Enlistments: "Over 18?"

Discussion in 'Civil War' started by Kate, Jul 17, 2014.

  1. Kate

    Kate Active Member

    The more I work with my Gettysburg death roster, the sadder I get to see the ages of a great number of the soldiers. Some enlisted at age 15 and 16. So how was that possible?

    From what I've heard, boys wanting to enlist were not asked their age, but rather whether or not they were over 18. The younger ones wrote "18" on a piece of paper and put it in their shoe. When asked if they're "over 18" they could honestly answer "Yes, Sir, I am over 18."

    It makes me sad to realize what many of them thought was "glamorous" (being a soldier and going off to war) was all too soon crushed and proven very wrong. :(
  2. trose7

    trose7 New Member

    There weren't any systems in place to ensure that young men were over eighteen, so many enlisted at a younger age. It's good that in most places in the world warfare is at least restricted to men and not 15 year olds.
  3. Kate

    Kate Active Member

    Yes... I think that soldiers were so desperately needed in Civil War times that a lot of the obvious was overlooked. Like did NONE of those people at the enlistment places notice that the boy saying he was 21 looked more like a 15 year old?

    I have a direct ancestor who was 15 when he enlisted. I'd like to give him a "talkin'-to" but :) .... patriotism is beautiful, but I wonder how many of them considered what this would do their families... to their mamas? My ancestor had just lost his mama, so I've always wondered if that had something to do with why he thought he was ready for this "man's duty" at 15.

    Obviously since I exist, he made it through, but it could have turned out much differently had he not come back and married my g-g-grandma in a few years!

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