EDDIE THE DRUMMER BOY
story from the US Civil War
LITTLE EDDIE THE DRUMMEE-BOY.
A REMINISCENCE OF WILSON'S CKEEK.
A few days before our regiment received orders to join General Lyon, on his march
to Wilson's Creek, the drummer of our company was taken sick and conveyed to the
hospital, and on the evening preceding the day that we were to march, a negro
was arrested within the lines of the camp, and brought before our captain, who
asked him " what business he had within the lines ? " He replied : " I know a
drummer that you would like to enhst in your company, and I have come to tell
you of it." He was immediately requested to inform the drummer that if he would
enlist for our short term of service, he would be allowed extra pay, and to do
this, he must be on the ground early in the morning. The negro was then passed
beyond the guard.
On the following morning there appeared before the captain's quarters during the
beating of the reveille, a good looking, middle aged woman, dressed in deep mourning,
leading by the hand a sharp, sprightly looking boy, apparently about twelve or
thirteen years of age. Her story was soon told. She was from East Tennessee, Where
her husband had been killed by the rebels, and all their property destroyed. She
had come to St Louis in search of her sister, but not finding her, and being destitute
of money, she thought if she could procure a situation for her boy as a drummer
for the short time that we had to remain in the service, she could find employment
for herself, and perhaps find her sister by the time we were discharged.
During the rehearsal of her story the little fellow kept his eyes intently fixed
upon the countenance of the captain, who was about to express a determination
not to take so small a boy, when he spoke out: "Don't be afraid, captain, I can
drum." This was spoken with so much confidence, that the captain immediately observed,
with a smile : " Well, well, sergeant, bring the drum, and order our fifer to
come forward." In a few moments the drum was produced, and our fifer, a tall,
round shouldered, good natured fellow, from the Dubuque mines, who stood, when
erect, something over six feet in height, soon made his appearance.
Upon being introduced to his new comrade, he stooped down, with his hands resting
upon his knees, that were thrown forward into an acute angle, and after peering
into the little fellow's face a moment, he observed :
My little man, can you drum V "
" Yes, sir," he replied, " I drummed for Captain
Hill in Tennessee."
fifer immediately commenced straightening himself upward until all the angles
in his person had disappeared, when he placed his fife at his mouth, and played
the " Flowers of Edenborough," one of the most didlcult things to follow with
the drum that could have been selected, and nobly did the little fellow follow
him, showing himself to be a master of the drum.
the music ceased, our captain turned to the mother and observed :
Madam, I will take your boy. What is his name
" Edward Lee," she replied ; then placing her hand upon the captain's
arm, she continued, " Captain, if he is not killed " � here her maternal feelings
overcame her utterance, and she bent down over her boy and kissed him upon the
forehead. As she arose, she observed : " Captain, you will bring him back with
you, won't you ? "
Yes, yes," he replied, " we will be certain to bring him back with us. We shall
be discharged in six weeks."
In an hour after, our company led the Iowa First out of camp, our drum and fife
playing " The girl I left behind me." Eddie, as we called him, soon became a great
favorite with all the men in the company. When any of the boys had returned from
a horticultural excursion, Eddie's share of the peaches and melons was the first
apportioned out. During our heavy and fatiguing march from Rolla to Springfield,
It was often amusing to see our long legged fifer wading through the mud with
our little drummer mounted upon his back, and always in that position when fording
During the fight at Wilson's Creek I was stationed with a part of our company
on the right of Totten's battery, while the balance of our company, with a part
of the Illinois regiment, was ordered down Into a deep ravine upon our left. In
which It was known a portion of the enemy was concealed, with whom they were soon
en- gaged. The contest In the ravine continuing some time,
suddenly wheeled his battery upon the enemy in that quarter, when they soon retreated
to the high ground behind their lines. In less than twenty minutes after, Totten
had driven the enemy from the ravine, the word passed from man to man throughout
the army, " Lyon Is killed ! " and soon after, hostilities having ceased upon
both sides, the order came for our main force to fall back upon Springfield, while
a part of the Iowa First and two companies of the Missouri regiment were to camp
upon the ground and cover the retreat next morning.
