March 2008

Civil War Drummer Boys

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, 40% of the population was under the age of 16. To enlist, those under 16 had to sign up as drummer boys or cavalry buglers as there were places for 40,000 in the Union armies alone. There are numerous tales of buglers too small to climb into saddles unaided and who rode into pistol-and-saber battles with their regiments.

On the Union side in the military, out of 2,700,000 serving duty, one million were 15 to 18 years old. 100,300 were 11 to 14 years old. Twenty-five were age ten or under. The youngest was only 7 years old! Confederate figures are harder to come by.

The drummer‘s, bugler‘s, and fife player’s day was very long. He was the first one to get out of bed in the morning, and the last to go to bed at night. The primary duties of these boys was to play “calls” for various periods of the day and while in battle.

The boy's first call was at 5:45 AM and was the Drummer‘s Call. It assembles the other musicians and warns the troops to get ready. All of the drummers then beat the second call for formation.

Next was playing Reveille at 6:00 AM. This was a series of several tunes which creates basically an alarm clock than rings for five minutes straight.

At 7:00 AM he blew the breakfast call. At 8:00 AM was the Surgeon’s Call. It summoned the sick to the designated noncommissioned officer who then leads them to the hospital. The drill call was played at 8:30 AM; 9:30 AM the Drummer’s Call was played again. Throughout the day more calls were played at 9:45, 11:45, 12:00, 1:00, 1:45, 2:00, 5:45, 6:00, 6:45, 7:00, 8:00, 9:30 and 10:30 PM. Also, while in battle it was the drumbeat that told the soldiers how and when to maneuver. It was often the drummer boy who manned a position signaling orders to the troops.

In addition to playing calls, his duties were to assist wounded comrades who were injured in battle. He often saw fellow soldiers with a leg or arm blown off or a chest torn open by a cannon ball. During a battle, the drummers were expected to carry the heavy stretchers with wounded soldiers from the battlefield back to the hospital. It was his duty to also help bury the dead. Drummer boys were also called upon to be spies. He would hike to nearby enemy camps to count the number of troops and, if possible, enter the camp and listen for battle plans. The younger the boy, the more successful he was. After all, who would suspect a 9 or 10 year old to be a spy?

Many of these boys also went into battle with the rest of the troops. The most famous of these on the Union side was Johnny Clem, who became drummer to the 22nd Michigan at nine, and was soon a mounted orderly on the staff of General George H. Thomas, with the rank of lance sergeant. When he enlisted he was only thirty inches in height and weighed about sixty pounds. At the Battle Of Chickamauga, he rode an artillery caisson to the front and wielded a musket trimmed to his size. In one of the Union retreats, a Confederate officer spirred his horse after the cannon Clem rode with, and was heard to yell out, "Surrender you damned little Yankee!" As the officer neared, Clem pretended to surrender by raising his harms, sawed off musket still in hand. As he did this he squeezed the trigger blowing the officer clear off of his horse. This courage and daring won for Clem national attention and the name "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga."

George S. Lamkin of Winona, Mississippi, joined Stanford's Mississippi Battery when he was eleven, and before his twelfth birthday was severely wounded at Shiloh.

E.G. Baxter, of Clark County, Kentucky, is recorded as enlisting in Company A, 7th Kentucky Cavalry in June, 1862,when he was not quite thirteen and a year later was a second lieutenant.

John Bailey Tyler, of D Troop, 1st Maryland Cavalry, born in Frederick, Maryland, in 1849, was twelve when war came. He fought with his regiment until the end, without a wound.

Often these young boys got into trouble for not doing their duty. Perhaps they overslept or fell asleep while on guard. In some cases they were sentenced to death. A few of them appealed directly to President Lincoln for leniency. Lincoln often granted a pardon for him. Other times Lincoln ordered that the boy be spanked! Beta Testers Wanted
I am making progress in getting the panoramas I took over the summer online. Most of the delay is caused by my development of a new panorama viewer that has many features the "off-the-shelf" viewers do not offer. For one, the ability to view in full screen mode!

