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Thomas Hughes, 1850-
A Boy's Experience in the Civil War, 1860-1865
[s.l.: s.n.], c1904.


Thomas Hughes was born in Virginia in 1850, to a father who was both a homeopathic physician and a successful writer. His father was taken into Federal custody at the beginning of the Civil War because he voiced his strong support for the Confederacy. After Hughes's father was released, the family settled in Richmond, Virginia. His father was elected to represent Ohio County in the Virginia legislature and was thereby able to keep his family comfortable, even in wartime. Hughes was enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute until the evacuation of Richmond, and at fourteen, was the youngest cadet.

Thomas's memoir, A Boy's Experience in the Civil War: 1860-1865, was published in 1904 and records his memory of the war. It begins with Hughes's father's release from Federal custody in Ohio and describes the time his family spent in Richmond. Hughes emphasizes that he did not live a typical life during that time. Because his father was a physician who treated many of the leaders of the Confederacy in addition to his roles as a newspaperman and legislator, Hughes had access to many of the luxuries others were forced to abandon. His father's position also enabled him to meet most of the key Confederate military and political figures. Hughes devotes a portion of the narrative to descriptions of his encounters with these various leaders, including Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, Robert Morgan, and Jefferson Davis. Hughes also discusses his experiences at VMI. He tells of a typical day at the school and discusses the character of the cadets and their behavior. The final portion of his narrative covers the state of the South before and after the Civil War. He takes special aim at the northern "opportunists," who came south to rebuild a region destroyed by war. Hughes prefers the antebellum plantation life. He describes each plantation as "a perfect community in itself," and the slave experience as "an almost ideal life."

Harris Henderson

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