Prepared by J. Arthur Moore
picture from Blake ’s Story, Revenge and Forgiveness written by J. Arthur Moore and Blake B. Brodzinski Copyright 2015 J. Arthur Moore
As the Civil War veterans aged into the twentieth century, there seemed a lull in historical interest. Fewer regimental histories were published. Johnnie Wickersham’s memoirs were published in 1918, shortly after his death.21 The Robert Hendershot controversy came to a close, the first collection of biographical information about boys from the war was published, and the last veteran of the Civil War retired from active duty. Robert Hendershot was confirmed to be the drummer boy of the Rappahanock with full honors restored.22 Susan R. Hull published her collection, Boy Soldiers of the Confederacy. And Johnny Clem retired as a Brigadeer General after serving thirty-four years of military service.
Susan Hull’s attention was first drawn to the boys when, in 1863, General John E. Wool, commanding in Baltimore, spoke to her about revoking an order to draft all boys sixteen or older.23 From that point on, she noted all facts and kept all cuttings from newspapers with the intent to share their stories just as she received them. Her focus would be the stories of boys eighteen and younger, with some exceptions where warranted. During the years following the war, Hull gathered her stories, many through correspondence to gather first-hand accounts from sources that had become known to her. Her work was published in 1905. There is reference in her work of a similar effort that had already been published on behalf of Union boys, but it has not yet been located. One of the best known Union boys from the Civil War was John Joseph Klem who changed his name at the beginning of the war to John Lincoln Clem in honor of the president. He was nine years old when he ran away from home to join the army, twelve when he shot an enemy officer and became an instant celebrity and sergeant on General Thomas’s staff and sixty- four when he retired a Brigadeer General. He died in 1937 at age eighty-five.24
In 1943 Bell Irvin Wiley’s book The Life of Johnny Reb was published.25 The volumes of books, other than regimental histories and narratives, published up to that time rarely mentioned the common soldier. The men and boys who comprised the rank and file were known only through their diaries, journals, and letters where they could be found, and few were looking. But Wiley did. Up to that point it was the biographies and histories of the generals and the events of the war that were known to most people. The common soldier came to be known – life in camp, interests, experiences, values, heartache, and the trauma of the battlefield – all came out from letters, diaries, and journals. Wiley read them. Then he used the words of the writers to tell their story with their own words.26 He followed up with The Life of Billy Yank in 1952.27
About mid-century the Civil War began to reemerge into the public awareness as an increasing number of historians began to publish their work and historic documents became available. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel worked together on the Century Magazine beginning in 1883 to edit the reports of the officers of the Union and Confederate Armies, which originally ran in a magazine series for three years. The accounts and official reports of the battles and actions of the war, some written at the time of the war and many written after the war specifically for the series, were gathered together in a 4-volumn set, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, published first by the Century Magazine in 1887 then again by Thomas Yoseloff in 1956, and filled with detailed reports, maps, photographs, drawings, sketches and other art, as well as statistics covering who, what forces, numbers, and casualties.28 Bruce Catton came on the scene in 1960 as senior editor for American Heritage magazine of history with The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War and other works from American Heritage.29 More Civil War diaries were published in the ‘50s, 60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.
Elisha Stockwell entered the war as a soldier at the age of fifteen. He lied a little saying he didn’t know his age exactly but thought he was eighteen. Throughout the war he sent some letters home to his mother, but never kept a diary or journal. After the death of his wife in 1927 he was persuaded to try and tell the story of his war experiences for his family. At the age of eighty-one, suffering from cataracts so that he couldn’t see the lines on the paper, using a piece of wood to guide his hand, Stockwell wrote his memoirs from memory. There were no chapters, few paragraphs, and little punctuation, yet the manuscript was surprisingly legible. Stockwell’s daughter passed the manuscript to Abernathy to put it into readable form. Using the original manuscript, Abernathy added sentencing, paragraphing, and chapter organization to create an easy to read narrative and published Stockwell’s memoirs in 1958.30
Val C. Giles served four years with Hood’s Brigade, 4th Texas Infantry and was published in 1961.31 Fifteen-year-old Alfred Bellard entered the Civil War with the 5th New Jersey Infantry. His memoirs were illustrated by his own art. It was found in an attic in Pennsylvania in 1963 and published in 1975.32 Rice C. Bull was a sergeant in the 123rd New York Volunteer Infantry. His diary described training, daily routine, and combats in the life of a soldier, was published in 1977.33 James M. Williams had moved south from Ohio three years before the war. When the war broke out, he joined the 21st Alabama Volunteers. Editor John Kent learned of the letters from a young university student in one of his classes, compiled the surprisingly observant collection, written from a unique point of view, that of a “Northern Rebel,” and published in 1981.34 As the 20th century neared its end, the lives of the common soldier were becoming available for any who cared to look.
