Featured Book Reviewer
- Feb 23, 2013
- East Texas
One of the better-known but definitely lesser personages produced by the war was the diminutive 12-year-old John Clem (August 13, 1851 – May 13, 1937) who rose in the ranks from drummer boy private/mascot to lance sergeant in the 22nd Michigan Vol. Inf. He became famous following his exploits at the Sept., 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, becoming known generally as The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga, in which battle he allegedly slew a Rebel colonel who called upon him to surrender. (According to his entry in Wikipedia he may have actually "wounded Col. Calvin Walker, whose 3rd Tennessee opposed the 22nd Michigan towards the end of the battle.") As his fame spread, so too did embellishments of his exploits, including spurious claims that he had also fought at Shiloh; sometimes he was also touted as The Drummer Boy of Shiloh or simply Johnny Shiloh, though it's now pretty certain that he was never there.
Because of his youth and small size he was also a favorite subject for photographers, especially those specializing in souvenir "collectable" CDV's. Here in two cased images he appears tricked out as a sergeant, complete with the chevrons of the rank, officer's hat cord, plus the NCO's buff leather belt and eagle buckle, supporting a revolver that appears to be too big for him to carry. Clem was captured in Oct., 1863 and was used in Confederate propaganda as an example of how the Union was running out of eligible men and to show "what sore straits the Yankees are driven when they have to send their babies out to fight us."
Full-length studies of Sergeant Clem, likely made following his exchange; according to Wikipedia, he was the youngest NCO in the history of the U. S. Army!
These studio images are likely CDV's; the one at bottom was reproduced on the back cover of the NPS Shiloh Historical handbook in the 1950's.
Following the war, Clem remained in service after receiving an appointment from President U. S. Grant to the Regular Army as a second lieutenant, seen here in another Brady-Handy photo from Wikipedia that was taken ca. 1867. For more about the remarkable career of John Lincoln Clem who was retired from the United States Army as a brigadier general in 1915 here is his Wikipedia entry:
John Clem - Wikipedia
Below, Maj. Gen. Ret. John Lincoln Clem in 1922 fifteen years before his death in 1937.