The Boys' War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War

Murphy, Jim. The Boys' War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War. 1990. Lexile 1060.

At the start of the Civil War, both armies had rules against younger teens enlisting; the Union age limit was eighteen. But in an era before ID cards, many boys in their early and mid teens either looked old enough or talked their way in.  This chronological account of such young enlistees, with many quotes from diaries and letters home, tells a lot about life for any soldier during the war. It opens with enlistment, training--such as it was--and the scramble to get uniforms.  It goes through their shocking first encounters with battle and violent death, and their struggles to get enough food and shelter. One chapter focuses on drummers, a role for the youngest soldiers. The narrative wraps up with the horrible illnesses and injuries young soldiers experienced, the brutality of prisoner-of-war camps, and finally the return home for those who survived. The young soldiers' own voices give a great feeling of immediacy as do the black-and-white photographs.  Bibliography and index.

Web Tie-in:  While Murphy includes a handful of photographic portraits of young soldiers, most of the photos are group shots or landscapes. To see more photos of young soldiers, consult the Library of Congress's remarkable collection, Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs at  Searching by the word "young" brings results that include teenage soldiers.