Children in History: The 19th Century


Figure 1.--John Joseph Klem, often refered to as Johnny Clem, was probably the most famous of many boys who served in the Civil War. He is known to history as the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga" and "Johnny Shiloh." The song "When Jonny Comes Marching Home" had him in mind.

We know of quite a few children who were involved in some of the major events of the century. Some were future kings. Britain's Prince Albert (future Edward VII) played a major role in popularizing sailor suits and kilts for boys. As a young prince he was extremely quarelsome, but as king he played an important role in maintaining the European paece. Prince Wilhelm in Germany as a little boy was fascinated by ships and the navy and as Emperor decides to build a Germany navy. Like his uncle (Price Albert), he was also a very difficult little boy, but unlike his uncle he was constantly precipitaing diplmatic crises and palyed a major role in launching World War I. Many children from humble families also played important roles in the 19th century. Many were Americans ranging from Native Americans, Pony Express riders, and Civil War drummer boys. School was playing a more important role in children's lives during the 19th century. Some boys like the Plattsburg Boys carried out their exploits close to home. Other boys, like Johhny Clem, had to miss school and run away from home to carry out his famed Civil War exploits. Some girls like Carolyn Picklesgild were famous for trafitional activities like sewing, but others like Sacagawea achieved phenomenal physical exploits. Some of the future kings we have some good information because they had contemporary portraits done. By the 1840s photography had appeared so we know quite a bit about how these children dressed.

Sacagawea (America, c1788-1812)

Sacagawea was a Shoshone, growing up in the Rocky Mountains. A Hidatsa war party captured her when she about 12 years old. She was traded as a slave to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader who treated her and another native American woman as his wives. Lewis and Clarke and the Corps of Discovery in November 1804, arrived at the Hidatsa-Mandan villages and built a fort nearby. Sacagawea on February 11, 1805, gave birth to her son Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau,. She was only about 16 years old. Charbonneau with Sacagawea was hired as an interpreter. Sacagawea, with the infant Jean Baptiste, was the only woman to accompany the 33 members of the permanent party to the Pacific Ocean and back. She proved to be invaluable to the expedition, and not just as an interpreter. She helped identify edible roots and berries, deal with overturned boats, bargan for horses, guide them, and much more. Despite the fact that she had just given birh and had an infant son, she kept up with the men on their arduous journey. Her husband was paid, but not Sacagawea. After the expedition she gave birth to a daughter, Lisette. Sacagawea died on December 22, 1812, when she was about 25 years old.

Plattsburg Boys (America, 1814)

The British strategy as designed by the Duke of Wellington was designed to harrass Americn shipping at sea and to strike America in the north from Canada, in the center at Washington and Baltimore and in the south by seizing New Orleans which would have given them ability to influence the entire Mississippi basin. Britain's ability to control North America and restrict the growth of the new American Republic would have been greatly enhanced. At Wellington's insistance, all of these action were associated with waterways which were important means of transportation and allowed the powerful British fleet and naval experise to be used to best advantage. The invasion from Canada struck at Plattsburg, New York by both land and by Lake Champlain. The British defeat on the lake by a small American force made it diffcult for the land forces to continue and they were turned back by a small American force at Plattburg in Septmber 1814. Much of that force was made up of teenage boys.

Carolyn Picklesgild (America, 1814)

The British in the war of 1812 burned Washington and then headed for the important nearby port of Baltimore. Major George Armistead, the American commander, prepared for the attack. He wanted a flag large enough for everyone to see to fly over Fort McHenry. He hired Mary Young Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow who was experienced in sewing flags for he ships sailing from the port. Major Armistead wanted a much larger flag. Mrs. Picklesgild with the assistance from her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, sewed the huge American flag. The flag was sewn in the largest available space--a brewery. It was flying over Fort McHenry when the British attacked on September 13, 1814. Francis Scott Key was aboard one of the British ships bombarding the fort. He saw the flag which enspired him to write a poem about the "Star-spanglled Banner" which of course set to music has become the American national anthemn.