In 1989, a History honors student at the University of North Carolina, Brian Alligood, chose to investigate the youth in the war. While the vast majority of historians continued to focus on battles, campaigns, and general officers in their research and writing, and more began to be written about the common soldier participants of the war, this was a beginning of an interest in the youngest.35
In 1949 Life magazine ran an article which pictured sixty-eight living veterans of the Civil War. Sixteen-year-old Jay S. Hoar of Rangeley, Maine, determined to meet the one who lived closest to him. On June 22, 1949, Jay took his first train and bus trip and traveled to Groff Falls, New Hampshire, where he met and visited with James M. Lurvey, a one hundred and one year old veteran who entered the war with his father as a fourteen-year-old drummer boy.
Lurvey recalled Gettysburg: “I never fired a shot. I was still a drummer boy[;] during much of that battle I served in the Medical Corps. Shot and shell and the screams of dying men and boys filled the humid air. A non-com told me to put away my drum. He tied a red rag around my left arm and told me I was now in the Medical Corp. I told him I was not big enough to lift my end of a stretcher, so he assigned me to a field tent. It was stifling inside. I thought I’d keel over when they told me my assignment. Wish then I could have hefted a stretcher. I was to stand by and carry out the soldiers’ arms and legs as the doctor amputated them. I guess that was the day I grew up and left boyhood forever. And I wasn’t yet sixteen.”36
For Hoar, that was the day he began his life’s work. In the years ahead he juggled this work with a teaching career as he began an effort that would last over forty years to make sure that these veterans and the boys they were would not be forgotten. Correspondence, visits, travel, research led to a series of the most definitive books about the oldest veterans and the youngest to serve. New England’s Last Civil War Veterans was published in 1976. Callow Brave and True: a Gospel of Civil War Youth published in 1999 was a biographical collection of the youngest, with some in the home guard as young as six and a half. Our Eldest and Last Civil War Nurses in 2001 was followed by Our Youngest Blue and Gray in 2005. A trilogy entitled Sunset and Dusk of the Blue and the Gray followed with volume one in 2006, two in 2008, and three in 2010.
Over the next few years transitioning from the 20th into the 21st centuries two kinds of writings were published, written by historians from two points of view. Anthologies with photographs, citations, quotations from original diaries and journals were published, bringing to their readers a researched collection of information about the real boys from the war. Other historians researched their subjects, and then turned their stories into narrative novel format without citations, designed for younger readers to learn about the war through the eyes of their peers. As the 21st century began, more of these works became available.
Reluctant Witnesses by Emmy Werner recorded the war from Sumpter to Appomatox through the words of the children who lived it – civilian and soldier, boy and girl, free and slave – gathered from diaries and journals and letters, and published in 1998.37 Too Young to Die, Boy Soldiers of the Union Army 1861-1865, 38 and When Johnny Went Marching, published in 2001,39 contained historic background and the photographs and stories of hundreds of boys from the war. Beyond Their Years, Stories of Sixteen Civil War Children in 2003 contained biographical information about boys and girls, black and white, civilian and soldier.40
Jim Murphy’s The Boys’ War, published in 1990, tells the story of the war in a narrative style comprised of the words of the boys who were there, taken from their journals, diaries, and letters.41 It is not a record of battles and chronologies, but of the first hand experiences of the participants. His approach to the history is unique and personal, a style of historical writing built on primary sources. After an introduction “The War Begins,” the book continues to present the war by topics such as “So I Became a Soldier” and “A Long and Hungry War” by way of the narrative.
While gathering the research for When Johnny Went Marching, Wisler used his researched materials to write the stories of Medal of Honor winners Willie Johnston and Orion Howe, and wrote the most accurate historic fiction possible to bring to life the biographic accounts of these two boys. Willie’s story, Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer was published in 1995,42 and Orion’s, The Drummer Boy of Vicksburg, in 1997.43
In the introduction to his book, The Little Bugler, the True Story of a Twelve-year-old Boy in the Civil War, William Styple explains his painstaking research and effort to make Gus’s story as historically accurate as possible.44 At first considering to write a researched account with footnotes and documentation, he decided instead to write a narrative account in novel format so that today’s youth could follow the life of Gustav Schurmann, regimental bugler to four generals and friend to Tad Lincoln. His research bibliography, acknowledgements, and picture credits are in the back of the book. The Little Bugler was published in 1998.