night I was detailed for guard duty, my turn of guard closing with the morning
call. When I went out with the ofiicer as a relief, I found that my post was upon
a high eminence that overlooked the deep ravine In which our men had engaged the
enemy, until Totten's battery came to their assistance.
was a dreary, lonesome beat. The moon had gone down In the early part of the night,
while the stars twinkled dimly through a hazy atmosphere, lighting up imperfectly
the surrounding objects. Occasionally I would place my ear near the ground and
listen for the sound of footsteps, but all was silent save the far off howling
of the wolf, that seemed to scent upon the evening air the banquet that we had
been preparing for him.
hours passed slowly away, when at length the morning light began to streak along
the eastern sky, making surround- ing objects more plainly visible, Presently
I heard a drum beat up the morning call. At first I thought It came from the camp
of the enemy across the creek; but as I listened, I found that it came up from
the deep ravine; for a few minutes it was silent, and then as it became more light
I heard it again. I listened � the sound of the drum was familiar to me � and
I knew that it wad our
drummer boy from Tennessee beating for help the reveille.
I was about to desert my post to go to his assistance, when I discovered the officer
of the guard approaching with two men. We all listened to the sound, and were
satisfied that it was Eddie's drum. I asked permission to go to his assistance.
The officer hesitated, saying that the orders were to march in twenty minutes.
I promised to be back in that time, and he consented.
immediately started down the hill through the thick undergrowth, and upon reaching
the valley I followed the sound of the drum, and soon found him seated upon the
ground, his back leaning against the trunk of a fallen tree, while his drum hung
upon a bush In front of him, reaching nearly to the ground.
soon as he discovered me he dropped his drumsticks and exclaimed, " O Corporal
! I am so glad to see you. Give me a drink," reaching out his hand for my canteen,
which was empty.
immediately turned to bring him some water from the brook that I could hear rippling
through the bushes near by, when, thinking that I was about to leave him, he commenced
crying, saying : " Don't leave me. Corporal � I can't walk."
was soon back with the water, when I discovered that both of his feet had been
shot away by a cannon ball. After satisfying his thirst, he looked up into my
face and said : " You don't think I wiIl die, Corporal, do you ? This man said
I would not � he said the surgeon could cure my feet."
I now discovered a man lying in the grass near him. By his dress I recognized
him as belonging to the enemy. It appeared that he had been shot through the bowels,
and fallen near where Eddie lay. Knowing that he could not live, and seeing the
condition of the boy, he had crawled to him, taken off his buckskin suspenders,
and corded the little fellow's legs below the knee, and then laid down and died.
While he was
telling me these particulars, I heard the tramp of cavalry coming down the ravine,
and in a moment a scout of the enemy was upon us, and I was taken prisoner. I
requested the officer to take Eddie up in front of him, and he did so, carrying
him with great tenderness and care. When we reached the camp of the enemy the
little fellow was dead.
AND INCIDENTS OF THE WAR
NORTH AND SOUTH 1860-1865
COLLECTED AND ARRANGED
BY FRANK MOORE
the Christian soldier:
cannot enlist in the spiritual army of the Lord. Your enlistment came with your
entry into the Lamb's book of life when you declared your faith that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies
which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith
have made shipwreck:
144:1 Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands
to war, and my fingers to fight:
2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower,
and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under
3 LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of
man, that thou makest account of him!
4 Man is like to vanity: his days are
as a shadow that passeth away.
5 Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch
the mountains, and they shall smoke.
6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them:
shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.
11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises,
stopped the mouths of lions,
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the
edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned
to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to
life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might
obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and
scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned,
they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered
about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains,
and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good
report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some
better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our
Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour
is not in vain in the Lord.
we are taken from the battlefield by Christ himself, to be with him in the Glory
forever, we are on the front lines at war spiritually with the works of darkness.
surrounded by the enemy.
We have them right where we want them.
let one of them get away.
this page was a help to you, I would like to hear how. SEND
Do you have any war poetry or quotations you can send or links to
TO WAR ROOM POETRY LIST
TO WAR ROOM MENU PAGE
TO THE OPENING PAGE OF THE JOURNAL