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Tom was young when the war broke out, too young to legally enlist. He lied about his age and enlisted as a private soldier anyway. He spent the first years of the war as a private, and then mustered out after three years as a corporal. By that time, Tom was old enough to join the army legally.
His eldest brother had gone to the United States Military Academy at West Point and managed to graduate just as the war was heating up and get a commission as an officer. The eldest brother had done fairly well for himself, well enough and with enough promotions that he could have an aide-de-camp. Tom was commissioned a second lieutenant and became one of his brother’s aides. By this time, it was 1864. Lincoln had finally gotten a general who fights, and some of the hardest fighting of the war was still before them.