John Valentine Gray (England, 1812-22)

John Valentine Gray was a 10-year-old chimney sweep was from Alverstoke on the Isle Of Wight. He worked in Newport, the island's main town as a chimney sweep. He fell to his death through exhaustion and physical abuse in the first few days of 1822. His body, covered in bruises with a severe blow to the head, was found in an outhouse in Pyle Street where he slept and public indignation was one of the factors which led to the Climbing Boys Act (also known as the Childrens' Employment Act). His master, Benjamin Davies, was eventually convicted of his manslaughter. He and his wife were imprisoned. The passageway on the site where he died has now been renamed Gray's Walk. A plaque is attached to the alley wall and he has an obelisk memorial in Church Litton recreation ground, which was once the churchyard.

William Webb Ellis (England, 1806-1872)

William Webb Ellis is credited by Matthew Bloxam as the originator of Rugby football. This is a remarkable story of a 16 year old boy, from Salford, Lancashire, who played soccer (football) and invented a new ball game called Rugby. Bloxam recalls that this happened in November, 1823. It was in the days prior to the Matthew Arnold becoming one of Rugby School’s famous headmaster. Rugby School was and still is an independent boarding school in Warwickshire. This is in the middle of England. The book about the early 19th Century Rugby School was written in 1858 by Thomas Hughes. He was the first author to write a novel about boys and their adventures in a boarding school. The story is called Tom Brown’s School Days.

Sir William Jenner (England, 1815-98)

William was born in Chatham during 1815. He was orphananed. At age 8 he was enviriolated, an early form of innoculation against smallpox. English physcicins at the time believed that the subject to be enviriolted needed to be purged and starved beforehand for about 6 weeks, making the experience extremely unpleasant. It is unclear to what extent this experience affected William' choice of a career, but he went on to to become a doctor, quite an achievement for an orohan at the time. Jenner studied medicine at University College London. He was then apprenticed to a surgeon in Upper Baker Street, Regent's Park. He was admitted a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1837). Jenner began a general practice at 12 Albany Street, Regent's Park. He received a MD degree from the University of London (1844). He began to study the fever cases admitted to the London Fever Hospital (1847). Jenner went on to discover the difference between typhus and typhoid fever.

Hariet Jacobs (America, 18??-97)

Very few Africa-American slaves could read and write, As a result there are very few first-hand accounts of what slaves experienced, especially their childhood experiences. There are, however, some accounts. Perhaps the most reviting is that of Hariet Jacobs. [Jacobs] This book was originally published under the pseudonym Linda Brent. The book was at first dismissed as a fabrication but is today widely considered factual. One historian has addressed the subject of Hariets life and book. [Yellin] Hariet known as Hatty grew up in North Carolina as a slave of the Flint (fictious name) family. She was taught to read and write and was promised her freedom. Hariet at age 13 was, however, willed to the 3-year old child of Dr. Flint. (One historian believes Flint to have been Dr. James Norcom, a morphine addict from Edenton, North Carolina.) [Yellin] Dr. Flint began to make sexual advances. A free African American proposed to Hatty and offered to buy her from Flint. He rejected the offer. Hatty describes Flint as "odious" anf to escape Flint's advances, Hatty brought off an affair with a white neigbor. (Describes as Sands in the book, he is believed to be Samuel Tredwell Sawyer.) They had two children (Joseph and Louisa). Sands promised to free them. but did not do so. When he married, his wife was enchanted by the "pretty negro children". Often such children were used as house servants and nursemaids which is apparently what she had in mind. Hatty then hid for 7 years in her grandmother's attic (1835-42). [Jacobs] The account reminds one of Anne Frank. So sensational was Hatty's account that she had trouble finding a publisher. Even Harriet Beacher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin would not help her. Hatty went on to found a free school for blacks after the Civil War. Hatty's story is noteworthy for two reasons. First she was a heroine. For a young girl, especially a slave girl, to resist her owner took enormous personal courage. Second, one of the arguments used by racists in the late 19th and 20th centuries was that black men were near savages and had uncontrollable urges posing great danger for white women. The simple historical truth is that it was black women who were in danger and were routinely raped by white men and in large numbers.

