Did children fight in the American Revolution?

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Children were not supposed to be in the fighting. However, there were times when very young people were involved. The US had several types of soldiers. There was the Continental Army, under Washington's command, and there was the militia. Every man in the colonies was, in theory, in the militia. Usually this applied to those between 18 and 50 or 60. Washington's army of Continentals were regular soldiers. The basic unit was the regiment, and every regiment had "field music", a drummer and a fifer. These weren't just for amusement or a beat to march to, the drum especially was an important means of conveying orders to soldiers on the battlefield, something audible above the noise of battle, easier to hear than shouts. Some "drummer boys" may have been as young as 12.

Many navies of the day had young boys aboard warships. Some were signed on as "powder monkeys", whose job was to run and carry powder charges from the ship's magazine to the gun crews serving the cannon during battles. There were also well-connected young boys who went into the navy as midshipmen, and were basically apprentice officers. Going to sea as a midshipman or a powder monkey at ages as young as 12 was common.

Only children of fairly well-to-do families got much of a chance to go to school at the time of the Revolution, and for several generations after. Children in the backcountry or on the frontier got very little formal schooling and were often working by the time they were eight. Only wealthy youngsters attended school much after the age of 12.

We know of Andrew Jackson's circumstances because his life was examined and written about when he went on to become president, but I am sure there were similar cases. Jackson was born in the Carolina backcountry three weeks after his father had died. His oldest brother died in the Revolution. He and his remaining brother joined up with a local regiment as couriers, horseback message carriers. Andrew was thirteen at the time. He and his brother were taken prisoner, and nearly starved to death in captivity. They both caught smallpox while prisoners. A British officer ordered Andrew to clean his boots, and when Andrew refused, the officer struck him in the face with his sword. Jackson had a scar on his face for the rest of his life (and an intense hatred of the British). The boys mother went and begged the British commander to release her sick boys, and, probably because he thought they were going to die anyway, he did. Jackson's brother Robert did die a few days after they were released. When Jackson's mother felt it was likely Andrew would live, she went and nursed other soldiers, but she grew sick too, either from a disease she caught from her boys or from the soldiers she went to nurse. She soon died too. At age 14 Jackson was completely alone in the world, an orphan and a soldier.

Young children could certainly be victims of the war. In the autumn of 1776 as the British spread out over New Jersey to "pacify" that state, and force men to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown, they customarily raped any colonial females they pleased. One report published in the newspapers at the time was of a woman at home with her daughter when British troops arrived. The woman eventually escaped from being gang raped inside her house and went to look for her ten year old daughter, and found her in the barn being raped by half a dozen British soldiers.
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