The Little Drummer Boy
America's Youngest Civil War
President Abraham Lincoln called for 100,000 volunteers to fill the
ranks of the Union Army in 1861, long lines of men and boys streamed
into recruiting centers across the nation. Local volunteer regiments
formed in small towns and big cities across the North.
In August, 1861
the Third Volunteer Company, organized by Captain Samuel Mott in
Delphos, Ohio, was mustered into the Army at St. Mary's Ohio. Among
the eager recruits was an eight year old, fatherless boy, named
Avery Brown. The minimum age for enlistment during the Civil War was
eighteen years old, though younger boys were sometimes allowed to
enlist with parental consent. But eight years old was far too young,
and Avery was turned away.
28, 1852, the red haired, blue eyed youngster had a harsh childhood
but did not allow it to dampen his spirits. Avery endeared himself
to enlistees by playing his snare drum as a morale booster at the
recruitment station and Captain Mott took the young boy under his
wing. Captain Mott decided that the 4 foot 6 inch tall boy had as
much spirit as any full grown man under his command, and if Avery
wanted to serve his country, he damned sure should be allowed to
accompanied new recruits to Camp Chase in Columbus Ohio, and twice
he was denied permission to enlist. On the third trip, Captain Mott
refused to allow the processing of the latest batch of 101 recruits,
unless the drummer boy was also allowed to volunteer. " I have come
here with 101 men who are ready to enlist on one condition, that our
drummer boy be mustered in with us and permitted to go to the front.
Otherwise we disband right here and return home. "Captain Mott
The Army needed
those men, so permission was reluctantly granted, and on August 18,
1861, Avery Brown was mustered into Company C, 31st Ohio Volunteer
Infantry, at the age of 8
years,11 months, and 13 days, making him the youngest enlisted
soldier in the Civil War.
Four days later
Avery's unit assimilated into the 118th Ohio Volunteer Infantry,
under Captain Rudolph Ruel. On September 11 they left Cincinnati by
railroad, and on the 15th the unit crossed the Ohio River and
stopped at Covington, Kentucky.
The 118th then
moved on to East Tennessee, crossing the Cumberland Mountains to
engage heavily entrenched Rebel forces at Loudin, Tennessee. The
enemy was routed and the victorious 118th marched to Knoxville,
where they met strong resistance and were forced to withdraw back to
Loudin. They advanced to Kingston, Tennessee, where they remained
during the seventeen day siege of Knoxville.
Confederate forces withdrew from Knoxville, Avery's unit marched to
Tunnel Hill near Chattanooga. From there the 188th joined the
Georgia Campaign. their next contact with the enemy was at Resaca,
georgia on May 25, 1863 where the Rebels were forced to retreat.
From then until the end of the Battle of Atlanta, they were
constantly under fire and took many casualties.
Along the way,
Avery was presented with a captured Confederate drum at Burton's
Station, Virginia. He carried it for one and a half years during
which he was called the "Drummer Boy of Cumberland." Avery Brown
served on the front lines for eighteen months, during some of the
bloodiest battles the 118th fought, until illness forced him to take
a disability discharge in 1863. By the time of his discharge, he had
suffered from mumps, measles and rheumatism, the latter making it
necessary for him to quit the Army. Stoic in the face of so much
human suffering, the young boy had tears in his eyes as he left his
company for the last time. In June and July of 1865, the majority of
the unit's survivors were mustered out. Of the 1,000 men enlisted in
the 188th Regiment, only 400 returned home.
discharge, Avery lived in Delphos, Ohio for three years. In 1866 he
moved to Elkhart, Indiana where he worked as a stonecutter and
musician. Over the next 25 years, Avery Brown organized bands
through out Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, becoming one of the Hoosier
state's best known solo cornetists. He became close friends with
Charles Gerard Conn, who owned the Elkhart-based Conn Musical
Instrument Company, and became a member of Conn's Veteran Light
Artillery, the only all-veteran company of its kind to be formed
following the war. Due to his friendship with Conn, Avery was in a
unique position to test every new Conn cornet model as it came out
of the factory. In recognition of Avery Brown's service to his
country, and as a tribute to their friendship, Conn presented Avery
with a special gold plated engraved cornet, which became Avery's
most cherished possession.
Avery and his
wife Cynthia left Elkhart during the 1890's to move to Texas,
Wisconsin, and then Michigan, but they returned to Elkhart a few
years later, where he lived the remainder of his years.
Civil War veteran died at his Elkart home on November 2, 1904. and
is buried in Elkhart's Grace Lawn Cemetery. The captured Confederate
drum he played is on display at the Elkhart County Historical Museum
in Bristol, Indiana, along with his discharge papers and a tintype
photograph of the young "Drummer Boy Of Cumberland."
Brown (1852-1904), Musician:
Civil War Soldier
President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 call for an additional 100,000
troops to swell the ranks of the Union Army was met with
enthusiastic response and long lines at local recruiting centers.
Perhaps it was all the excitement and commotion at the Delphos,
Ohio, recruiting station that first attracted the attention of Avery
Brown, an eight-year-old, fatherless boy. Or perhaps it was the
attention showered on him by the veteran, Samuel Mott, who
encouraged the 4'6", blue eyed, red-haired youngster to play his
snare drum as a morale booster at the recruitment station.
