Growing-Up before they had to: Children of the Civil War: From the Home Front

Document A

Carrie Berry, 10 year old girl: Atlanta

We can hear the canons and muskets very plane, but the shells we dread. One has busted under the dining room which frightened us very much. One passed through the smokehouse and a piece hit the top of the house and fell through.... We stay very close to the cellar when they are shelling.

Aug, 4 The shells have been flying all day and we have stayed in the cellar. Mama put me [to work] on some stockings this morning and I will try to finish them before school commences.

Aug 5. I know all the morning. In the evening we had to run to Auntie's to get in the cellar. We did not feel safe in our cellar, they fell so thick and fast.

Aug. 6. We have been in the cellar all day....

Aug. 9. We have had to stay in the cellar all day the shells have been falling so thick around the house. Two have fallen in the garden, but none of us were hurt....

Aug. 11. Mama has ben very busy to day and I have been trying to help her all I could. We had to go to the cellar often out of the shells. How I wish the federals would quit shelling us so we could get out and get some fresh air.

Aug. 14. We had shells in abundance last night. We expected every one would come through and hurt some of us but to our joy nothing on the lot was hurt.... I dislike to stay in the cellar so close but our soldiers have to stay in ditches.

Aug. 22. I got up this morning and helped Mama pack up to move. We were glad to get our of our small cellar. We have a nice large cellar here where we can run as much as we please and enjoy it. Mama says that we make so much noise that she can't here the shells.

Aug. 23. We feel very comfortable since we have moved but Mama is fretted to death all the time for fear of fire. There is a fire in town nearly every day. I get so tired of being housed up all the time. The shells get worse and worse every day. O that something would stop them!

[September 2, 1864] Everyone has been trying to get all they could before the Federals came in the morning. They have been running with saques of meat, salt and tobacco. They did act rediculous breaking open stores and robbing them. About twelve o'clock there were a few Federals came.... In about an hour the cavalry came.... We were all frightened. We were afraid they were going to treat us badly. It was not long till the Infantry came in. They were orderly and behaved very well. I think I shall like the Yankees very well.

[Sept 10] Everyone I see seems sad. The citizens all think it is the most cruel thing to drive us from our home, but I think it would be so funny to move. Mama seems so troubled and she can't do any thing. Papa says he don't know where on earth to go.

[Nov. 16] Oh what a night we had. They came burning the store house and about night it looked like the whole town was on fire. We all set up all night. If we had not sat up our house would have been burnt for the fire was very near and the soldiers were going around setting houses on fire where they were not watched. They behaved very badly. They all left town about one o'clock this evening and we were glad when they left for nobody knows what we have suffered since they came in.

[August 1864] I was ten-years-old today. I did not have a cake. Times are too hard.... I hope that by my next birthday, we will have peace in our land.

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Document B

Tillie Pierce, 15, Gettysburg:

[On seeing black families leaving town] I can see them yet; men and women with bundles as large as old-fashioned feather ticks slung across their backs, almost bearing them to the ground. Children also, carrying their bundles, and striving in vain to keep up. They hurried along; crowding and running against each other in their confusion; children stumbling, falling, and crying. Mothers anxious for their offspring would stop for a moment to hurry them up, saying: “Fo de Lod’s sake, you chillen, cum right long quick! If dem rebs dun kotch you, dey tear you all up.”

[Encountering the first contingent of Confederate soldiers on her way home from school] What a horrible sight! There they were, human beings! Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling most unearthly, cursing, brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left…. They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away.

[July, 1863] On this evening, the number of wounded brought to [Weikert’s farm] was indeed appalling. They were laid in different parts of the house. The orchard and space around the buildings were covered with the shattered and dying and the barn became more and more crowded. The scene had become terrible beyond description.

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Document C

Emma LeConte, South Carolina

How dreadfully sick I am of this war.... It commenced when I was thirteen and I am now seventeen and no prospect yet of its ending. No pleasure, no enjoyment - nothing... but the stern realities of life. We have only the saddest anticipations and the dread of hardships and cares, when bright dreams of the future ought to shine on us.

