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Drums and Drummer Boys

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Legion Para, Aug 1, 2015.

  1. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Color Bearers weren't the only member of a regiment with an important job to do. Even though many Civil War drummer boys were children, they played an important role which many have forgotten. R.C Murphy has done an excellent job of describing the role of a Civil War drummer.

    http://www.wildcatband.com/ropedrums.shtml


    by R.C. Murphy

    "When most people think of the Civil War, they think of famous generals or battles fought or how politics entered into an Army operation. But when I think of the War Between the States, I think of quite possibly the most important member of either side--that is the drummer.

    When the Federal Government needed troops to answer the call, be it North or South, those troops never left home without a drummer as an integral part of the unit. Usually they were boys too young to do the actual fighting but who knew the importance of a good drummer. What a thrill it must have been for a small boy, who had probably never been further than a few miles from his town, to march off to war with a company or regiment of home folk. I think it would be hard for any of us in this day and age to imagine a boy joining a fighting unit and going off to war. But almost every city, town, hamlet or village that sent troops to war, had one or more of these brave young native sons.

    Much is written about the weapons and strategies of war but little is said about the importance of the drummer. Its often thought that a drummers' only task was to beat cadence for his unit while marching. That was only a small part of a day in the life of a young drummer.

    Without a drummer to establish communications and keep order among the units in the field, many campaigns would have ended in failure. The drummer had many responsibilities, including using one of many drum calls for everything from assembling officers for strategy meetings to sounding retreat in the midst of severe enemy fire. A drummer could always be seen near a high ranking officer because at any time he might be needed to alert the troops of an upcoming movement or operations.

    Because of his job as the communicator for the unit, he often did not get enough sleep. At any time he might be needed to play the appropriate drum call. This meant being awakened at any hour and not being able to return to sleep for many hours. Once the men were assembled and deployed to a particular engagement, the drummers would lay down their drums and take up stretchers, act as runners between outposts, or do whatever was necessary to help the unit. Many tales of heroism have been told about these young lads, and many lived to ripe old ages to tell generations of their contributions to the war effort."
     

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  3. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    A drummer boy's drum was as important to him as the Regimental standard was to a Color Bearer. Some drums were ornately decorated, particularly those with Regimental markings. Pictured below are two CDV's showing a drummer boy and his drum from the 103rd Ohio. Also two photographs of a drum in the 103rd Ohio Museum.

    http://www.angelfire.com/oh3/civilwarantiques/1503webcat.html


    IMG_20150801_025227.JPG IMG_20150801_025254.JPG IMG_20150801_025319.JPG IMG_20150801_025401.JPG IMG_20150801_025430.JPG
     
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  4. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    http://www.civilwarmo.org/gallery/item/CWMO-9?nojs=1


    Snare Drum of William C. Streetor, Co. F, 7th Enrolled Missouri Militia
    1863
    MHM Collections

    "Union and Confederate army regulations authorized each infantry company to have two musicians, usually a drummer and fifer. Drums were used to signal camp duties and battle orders, maintain the rhythm of the march, and entertain troops in band concerts. This rope-tension snare drum of St. Louisan William C. Streetor may have been presented to him as a token of esteem. Streetor, a sign writer and painter, served early in the war as a drum major with the 3rd Regiment, U.S. Reserve Corps. In 1863, he joined the 7th Regiment of the Enrolled Missouri Militia (EMM), a U.S. force composed of part-time civilian soldiers who were called up only in times of emergency."


    CWMO-9.jpg
     
  5. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    William Johnston, Company D, 3rd Vermont Infantry.

    Medal of Honor




    willie2.jpg
     
  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I don't think I've ever gotten a look at a drum of the era so well decorated- thanks for the pics and of coure recognizing these children who stood in harm's way. Little wonder we're so taken with them!

    Few other threads ( and counting ), worth looking at. Another one of those subjects, once you allow yourself to begin, can get lost in it for hours!

    Does anyone know how many were lost during that war, and how young they were? Almost afraid to ask, boys on the battlefield. Just seems so awful.



