The Story Of “Johnny Shiloh”

John Lincoln Clem

A History Lesson By Greg Albaugh
In May of 1861, 9 year old John Lincoln “Johnny” Clem ran away from his  home in Newark, Ohio, to join the Union Army, but found the Army was not  interested in signing on a 9 year old  boy when the commander of the 3rd Ohio Regiment told him he “wasn’t  enlisting infants,” and turned him down. Clem tried the 22nd Michigan  Regiment next, and its commander told him the same. Determined, Clem  tagged after the regiment, acted out the role of a drummer boy, and was  allowed to remain. Though still not regularly enrolled, he performed  camp duties and received a soldier’s pay of $13 a month, a sum collected  and donated by the regiment’s officers.
The next April, at  Shiloh, Clem’s drum was smashed by an artillery round and he became a  minor news item as “Johnny Shiloh, The Smallest Drummer”. A year later,  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 ran after the cannon Clem rode with, and yelled,  “Surrender you damned little Yankee!” Johnny shot him dead. This pluck  won for Clem national attention and the name “Drummer Boy of  Chickamauga.”
Clem stayed with the Army through the war,  served as acourier, and was wounded twice. Between Shiloh and  Chickamauga he was regularly enrolled in the service, began receiving  his own pay, and was soon-after promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was  only 12 years old. After the Civil War he tried to enter West Point but  was turned down because of his slim education. A personal appeal to  President Ulysses S. Grant, his commanding general at Shiloh, won him a  2nd Lieutenant’s appointment in the Regular Army on 18 December 1871,  and in 1903 he attained the rank of Colonel and served as Assistant  Quartermaster General. He retired from the Army as a Major General in  1916, having served an astounding 55 years.
General Clem  died in San Antonio, Texas on 13 May 1937, exactly 3 months shy of his  86th birthday, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 
And to think…today’s kids need a safe space to cry in.

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C E Voigtsberger

At nine years old Johnny could probably do more life chores than most college graduates today. Johnny could probably milk a cow, knew how to butcher a pig even if he had never done so himself. Probably had butchered and cleaned lots of chickens. Had assisted in the birth of a calf. Could saddle a horse, knew how to brush down a horse after a hard ride. He might have even been able to hitch a team to a wagon and drive a team. If he was riding on a caisson he might have lent a hand in hitching the team to the caisson. He certainly knew how to load and fire a muzzle loading rifle. Might have even had rudimentary knowledge on how to lay, load and fire the cannon.

He probably knew how to clean out a stable. Chop firewood without whacking off a leg or foot. Lay a fire. Cook over an open fire. And he was one tough young man with being wounded two times. Even a minor wound during the War of Northern Aggression was a serious matter with more soldiers dying of subsequent infection than of actual battlefield.wounds.

An impressive young man who should be a role model for young men today.

William Hicks