Kids had their role in the Civil War
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff
Thursday, 02 February 2012 09:55
(Editor's note: "Josh Franklin's Far Out Family Blog" is 10 chapters of Civil War history focusing on Ohio's role, written in a modern tone. Students, parents and teachers are invited to take the series a little further after reading it, and discuss the topics suggested below. The series is published through Ohio Newspapers in Education and was written by Steven Coburn-Griffis. The illustration is by Isaac Schumacher.)
Hey, hello and welcome back to those of you who caught my earlier blog. If you didn't, or if you're here by accident, page back and look over my last entry. If you're too lazy to do that, or you're afraid that once you leave you may not have the skill to navigate back, here are the basics.
This blog is about my Great-great-great-great Uncle Ethan and my Great-great-great-great Grandpa Wilfred (don't get me started on that name). Because it's exhausting typing in all those greats, I'm just gonna call them Uncle Ethan and Grandpa Wilf.
Anyway, in 1862, Uncle Ethan took off and joined the Union Army. And here's something you don't know, not even those of you cool enough to have read my last blog: Uncle Ethan was only 15 years old at the time. That's right. The same age as yours truly.
Now don't get the wrong idea. It's not as if Uncle Sam intended to take somebody that young. He wasn't all, "Hey, kid. Here's a uniform and here's a gun. Now go shoot somebody." Nope. In fact, you were supposed to be at least 18 years old and even then 18 to 20 year olds had to have permission from their parents.
But if someone was determined, someone like my Uncle Ethan, they found ways around all that. It happened. And it helped if you were big and looked older than your age, like I've heard was true of Uncle Ethan. However he did it, he volunteered for duty in the Union Army in early August of 1862 in Toledo. At least, that's what my Gran says and the records I've found on the Internet back that up.
There was one Ohio kid, though, who got paid like a soldier even though he wasn't really enlisted in the army at all. At least, not at first. His name was Johnny Clem and he started his military career in 1861 when he was just 9 years old. No kidding!
Even though different officers kept telling him to bug off, he kept hanging around the 22nd Michigan and acting like a drummer boy, doing the same things those guys did (whatever that was). After a while, they just took him on.
The officers of that division even chipped in some of their money and gave him a soldier's pay: $13 per month.
The army even gave him a musket they'd carved down to his size and he used it to kill a Confederate officer during one of the Union Army's retreats.
Anyway, that doesn't have anything to do with my family, and that's why we're all here.
So, here's the next letter from Uncle Ethan to Grandpa Wilf.
August 22, 1862
Though you may find it hard to believe, I am a soldier in the Union Army. I have enlisted and am assigned to the 100th Ohio, a fine regiment commanded by Colonel John Groom, though I do not see much of him. I am a member of Company F and thereby under the command of Captain Dennis Lehan. We do not know for certain, but we have heard that soon we will move south to Cincinnati and from there possibly to Kentucky. I certainly do not know, I am only a private and do only what I am told.
Tell Ma that already I miss her cooking. The food here is little better than the slops we feed the pigs, although to see some of my fellow soldiers eat you would believe that it was food fit for President Lincoln himself. And tell Da that I will make him proud, fighting for the union of the states and for the freedom of the slaves, though I have yet to see even one.
I will write again as I am able.
Chapter two: questions and activities
According to Josh's research, a soldier's pay during the Civil War was $13 per month. According to the United States Army, annual basic pay for an active duty soldier with a rank of Private (E1) with less than two years of experience is $17,611. How much is the current wage per month compared to what Uncle Ethan made?
Inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. One dollar in 1862 is worth $22.49. At the current value of $1, how much money would Uncle Ethan earn in one month? Use the newspaper grocery ads to buy basic essentials for Uncle Ethan. How much would he have left to spend, if any?
Many boys who were not yet 18 lied about their age to enlist in the military during the Civil War. Often, an underage boy would put a piece of paper with the number 18 written on it inside his shoe. This was done so that they could "truthfully" say that they were "over 18."
How do you feel about this way to join the military? Is it honest? If underage children joined the military today, would that effect the safety of the soldier? Why or why not? Write an editorial giving your opinion on this subject.
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 14:45