Children of the Civil War-The Games They Played
OverviewCivil War children had plenty of toys, games, sports, and other activities. Wooden toys abounded, there were toy soldiers, animals, wagons, building blocks, jacks and marbles, and trains. There were balls made of canvas or rags, and the classic cup-and-ball toy, (a small wooden cup with a handle and a ball attached to the cup with a string). The objective was to get the ball into the cup---which may seem easy, but is harder than it sounds.
Toys have been found in ancient civilizations. The ancient Roman children loved toys and games. The popularity or at least the availability of toys declined in the general economic decline after the fall of Rome. Toys again began to become more plentiful as the economy of Western Europe developed. As late as the 18th and early 19th century, however, there was a general consensus that toys and games were wasteful indulgences and that even young children should be involved in more beneficial activities. This attitude began to significantly change by the 19th century and the Victorian era. The popularity of toys increased greatly in the 19th century as modern concepts of childhood began to form and play as an activity for children became more accepted.
Children played a role in the American Civil War. In fact, more than 300 Northern Soldiers were under the age of thirteen and a few were under ten. A lot of the children who joined the war lied about their ages or used fake names. Back then, fighting in a war seemed like a glamorous adventure. Many of the boys became musicians or drummer boys. The drummer boy's job was to lead the marching troops into battle. Many of them were shot at because they were in the lead. There are also a few famous examples of children performing heroic deeds during wartime, who were not soldiers. When Johnny Cook was thirteen years old, he served as a bugler with the 4th U.S. Artillery. Just days after his fifteenth birthday, he was involved in the battle of Antietam. Witnessing the cannoneers struck down in battle, he rushed in and took over operations of the cannon. Fighting off three attacks by the South, Johnny was awarded the Medal of Honor. He later joined the Navy and fought on a gunboat until the end of the war. He lived until 1915. John Lincoln Clem was only nine, when he ran away from home and joined the 22nd Michigan. Although he was not officially a member, the men chipped in to pay him thirteen dollars each month. At Shiloh, Johnny's drum was hit by an artillery shell and at Chickamauga, Johnny shot an attacking enemy officer. Johnny became known as the Drummer Boy of Chickamauga. Eventually, becoming a courier, Johnny was wounded twice. He retired from service in 1916, having obtained the rank of major general.
Provide students with a brief background on what life was like for children during the civil war using the information contained in the background paragraphs.
Compare and contrast the quality and type of toys used by the different classes of children. For example: Glass marbles would have been used by the children of the upper class while the children of the middle and lower class would have used the clay marbles (use the marbles themselves to show the differences).
Compare and contrast the dolls used by girls during the war. Show the pictures of the por celain dolls owned by the upper class to the cornhusk dolls that those of the lower and slave class would have owned.
Query the students about what toys/games they own and how that compares/contrasts with the toys/games of civil war children.
Show the students some of the toys in the trunk and query them if they know what they are and how they are used?
Show the children various magazines from today and compare them with the magazines of the Civil War.
Allow the students to experiment with the toys and allow them to use their imaginations to figure out how the games are played. Then show them how the games were actually played and discuss their interpretations of the games.
Provide the teachers and students report cards to evaluate their likes and dislikes of the activities. Suggestions?
Nine and a half months, 70,000 casualties, the suffering of civilians, thousands of U. S. Colored Troops fighting for the freedom of their race, and the decline of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of No. Virginia all describe the Siege of Petersburg. It was here Gen. Ulysses S. Grant cut off all of Petersburg's supply lines ensuring the fall of Richmond on April 3, 1865. Six days later, Lee surrendered.
Reeder, Carolyln, Across the Lines, New York, NY, Avon Books, Inc. 1997.
Herbert, Janis, The Civil War for Kids, Chicago, Chicago Review Press Inc. 1996.
King, Wilma. Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
Marten, James. The Children's Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Marten, James, ed. Lessons of War: The Civil War in Children's Magazines. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999.
Werner, Emmy E. Reluctant Witnesses: Children's Voices from the Civil War. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.
For a complete listing of Park Programs see the Peterbsurg Battlefield Educators Guide