Beyond Their Years

Stories of Sixteen Civil War Children

by Scotti Cohn


Pub. Date: 10/01/2002
6 x 9, 176 pages, b&w photos
ISBN: 0-7627-1027-6
Imprint: Falcon
Sometimes a war's greatest heroes are its survivors, those who manage to forge new lives despite the tragedy they have experienced. For the sixteen unsung heroes profiled in Beyond Their Years, surviving also meant surrendering their childhood. These children found themselves on the edge of the fray - both in combat and in the throes of daily life - helping, or simply enduring, as best their interrupted youths allowed. Their behind-the- scenes stories illustrate what it was really like for children during the Civil War.

Meet Ransom Powell, a thirteen-year-old drummer boy who survived grueling Confederate prison camps; writer and patriot Maggie Campbell, only eight years old when the war ended; Ulysses S. Grant's son Jesse, who rode proudly alongside Abraham Lincoln's son Tad; and Ella Sheppard, daughter of a slave mother and a freed father, who lived through the backlash of slave rebellions.

Each of these young survivors' lives represent an amazing contribution to the war effort and to postbellum life. Learn the inspiring stories of these American children who displayed courage, devotion, and wisdom beyond their years. 


Review by Karel Lee Biggs
Civil War News

If the recent output of books on children who lived through the Civil War is any indication, the history of children during this important time in our nation’s history is finally being fully explored. Fortunately, Beyond Their Years—Stories of Sixteen Civil War Children is a nice addition to the genre, written in a manner and at a level that most middle schoolers would find enjoyable. . .This book would serve as a nice gift for a youngster interested in this era in history, as well as a teacher who utilizes literature in teaching social studies. It is well-bound, and could put up with the somewhat hard use most children put their books through, especially if covered with a clear book cover that most libraries and schools use.


Review by Linda Piwowarczyk, Kliatt, March, 2003

Cohn offers YAs accounts of eight children in the Union and eight in the Confederacy. Each story is only about nine pages long and offers history, quotations, and usually a single photo of the individual--though some half of the photos are taken of the child as an adult. The bibliography offers proof of well-referenced research for this volume as well as an extended resource list for classroom teachers. It is conveniently organized by the Civil War youth's name. The short presentations of both Union and Confederate stories create welcome ease for student report writing, and a middle school or freshman/sophomore high school classroom library might do well to consider inclusion of this book for research use. 

Linda Piwowarczyk, Bolingbrook, IL

COPYRIGHT 2003 Kliatt
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

Author's Note: The reviewer's comment that "some half of the photos are taken of the child as an adult" is incorrect. Eleven of the fourteen photos are of the children at the age they were at the time of the Civil War (between the ages of five and seventeen).

Unfortunately, this book is out of print and available only through used book vendors.

Excerpt from Beyond Their Years by Scotti Cohn


Maggie Campbell

Maggie Campbell scooted closer to her Aunt Bessie as the streetcar rattled through downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania one chilly December day in 1862. Even though she was only five years old, Maggie was already a seasoned streetcar passenger. She was used to the musty smell of the straw that covered the floor, the scratchy plush seats, and the jingle of the bells on the mule's collar. These things were too familiar to hold her interest for long, but the boy across the aisle was a different matter. The brass buttons on his blue uniform glinted in the sunlight. In the straw between his muddy boots sat a drum. Maggie couldn't take her eyes off him.

The streetcar bounced and bumped along Penn Avenue past the Allegheny Arsenal. For the past 18 months, the Arsenal had supplied the United States Army with gun carriages, armory, ammunition, and military equipment to use against the Confederate States of America. Every day, the Pittsburgh Gazette reported victories won and men lost in "The War."

About three months ago, on September 17, a series of explosions had occurred at the Arsenal. Nearly 80 employees had been killed in the blast, most of them women and children. (Small hands and slender fingers were highly suitable for assembling weapons and equipment.) That same day, Union soldiers had clashed with General Robert E. Lee's troops at Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Pittsburgh had lost dozens of its sons in the battle.

To Maggie, however, "The War" meant lively music and cheering. When she shouted "H'rah! H'rah!" at passing troops, grownups called her a "dear little patriotic girl." Gazing at the young man with his drum on the streetcar that December afternoon, Maggie thought of a way to garner even more praise. She leaned forward.

"Sojer boy," she said in a loud, eager voice. "Will you marry me?"

Many years later, at age seventy-eight, Margaret Campbell Deland described the incident in her autobiography, If This Be I, As I Suppose It Be. Referring to herself as "Maggie," she wrote:

" I even have a dim memory of faces turned towards Maggie; but what difference did that make? There was for her in the whole car, no one but the little drummer, who stared at her, his mouth falling open with astonishment."

Aunt Bessie, her face red with shame and disapproval, gripped Maggie's shoulder and whispered, "Be quiet!" She pulled the strap above the window and dragged her niece off the streetcar as soon as it stopped.

excerpted from:
Beyond Their Years: Stories of Sixteen Civil War Children
by Scotti Cohn
TwoDot - An Imprint of the Globe Pequot Press
Copyright 2003, all rights reserved
ISBN 0-7627-1027-6


The Globe-Pequot Press