Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in the Civil War Era

Popular images and accounts of underage Civil War soldiers today tend to be bathed in sentimentality and presented in a manner designed to accentuate the cultural chasm between the 1860s and our own times, but the problem of underage enlistees ultimately would help to forge a new relationship among the federal government, the states, parents, and the military, which is anything but distant.

Lecture Description

Underage soldiers who fought in the American Civil War have long been a subject of fascination. But so far, this topic has mostly been taken up by writers of juvenile fiction or popular history interested in celebrating the heroism or contributions of young people in uniform. By instead focusing on the political, military, and legal debates over young enlistees in both the Union and Confederacy, this lecture explores how the problem of youth enlistment intersected with larger issues, including the relationship between parental rights and children’s obligations, the appropriate balance of power between state and federal governments, and the degree to which the military should be answerable to local communities.


Civil War and Reconstruction Military

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