Wanted: Young Heroes

by Roger Van Scoy

Wanted: Young men who like to get up early, make noise all day, love exercise and excitement. If interested, please see the nearest Union Army Recruiter.

If that sounds like you, then you may have what it took to be a Civil War drummer. But first, let's make sure you qualify.

Are you too young? Not at all. You couldn't join the Army until you were 18 years old. That is, unless, you wanted to be a musician, either a drummer or a bugler. Over 100,000 boys younger than 15 enlisted in the Union Army, there were even 300 boys younger than 13. Tommy Hubler may have been the youngest member of the Union Army. He was only 9 years old when he enlisted with his father.

Are you an early riser? Is 5 am too early? That's when the drummers had to get up. Every morning at 5 a.m. they played reveille to awaken all the other soldiers. It didn't make them very popular at breakfast.

Do you like to make noise all day? Getting the Army out of bed in the morning was just the first thing the drummers had to do. Next came:

All day long the drums told the soldiers what to do. The drummers even played songs while the Army was marching.

Do you like exercise? The drummers got a lot of exercise. They marched with the rest of the Army. They carried and played their drums through mud and snow, in sunshine and rain. During a battle, the drummers were expected to carry the heavy stretchers with wounded soldiers from the battlefield back to the hospital.

Do you like excitement? The drummers were the first to know about trouble. Their drums called the soldiers to battle, told them when to march, when to shoot, and when to retreat. While the drummers were part of the Infantry, they weren't allowed to carry guns (which were taller than most of them, anyway). Instead, they were given a thin, straight sword which fastened to a wide leather belt worn around the waist. What could be more exciting, and scary, than going into battle without a gun? Tommy Hubler was in 26 battles before the Civil War was over.

Do you still want the job? Charles Mosby -- age 13, Johnny Clem -- age 11, and Tommy Hubler -- age 9, did. They were all young drummer boys during the American Civil War. A Civil War drummer had a dangerous job. Each one showed that courage isn't measured in size or years. Each one was a young hero.


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