Case 1: 1860-1865

Case 1: 1860 - 1865

Children's books of the early nineteenth century were written to teach morality, citizenship, and conformity to the young. Plots and settings were simple; clear lines were drawn between good and evil. References to historic events and figures emphasized value lessons rather than adventure.

The trend continued into the early years of war. Children, mainly drummer boys, were portrayed as helpless victims of an adult war. The "potentially redemptive experience of witnessing children's suffering,"as through the death of a pious drummer boy, was the focus of numerous stories (Fahs, 2001). As war dragged on, however, fictitious drummer boys increasingly became the center of dangerous and heroic adventures, as in John Cousin's Drummer Boy.

The young lives of famous generals, political leaders, and common children, set both on the battlefield and on the homefront, became popular subjects. Stories set at home depicted mothers as "moral guardians;" fathers were largely absent, a plot device enabling writers to illustrate the struggles that boys encountered as they became men.


Fahs, Alice. The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861 - 1865. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

MacLeod, Anne Scott. American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994.

Marten, James ed. Lessons of War: The Civil War in Children's Magazines. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resource Books, 1999.


1. Cousin, John. Drummer Boy: a Story of the War. Boston: Crosby & Nichols, 1862. Williamson Collection PS 1449 C475 D78.

2. Optic, Oliver. Sailor Boy; or, Jack Somers in the Navy. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1863. Williamson Collection PS 1006 A5 S35 1863.

3. Thayer, William. Youth's History of the Rebellion. Boston: Walker, Wise, and Company, 1864. Williamson Collection E 468 T37 1864.


Blue and Gray for Boys and Girls Home Case 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

United States Civil War Center, LSU Libraries Special Collections, 2002