    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/drummer-boys-in-the-american-civil-war.105012/page-3#post-1172238


    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/william-black-12-year-old-union-drummer.24896/#post-1096998


    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/william-nelson-boswell-drummer-boy.111029/#post-1076547


    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/drummer-boys-in-the-american-civil-war.105012/page-3#post-978211
     
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  7. Eagle eye

    Eagle eye First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I admire the art work on the body of the drum…if I'm not mistaken it says "103d Ohio Veteran Infantry"
    The Missouri drum is also very handsome.
    I imagine both drummers & soldiers were quite proud of their drums & drummer boys. I would like to think that the drummer boys were very popular after the war & at the various reunions held by both North & South units. I can picture some of the boys kicking up their feet up as the drummer tapped out some tune or another (especially after a snort or three of 'medicinal liquor :smile:
     
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  8. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    In the Federal army, General Order #48 of 31 July 1861 authorized two musicians per company, a drummer, and a bugler or fifer. These might be organized into a Drum Corps, headed by a Drum Major with a Drum Sergeant. One of the renowned Drum Corps belonged to the 40th New York (Mozart Regiment), which as of September 1863 consisted of 30 drummers, 5 fifers and 15 buglers. Later, with attrition in the war, a Drum Corps might be found with a higher command. Gen. Lee's Florida Brigade had one, and in January 1864, Gen. Hancock organized a Drum Corps in one of his divisions. Soldiers of the 147th Pennsylvania referred to their drummers as being members of the "sheepskin batteries."

    As for types, Bass, Kettle, and Tenor (or Snare) drums were in use. The 148th Pennsylvania obtained their drum from a manufacturer in Baltimore, while Peter Guibert of the 74th Pennsylvania carried a brass-shelled snare drum with a diameter of 16 inches that came from Europe, with silver-tipped drumsticks. Confederate forces often used captured instruments, and thus may have been scarcer. In December 1862, the 5th Alabama had but one drum and it was broken. They relied upon the excellent kettle drummer of the nearby 6th Alabama to announce reveille. Keeping the drums and other musical instruments in working order was a challenge for both sides. In June 1863, in the 114th Pennsylvania, both heads of the bass drum were broken, the snare drum was ruptured, and other instruments were out of order.

    In battle, drummers might be found with their regiments, or attending to medical duties. Buglers, on the other hand, were typically kept on the front lines, usually with the skirmishers, to relay commands. Richard Enderlin, drummer boy of the 73rd Ohio, was awarded the Medal of Honor at Gettysburg for attempting to save Private Nixon (GGrandfather of the President) by crawling between the battle lines. In the same battle, the Drum Major of the First Excelsior had charge of his brigade's stretcher bearers. Private William H. Bullard, drummer of the 70th New York, was one of these stretcher bearers and was returning to the front when he saw Gen. Sickles taken from his horse after being struck by a shell. Bullard bound his wound and accompanied Sickles to an ambulance. Drummer Oilman O. Foster of the 13th Vermont carried water from a spring to his company, and gave some to wounded rebels. The Drum Corps of the 104th New York worked in their corps hospital during the engagement.
     
  9. Claude Bauer

    Claude Bauer Corporal

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    Last month in Gettysburg, I participated as a musician in the dedication ceremony for Unity Park and the unveiling of the monument to Civil War Field Musicians in Gettysburg. The statue itself is of a drummer boy, but the monument is for all musicians that served in the war.

    Amazingly, this project was brought to fruition by a 9th grade Eagle Scout candidate, Andrew Adam, from Mechanicsburg, PA. The $200,000 project is the culmination of two years of fundraising, research and planning.

    The park itself is on a small patch of ground near the school complex in town where everyone forms up for the Remembrance Day Parade. It was a no-man's land between the forces during the actual battle, which is one reason the site was chosen.

    Here is some media coverage of the event:

    http://www.eveningsun.com/gettysburg...by-15-year-old

    This site explains the concept of the park:

    http://www.unitypark2015.org/statue---park.html

    Field music groups present included the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps, Johnson's Division, Army of Northern Virginia, and musicians from the 3rd US Regulars. The Confederates played on one side and the Union on the other, and once the ceremony commenced, we joined ranks and played together.

    Here are some pictures from the event:

    11692626_1612658418981766_1751928080440689703_n (1).jpg

    11011224_1612657532315188_7655695659305489911_o.jpg

    11666128_860942623943332_619473090332671714_n.jpg
    11745438_1039083059438239_334039890507712835_n.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2015
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  10. corn-fed-erate

    corn-fed-erate Corporal

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    What an Eagle Project!! I am so tired seeing Eagle projects being a pair of treated wood benches for some town park. That is an accomplishment that will be a source of pride for the rest of his life!

    GREAT JOB TO THE EAGLE SCOUT!​
     
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  11. Patrick H

    Patrick H Captain

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    Outstanding!
     
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  12. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Thank you Claude for posting this.

    Andrew Adam should be extremely proud of his accomplishment. He went above and beyond the call of duty.
     
