Monday, October 15, 2012

The not-so-little drummer boys

This past weekend, I was in Gettysburg, and I found a good deal on a used drum for living history/reenacting programs. I had a drum when I was younger, and have always regretted selling it. I have a young man here in my household who will make a good drummer boy.

But that leads to this question: were the drummers really boys? I thought I would look at the field music of three different regiments and see what could find.

The three regiments that I chose, all infantry, were the 16th, 18th, and 58th. I went through and looked for men listed as musicians.

We will start with the 16th. There were 24 men listed as musicians. Eleven of these men served in a regimental band, Only one is listed as a fifer, and I suppose (but no proof) that the others might have played other wind instruments. Out of the 24, we have the ages of 19. Their average age was 23 years, by no means, boys. The youngest was 18, and the oldest, 35.

Next, I turned my attention to the 18th regiment. I found 11 who were listed as musicians. Nine were listed as drummers. Interestingly, there were several boys who enlisted who were later discharged. Their ages were 16, 12, 14, and 15. The oldest was 32. So in the 18th Regiment, there were some boys who, for about a year, served as drummers.

Finally, I looked at the 58th NCT. In this regiment, I found twelve men who served as musicians. Six were listed as drummers, three as fifers, and three just as musicians. The youngest was 17 years old, and the oldest was 32. Of the 11 who had their ages listed, they averaged 23 years of age.

Being a musician was not always a safe position. Of the 47 boys and men I surveyed, one was listed as killed in action, three wounded, of which two died, and three who died of disease.

I wonder what kind of numbers we would have if we surveyed all of the North Carolina regiments?

The photo is of Calvin Miller, 37th NCT.

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