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Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Tommy" is hopping like a frog from link to lilnk in this MG blog hop. Join us.

I wrote this as part of a blog hop, but procrastinated posting to the hop and missed the deadline. I'm posting it here anyway. Maybe someone will see it.  This is the second edition. I had a ball with the first edition.

Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President
A Childhood Biography of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson

My offering is quite different from the others on our hop. Mine is a biography...something that might come in handy in history, English, or reading class this year but that might not be at the top of a MG reader's book list. From experience I have seen wonderful "biography book reports' that have been required by teachers completed for "Tommy". I am available for internet interviews and phone interviews as needed for book reports. There is a special email address in the book that readers may use. There is a Wilson family photo album, small bios of his friends as adults, and a wonderful copy of Tommy's own doodles....he really was not an attentive student when in school.

So, here is  Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a  President

"Tommy" is a MG/YA/OF (Old Folks) biography of a young boy growing up during the American Civil War. Originally written for MG reading/English and history classrooms, the book became an immediate favorite with the older readers in historical societies, book clubs, and library associations. The story is a new one to most people, a bit of history almost lost. As an adult we know him as President of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. As a young boy in Augusta, GA during those turbulent prewar, war, and postwar years he was simply, Tommy. 

The Wilson family lived in Augusta from the time young Tommy was 18 months old until he was 13. During four of those formative years of his life, the Civil War was raging and affecting his town daily. This is the story of all those formative years, as Tommy learned to read (at age 9), went to school for the first time, played with his friends (many became influential men in business and government), and was paddled by his schoolmaster for running away to join the circus rather than study.

Each chapter is a dialogue scene of an event. After the dialogue scene comes factual background of the scene. I chose to put the factual information with the scene rather than as footnotes or endnotes at the end of the chapter or the book for I know from years of teaching MG that MG students do not like to read footnotes or anything written after 'the end".

Readers will get to know Tommy through his family and friends, through his leisure moments, and even through his stubbornness and his caring for others. Each chapter provides insight into the youngster who became 28th president of the United States. The reader will see Tommy learn from his faith and family, and from the history lived. These lessons learned were later evident as President Thomas Woodrow Wilson guided his country through another war, World War I.

In "Tommy" we get a glimpse of everyday life in a southern town not directly in the line of fire in a bloody civil war. An important strand in the book is found in the many parades, all verified, that took place in Augusta during that time. At the beginning of the war the parades were glorious. By the middle and end of the war the tempo of the parades was changing. The following except describes one memorable parade.

  An excerpt from Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President.

     The future President of the United States stood on the edge of the field fascinated by the parade passing in front of him.  He had seen many parades since the war started two years ago, but this one was different.  There were no brass bands playing, no freshly uniformed infantry units stepping high and no prancing cavalry horses.  No one was marching, and no one was cheering.

     This was not a parade of clean, smartly dressed military men.  This was a parade of ragged men in tattered uniforms.  Their sabers and sashes were replaced by blood and bandages. And dirt. 

     There was no one to watch this parade by the railroad track in Augusta, Georgia, but seven-year-old Tommy and his young friends.  Playing in the fields near the tracks, they had heard the solemn ringing of the troop-train's bell and watched as it shuddered to stop beside the field.  Curious, the boys ran to the train and watched as slowly it emptied its cargo of Civil War wounded.

          A few of the injured limped unaided, but many more shuffled, supported on one or both sides by others who were themselves wounded.  Others hobbled on crutches.  One man, with a foot missing kept his head down and his eyes on the bandage at the end of his leg.  He seemed to be looking at the foot that wasn't there.                               
     After the walking wounded came men on litters.  Their bodies, their heads, their limbs wrapped in bloody, dirty bandages.  Some of the blood was old and caked; some new and oozing. 
    One man alone seemed to see the boys.  His large body was covered with a blood-soaked blanket on which several medals and many flies competed for space.  His head and face were covered with bloody, dirty bandages.
     A foul, wretched smell filled the air through which the litters moved.  It was not a smell like the barnyard or the cow pen.  It was not even a smell like hogs being slaughtered.  This smell was worse, much worse.  As it grew stronger, Tommy and his friends covered their mouths and noses as to protect themselves from this smell which instinctively they knew to be the smell of death.

     Finally, from the car nearest the engine came a different sight.  Men under guard.  Men whose arms and legs were bound together, making it hard for them to walk.  So they too shuffled.  And they too were covered with dirt and blood and bandages.

     One of Tommy's friends  finally broke their silence.  "Come on," he said.  "Let's get back to our game."

     Everyone turned to go but Tommy.  Tommy stood still, only his head moving to follow the hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers who were passing by.

     Finally, he turned and headed, not toward his friends, but back to his home and the security of his family.  He could play no more that day.  He wasn't sure he could ever play that game again.

      The boys had been playing war.

Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President
A Childhood Biography of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson
By Julia Faye Dockery Smith



From childhood to
 President of the United States

Thomas Woodrow Wilson


  1. Hello Julia and thanks for joining the Back to School Blog Hop. Tommy makes a fine addition to our group. I think he and my boy, Finn, would be fast friends. Please visit Finn at

  2. Thanks, Serena and Virginia. Serena, you're right. Finn and Tommy sound like friends.

  3. Your excerpt was wonderful, Faye, and beautifully written. As for reading on Sunday, I read to the kids at the Front Porch Library, the informal library I run out of my dad's old house for the kids of Seminole Manor Neighborhood. This was our week to finish reading the chapter book "George's Marvelous Medicine" by Raold Dahl. As always in a Dahl book, the ending was twisted. In this one the cranky grandmother flat disappears. We all thought it was the right ending.

    1. Adrian, slowdancejournal, have you seen this? A bit irreverent, but funny in spots.

      I didn't know Grandmothers could be cranky. Not us.

  4. Thanks, Serena and Virginia. Serena, you're right. Finn and Tommy sound like friends.