Drummer Boys of the Civil War

From the Home Journal.
The Drummer Boy of Tennessee.


When called the fife and drum at morn
The soldier from his rest,
And those to higher honors born
With softer couches blest,
There came; a captain brave to seek,
Deep in her mourning clad,
By loss made sad, and journeying weak,
A mother and a lad —
And they had come from Tennessee,
Waiting the beat of reveille.

But, penniless and widowed,
Her story soon she told:
The hand of traitor had not spared
Her husband’s life nor gold;
And now she brought her only son,
To fill the drummer’s place;
Thus young his daily bread to earn,
His country’s foes to face;
For he had leaned in Tennessee,
To beat the call of reveille.

The boy upturned his eager gaze,
And, with a beating heart,
He read upon the captain’s face
Both kindliness and doubt;
For he had marked his tender years,
His little fragile form —
“Don’t be afraid,” he boldly cried,
“For, captain, I can drum!”
And I have come from Tennessee,
To sound for you the reveille.

“Well, call the fifer! — bring the drum,
To test this noble youth!”
And well his part he did perform,
A “Drummer Boy,” in truth!
“Yes, madam, I will take your boy,”
The captain kindly said.
“Oh! bring him back,” [her] quick reply,
“Unnumbered with the dead!
And EDDIE LEE, of Tennessee,
Shall play for you the reveille.”

‘Twas many a weary march was made,
To sound of drum and fife,
And well the “Drummer Boy” essayed
To play the “march of life;”
Each soldier loved and sought to share
Their part of good with him;
The fifer on his back did bear
Across each swollen stream,
This “Drummer Boy” from Tennessee,
Who beat with him the reveille.

But, came the battle shock, and doom
Of one great “LYON” heart,
The victor’s shout — the victim’s groan,
Fulfilled their fearful part!
And, on that blood-stained field of woe
The darkness spread its pall!
The morning dawned on flying foe;
When, list! the “morning call!”
Our drummer Boy from Tennessee,
Beating for help the reveille!

Upon the valley sod he lay,
Besides a lifeless foe,
Whose dying hand had sought to stay
The life-blood’s ebbing flow;
The quivering drum yet echoing
The beating of his heart –
The encamping angel beckoning
From drum and fife to part!
And Eddie Lee, of Tennessee,
Awaits the final reveille!

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Jul 10, 1862


In the following book, you can read about “the littlest hero of the war,”  Eddie Lee :

Title: Brave Deeds of Union Soldiers (pg 63 – Google book LINK)
Author: Samuel Scoville
Publisher: G. W. Jacobs & company, 1915

Regimental Fife and Drum Corps (Image from http://www.civilwarphotogallery.com)

Civil War Sources (Link to posts tagged Drummer Boys) is a blog that uses primary documents as sources for its Civil War posts. While they don’t seem to have posted anything about Eddie Lee, they have covered several other drummer boys, including Johnny Clem, who I have also posted about previously.

Gravestone Image from Find-A-Grave.

The Youngest Drummer-Boy.

The Twelfth Indiana regiment possessed a pet of whom it may be said that he enjoyed renown scarcely second to that of the wide-famed Wisconsin eagle. This was “Little Tommy,” as he was familiarly called in those days — the youngest drummer boy and, so far as the writer’s knowledge goes, the youngest enlisted man in the Union army. the writer well remembers having seen him on several occasions. His diminutive size and child-like appearance, as well as his remarkable skill and grace in handling the drumsticks, never failed to fade from the memory. Some brief and honorable mention of “Little Tommy,” the pride of the Twelfth Indiana regiment, should not be omitted in these “Recollections of a Drummer-boy.”

Thomas Hubler was born in Fort Wayne, Allen county, Indiana, October 9, 1851. When two years of age the family removed to Warsaw, Indiana. On the outbreak of the war, his father, who had been a German soldier of the truest type, raised a company of men in response to President Lincoln’s first call for 75,000 troops. “Little Tommy” was the first to enlist in his father’s company, the date of enrollment being April 19, 1861. He was then nine years and six months old.

