It’s an historical fact that over ten thousand soldiers under the age of eighteen served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Granted, many of them served as drummers and fifers, but their service was nonetheless invaluable. Drummers set the marching pace and sometimes provided cadence for the firing of guns and cannons. Fifers, on the other hand, were used for signaling line formation changes, as well as working in conjunction with drummers to set the marching pace.
One of the youngest “boy soldiers” to serve became known as “The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga”. He was born John Joseph Klem to German immigrant parents Roman and Magdalene on August 13, 1851 in Newark, Ohio. By the 1860 census, however, the family had changed the spelling of their surname to “Clem”.
NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine. This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here: www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription here.