Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boys Playing War Games Of The 1860's

The old saying “Boys will be boys,” is no more true today then it was in the 1800, hundreds. A boy is just a boy no matter what century he is from and could be found making some kind of mischief. The boy is and has always looked for something to do as to keep from being bored. Many of the games the boy played was a refraction of the times they lived in, this was no more true then in war. Ever in war the boys would find time to make mischief. Even though war was a harsh reality to the adult, children would turn to playing war games. This was so at the time of the Civil War, about every boy across the United States were playing war games. These war games were to the boys just fun but could be dangers not only to them but to any innocent passerby. This was the case of one war torn city of Richmond Virginia, were the playing of war games had gotten way out of hand. The following Newspaper stories tell of these war games and a few dangers because of them.

From the Richmond Whig, 9/10/1861

“ROCK BATTLE.” - From time immemorial the boys in Adams Valley, (popularly known as “Butchertown,”) and those residing on the north side of Shockoe Hill, have engaged, every successive summer, in “rock battles,” rallying under the distinctive titles of “Butcher Cats” and “Hill Cats.” Within the last few years, the majority of the respectable white boys, among the former, have so far been convinced of the discreditable character of these conflicts as to leave them chiefly to negro lads on their side; though a goodly number, influenced by the excitement of the mimic warfare, have participated in the “battles” which have taken place within the past few weeks. Last Sunday afternoon the contending parties waged a fierce contest on Navy Hill, about one hundred boys being engaged on each side. - Stones and other missiles flew as thick, almost, as the Minie balls at the battle of Manassas, and it is wonderful that some of the belligerents were not maimed or seriously hurt. The progress of the fight was fortunately arrested by the timely arrival of officer, Chalkley, Seal, Davis, Quarles and Crone, in one direction, and officers Pleasants, Perria and others, in an opposite direction. At the sight of the police, the boys fled the field, but all of them did not make their escape. Six white boys and ten negro boys were captured and taken to the station house. The former were eventually bailed out; but the others were detained until next morning, when they were conducted to the presence of the Mayor. The parents of the white boys were fined $1 each, and admonished that a repetition of the offence would involve a heavier fine. The little darkies were ordered to be switched.

From the Richmond Enquirer, 9/27/1861, p. 3, c. 4

MAYOR’S COURT - THURSDAY. - John Delany, one of the combatants in the riot between the “Butchertown” and “Hill cats,” on Wednesday evening, was charged with being a person of “evil name, fame and reputation.” John wasn’t exactly prepared to prove his good character, and so the case was continued.

From the Richmond Dispatch, 1/28/1862, p. 2, c. 4

Throwing Rocks. - On a recent occasion John W. Davis, a very circumspect policeman, happened to be in the Spotswood Hotel, (for what reason we are not at present advised,) when “bum!” came a missile through the rear window. Out ran John Davis and captured two or three little boys, one of whom was a son of Mrs. Broughmeyer, who was yesterday mulcted in the sum of $1. The boy said it was coal which he threw, and therefore by consequence not a rock. His mother said she had whipped frequently before and would do it again.

From the Richmond Dispatch, 3/28/1862, p. 2, c. 3

Rock Battles. – The Shockoe Hill Cats and Butchertown Cats, as the boys of the two localities referred to denominate themselves, have on several occasions been showing their want of breeding and parental discipline by indulging in savage reencounters on the hill north of the President’s House. The adolescent ruffians have had, however, sense enough to post guards to give warning of the approach of the city police, who, while they have dispersed several crowds, have been unsuccessful in their attempts to catch any of the ragamuffins in the act of throwing rocks. – When caught, they will certainly be carried before the Mayor and fined, and have the pleasure of seeing their names flourishing under the police report.

From the Richmond Dispatch, 7/28/1862, p. 1, c. 7

The Military Police made a descent, yesterday, on a number of boys engaged in fighting rock battles at Rocketts. When they interposed, “the battle” was raging furiously, and rocks were being thrown, and pistols discharged with great vim. – The officers succeeded in securing one white and five negro boys. They were carried to the Guard House, on Franklin street, where the former was reprimanded, and the latter well whipped.

From the Richmond Examiner, 4/4/1863

OUTRAGEOUS PRACTICE. – Almost every evening two rival gangs of boys meet at Gamble’s Hill, for the purpose of engaging in stone battles. Several evenings since a little daughter of Mr. William Haily, living on Fifth street, near the hill, was struck in the forehead by a random missile, and a wound inflicted so serious as to threaten fatal consequences.

The police would be doing a good service if they would arrest and break up these several gangs, or at least effectually disperse them.

From the Richmond Sentinel, 6/24/186 4, p. 1

Throwing Stones. - Like all other classes of the community, the boys have felt the demoralizing influence of the war. Their increased viciousness is in nothing more conspicuously displayed than in the matter of throwing stones and engaging in rock battles in the streets and public places. In the Capitol Square, as little regarding the sentinel on duty there as if he were a dummy, they make the Clay statue and the Washington monument targets for their missiles, and on the President’s, Navy, Gamble’s and other hills about the city, they engage in mimic warfare with slings, sticks and stones continually. These practices have grown to be so serious a nuisance that complaints, both loud and deep, come in to the Mayor daily, and he has determined to exert his power to put them down. The police are ordered to arrest every boy, big or small, caught throwing stones or other missiles. The first capture under this order was brought before the Mayor yesterday, in the person of a boy fourteen years old, named Joe Berry. Officer Kelly had caught him on Gamble’s Hill, engaged in throwing stones from a sling, at some boys on the opposite heights, known as Penitentiary Hill. - The Mayor fined the boy’s father five dollars and required him to give security in two hundred dollars that his son should keep the peace. If the boy is caught throwing stones again his father will have to pay the money.

From the Richmond Sentinel, 11/7/1864, p. 1, c. 7

THROWING STONES IN THE STREETS. - Emmett Ruffin and Thos. S. Dodge were yesterday evening arrested, by officers Chalkley and Griffin, on 6th street, near the Second Baptist Church, while with a good many other boys, they were engaged in a rock battle with some “basin cats.” None of the “basin cats” were arrested, as they fled to their fastnesses on the approach of the officers.

This practice of throwing stones in the streets has become an intolerable public grievance. Every evening a crowd of boys collect on Navy Hill, and, with slings, stone every negro that passes within two hundred yards of them. We expect to hear of some of the negroes being killed, as even a very small boy can throw a stone from a sling with sufficient force to break the adamantine skull of a negro.

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