Although army drummers were usually adult males, young boys were trained to take their place—some even starting as young as eight years old.
These boys were responsible for memorizing up to 40 beats to communicate to the troops. Some of the boys were carried on the shoulders of fellow soldiers, protected and endeared by their older companions. These young drummers were not intentionally put near dangerous areas of battles, but it wasn’t rare for them to receive injury as they marched with the troops to fight.
William Black is believed to be the youngest soldier wounded in the Civil War. When he was twelve years old, his left arm and hand were severely injured by an exploding shell as he marched.
John Clem, “Johnny Shiloh,” was also a drummer boy in the Civil War for the Union. He was only ten years old when he ran away from home to join the ranks. He tried to join twice and was rejected both times because of his small size. On the last attempt he just tagged along and eventually became the mascot for the 22nd Michigan. In 1863, John was captured by the Confederacy and was not released until 1865. After the war, John went on to graduate from high school and excelled in higher military training.
Timothy Batchelder wanted a drum before he was even big enough to hold one, and his father still bought one for him. His father held the drum for him as he excelled in his practicing, and then Timothy was big enough to march off with the soldiers on his own in the War of 1812.
Edward Black was another young drummer of the Civil War and was part of the 21st Indiana. He joined at the age of eight and is considered to be the youngest soldier of the war.