Question of the Week: 10/8-10/14/18

Many young men and boys under the technical enlistment age got into the Union and Confederate armies.

Do you have a favorite “boy-soldier” who enlisted/served while under eighteen? Share his name and a little about his service record.


14 Responses to Question of the Week: 10/8-10/14/18

  1. Charles Morton — born 18 March 1846 at Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and appointed to West Point from the State of Missouri at the age of nineteen. After graduation (USMA Class of 1869) he served as cavalry officer on the Western frontier, and did garrison duty on the Pacific Coast. During the Spanish- American War, he went to Cuba in 1898, and to the Philippines in 1899. Charles Morton retired from the Army in 1910, with the rank of Brigadier General.
    But, before Charles Morton was a cadet, he was a Private in the 25th Missouri Infantry… and saw his first significant action at Shiloh, at age 16.

  2. Orion R. Howe, the drummer boy of Vicksburg! Bounding through grapeshot, musketballs and a torrent of minies, located and retrieved ammunition for Sherman’s troops, wounded just before making it back to the General himself. The youngest, @ least @ the time, to have earned the Medal of Honor ?

  3. An interesting connection to Morton (25th Missouri), Howe (55th Illinois), Horsfall (1st Kentucky) and Clem (22nd Michigan)… all were “claimed” to have participated at Battle of Shiloh (although later research determined that Johnny Clem and the 22nd Michigan were not participants.)

  4. Two great grandfathers – Charles H. Marks was a cadet at VMI and 18 years of age at the Battle of New Market. When the cadets were disbanded, he signed on with a NC unit. Also William H. Harrison, who enlisted at age 16 in the cavalry. He served as Col. John Chambliss’ orderly in the 13th Virginia Cavalry.

  5. Charles W. Post, of Rock Island, Illinois and the 45th Illinois Infantry. Post was only 13 and 4’8″ tall – the height of his Enfield rifle. Unfortunately the rigors, cold, and rampant disease at Camp Douglas in Chicago, IL during the winter of 1861-62 were too much for Post, who died on January 17, 1862 from disease, likely measles.

  6. I don’t really have a favorite, but germane to the question would be a great book by the late historian of the Shenandoah Valley, John Heatwole: “Chrisman’s Boy Company A history of the Civil War service of Company A, 3rd Battalion, Virginia Mounted Reserves.” It’s a wonderful book by a master storyteller. Google books notes: “Chrisman’s Boy Company relates the heroic service of a company of seventeen year-old cavalrymen from the Shenandoah Valley in the last desperate year of the American Civil War.” Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print. Fortunately (for me), I picked up a used copy at an out of the way antique store this past summer for ten bucks.

    1. That’s a really interesting unit. I have that book too and have been looking at the boys’ role in the fight near New Market Gap on May 13, 1864.

      1. John was a great storyteller, that’s for sure. For years, he hosted a two-hour monthly radio program out of Harrisonburg that featured the history of the Valley. A lot of Civil War history, but other Valley history as well. I really miss John.

  7. I’ve heard or read that many to young enlistees would write the number 18 on a piece of paper and put it in one of their shoes.When asked their age by the recruiter they could honestly say that they were over 18. Is there any truth to this?

    1. David Engel
      As a great many “boy soldiers” began their careers as Musicians, including most of those mentioned above, the following brief article is worth a read. As regards “being over 18,” a musician (recognized as “attached” to a regiment, but not part of its fighting force — used during battle as stretcher bearer) had no enforced minimum age… a tradition that arrived in America from England, Scotland and France.

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