Underage soldiers were often allowed to enlist during the Civil War — especially if they chose a non-combat position such as bugler or drummer boy. This led to boys barely in their teens suffering wounds alongside the grown men.
In one case, a 12-year-old boy nearly lost his left hand and arm when it was shattered by an artillery shell.
Drummer boy William Black was wounded by a Confederate shell in battle at the age of 12 making him the youngest service member wounded in the Civil War. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Sometime in 1864, he was serving in battle when an artillery shell burst nearby. The shrapnel ripped through his left hand and arm. He is widely regarded as having been the youngest Civil War casualty.
But he was far from the only young boy to earn notoriety in the Civil War. The Army's youngest noncommissioned officer was John Clem. Clem joined the Army at 11 as a drummer boy but was gifted a cut-down musket by his unit. He allegedly shot a Confederate officer demanding his surrender at Chickamauga and was promoted to sergeant at the age of 12.
John Lincoln Clem as a young drummer boy. (Photo: Library of Congress)
At least two young boys earned Medals of Honor in the war. Orion P. Howe was a 14-year-old drummer boy in 1863 when he delivered ammo under fire at the battle of Vicksburg. He was wounded during his attempt but pressed on, completing his mission.
Bugle player John Cook dropped his instrument and joined a cannon crew under fire at Antietam, helping the Union hold the line against Confederate forces attempting to invade North.
And Black wasn't the worst wounded of young boys, just the youngest. John Mather Sloan lost a leg in the war while he was only 13 years old.