Romaine Stauffer is not a historian. She was asked by a friend to write Aaron’s story and was helped by many along the way. Aaron Stauffer was an ancestor, a boy of sixteen who went against his family and his church’s Mennonite teachings and ran away to the war.45 His story has been carefully researched through the family and the work of historian, Gary Good, in whose book Faith, Hope, and Love can be found Aaron’s Civil War records and those of others with whom he ran away.46 Aaron’s Civil War was published in 2011 in the form of a novel with a research bibliography in the back.
A hundred and fifty years have passed and the tens of thousands of boys and youth who once trod the field of battle are long gone. Their record remains. Like all of history, it’s there for all to see if we choose to look. They were their own historians as they shared their wartime experiences, their thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears in their journals, their diaries, their letters. Their deeds were recorded in the newspapers of the day, in citations in dusty archives, in the records of their lives written by those who knew them, or friends, or family. As the years passed on, the writing of their story changed. Others recorded what they remembered. In later years, the boys grown up forgot the details or embellished their part in what happened. Historians of later generations have tried to gather the events and the details to record that which in some cases had only been told. In some cases there is a treasure trove of information, carefully preserved and recorded. Probably the best documentation of any large group is the archive collection at the Virginia Military Academy. In 1991, Susan Provost Beller published her book, Cadets at War, The True Story of Teenage Heroism at the Battle of New Market, telling the story of what happened that day and the days that followed, and of many of the individual cadets who took part in the battle.47 It was built on the primary sources in the library at VMI including maps, photographs, and written accounts and reports. In other cases, historians such as Susan R. Hull, Jay Hoar, Scotti Cohn, Jim Murphy, Clifton Wisler, and Dennis Keeslee have made it their mission to gather the stories into collections for others to read and remember that Johnny, Robert, William, Orion, and Willie and all the rest, did pass this way and are a part of our history.
Still, for all their numbers, one really has to make the effort to find and know the stories of any of those tens of thousands of boys who were part of a defining event in the history of this country. Their history is barely acknowledged in the textbooks of today. Prentice Hall’s American Nation makes no mention at all of the boys though it has a picture of a drum and has undocumented quotes that seem like they could be from a boy’s diary.48 Johnny Clem and Edwin Francis Jennison are pictured in War, Terrible War, book 6 of A History of Us, each with a brief caption; and Tad and the drummer Taylor are both pictured with a caption.49 Prentice Hall’s Why We Remember has pictures of each with name only, and a short paragraph about total possible numbers.50 History Alive, America’s Past makes no mention and has no pictures.51 And no one is out there telling their story, including our colleges and universities, be it undergraduate or graduate coursework. Perhaps the greatest sadness is in the realization that our libraries are throwing their history away as several of the books collected in the course of this research, are library discards.
There is a history of the history of the boys of the Civil War. It began with them and has evolved over the years. Along the way, many have helped to quietly share their stories and keep them alive. In recent years, several have continued to work to research, preserve, and share their history, including the last historian to have had personal contact with the last survivors.
1. William Bircher, A Drummer Boy’s Diary: Four Years of Service with the Second Regiment Minnesota Veteran Volunteers 1861 to 1865, (St. Paul, Minnesota: St. Paul Book and Stationery Company, 1889), 5-6.
2. Charles W. Bardeen, A Little Fifer’s War Diary. (Syracuse, New York: C.W. Bardeen, Publisher, 1910), 5-9.
3. Johnnie Wickersham, Boy Soldier of the Confederacy, The Memoir of Johnnie Wickersham. Kathleen Gorman, ed., (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1918).
4. Michael Dougherty, Prison Diary of Michael Dougherty, (Bristol, Pennsylvania.: Charles A. Dougherty, printer, 1908).
5, “The Youngest Soldier in the Army of the Cumberland,” National Aegis, December 26, 1963, The Family Circle, 1.
6, “The Youngest Soldier in the Army of the Cumberland,” Albany Evening Journal, December 19, 1863, 2.
7. Dennis M. Keesee, Too Young to Die, Boy Soldiers of the Union Army 1861-1865. (Huntington, West Virginia: Blue Acorn Press, 2001), 231.
8. Bungay, George W. “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.” New Hampshire Sentinel, November 19, 1863, 1.
9. Richard Bak, “Michigan’s Little Drummer Boys of the Civil War,” Hour Detroit, December 2011,http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/December-2011/Rhythm-Section-Civil-War-Sesquicentennial/
10, “Young Patriotism.” Village Record, December 31, 1861.