I have already gone through one beta testing with a few subscribers. (Thanks for your input.) For a few, all worked well, however, there were problems in the loading of the panoramas and audio commentary for some of the beta testers. I am working on fixing those problems and am almost ready for a second round of beta testing. If you want to be a beta tester for the new panorama viewer, send me an email with the subject "Beta Tester." Then I will email you the secret URL for the testing when it is ready for testing.

Special Offer from Pet Food Direct
This issue is sponsored by Pet Food Direct. They not only offer pet food for dogs, cats, birds, small animals, fish, and horses, but also pet toys, flea and tick products, pet beds, bird feeders, and more. Readers of this issue will receive a 12% discount on their products when they use the banner ad to the right to go to their Web site and make a purchase. Be sure to click the "Save 5% ad" on the top right of their home page for an additional 5% discount. Save 12% at Pet Food Direct

My Favorite Newspaper Story
Back in 1985, while I was sill publishing a magazine for newspaper collectors, the night editor of the New York Post related a story to me. At the time, newspapers were just getting into utilizing computers to set the type and produce the pages of their newspaper. One day a fifth grade class was on a field trip to the Post's offices and plant. My friend showed them how they use computers to set the type and layout the pages of their newspaper editions. As a demonstration, the editor showed the class how easy it was to make changes in the type or layout. First he showed them how with a few clicks he could change the photograph that was on the page. Then he showed them how to change the text. He clicked "Find" and then entered to change each "e" to an "a." Within seconds no "e" was on the page and was replaced by an "a." Next, a student asked the editor if he could change it back. "OK. Now I just enter to change each "a" to an "e"..." It wasn't until that moment that it dawned on him the magnitude of his changes. The next edition was due to the press room in 15 minutes. Two staff members rushed manually make the corrections. Even with the editing, there were still several typographical errors in that edition! Darn those e's and a's!!!

February Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Who was the first graduate from West Point to become a United States President?

ANSWER: Ulysses S. Grant

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Who was the first graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy to become a United States President?

ANSWER: Jimmy Carter

Eighty-three people entered the contests. Thirty-two entries were disqualified. Of these, only two had the incorrect answer, seven had the incorrect subject heading, and twenty-three answered the Contest One question but selected a prize from the Contest Two prize list or the other way around. All prizes were claimed.
The Febuary Contest Winners Were:
  • Gerry West - California
  • Don Jolliff - Oklahoma
  • Mary McLain - South Carolina
  • Tony Skinner - Oklahoma
  • Lynne Swirsky - Florida
  • Glenn G Wise - Kentucky
  • Leigh A. Demrow - Wisconsin

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: In 1973, when Gerald Ford replaced Spiro Agnew as vice-president, he became the first appointed vice-president. What position had he held?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: How many states joined the United States in the 20th century?


Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Saturday, March 15, 2008. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • You MUST select ONE prize from the list.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
March Contest One Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

Finding Your Father's War
A Guide to Researching WWII
By Johnathan Gawne

Leading military historian and researcher Johanthan Gawne explains and shares the techniques he uses to research archives, libraries, veteran associations and a myriad of other sources of information to track down the wartime career of an indvidual.

The book can be ordered from

For a complete listing of this publisher's titles, please visit


Two-Disk Set

20 Classic TV Episodes

Of the Hard-To-Find

"Here's Lucy"

With Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance & Gale Gordon


March Contest Two Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

DVD Movie

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorillia (1952)
A Comedy With Bela Lugosi

DVD TV Episodes

Classic TV
Episodes of the Red Skelton Show

Original Historic Newspapers

Original Manchester American & Messenger (New Hampshire) historic newspaper from 1853

New York Tribune historic newspaper from 1860

Original New Hampshire Patriot historic newspaper from 1868

Original Coldwater Republican (Michigan) historic newspaper from 1876
That's it for this issue.

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