The Confederates expanded conscription in 1864 to encompass all men from 17 to 50. This was commonly derided as “robbing the cradle and the grave.” In this news item, the writer turns the phrase on its head praising young Union volunteers for their valor.
SAVANNAH [GA] REPUBLICAN, January 2, 1865, p. 2, c. 5
Cradles that have Robbed Themselves.
“Robbing the cradle and the grave?” Jeff. Davis has to do that. What shall be said of a people whose cradles rob themselves for soldiers for its armies, and of graves that give up their dead to fight for motherland and Freedom?
What a scene was that in the War Office on Monday! Children crowding forward with offerings of Rebel standards snatched from Rebel hands on bloodiest fields of battle—fought for and won by those whom the law calls “infants,” and the sisters and the mothers call “the boys.” A dishonorable peace to be made while a cradle in America rocks such warrior infancy as this! Pshaw!
Oh, what an awakening for fools and knaves on this and on the other side of the Atlantic, when these cradles shall stop rocking and the infants get out and go to the field, for a purified Republic and for Democracy in America. But to the scene in the War Department.
A flag captured by Private Jeremiah Parks, Ninth New York Cavalry, a youth not yet 18 years of age, and who has not yet been in service two months. The Secretary expressed the hope that before the war was terminated Parks would win a Major General’s commission.
Sweeney, who captured the flag supposed to belong to the late General Ramseur’s headquarters, is not yet 18 years of age. His explanation to the Secretary of the capture was very amusing—”Me and another one of the boys,” said he, “saw an ambulance and ordered it to halt. Says the driver, ‘the General ordered the ambulance to go on.’ Says I, ‘What General?’ Says the driver, ‘General Ramseur.’ Says I, that is the very man I am looking for.’ So the other boy and myself took Gen. Ramseur, the Surgeon, the ambulance, the drier and the horses.” Gen. Custer explained that the boy had on a grey jacket, when he made the capture, and thus misled the driver of Gen. Ramseur’s ambulance. The Secretary said he would like to see the “other boy,” who Sweeney stated was Corpl. Fred Lyons, 1st Vermont Cavalry. Secretary Stanton then returned to these soldiers the thanks of the Department and of the Government for their gallantry in this great and brilliant battle stating that each of them would be furnished a medal in commemoration of their bravery.