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  13. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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  14. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Orion P. Howe

    Company C, 55th Illinois

    Medal of Honor

     
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  15. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    d120c78b-d27c-4fb1-9402-3f48fb9a58fc_d.JPG
     
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  16. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment Drum
    (1861—1864)

    The 1st Minnesota was the first state volunteer regiment formally tendered to the Federal government under Abraham Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops in 1861, being offered on April 14 for three months service, Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey happening to be in Washington at the time. It was organized at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, on April 29 and subsequently remustered for three years service on May 10.

    http://www.fold3.com/page/627823229_first_minnesota_volunteer_infantry/
    img.jpg
     
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  17. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Frank Pettis, Company A, 19th Wisconsin Infantry


    http://www.saukcountyhistory.org/rbgdrummerboy.html

    Reedsburg’s Civil War Drummer Boy

    Excerpted from the 1998 book Reedsburg Remembers 150 Years

    by Dorothy Douglas Parent


    Frank Pettis (1850-1918) was 11 when he enlisted in the army as a drummer boy during the Civil War. At the age of 12 he began military service with his teacher, Captain A. P. Ellinwood, in the 19th Infantry, Company A. He served from Feb. 22, 1862 to Aug. 9, 1865.

    Pettis was with his Captain in every battle in which their unit was engaged, from Suffolk, Va. and Newberne, N.C., to the Siege of Petersburg and on to Richmond, Va., where the colors of his regiment were the first to float from the Confederate capital building.

    After the Civil War, Pettis returned to Reedsburg. First he helped in his father's tailor shop, but at the age of 20 learned the miller's trade. He was a memberof the Grand Army of the Republic and the Reedsburg Drum Corps until his death on Aug. 15, 1918. At his funeral the Reedsburg Drum Corps with muffled drums preceded the hearse to the Greenwood Cemetery where he was buried near his Captain.
    Pettis left five children. One of his direct descendants, Richard Curtis Knight, lives near Rock Springs.



    150_Drummer_Boy_Pettys.jpg
     
  18. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    There were more than just children as Drummers and Musicians as there was a long tradition of musicians in military service. During the Napoleanic Wars and earlier musicians were prized POWs and rarely found themselves in a prison hulk but instead often found themselves in the enemy band...

    During the ACW drummers and musicians filled a variety of rolls beyong just playing an instrument. From acting as the occasional runner; one drummer was badly wounded during the May 22nd Assault on Visksburg when he braved enemy fire to take a message to Brigade HQ requesting ammo resupply for his Regt. He would impress Genl Sherman so much with his bravery and tenacity that he would later see that the young man was granted an appointment to West Point. Musicia ns also often found themselves scouring the battlefields looking for wounded men who could not get themselves to the hospital.

    The youngest soldier to serve in the US Army was an 8 year old Drummer Boy named Avery Brown, the youngest soldier killed during the ACW was a 9 year old drummer who was mortally wounded in Missouri & the youngest recipient of the CMH was a drummer boy detailed in a post above.

    Not all drums were the traditional wooden drum imagined but as can be seen below spool drums were there as well as large numbers of lightweight copper drums. Drummers, fifiers and musicians in general are an interesting study.

    The below pictures are both of the 4th MN VI

    4MN Band Huntsville AL.jpg ACW Sam Badger Spool Drum 4MN cos H.jpg
     
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  19. Claude Bauer

    Claude Bauer Corporal

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    While the fascination with drummer boys is understandable, given their innocence and youth juxtaposed with the horrors of war, it should be noted that not all CW musicians were little boys. There were many young men and grown men serving as musicians as well, esp. in the regimental bands, as opposed to field music, as shown by the picture above of the 4th MN VI.

    People "grew up" faster and lived shorter lives than we do, so most of the men serving in the CW were what we would call teenagers and young adults--mostly from 16-to mid-20's with some older and some younger. This group is probably more typical of what field musicians looked like, from the 61st NY Infantry, Falmouth VA:

    61st NY Infantry, Falmouth VA 031863.jpg

    These fellows are another good example:

    CS fifer and drummer.jpg

    or this guy, a Confederate fifer--certainly not a boy:

    Confed fifer.jpg

    I have pictures of other drummers, fifers, and buglers who are not boys, but you get the idea.

    On another note, I recall reading years ago about a young Confederate drummer boy who was captured by Union troops and kept by them within their unit while stationed at Harpers Ferry. They made him do menial chores, and one night while drunk, they were actually tossing him around, and accidentally threw him out a window, killing him. At least that was their version of what happened. I don't recall where I read this since it was very long ago, but if anyone remembers reading about this too, please pass along the reference.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
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  20. DixieRifles

    DixieRifles 1st Lieutenant

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    That first group photo should be submitted as Photo of the Month.
     
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  21. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    An outstanding thread.
     

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