"Gallant Conduct": Young Soldiers in the Civil War, Part IV

"Gallant Conduct": Young Soldiers in the Civil War, Part IV

The riot began when Dick King punched a Confederate guard named Lieutenant Donnelly. It was hardly a prudent move, but it was nonetheless an understandable one; Donnelly had taken from him a rosette containing a picture of Dick's mother and sister and stomped on it. Dick's friend, 17-year-old Ralph Bates, whom Dick had nicknamed Billy (for no apparent reason; they had become friends after their capture and known each other casually for a couple of days before Dick bothered to ask his new friend's real name) seemed support his actions, even though both boys were beaten unconscious and chained together in the hold of a ship as they were sent farther and farther south, on a journey that would end at the gates of Andersonville Prison.

In fact, though Billy and Dick's story represents some of the most dramtic circumstances faced by the Civil War's young soldiers, the lengths to which they were willing to go for each other are hardly unusual. In time of need, boys frequently proved themselves willing to do whatever needed to be done, often at great personal risk. No history of the participation of underage soldiers in the Civil War, however brief, should skip the chance to tell at least a few of these fantastic, dramatic tales.

Read More

Sesquicentennial Spotlight: Richmond Occupied!

Sesquicentennial Spotlight: Richmond Occupied!

The Union army broke the Confederate lines at Petersburg early on April 2 after the engagement at Five Forks the previous day.  Lee knew the position was lost, and the army’s only hope was to move west to find reinforcements and supplies.  With the Confederate army moving west, Richmond was now exposed to the Union army.  That night the Confederate government and the troops left in the city evacuated in haste, taking the last open rail line to Danville, VA, which would be the last seat of the Confederate government.  Throughout the night into April 3, retreating Confederates set fire to portions of the Confederate capital, hoping to destroy supplies before the Union soldiers could reach them. 

Read More