11, Obituary Charles King. Village Record, October 2, 1862
12, “The Death of Young McKenzie.” Brooklyn Eagle, War Intelligence, June 13,1861.
13. United States Army Center of Military History Website/medal of honor/civil war,http://www.history.army.mil/moh/civilwar_gl.html#top
14. Frank Moore, The Civil War in Song and Story 1860-1865, (New York: P. F. Collier, Publisher, 1889), 104
15. Archives of the Virginia Military Academy, http://www.vmi.edu/archives/home/
16. Elaine Marie Alphin, Ghost Cadet, (Princeton, Illinois: Hither Page Press, 1991).
17. Royall W. Figg, “Where Men Only Dare to Go! or the Story of a Boy Company C.S.A.,”(Richmond, Virginia: Whittet & Shepperson, 1885), vii-viii.
18. Joel Dorman Steele and Esther Baker Steele, A Brief History of the United States, (New York: American Book Company, 1885), 214-280.
19. Charles A. Goodrich, History of the United States of America; for the Use of Schools.(Boston: Brewer and Tillston, 1876), 238-309.
20. James D. McCabe, The Centennial History of the United States, From the Discovery of the American Continent to the Close of the First Century of American Independence,(Philadelphia: The National Publishing Company, 1874), 779-864.
21. Kathleen Gorman, ed., Boy Soldier of the Confederacy, The Memoir of Johnnie Wickersham. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1918).
22. Anthony Patrick Glesner, “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.” America’s Civil War, January 2004. http://www.historynet.com/americas-civil-war-drummer-boy-of-the-rappahannock.htm
23. Susan R. Hull, collated by, Boy Soldiers of the Confederacy, (New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1905), reprinted (Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1998), 13-14.
24. “John Clem.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. htt p://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Clem
25. Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1943).
26. C. E. Dornbusch, compiled by, Military Bibliography of the Civil War, vol. 3, (NewYork: The New York Public Library, 1972). 127.
27. Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952).
28. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel, eds., “The Century Magazine,”Battles and Leaders of the Civil War in four volumes, (New York: Thomas Yoseloff Inc., 1956).
39. Richard M. Ketchum, ed. in charge and Bruce Catton, narrative. The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, (New York: American Heritage Publishing Company,1960).
30. Elisha Stockwell, Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr. Sees the Civil War, edited by Bryon R. Abenethy, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), ix-xii.
31. Val C. Giles, Rags and Hope, The Recollections of Val C. Giles, (Coward-McCann Inc, New York, 1961).
32. Alfred Bellard, Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard, David Herbert Donald, ed., (Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1975).
33. Rice C. Bull, Soldiering – The Civil War Diary of Rice C. Bull, K. Jack Bauer, ed.,(Presidia Press, San Rafael, California, 1977 ).
34. James M. Williams, From that Terrible Field, Civil War Letters of James M. Williams, John Kent Folmar, ed., (Unlverslty of Alabama Press, 1981).
35. Brian Alligood, “Boys in Gray: the Role of Confederate Youth in the American Civil War,” Honors essay: Dept. of History, University of North Carolina, 1989.
36. Clayton, John, at large, “New Hampshire’s Last Boy in Blue Lives on in Legend,” New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, New Hampshire: Joseph McQuaid, July 3, 1998). A16.
37. Emmy E. Werner, Reluctant Witnesses, Children’s Voices from the Civil War, (Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 1998).
38. Dennis M. Keesee, Too Young to Die, Boy Soldiers of the Union Army 1861-1865,(Huntington, West Virginia: Blue Acorn Press, 2001).
39. G. Clifton Wisler, When Johnny Went Marching, (New York: Harper-Collins, 2001).
40. Scott Cohn, Beyond Their Years, Stories of Sixteen Civil War Children, (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2003).
41. Jim Murphy, The Boys’ War, (New York: Clarion Books, 1990).
42. G. Clifton Wisler, Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer, (New York: Dutton Children’s Books,1995).
43. G. Clifton Wisler, The Drummer Boy of Vicksburg, (New York: Lodestar Books, 1997).
44. William B. Styple, The Little Bugler, The True Story of a Twelve-Year-Old Boy in the Civil War, (Kearny, New Jersey: Belle Grove Publishing Company, 1998).
45. Romaine Stauffer, Aaron’s Civil War, (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Christian Light Publications, 2011).
46. Gary Good, Glaube, Hoffnung, und Liebe; Faith, Hope, and Love, (Morgantown,Pennsylvania: Masthof Press, 1996).
47. Susan Provost Beller, Cadets at War: The True Story of Teenage Heroism an the Battle of New Market, (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse.com, Inc., 2000).
