Cover image for Children for the Union : the war spirit on the northern home front
Children for the Union : the war spirit on the northern home front
Marten, James Alan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : Ivan D. Dee, 2004.
Physical Description:
209 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
E468.9 .M37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Civil War influenced virtually every aspect of children's lives, and in turn they eagerly incorporated the experience of war into their daily assumptions and activities. In this new contribution to the American Childhoods series, James A. Marten places the experiences of children living in the North during the Civil War into the larger contexts of economic, political, and cultural developments during the nineteenth century. On the home front, children became almost full-fledged members of their communities in their support of the war effort. They left school to replace absent men on farms and in factories, helped raise funds for hospitals and other soldiers' causes, and volunteered to knit socks, pick lint, and perform other necessary duties. Even as families were torn apart by the war, Mr. Marten notes, family ties grew stronger as Union soldiers filled their letters with love and advice for their children. He shows how the war brought writers for children to challenge the pacifism reflected in antebellum literature and instead to promote controversial political viewpoints such as abolitionism and to support the Union's military action. Indeed, Northern children's lives were militarized as never before, from the toys and games and stories that were overwhelmed by images of warfare and pro-Union ideals to actual military service by under-age soldiers and drummer boys. Both heroes and casualties, drummer boys in fact became potent symbols of the Northern war effort and the subject of countless poems and articles, at least temporarily altering perceptions of proper roles for children and youth in American society. As adults looking back, Northern children saw the war as a great adventure or a turning point in their lives. Some mourned lost fathers or relatives; others mourned lost childhoods. Children for the Union opens a new window on the impact of the war and shows that the youngest Americans were inevitable and enthusiastic participants in the nation's worst crisis. Abundantly illustrated.

Author Notes

James Marten is professor and director of graduate studies in history at Marquette University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This volume in Dee's American Childhoods series usefully surveys what it was like to be a child in the North during the Civil War. Trends toward work outside the home accelerated, along with opportunities for children to earn thereby, even by frequently substituting for men gone to war. Girls also took the places of absent fathers and brothers. Both genders were exposed to political activism by the likes of Lincoln's Wideawakes in 1860, and to media coverage, the mustering and departure of Union regiments, and large-scale traumas, of which Lincoln's assassination and funeral seems to have been the most memorable. Toys and games were sucked into war culture--witness a war version of The House That Jack Built --in ways now familiar but which were novel then. Many boys in their mid-teens enlisted, even more younger ones served as drummer boys, and those who never returned or were physically and mentally impaired left their marks on their families. Fluent, jargon-free social history. --Roland Green Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Marten (history, Marquette Univ.) is the author of five books and has edited two works on the Civil War. In his latest, he addresses how the war infiltrated the lives of Northern children. This turbulent time in U.S. history infused youngsters with a sense of patriotism, volunteerism, loyalty, and responsibility. Sacrifice was a necessity during the conflict once close relatives left to serve in the military. The war permeated every aspect of children's daily affairs, from literature and textbooks to panoramas and board games. In addition, schools began placing more emphasis on teaching American values and morals. Other scholarship on the subject includes Emmy Werner's Reluctant Witnesses: Children's Voices of the Civil War and Catherine Clinton's Civil War Stories; this book is in fact a condensed version for a general reading audience of Marten's 1998 The Children of the Civil War. With its extensive use of primary and secondary sources, this work would be a welcome addition for any academic library.-Gayla Koerting, Univ. of South Dakota Libs., Vermillion (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

After firmly setting the Civil War in its 19th-century context in chapter 1, Marten (Marquette Univ.) focuses on the many ways that children in the northern states became part of the war, and how that conflict forced itself into their lives. Chapter 2 looks at how the war culture was infused into the minds of children through schoolbooks and entertainments such as panoramas, cartoons, songs, and rhymes. The next chapter examines the complexity of family life, which paradoxically saw children assume new responsibility in the household as it robbed them of their childhoods. Chapter 4 explores how children were drawn into community activities by the war, including marching in the street, collecting supplies, and publishing newspapers. Marten next describes the militarization of youth through publications, images, and values that began to dominate the culture. The final chapter suggests some of the short- and long-term effects the Civil War had on children. The children's voices are abundant on every page, a testimony to Marten's remarkable research into dusty manuscript collections in long-forgotten archives. General readers will very much enjoy this book. Scholars will want to read instead Marten's indispensable The Children's Civil War (CH, Jan'99). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate collections. E. W. Carp Pacific Lutheran University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: A Struggle Touching All Lifep. 3
1 Childhood in Antebellum Americap. 9
2 The War Culture and Northern Childrenp. 33
3 Family Life and the Warp. 56
4 Children, Community, and the War Effortp. 78
5 The Militarization of Northern Childrenp. 109
6 All Quiet Along the Potomacp. 148
Notesp. 181
A Note on Sourcesp. 195
Indexp. 201