Boy Soldier of the Confederacy
The Memoir of Johnnie Wickersham
Publication Year: 2006
Johnnie Wickersham was fourteen when he ran away from his Missouri home to fight for the Confederacy. Fifty years after the war, he wrote his memoir at the request of family and friends and distributed it privately in 1915. Boy Soldier of the Confederacy: The Memoir of Johnnie Wickersham offers not only a rare look into the Civil War through the eyes of a child but also a coming-of-age story.
Edited by Kathleen Gorman, the volume presents a new introduction and annotations that explain how the war was glorified over time, the harsh realities suppressed in the nation’s collective memory. Gorman describes a man who nostalgically remembers the boy he once was. She maintains that the older Wickersham who put pen to paper decades later likely glorified and embellished the experience, accepting a polished interpretation of his own past.
Wickersham recounts that during his first skirmish he was "wild with the ecstasy of it all" and notes that he was "too young to appreciate the danger." The memoir traces his participation in an October 1861 Confederate charge against Springfield, Missouri; his fight at the battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862; his stay at a plantation he calls Fairyland; and the battle of Corinth.
The volume details Wickersham’s assignment as an orderly for General Sterling Price, his capture at Vicksburg in 1863, his parole, and later his service with General John Bell Hood for the 1864 fighting around Atlanta. Wickersham also describes the Confederate surrender in New Orleans, the reconciliation of the North and the South, and his own return and reunification with his family.
While Gorman’s incisive introduction and annotations allow readers to consider how memories can be affected by the passage of time, Wickersham’s boy-turned-soldier tale offers readers an engaging narrative, detailing the perceptions of a child on the cusp of adulthood during a turbulent period in our nation’s history.
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
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This work would not have been possible without Becky Pierce, who generously shared Johnnie Wickersham’s memoir with me and allowed me to work with it. A faculty research grant from Minnesota State University...
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It is not uncommon for men of war to embellish their wartime exploits to the point of myth, and Johnnie Wickersham was no exception. In 1915, at the age of sixty-nine, Wickersham put to paper the stories of his Civil War years that had...
Prologue: The Gray and the Blue
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At the solicitation of both family and comrades, but more particularly for the benefit of my ten-year-old Grandson, Curtis Wright III, I have tried to inscribe in the following pages for him and those who may come after him such...
1. “Memory Seems So Real”
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You, my little Grandson, are the descendant of both North and South and have in you the making of the highest type of a true American citizen. Your Grandfather on your Father’s side fought for the Blue, and your Grandfather on your...
2. “The First Time I Heard ‘Dixie’ ”
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The second day after we had reached the army an orderly came with the command for me to report to General Price’s headquarters. You can imagine how surprised I was. I found a fatherly, white-haired old man, with such a kindly look...
3. “We Fought Each Other Like Wild Animals”
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Now came a general reorganization of the army from state troops to regular Confederate troops. A few would not enlist.1 The solemnity of the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States of America greatly impressed me...
4. “I Walked with Military Bearing”
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We were completely surrounded and hemmed in with no possible chance of being released or of cutting our way out. Day by day our rations grew less, and every other night we crawled to the works, and the second night following, those...
5. “To Surrender We Knew Meant Death”
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Others had received the same orders as myself. Imagine my surprise, when I reached the pasture some three miles from Headquarters, to find my brother Jim and twenty-three other commissioned officers from our brigade. Later I learned the...
6. “They Stared at Me with Wondering Eyes”
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When the word reached the boys of the compliment of Colonel Hill and his promise, all cried—“Are you going to leave us?” “What do you expect?” “What do you want?” asked one. “Not a single thing,” I replied. “I am perfectly happy as...
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Publication Year: 2006