[Feb 17] I ran to... my bedroom windows just in time to see the U.S. flag run up over the State House. Oh, what a horrid sight! What degradation! After four long bitter years of bloodshed and hatred, now to float there at last! That hateful symbol of despotism! I do not think I could possibly describe my feeling. I know I could not look at it.

[Feb. 21] Yes, I have seen it all - I have seen the 'Abomination of Desolation.' It is even worse than I thought. The place is literally in ruins. The entire heart of the city is ashes. Standing in the center of town, as far as the eye can reach, nothing to be seen but heaps of rubbish, tall dreary chimneys and shattered brick walls.... Poor old Columbia - where is all her beauty so admired by strangers, so loved by her children! The wind moans among the black chimneys and whistles through the gaping windows.... I reached home sad at heart.

[A few weeks later] I am now fairly launched as a schoolma'am. I fancy I get on pretty well considering my lack of experience. I teach [sister] Sally arithmetic, Latin, spelling and elementary natural philosophy besides reading and composition. I will begin [the] study[of French and German] myself.... At the marketplace yesterday we saw the old bell - "secessia"- that had rung out every state as it seceded, lying half-buried in the earth and reminding me ... "that all things earthly disappear."

[April 14, 1865] Hurrah! Old Abe has been assassinated! It may be abstractly wrong to be so jubilant, but I just can't help it.... This blow to our enemies comes like a gleam of light. We have suffered till we feel savage.... The first feeling I had when the news were announced was simply gratified revenge. The man we hated has met his proper fate.... What exciting, what eventful times we are living in!

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Document D

Warren Leander, 15, Gettysburg:

The bugles began to blow and the men got their horses ready. We thought we had better start for home....When we got up to the ridge we stopped and looked back to see what was going on.... Some of the boys wanted to see where the shells were coming from, so they climbed up trees nearby. About that time a shell came over that way - they did not climb down, but fell down.

[Leander overheard a conversation between his father and a Confederate officer] He said to my father, "Why is it you are not in the army?" Father said, "I am too old, but I have a son in my place." Then the officer asked, "What are your sentiments?" Father replied, "I am a Union man." The officer said, "You are the kind of man I like to talk to." They argued the question in good humor for quite a while.

With some of these "Johhny Rebs" I became quite chummy and discussed the situation [on the battlefield] with all the confidence and optimism of a [young] boy.... However, when they said they were going to lick the Yankees out of their boots, and I said "you can't do it," I had the best of the argument in the end.

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Document E

Mary Loughborough, young mother, Vicksburg, Mississippi

[May 19] We were terrified and much excited by the loud rush and scream of mortar shells; we ran to the small cave near the house…. The room I had so lately slept in had been struck by a fragment of a shell… and a large hole made in the ceiling….Terror stricken, we remained crouched in the cave, while shell after shell followed each in quick succession…. [I was] cowering in a corner, holding my child to my heart…. As the day wore on, and we were still preserved, though the shells came as ever, we were somewhat encouraged.

So constantly dropped the shells around the city, that the inhabitants all made preparations to live under the ground during the siege…. My husband gad a cave made in a hill nearby…. Our new habitation was an excavation made in the earth, branching six feet from the entrance, forming a cave in the shape of a T. In one of the wings my bed fitted; the other I used as kind of a dressing room… I could stand erect there.

Back in her ravine near the front line, Mary Loughborough was sick; her daughter swung in her hammock, with a low-grade fever flushing her face. A soldier brought a little jaybird as a plaything for the child. Her daughter played with it a little while, then wearily turned away. “Miss Mary,” said her servant, “she is hungry; let me make her some soup from the bird.” Her mother halfheartedly consented. She wrote n her diary: The next time she appeared, it was with a cup of soup, and a little plate on which lay the white meat of the poor little bird.

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