American Civil War: Civilians

Figure 1.--This photograph is of Sgt.Maj. William Wood and his son Richard who was 12 years old. Richard is wearing a young man's of the early 1860s. He tended the wounded and carried water to the patients at Savage Station.

Civilians accompanied Civil War military units. We do not yet have details on the number of such individuals involved, but it is a subject we hope to research. This occurred with both Federal and Confederate units, but I was more common with the Federal units. Often these were wives of the men and in other cases unattached camp followers. The women performed many useful duties such as cooking, laundry, sewing, and caring for the injured. There were also young children woth the women. Some boys appear to have also accompanied their fathers, although here we have few details. Once Federal units entered slave states, substantial numbers of freed slaves would follow them. Some commanders discouraged this. At first the men seved as laborers, but eventually colored units were formed and had an important impact on the War. The women served a variery of useful services just as the white women did. There were also many children involved.


We have collected some information amd images of children during the war.

Richard Wood (1862?)

A HBC reader writes us, "My grandfather and his father were at "Savage Station" together. The attached is a picture of them shows Sgt. Maj. William Wood in his Federal uniform and his son Richard who was 12 years old. Richard wears a young mans 1860 suit. Young Richard tended the wounded and carried water to the patients at Savage Station. I think that Sgt. Maj. Wood was attached to a signal/telegraph unit, because Richard became an operator after the War. I sure would like to know the name of their unit or anything that would lead me to more facts about them and Savage Station." Sincerely, Robert Wood. [HBC note: Savage Station fought June 29, 1862 was part of the Seven Day's campaign. Lee in a series of brilliant battles outside Richmond during 1862 turned back McClellan's overwealming superior forces.]

Richard Wood, the lad in the picture, wrote of his adventures at Savage Station which Martha Hiseym a relative, put into story form in a book she wrote, A long Journey. In his journal, Richard wrote about Savage Station and the burying of the dead by the railroad tracks and how he slept in a packing crate when they were in retreat and woke to the sound on Confededrate music. His unit had left and he was all alone. He rejoined his unit by crossing a burned out bridge by straddling what timbers were left. He mentions he owned a blind mule and remembers seeing President Lincoln during the war. About 19 pages of the Book tells the story in more detail. He became a telegrapher after the War and was in Elko when the rails were joined. He married Martha Crowley which is another part of the book. There are 111 pages in all. Part of the book is about William Wood who at the same age as Richard was in the war interpreter for the Zulu King Dingaan in Africa.

Walter R. Conant (1861)

Here we have a 1/6th plate ambrotype dated July 13, 1861. Identified and dated on back of image. It shows a boy holding a large American flag and perhaps the legs of the photographer's head rest stand behind him. He wears a hat, white shirt under an open front, bell sleeved cut-away jacket and long woolen pants. In pencil, on the paper behind the image is written, 'Taken At Camp Cameron July 13th 1861 Age 6 yrs 7 months Walter R. Conant' . Camp Cameron was near Washington, DC (Georgetown) and was the encampment of the 7th Regiment NY State Militia (I've seen them referred to as the 'Steuben Guard'). Date of photo was the day after a battle for the regiment near 'Baker Lee's Farm' where 3 were wounded and 11 were reported missing. Case measures 3-3/16x3-11/16", pressed leather. Front cover of case is missing, brass preserver shows numerous bends, small crack at outside corner.

Children's Magazines

An interesting question is what Children were thinking during the Civil War. This is of course a difficult question to answer. Some interesting insights are oprovided by James Martin. He edited a fascinating anthology, "The Boy of Chancellorville and Other Civil War Stories". This anthology is a collection of stories which were published in children's magazines between 1865 and 1912. While the stories are fictional, they were written by authors who lived through the Civil War. Marten introduces each story with some interesting information providing some insights into Civil War children.

Next Generation

The Civil War was America's greatesy trial in the 19th century. Massive armies recruited in both the North and South served in the conflict. Not only did they engage in what would prove to many the most dramatic evenys of their lives, but many for the first time traveled beyound their immediate home communities. They brought back stories that they would tell to their children and grand children. There were also books and magazine accounts. The next generation of American boys grew up hearing and reading about the Civil War. We note military academies before the War, but many more academies were organized after the War. The military necame a staple in American private education which was not mirrored in any other country.

CIH -- Civil War

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Created: August 23, 2002
Last updated: 3:26 AM 11/15/2005