Edmonson, Emily and Mary (America, 1848)

Emily and Mary Edmonson were two attractive teenage slave girls 13 and 15 years old from Maryland. They and 75 other slaves had attenpted to escape to the North aboard the schooner Pearl (1848). The Pearldomestic slave trade. The labor-intensive cotton plantatins of the Deep South required more slaves. They were either produced locally or purchased from the border states where the shift to corn and whear required fewer slaves. Exhaution of the land in Virginia and the Carolinas also resulted in a surplus of slaves which could be sold south. (This is the origin of the term "sold own the River". This is because the Mississippi was often used to transport slaves south. In the case of Amexandria it was done by ocean trannsport. Alexandria slave trader Joseph Bruin bought the light-skinned girls to be sold as "fancy girls" to New Orleans brothels. He offered to sell them to their father who was a free black for $1,125 each. (This was 25 percent more than their brother because of their potential value in New Orleans. [Ricks] After the girls were purchased out of slavery, they went north and soke to abolitionist groups. Their experience influenced Haiet Beecher Stowe whose book Uncle Tom's Cabin had a powerful impact on Northern attitudes about slavery.

Unknown Servant Boy (England, 1849)

A 10-year old boy was the first person to fly. Part of the history of aviation takes place in Scarborough, Yorkshire during the 19th century. The theory of flight was worked out by Sir George Cayley. He knew that to have a successful aeroplane required the development of an engine to provide thrust. At that time no such engine had been developed. Cayley worked on gliders and made successful ones. First a small model. Then one that carried a heavy weight and an even larger one that carried a small animal. Could a glider carry a person? In 1849 Sir George Cayley built one that could. Sadly all history records is the following: His first full-size glider in 1849 carried the ten-year-old son of one his servants became the first person in history to fly when he made a short flight in a Cayley glider. The boy's name was not recorded. There the triumph in the history of flight was a small 10 year old boy. A boy. who must have been couragous, made that first flight. It was a boy who showed the way that a flying machine could carry people. Sadly the boy's name is not recorded but at least his deed is not forgotten. [Streeter, pp. 8-9.]

Nick Wilson (1845-1916)

It is Tom Shell's adaptation of the memoirs of Pony Express rider Nick Wilson. Nick was a real life person who lived an amazing life as a boy. Nick was born in 1845. Nick and his parents settled in Utah duing 1850. He was captured by Shoshone Indians when he was 9 years old (1854). Chief Washakie's mother adopted him. He lived with the Shoshones for approximately 2 years, but then returned to his white family. If that was enough adventure for a boy, he got a job at the age of 15 years as a Pony Express rider (1860). He rode in Egan's Division between Shell Creek and Deep Creek. The Pony Express didn't last very long. He wanted nothing to do with cities as an adult. He lived on the frontier which after the Civil War rapidly disappeared. He finally settled in Jackson's Hole, Wyoming. The small town of Wilson is named in his honor. [Wilson] A film was made about Nick's adventures with the Native Americans--"Wind River".

Edgardo Montara (Papal States, 1858)

Napoleon Bonaparte achieved his first great victories in Italy. One of the many actions he took was to abolish the Inquisition and liberate Jews from the ghetto, both maintained in the Papal States. Napoleon also adopted the Code Civil in France which separate church and state. After Napoleon's defeat, the Congress of Vienna rstored the Papal States and the papacy reinstituted both the Holy Inquisitin and the Ghetto as well as the restrictions on Jewish life. The Inquisition thus survived in the Papal States into the mid-19th century. One of its primary targets was Jews. The Inquisator of Bologna ordered the Papal Carbineri to seize a 6-year old Jewsish boy, Edgardo Montara, from his family on the grounds that the boy had been baptized. And as a now newly minted Christian, he could not be allowed to raised in a a Jewish home. The case became a cause celebre in both Europe and America. The Liberal movement in Europe which sought to separate church and state seized upon the kidnapping of Edgardo as a example of Church abuse of power. Pope Pious IX made Edgardo's conversion a personal cause. The Church won with Edgardo who became a priest. The kidnappng, however, became an issue in the Resurimento and the papacy would lose the Papal States. The case was also a factor in the liberal movement throoughout Europe seeking to separate church and state.

