American Civil War Child Soldiers

American Civil War Child Soldiers

Children Fought in the US Civil War by the Hundreds of Thousand

During the US Civil War, about a fifth of all military personnel were under 18, and more than 100,000 soldiers in the Union Army alone were 15 years old or younger. The Confederates also used child soldiers by the tens of thousands. There were even cases in which children as young as 8 were put in uniform. For the most part, child soldiers in the US Army were utilized as drummers, buglers, cooks’ assistants, nurses, orderlies, general gophers, or put to work in other non-combatant positions. However, during battles, Civil War child soldiers were often just as exposed as the adults to bullets and artillery. In the US Navy, children frequently served as “powder monkeys” in warships. Tasked during combat with rushing gunpowder from magazines to canons, they were just as exposed to danger during action as were other sailors aboard ship, regardless of age. Indeed, considering that they were scurrying about carrying sacks of gunpowder, liable to go off if it came into contact with any spark or shard of flaming timber or scorching shell fragment, the little powder monkeys were often at greater risk than the rest of the crew.

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