Child soldiers

Posted 3 July 2010 by

William Billings wrote what is considered my many to be what is the de facto first national anthem of these United States. Chester is a song that combines religious praise and civic pride.

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav’ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England’s God forever reigns.

There is one verse in the song that gives me pause.

The Foe comes on with haughty Stride;
Our troops advance with martial noise,
Their Vet’rans flee before our Youth,
And Gen’rals yield to beardless Boys.

The thought of veterans fleeing before youth and generals yielding to beardless boys does not comfort me. Did the Continental Army use child soldiers? I have not seen this mentioned in high school or college texts. That does not mean it did not happen, though.

I could see this verse being primarily boastful and not literal. What bothers me is the specific reference to “beardless boys.” It is like William Billings went out of his way to make his point.

If the liberty of these several states was won, in part, by beardless boys, I think that this changes the moral standing of the United States when condemning those movements that do the same thing today.

It was only a third of the population of the colonies that wanted the revolution. Should we also consider that the leaders in the United Colonies also used children as warriors?

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