Pony Express Riders (America, 1860-61)

The Pony Express is one of the mosted fabled feats in the history of the American West. In actuality the Pony Express mail service only operated for a brief period from April 1860 to November 1861. Previously letters from the eastern states mostly reached Califonia by long sea voyages around Cape Horn which took weeks in the bst of circumstances. The Pony Express, operated by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company, to deliver mail and news between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. The mail was delivered in relay, not unlike modern relay races, only mail and newspapers rather than batons were passed on. The Pony Express ran day and night, both in the summer and winter. A fresh horse and rider were waiting at each station to take the mail on to next station. Most of the riders were teenage boys. One rider was 11 years old. An ad for Pony Express riders read, "Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." The reason boys were preferred was that they did not weigh as much as adult riders and the horses could thus sustain faster speeds, the same reason that jockeys in horse raising have to be small. The Pony Express was a very popular service. In ended after only a year and a half because of the invention of the telegraph. Even fast ponies could not compete with the wires.

Johnny Clem (America, 1851-1937)

John Joseph Klem, often refered to as Johnny Clem, was probably the most famous boy who served in the Civil War. He is known to hostory as the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga" and also "Johnny Shiloh." He was one of the youngest, but not the youngest to do so. Like most younger boys who participated in the War, he served as a musician. The Federal Army alone had places for 40,000 muscians. Many of the boys given the turmoil of battle became involved in the actual fighting. Johhny was the most famous Union boy soldier. He became a drummer in the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry at age 11 years. He fought in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Atlanta. He was eventually promoted to serve as a mounted orderly on the staff of General George H. Thomas, with the "rank" of lance sergeant. Johny was not an anomally in the Civil War. Many of the soldiers were in fact boys and youth. Thousands of children were directly involved in the Civil War. Older boys served as soldiers. Many younger boys were also invoved, some boys as young as 11 years old. The younger boys generlly served as drummer or buggle boys. Commonly the drummer and buggle boys were 13-15 years of age. Both the Confederate and Union soldiers tried to look after the younger boys. In major engagements they were often sent to the rear when charges into fortifications were planned. In some cases they had to be forced to the rear crying. Such a scene is portrayed in the movie Glory. In addition, over 1 million boys of 17 or under served in the Federal Army alone. Beyond the use of very young boys as deummer boys and buggle boys, about 1 million boys 17 years of age and under fought with the Federal Army alone. Almost surely very large numbers of similsrly aged boys fpught with the Conderacy, although actual records are less available. So many boys served in both the Federal and Confederate Army that one author has suggested calling the American Civil War the Boys' War.

Jackson (United States, 1863)

Little is known about this boy. We do know is name was Jackson. He appears to be about 12-13 years old and to have just run away from his master. Based upon his looks, he is likely a slave master's son. Many images of pre-War photographs of slaves shows them better dressed in simle home-spun garments. We do not yet know how representative these images are. We do know, however, that Jackson enlisted in the 79th U.S. Colored Troops in Louisiana. The Civil War is an apauling event in American history. The carnage involved was unprecedented. In the end the War meant freedom for boys like Jackson and in this case Jackson played a role in gaining his own freedom.

Edward VII (England, 1841-1910)

Britain's Prince Albert (future Edward VII) played a major role in popularizing sailor suits and kilts for boys. As a young prince he was extremely quarelsome, but as king he played an important role in maintaining the European paece.

Wilhelm II (Germany, 1859-1941)

Prince Wilhelm in Germany as a little boy was fascinated by ships and the navy and as Emperor decides to build a Germany navy. Like his uncle (Price Albert), he was also a very difficult little boy, but unlike his uncle he was constantly precipitaing diplmatic crises and played a major role in launching World War I.

Jim Jarvis (England, 1860s)

One of the stories in the Look and Read magazine (November 2, 1974) was about the Dr. Barnardo Charity. The article told it from Dr. Barnardo's view. I believe Jim Jarvis played a more important role in the establishment of the charity. Had it not been for Jim Thomas Barnardo would have become a missionary in China and maybe not have reached the greatness he recieved from devoting his life to caring for London's unwanted street children.

