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A different kind of Civil War ad

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One kind of ad I see pretty commonly are ones that start "Information wanted" and include the phrase "left his home," a generic way of saying: "run away" or "missing." These pop up pretty frequently - maybe not daily, but at least a few times a week. Somewhat like the ad of the escaped convict. But this ad stuck out to me. This is one of those moments when a little ad really does tell a much, much bigger story:

Henry C. Hunter left his home in Brooklyn on Monday last, is 13 years old, dark hair and eyes, was dressed in dark jacket and pants, gray mixed overcoat, when last seen was following the Eighty-seventh regiment from Brooklyn to New York. He is requested to return home and relieve the anxiety of his parents. Any information concerning him with be thankfully received by his brother, Wm. A. Hunter, 104 Pearl street, New York.

Oooohhh. I can totally see exactly what happened here. The 87th New York Infantry mustered in the last few months of 1861, and marched off to war in December, while much of New York was - like the rest of the North - in a patriotic frenzy (this is before things got really bad, at which time lots of New Yorkers became dastardly Copperheads). Brooklyn in particular was a hotbed of abolitionist fervor, so I'm sure the Hunter family supported the Union cause. They may have even brought little Henry to the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, where he may have witnessed the famous "slave auction" conducted by the Church's minister Henry Ward Beecher to stoke the abolitionist fury in the hearts of New Yorkers everywhere.

So it is any wonder that when the war broke out, little Henry dreamed of fighting the good fight? He probably imagined himself as a Hero who would go south with the proud, strong Army of the Republic, to crush the Confederacy. And when the newly-formed 87th New York marched by, is it any wonder that little Henry rushed off to join it? He's dreaming dreams of glory while his parents are panicking about their little boy trying to go off to war and getting killed (which, let's face it, if he succeeded, he probably did).

What a sad story! And yet, if I'm right (which, as we know, is questionable at best), what a brave little soul!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


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