Tag Archives: Civil War

First in War

Nate Sterling ’14, Staff Writer

The Hampden-Sydney Boys were first to start drilling for the Civil War and the first to engage in a cross-fire shooting against enemy Confederates on July 11th of 1831. Retired chaplain of Hampden-Sydney College, Reverend William Thompson, has recently published his book titled First in War: The Hampden-Sydney Boys—signed editions are available in the Bookstore. Rev. Thompson is more than capable to write this historical account. He has an impressive repertoire of other historical accounts already published: Bad Friday: The Yankees Come to Hampden-Sydney and Her Walls before Thee Stand. Using the diaries of some of the Hampden-Sydney Boys and some of the newspapers, magazines, and obituaries of the time, Thompson has put together a narrative which unravels the thrilling tale about a handful of boys fighting in a war. This book is the first of its kind, looking specifically at the historical account of the Hampden-Sydney Boys, which consisted of Hampden-Sydney students, farmer-boys, and seminary school students, who all united together to ensure their fear of a “slave uprising,” as Rev. Thompson says, would be overcome. They began their training behind the cemetery, but were soon spooked to a new location fearing the symbolism lying beneath the gravestones. A total of ninety-six Hampden-Sydney Boys practiced marching together; the times for the scheduled marching were set for four o’clock: after classes. This was done to minimize the interference with their studies. Soon they were marching off into a real battle with Confederates. They carried their ten pound rifles with them along with food supplies and such as they headed northwest into Ohio (what’s now known as West Virginia). At each site encampment, the boys had to sleep outside, alack any tents, and thus susceptible to the weather. Rev. Thompson commented on the food situation; given their military training, I was surprised to find that many of “these boys had never cooked a day in their lives.” Rev. Thompson further explained that one such Hampden-Sydney Boy tried to cook chicken, but burned the outside while the inside stayed raw; this simple mistake resulted in diarrhea. Slaves were brought to make up for the ignorance in cooking matters. Along with the exciting story detailing the events surrounding the Hampden-Sydney Boys departure, there is a brief biography of the different Hampden-Sydney Boys. This section examines what exactly happened to these boys after the Civil War. This book accomplishes what it sets out to do and magnificently ties together the different events of such a radical and significant event in Hampden-Sydney’s history into a coherent narrative. Whether you’re a history buff or a Hampden-Sydney school affiliate, this book is for you to enjoy just prior to your long winter’s nap. Rev. Thompson also explained to me his current endeavor to write an informative account on the fourth passage in Cushing—coming soon!

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