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Reluctant Witnesses: Children's Voices From The Civil War Hardcover – March 19, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813328225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813328225
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA-These firsthand narratives include young people's diaries, journals, letters, and published reminiscences, as well as accounts by families who recorded their impressions of their youngsters' ordeals. The result is "their descriptions of the hardships they endured and how they managed to cope with them," with parallels to the experiences of children in contemporary civil strife. The author focuses chronologically on the war's outbreak, the first big battles, the emancipated slave children, the effects of the spreading war, the tide-turning Battle of Gettysburg, the siege of Vicksburg, the horror of the Andersonville prison, the siege and burning of Atlanta, and the closing days of the war. Narratives include descriptions of the occasional camaraderie during lulls in the fighting when Union and Confederate soldiers danced and sang together. What emerges throughout the book is the "legacy of courage and determination that is not celebrated in speeches given at monuments honoring the dead.... These are children speaking without rhetoric or resentment about human resilience and the capacity for compassion and decency that survives even when the world is awash in armed conflicts and hates."-Cynthia J. Rieben, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Werner (developmental psychology, Univ. of California at Davis; Pioneer Children on the Journey West, Westview, 1996) looks here at the Civil War through the eyes of children who were willing participants, such as drummer boys and boy soldiers, as well as those in whose communities momentous battles of that conflict were fought. Werner also deals with the experiences of the slaves who became free, including some who went on to join the Union Army. The children in this book speak from both Northern and Southern experience and points of view. There are eyewitness accounts of such battles as the Wilderness and Gettysburg and the siege of Vicksburg. The young witnesses speak with amazing maturity and insight. Recommended for all public libraries.?Joseph Toschik, Half Moon Bay P.L., CA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Taylor on May 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book, about kids in the Civil War, was fascinating! I loved every word of it. When I was instructed at school to read a book about the Civil War, I was prepared to read some long, boring, historical novel. Instead, I picked up this book and couldn't put it down.
This book describes the life of children in the Civil War. It goes into detail about times of sadness and times of joy. Some of the quotes are just heart wrenching to hear what these kids went through and others make you happy. This book really made me feel like I was living back then, living through the troubles of the Civil War.
This book is not exactly a story but tells of different children chronologically with the war. Some of the children are mentioned throughout the whole book and others just appear once. Its so amazing what the kids went though back then. I hope you will read this book, not only for educational purposes but also for pure enjoyment.
All in all, Reluctant Witnesses is a moving description of the life of kids on the battlefield, in the homes, and stranded in the middle of nowhere during the Civil War. This book is captivating and great to read. I would recommend it in a heartbeat.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on January 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's difficult to know what to make of Emmy Werner's Reluctant Witnesses. On the one hand, her head and heart are in the right place. She wants to move away from a guns-'n'-glory approach to the American Civil War and rediscover the voices of its most vulnerable victims: the children. As a developmental psychologist who apparently has studied the effects of 20th century civil wars on children, she knows too well the trauma endured by kids when their worlds get blown apart.

On the other hand, Werner's book leaves the reader (or at least this reader) dissatisfied. There's almost no reflection on the psychology of wartime trauma or wider normative analysis about it. What little there is gets quickly mentioned in the prologue and epilogue. Sandwiched in between are chapters that focus on battlefield experiences of boy soldiers, kids as refugees, kids in Vicksburg, Atlanta, and Gettysburg, slave kids, kids in prison camps such as Andersonville, etc. All these are interesting and worthy of examination. But in the absence of an analysis that draws together all the snippets from letters, diaries, and memoirs appealed to by Werner, the chapters become smorgasbordish. It doesn't help that Werner fails to footnote any of the passages she quotes (a rather unthinkable omission; what was her editor thinking?!), although she does supply a full bibliography.

Perhaps Werner thought that the children's voices were enough, and I think she's to be commended for drawing so many of them together in one volume. So let's allow three of them to have the final word here.

"My Dear Dear Father: I do want to see you so much.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Victor S. Alpher on September 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
While it is true that there is little "new" written here, and that the materials can be obtained, one must also commend Dr. Werner for actually doing the work, and publishing it.

There are few photographic images of children from the wartime, and any insights into the drummer boys North and South, some who upon reaching the appropriate age became soldiers, is testament to the unfortunate appeal of war throughout the centuries, how quickly the glamour fades, and how tenacious even a very young person can become once committed to a cause. Thus, the lessons of 1861-1865 are as much modern lessons as windows to the thoughts and predicaments of children and adolescents in that unfortunate conflagration. Thankfull, there is little psychobabble to explain why a boy would seek to participate, or a young girl seek to honor her elders who participated and suffered.

One of the youngest drummer-boys, John Clem, ultimately became a General and lived to 1937. I would like to have seen more about his life, and perhaps a biography is in order.

The book also speaks to the raised hopes, ultimately dashed, of freed children in slavery--for example, Mattie Jackson, of Missouri, wrote an autobiography in 1866 prefaced with the statement "I ask you to buy my little book to aid me in obtaining my education that I may be enabled to do some good on behalf of the elevation of my emacipated brothers and sisters." Her "book" was written down by a friend who was literate, and who edited it.

As we know, the last know Confederate widow, Ms. Alberta Martin, recently passed on. The heritage of this crucial defining time in American history is still important, as witnessed by Gen.
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