During the Civil War, there were age restrictions on official enlistment in the military. In the Union, enlistees had to be over 16. However, such restrictions were usually honored more in the breach than in the observance.
Many an under-aged Northern boy, eager to enlist, had little trouble in finding a recruiter willing to sign him up so long as he was willing to put one hand on the Bible, raise the other, and swear that he was “over 16”. Some children ingeniously reconciled their consciences with the lie by writing the number “16” on a piece of paper, and sticking it to the bottom of a shoe, thus enabling them to honestly swear that they were “over 16”.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading