The war also changed school experiences. For many children whose fathers answered the call of the bugle, North or South, school was no longer possible. During battles, schools were suspended. In many Southern towns, schools closed, more or less permanently, when teachers joined the armies. Many children left school when they had to assume the duties of those who enlisted. Some took on most of the farm chores, while others went to work to support their mothers or sisters.

In areas where schools stayed in session, curricula changed during the war. Partisans on both sides influenced the materials studied. Methods of instruction emphasized memorization and recitation. Both Northern and Southern children learned to repeat pieces of speeches teachers carefully chose. The material reflected the patriotic messages of each side. Southerners rushed to produce textbooks that eradicated any possible negative presentation of the institution of slavery and that glorified their new nation. In both the North and the South, textbooks, particularly spellers, familiarized the children with new terms and their meanings. These included military terms like brigadier, garrison, guerilla, and commissary. The lessons helped the children enrich their playing at war and subtly indoctrinated the older boys into the language and culture they would need if they joined the armies. In addition, children from the schools were ''drafted'' to participate in special community ceremonies. In the North, inauguration day was observed by parades and children marched among the adults, and the schools of New Orleans reopened during the war with great fanfare and special programs put on by the youngsters.

Changes in school materials did not escape the attention of the military. The Union Army policed Southern schools, watching for any sign of rebellion among the students. They inspected the children's things for hidden Confederate flags and paged through books, tearing out any pages that had material that seemed to support the Southern cause. The result, inevitably, was that children in occupied areas often became stronger supporters of the Confederacy than they had been before the inspections.

Northern schools repeated the message of sacrifice in children's stories and linked education to the work of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a group devoted to helping Northern soldiers. Children were recruited to join those working for the Sanitary Commission just as soldiers were recruited to join the ranks of the armies. In addition, children were encouraged to join other patriotic organizations. Alfred Sewell began an organization known as the Army of the American Eagle. Youngsters could join the group for a dime, and in return, they received a copy of a photograph of ''Old Abe, the Battle Eagle,'' a real eagle that served as the mascot of the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry. Children who signed up enough of their friends could earn extra materials and become officers in the youth army. Schoolmates made good recruits, and Sewell's plan raised much money for the relief of the soldiers.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment