Lesser Known Heroes: John Clem


First Sergeant
Sep 7, 2011
Colorado Springs, CO
Expired Image Removed
John Lincoln Clem, Sergeant, 22nd Michigan Infantry

John Clem was born on 13 August 1851. At the age of eleven he ran away from home in order to join the union army. After being refused twice, once from the 22nd Michigan, he decided to tag along with the regiment anyway and eventually won over the Officers of the regiment. He was adopted as an unofficial drummer boy and mascot. It would not be until two years later that he was officially enlisted into the Army, though the kind Officers of the 22nd chipped in to pay him the standard 13 dollars a month for his service.

Clem would become famous for his actions at Chickamauga. When the 22nd Michigan was ordered to defend Horseshoe Ridge, Clem fought with them, using a musket that had been trimmed to fit his small size. As the unit was surrounded, a confederate Colonel shout something to the effect of "I think the best thing a mite of a chap like you can do is drop that gun”. Clem fired his musket, killing the Colonel and made his escape. For his bravery, he was promoted to Sergeant, the youngest person to be promoted to such a rank.

After the war, Clem was appointed to West point by Ulysses S. Grant, but failed the entrance exams several times. Grant would then appoint him 2nd LT in the 24th U.S. Infantry. He worked his way through the ranks, becoming a Brigadier General become his retirement in 1915. By special act of congress, Clem was promoted to Major General after he retired. He died on 13 May 1937.

To read more about this remarkable man see below:


IIRC, of all the drummer boys who have claimed title of "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh", Clem's claim is strongest. Another claimant is buried at White Hall, Illinois, his name escapes me at the moment, but I have visited his grave. It is quite understated. The cemetery however has a very large sign proclaiming him as the Drummer boy of Shiloh... Edward Hagar was his name