48. James West Davidson, Pedro Castillo, Michael B. Stoff, The American Nation, (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2002).
49. Joy Hakim, War, Terrible War, Book 6 of A History of Us, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
50. Herman J. Viola, Why We Remember United States History, (New York: Addison- Wesley Publishing Company, 1998).
51. Bert Bower and Jim Lobdell, History Alive! America’s Past, (Palo Alto, California: Teacher’s Curriculum Institute, 2003).
Bardeen, Charles W. A Little Fifer’s War Diary. Syracuse, New York: C.W. Bardeen, Publisher, 1910.
Bauer, K. Jack, ed., Soldiering – The Civil War Diary of Rice C. Bull, Presidia Press, San Rafael, California, 1977
Bellard, Alfred. Gone for a Soldier: the Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard. David Herbert Donald, ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1975.
Bircher, William. A Civil War Drummer Boy, Diary of William Bircher, 1861-1865. ed. Shelley Swanson Sateren. Mankato, Minnesota: Blue Earth Books, 1999.
Bungay, George W. “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.” New Hampshire Sentinel, November 19, 1863, page 1.
Dougherty, Michael. Prison Diary of Michael Dougherty. Bristol, Pennsylvania: Charles A.
Dougherty, printer, 1908.
Figg, Royal W. “Where Men Only Dare to Go!” or the Story of a Boy Company C.S.A. Richmond, Virginia: Whittet & Shepperson, 1885
Folmar, John Kent, ed., From that Terrible Field, Civil War Letters of James M. Williams, University of Alabama Press, 1981
Giles, Val C., Rags and Hope, The Recollections of Val C. Giles, Coward-McCann Inc, New York, 1961
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Johnson, Robert Underwood and Clarence Clough Buel, eds. “The Century Magazine.” Battles and Leaders of the Civil War in four volumes. New York: Thomas Yoseloff Inc., 1956.
Moore, Frank. The Civil War in Song and Story 1860-1865. New York: P. F. Collier, Publisher, 1889.
. Obituary Charles King. Village Record, October 2, 1862
Schiller, Herbert M., ed. A Captain’s War, the Letters and Diaries of William H. S. Burgwyn 1861-1865.
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Publishing Company, 1994.
. “The Death of Young McKenzie.” Brooklyn Eagle, War Intelligence, June 13, 1861.
. “The Youngest Soldier in the Army of the Cumberland.” National Aegis, December 26, 1963, The Family Circle, Page 1.
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Kathleen Gorman, ed. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1918.
. “Young Patriotism.” Village Record, December 31, 1861.
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Alphin, Elaine Marie. Ghost Cadet. Princeton, Illinois: Hither Page Press, 1991. Archives of the Virginia Military Institute. htt p://www.vmi.edu/archives/home/
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Curriculum Institute, 2003.
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Clayton, John. “New Hampshire’s Last Boy in Blue Lives on in Legend.” New Hampshire Union Leader. Manchester, New Hampshire: Joseph McQuaid, July 3, 1998. A1, A16.
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River, New Jersey, 2002.
Davis, Archie K., Boy Colonel of the Confederacy: The Life and Times of Henry King Burgwyn, Jr., University of North Carolina Press, 1985
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College Music Symposium vol. 54, July 8 2014
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January 2004. http://www.historynet.com/americas-civil-war-drummer-boy-of-the- rappahannock.htm
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Masthof Press, 1996.
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Thomas Publications, 1999.
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Hoar, Jay S. New England’s Last Civil War Veterans. Arlington, Texas: Seacliff Press, 1976 Hoar, Joy S. Our Eldest and Last Civil War Nurses. Temple, Maine: Homecrafted, 2001. Hoar, Jay S. Our Youngest Blue and Gray: A Gospel of Civil War Youth. Salem, Massahusetts:
Higginson Book Company, 2005
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Hoar, Jay S. The South’s Last Boys in Gray, vol. III. Salem, Maine: Higginson Book Company, 2010.
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Huntington, West Virginia: Blue Acorn Press, 2001.
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History of the Civil War. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company,1960
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http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/grant-kids/, Marten, James, ed. Children and Youth during the Civil War. New York: New York University Press, 2012.
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19, issue 2 (Fall 2013): 18-21
Smith, Timothy B. “Myths of Shiloh.” America’s Civil War, vol. 19, issue 5 (May 2006), 30-71.
Stauffer, Romaine. Aaron’s Civil War. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Christian Light Publications, 2011.
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