ATLANTA CIVILIANS HUDDLE IN A SHELTER DURING A FEDERAL BOMBARDMENT. (COURTESY OF THE ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER)
Carrie Berry was too young to recall events in her home town of Atlanta when Georgia joined the Confederacy. But by 1864, when she turned ten, Berry reported the toll the war had taken. On her birthday, she revealed: “I did not have a cake. Times were too hard, so I celebrated with ironing. I hope by my next birthday we will have peace in our land so that I can have a nice dinner.” Like those of many young white girls of the Confederacy, her formerly prosperous parents were unable to afford peace time luxuries. In 1864 Margaret Junkin Preston of Virginia was shocked to report in a letter: “G. and H. at Sally White’s birthday party: H. said they had ‘white mush’ on the table; on inquiry, I found out it was ice cream! Not having made any ice cream since wartimes, the child had never seen any, and so called it white mush.”
Emma Le Conte reported in 1865 at the ripe old age of seventeen: “I have seen little of the lightheartedness and exuberant joy that people talk about as the natural heritage of youth. It is a hard school to be bred up in and I often wonder if I will ever have my share of fun and happiness.” Some girls tried to look on the bright side. Amanda Worthington in rural Mississippi confided: “I think the war is teaching us some useful lessons—we are learning to dispense with many things and to manufacture other.”
The war also taught children some terrible lessons. Cornelia Peake McDonald remembered her three-year-old wailing and clinging to her doll Fanny, crying that “the Yankees are coming to our house and they will capture me and Fanny.” Another mother recounted a traumatic incident during Sherman’s march. When Union soldiers invaded her home, her six-year-old daughter hid with her treasures—a bar of soap and her doll. “One of the men approached the bed, and finding it warm, in a dreadful language accused us of harboring and concealing a wounded rebel, and he swore he would have his heart’s blood. He stooped to look under the bed, and seeing the little white figure crouching in a distant corner, caught her by one rosy little foot and dragged her forth. The child was too terror-stricken to cry, but clasped her little baby and her soap fast to her throbbing little heart. The man wrenched both from her and thrust the little one away with such violence that she fell against the bed.”
Such scenes created vivid memories and tales oft repeated. So throughout the war, and the years to come, the mere mention of “Yankees” might strike terror in Confederate children, stimulating fears that haunted them in darkened bedrooms or around dying campfires.
From: National Parks Service Life in the Civil War