrates how “Union soldiers breached [End Page 213] the wall between childhood and warfare” (p.122). Victoria E. Ott’s “Love and Battle: The Meaning of Courtships in the Civil War and Lost Cause” convincingly discusses how “women contributed to the re-creation of the gender and subsequently racial ordering of the South that emerged by the beginning of the 1900s” (p. 137).

In Thomas F. Curran’s “A Rebel to [His] Govt., and to His Parents,” fifteen-year-old Tommy Cave used the rhetoric of secession to bless his refusal to honor his father’s wish that he stay out of the war. The Missouri boy was rebelling against his parents, particularly the authority of his father, who sympathized with the cause. The case is convoluted. In 1862, he was captured by Union soldiers near his family farm. Like most POWs, he was taken to St. Louis. The authorities decided he had rebelled against the authority of his parents just as he had against the Federal government, so they held him as a POW. Cave did not want to be released to his parents but rather exchanged as a POW. In the end, he thwarted his father’s wishes and died in Virginia in 1863. His dogged determination, more than anything else, decided his destiny.

J. Vincent Lowry’s “The Historical Pageantry for Children of the Confederacy, 1955–1965” documents how the Daughters of the Confederacy, and their auxiliary, the Children of the Confederacy, helped prepare the grounds for massive resistance to the Civil Rights movement decades later. The Daughters espoused a narrative that made race, gender, and class essential parts of the children’s history, so much so that their grandchildren would be contemptuous of the efforts of black and white youths to right the historical wrongs.

Finally, the volume could be used as a textbook or sourcebook in a course on Civil War and children. The documents provide primary sources in the children’s own words. Ten-year-old Carrie Berry, for example, kept a diary during the siege of Atlanta and all the ups and downs she and the family went through. The section includes Questions for Consideration, and a first-rate bibliography of suggested readings. Marten’s book is a must for anybody interested in Civil War history. [End Page 214]

Edmund L. Drago

Edmund L. Drago is a professor of history at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of Confederate Phoenix: Rebel Children and Their Families (2008).

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