The regiment to which the company was assigned was with the Army of the Potomac throughout all its campaigns in Maryland and Virginia. At the expiration of its term of service, in August, 1862, “Little Tommy” re-enlisted and served to the end of the war, having been present in some twenty-six battles. He was greatly beloved by all the men of his regiment, with whom he was a constant favorite. It is thought that he beat the first “long roll” of the great civil war. He is still living in Warsaw, Indiana, and bids fair to be the latest survivor of the great army of which he was the youngest member. With the swift advancing years, the ranks of the soldiers of the late war are rapidly being thinned out, and those who yet remain are fast showing signs of age. “The boys in blue” are thus, as the years go by, almost imperceptibly turning into “the boys in gray;” and as “Little Tommy,” the youngest of them all, sounded their first reveille, so may he yet live to beat their last tattoo. — St. Nicholas for October.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Nov 15, 1883

You can read more about Tommy Hubler in this book:

Title: The Recollections of a Drummer-Boy 6th Edition (pg 160 – Google book LINK)
Author: Henry Martyn Kieffer
Publisher: Ticknor and Company, 1889

The Drummer Boy of Shiloh was a popular play that ran for many years.


On Shiloh’s dark and bloody ground the dead and wounded lay,
Amongst them was a drummer boy that beat the drum that day;
A wounded soldier raised him up — his drum was by his side —
He clasped his hands, and raised his eyes, and prayed before he died.

“Look down upon the battlefield, O Thou our heavenly Friend,
Have mercy on our sinful souls” — the soldiers cried, “Amen!”
For gathered ’round, a little group, each brave man knelt and cried —
They listened to the drummer boy who prayed before he died.

“Oh, Mother,” said the dying boy, “Look down from Heaven on me!
Receive me to thy fond embrace! Oh, take me home to thee!
I’ve loved my country as my God, to serve them both I’ve tried,”
He smiled, shook hands, death seized the boy who prayed before he died.

Each soldier wept then like a child — stout hearts were they and brave —
The Flag his winding-sheet! God’s Book the key unto his grave;
They wrote upon a simple board these words, “This is a guide,
To those who mourn the drummer boy who prayed before he died.”

Alabama Volunteer Corps.

Title: Southern War songs: Camp-Fire, Patriotic and Sentimental
Compiled by: William Long Fagan
Publisher: M. T. Richardson, 1892
Page 336 (Google book link)

Raphael Semmes - CSS ALABAMA - 1863 (Image from http://www.sonofthesouth.net)

Title: Minutes of the Seventh Annual Meeting and Reunion
Author: Stephen D. Lee
Published :1907
Page 23 (Google book link)

Image from The Goat Whisperer on flickr

Title: A History of Hardin County, Tennessee
Author: B. G. Brazelton
Publisher: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1885
Page 75 (Google book link)

Drum Corps, 93rd New York Infantry- Bealeton, VA, August 1863

I found a William H. Mershon who was listed as a musician in the 30th Indiana Infantry, Company I,  but no A.W. Mershon.

Title: Indiana at Shiloh: Report of the Commission
Compiled by: John W. Coons
Publisher: Indiana Shiloh National Park Commission, 1904
Page 282 (Google book link)

Drummer Gilbert A. Marbury, 22nd New York Infantry

This next one doesn’t claim to be THE drummer boy of Shiloh, but he was a drummer boy at Shiloh, and died there:

Title: History of the Forty-Eighth Ohio Vet. Vol. Inf. Giving a Complete Account of the Regiment
Authors: John A. Bering, Thomas Montgomery
Publisher: Highland News Office, 1880
Page 28 (Google book link)

Wilson's Soldiers Monument

Title: A history of Adams County, Ohio
Authors: Nelson Wiley Evans, Emmons B. Stivers
Publisher: E B. Stivers, 1900
Page 480

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3 Responses to “Drummer Boys of the Civil War”

  1. Angel Says:

    that is awsome

  2. Jeanne Stotler Says:

    I am related to Wm. H. Mershon, he was the Drummer boy at Shiloh, about 6 years ago alot of his belongings were for sale and although I could not buy them, I made copies of what was on the internet/ Bill wrote his memories ans kept many of his belongings including a tin type photo, I only wish he had willed those things to The Mershon Family archives so all us decedents of Henry Mershon could see them. Along with Bill there were 12 other Mershon’s in the Civil War and many others whose names were from their fathes or grandfathers who had married into our very large family.

  3. thomas mershon Says:

    I am a mershon from Henry Delton mershon in lake city fla and trying to find history of the mershons from years past to add to some of which have found in some mershon family reunion that are held in fla (being on a fixed income can’t travel ) to be at all the reunions if any one knows of any more history would ya’ll contact me at . mudhog03@yahoo.com thank you

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