Adolph Korn (United States, 1870)

An Apache raiding party kidnapped Adolph Korn on January 1, 1870. He was kidnapped while tending the family's sheep with his twin brother along the Llano River in the Texas Hill country. Their stepfather was a German immigrant. He had been a confectioner, but decided to raise sheep in Texas--quite a change. He was, however, having a hard time making a go on a sheep ranch. Adolph spent 3 years with the Apaches. Native Americans generally did not have the same concept of race as the Europeans. Captives might be killed, especially the men. Women and children might be accepted into the tribe. Boys might become warriors fighting for the tribe against their own people. Adoph's experience with the Apache was a powerful one. He appaer's to have accepted the tribe. He had a difficult time adjusting to a European life style after he returned to his family. He did not want to sleep indoors and would disappear into the hills for days at a time. [Zesch]

Joseph Meister (France, 1886)

Joseph Meister was a normal little 9-year old French boy. One day he went to played and passed into history. He was bitten by a rabid dog. By all accounts he should have died, had it not been for famed scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-95). Pasteir picked up on the work of Edward Jenner in England. Pasteur afer working with crystals began to work on bacterial. He disproved the idea of spontaneous generation. As a result of his work on bacteria, he inoculated a boy against rabies. We do not yet know the boy's name or details on his later life. Pasteur went on to develop a process to make milk safer to drink, today known as Pasteurization.

Child Heros (England)

I came across a Garden in Central London called ' The Postman's Park'. In it was a wall along which were plaques recording heroic deeds of ordinary people between 1870 and 1917. Several of the heroic deed doers were children. Many were small boys. All that was recoded was the boys name and the herioc deed they did. Sadly all the boys lost their lives in attempting to save others. The boys had gone out to play with their friends. In playing a bad incident occurred in which at least one of the children had got into a life threatening situation. One boy had tried to save the life of his friend. The outcome was that only one friend was saved or both perished. Most of the incidents involved playing in or near water. Other stories involved boys who tried to save another child from a road accident. The child under threat was often saved but the boy rescuer was often killed instead. There were at least two stories involving clothing catching fire while the child was near an open fire in the home. A boy saved his sister's life by tearing the flaming clothes off his sister but sadly his clothing caught fire and the boy died later from the burns he received.

Annie Moore (Ireland, 1892)

America was built by immigrants and many of those individuals came as children or youths. Few immigrant groups played a more important role than the Irish. Annie Moore may be the best remembered of all the Irish immigrants. The Irish began to arrive in great numbers in the 1840s because of the Potato Famine. At the time there was virtually no restriction on immigration. Gradually immigration became regularized. One of the most important entry ports became Ellis Islands in New York Harbor which was opened in 1891. The first person to pass through Ellis Island was a 15-year old girl from County Cork--Annie More. There would be 12 million people go follow Annie to America. Annie was a lucky girl. She desembarked from the steamship Nevada on January 1, 1892. The Secretary of the Treasury was there to greet her and present her with a $10 gold coin. She was also welcomed by her parents and two younger brothers who had emmigrated before here. Annie married, moved West, and had a fine family--adding her piece to the American epoch. A sculpture of Annie now stands in the restored Great Hall at Ellis Island.

Sources

Brooks, E.S. Historic Boys (1913/14). This interesting book sketches the lives of 12 historic boys that have impacted history.

Jacobs. Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself (1861). This book was originally published under the pseudonym Linda Brent. The book was at first dismissed as a fabrication but is today widely considered factual.

Hoose, Philip. We Were There, Too!.

Ricks, Mary Kay. Escape in the Pearl.

Streeter, Michael. Unsung Heores - Recognising Those on the Sidelines of History (Pub Past Times: Oxford, 2004).

Wilson, Elijah Nicholas. The White Indian Boy: The Story of Uncle Nick Among the Shoshones (Paragon Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991).

Yellin, Jean Fagan. Harriet Jacobs: A Life (Basic Civitas, 2004), 394p.

Zesch, Scott. The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier (St. Martin's, 2005).










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Created: August 30, 2002
Last updated: 4:18 AM 11/13/2007