Thursday, February 10, 2011

Soldiers, Spies and Spartans

A new book, Soldiers, Spies and Spartans, highlights the role of several children, youth and women in the Civil War.

Published in January by The Overmountain Press in Johnson City, the book was co-authored by Dr. Calvin Dickinson, a retired professor from the Tennessee Tech University history department and the author of more than 20 books, and Cookeville writer Jennie Ivey.

“The last Southern state to secede from the Union, Tennessee contributed 120,000 soldiers to the Confederate cause and 31,000 to the Union, more Union soldiers than all other confederate states combined,” Dickinson explained, adding that the book does not seek to tell the story of the entire war, just the stories of a few “surprisingly young participants.”

The authors traveled across Tennessee to learn more about their stories and visit the places associated with them, completing more than a year of research.

“Some wore blue uniforms, while others wore gray,” Dickinson observed. “Several were civilians, and others were slaves-turned-soldiers. Many were heroes, but all were victims.”

Among the stories included are those of Union Private Elisha Stockwell at the Battle of Shiloh, Confederate Spy Ginny Moon, Chickamauga drummer boy Johnny Clem, the McGavock and Carter children, who experienced the bloody Battle of Franklin, boy hero of the Confederacy Sam Davis, hanged as a spy in Pulaski, and young slave Hanson Caruthers, who witnessed the Battle of Nashville.

“Not all Civil War cavalry soldiers rode horses with two feet in the stirrups,” Ivey pointed out. “In Rhea County more than two dozen young women between age 15 and 21 galloped through the countryside delivering medical supplies to confederate troops, earning them the nickname ‘Rhea County Spartans.’”

The 87-page book is illustrated with original and archival photos and contains suggestions for further reading as well as explanatory sidebars for enhanced understanding of the time period and customs, giving context to the tales told.

“We wanted to make the book very readable for anyone from middle school students to senior citizens,” Dickinson said. “We also wanted it to be affordable so that these stories can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Dickinson and Ivey are available to speak about the book upon request and can arrange for purchase of individual or multiple copies to be delivered for $10 each plus postage and handling. He may be contacted at the History Department, Box 5064 TTU, Cookeville, TN 38505 or via email at or Ivey may be contacted at (931) 526-1824 or by e-mail at

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