Child Soldiers in the Civil War
Many boys lied about their age when enlisting; others were adopted as mascots by various military units. The exact number of underage soldiers is unknown, but some historians estimate the figure could be as high as 400,000. Many children were able to slip into the armed forces because recruiters were eager to fill quotas and usually didn’t question boys who looked eighteen years old. However, even boys who were obviously underage succeeding in getting in, and many were assigned as regimental musicians.
According to U.S. military records, 127 Union soldiers were just thirteen years old when they enlisted, 320 were fourteen years old, nearly 800 were fifteen years old, 2,758 were sixteen, and approximately 6,500 were seventeen. Statistics regarding the number of underage soldiers in the Confederate army are unknown, but most historians believe the numbers to be even higher.