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“All Were Young, and All Have Stories to Tell:” Wisconsin Children Soldiers and Drummer Boys in the Civil War

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Whitstone, Jake
Chamberlain, Oscar B.
Oct 04, 2016
Child soldiers--United States--History--19th century; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Wisconsin; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Children
The American Civil War was one of the most influential events in American history. The profound political, social, and economic changes wrought by this conflict continue to reverberate to this day. The war has an immense amount of historiographical material, primary and secondary, as well. There are still significant amounts of research available for study. Scholarship in the early 21st century has shone a light on the way the war affected children’s lives. Yet these works are focused on a more national, comprehensive scale. The area of study that I am researching will focus on child soldiers from Wisconsin in the Civil War. The primary focus of this capstone will center on how child-soldiers were recruited, the roles they occupied, and their direct experiences during the years 1861-1862. It will analyze how these accounts largely confirm existing historiography of children soldiers, but also note where these accounts diverge from present scholarship. To explore this, I have selected three primary sources: George Cleveland and Edward Downs, two drummer boys age 12 and 15; and one child soldier: Elisha Stockwell, age 15. All are from Wisconsin – Richfield, Milwaukee, and Alma, respectively. Stockwell defied his family to enlist, whereas Cleveland and Downs enlisted with family members. Through letters and diaries, these children attempted to convey what they saw as they grappled with one of the most transformative moments of American History.
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