Tommy: The Civil War Childhood Of A President
A childhood biography of Thomas Woodrow Wilson
From childhood to
President of the United States
Thomas Woodrow Wilson
As a youngster in Augusta, Georgia, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, future President of the United States, heard of the election of Abraham Lincoln and rushed to ask his father, "Who is Mr. Lincoln and what is war?"
Young Tommy soon learned of war and its aftermath as he grew up in the South during the American Civil War and the Reconstruction years that followed. Those are the years of Tommy: The Civil War Childhood Of A President.
This historical childhood biography allows readers to share experiences with Tommy as he grows from a two-year-old to a teenager. Readers will learn that Tommy's earliest memory was the election news of Abraham Lincoln. They will learn that Tommy watched the Confederate wounded arrive at his father's church-turned-hospital, gazed in wonder at the Union war prisoners housed within the churchyard, and helped his community prepare ammunition for the Confederacy.
From military curfews to everyday life, readers will learn about life during Reconstruction in Augusta. They will learn that Tommy, like many students, was a reluctant scholar who did not enjoy school and that he did not learn to read until he was nine years old.
An excerpt from Tommy
The future President of the United States stood on the edge of the field fascinated by the parade passing in front of him. He had seen many parades since the war started two years ago, but this one was different. There were no brass bands playing, no freshly uniformed infantry units stepping high and no prancing cavalry horses. No one was marching, and no one was cheering.
This was not a parade of clean, smartly dressed military men. This was a parade of raggaed men in tattered uniforms. Their sabers and sashes were replaced by blood and bandages. And dirt.
There was no one to watch this parade by the railroad track in Augusta, Georgia, but seven-year-old Tommy and his young friends. Playing in the fields near the tracks, they had heard the solemn ringing of the troop-train's bell and watched as it shuddered to stop beside the field. Curious, the boys ran to the train and watched as slowly it emptied its cargo of Civil War wounded.
A few of the injured limped unaided, but many more shuffled, supported on one or both sides by others who were themselves wounded. Others hobbled on crutches. One man, with a foot missing kept his head down and his eyes on the bandage at the end of his leg. He seemed to be looking at the foot that wasn't there.
After the walking wounded came men on litters. Their bodies, their heads, their limbs wrapped in bloody, dirty bandages. Some of the blood was old and caked; some new and oozing.
One man alone seemed to see the boys. His large body was covered with a blood-soaked blanket on which several medals and many flies competed for space. His head and face were covered with bloody, dirty bandages.
One eye was left uncovered. The eye stared at the boys, then down at his blanket-covered body. Finally, it lifted back to the boys and as the litter moved past them, it swung sideways in its socket to hold them in its view for as long as possible. As the one-eyed, blanket-covered soldier passed, the boys could see that he was crying.
A foul, wretched smell filled the air through which the litters moved. It was not a smell like the barnyard or the cow pen. It was not even a smell like hogs being slaughtered. This smell was worse, much worse. As it grew stronger, Tommy and his friends covered their mouths and noses as to protect themselves from this smell which instinctively they knew to be the smell of death.
Finally, from the car nearest the engine came a different sight. Men under guard. Men whose arms and legs were bound together, making it hard for them to walk. So they too shuffled. And they too were covered with dirt and blood and bandages.
One of Tommy's friends broke their silence. "Come on," he said. "Let's get back to our game."
Everyone turned to go but Tommy. Tommy stood still, only his head moving to follow the hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers who were passing by.
Finally, he turned and headed, not toward his friends, but back to his home and the security of his family. He could play no more that day. He wasn't sure he could ever play that game again.
The boys had been playing war.
* Published 1996, additions and revisions in 2013.
*137 pages with illustrations