Twice Avery accompanied new
recruits to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio. Twice he was denied
permission to enlist. On the third trip, Samuel Mott refused to
allow the processing of the latest batch of 101 recruits, unless the
drummer boy was also allowed to volunteer. Reluctant permission was
granted, and on August 18, 1861, Avery Brown was mustered into
Company C, 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at the age of 8 years, 11
months, and 13 days. Like many enthusiastic young patriots of his
day, he lied about his age, claiming to be 12 on his enlistment
Brown proudly persevered on the
front for 1-1/2 years, so inspiring the troops with his martial
music played on a captured Confederate drum, that he was dubbed "The
Drummer Boy of the Cumberland," until illness forced him to take a
disability discharge in 1863. Three years later, Brown followed his
friend, Nelson Doty, to Elkhart, Indiana, where he secured
employment as a stonecutter and musician.
In the course of the next 25
years, Avery Brown organized bands throughout Indiana, Michigan, and
Ohio, and became one of Indiana's best known solo cornetists. He
befriended the Elkhart musical instrument manufacturer, Charles
Gerard Conn, and became an enthusiastic member of Conn's Veteran
Light Artillery, the only all-veteran company of it's kind to be
formed in the United States following the war. As a result of their
close association, Avery was in a unique position to witness and
test every new Conn cornet model, as it came out of the factory.
For the November 1891 issue of
C. G. Conn's Truth, a photo engraving by the firm of Butler and Knox
was made from an 1887 cabinet card photograph of Avery Brown posing
with his new gold plated Conn Wonder cornet, the hand engraving on
which alone was said to have cost upwards of $200. A 4" x 5-1/2"
print of the 1887 Avery Brown photograph was acquired by the Museum
for inclusion in its Conn Company Archive. It bears Avery Brown's
autograph on the back of the mounting and was presented by Brown to
another Civil War veteran, Louis Germain (born in Clinton County,
New York, in 1836), who is known to have worked as a clerk in a
wholesale house in Goshen, Indiana, just a few miles from Elkhart.
A close examination of the
photograph by a researcher in Illinois, Kathy Zavada, confirmed that
Brown is wearing a uniform of the Grand Army of the Republic
(G.A.R.). The long badge pinned to his jacket is a G.A.R. membership
badge made in the early 1880s by J. K. Dawson, from melted down
Confederate cannons mixed with other alloys.
Avery and his wife, Cynthia,
left Elkhart during the 1890s to live in Texas, Wisconsin, and
Michigan, but returned before the end of the century. The famous
Civil War veteran died at his Elkhart home on November 2, 1904, and
was buried in Elkhart's Grace Lawn Cemetery where his tombstone
commemorates his distinction as the Civil War's youngest enlisted
soldier. Although the whereabouts of his Wonder Cornet is unknown,
the Confederate drum is preserved at the Elkhart County Historical
Museum in Bristol, Indiana, along with his discharge papers and a
tintype of the young "Drummer Boy of the Cumberland."
As the new decade
came into being the threat of civil war loomed. An atmosphere of
apprehension pervaded the country. Delphos readied itself for the
coming trial. On April 15, 1861, three days after the bombardment of
Fort Sumter, President Lincoln issued a call for volunteers. This
area responded, and in August, 1861, the Third Company, organized by
Captain Samuel Mott, was mustered into the Army of the United States
at St. Marys, Ohio.
In this company were a number of men from Delphos
including one Avery Brown. Brown was born Sept. 28, 1852 and was the
youngest enlisted soldier in the Civil War. Capt. Mott was a
neighbor of Brown's and was reported to have told Capt. Stansbury,
"I have come here with 101 men who are ready to enlist on one
condition that our drummer-boy be mustered in with us and permitted
to go to the front. Otherwise we disband right here and return
Reluctant consent was given and on Aug. 18, 1861,
at the age of eight years and eleven months Avery Brown was mustered
into the 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was presented with a
captured Confederate drum at Burton's Station, Virginia. He carried
it for one and a half years during which he was called "the Drummer
Boy of Cumberland."
By the time of his discharge, he had suffered
from mumps, measles and rheumatism. The latter made it necessary for
him to quit the army. After his discharge he lived in Delphos for
three years. In 1866 he moved to Elkhart, Indiana where he remained,
except for a few years in Texas, until his death in November, 1904.
On Aug. 22, 1862 Co. F. of the 118th Ohio
Volunteer Infantry was organized, under Capt. Rudolph Ruel, at
Delphos. The company went into camp at Lima at that time. They
remained there until September 11 when they left for Cincinnati by
railroad. On September 12 the members of the company were mustered
into the service by Capt. C. O. Howard, U.S. Army. On the 15th the
118th crossed the Ohio River to Covington, Ky. On the 22nd of
September they moved to Independence, where they remained until
October 11 when they advanced to Falmouth, Ky.
On the 22nd they marched to Cynthianna and then
on to Townsend's bridge on the 23rd. On October 24 they marched to
Kiser Station where stockades were built. The 118th then moved on to
East Tennessee, crossing the Cumberland Mountains. They landed in
Loudin, Tenn. where Rebel forces were strongly entrenched. The enemy
was routed. They marched to Knoxville, were repelled and returned to
Loudin. They were then sent to Kingston, Tenn., where they remained
during the siege of Knoxville.
When the siege was raised they marched to Tunnel
Hill near Chattanooga. From there the 118th joined the Georgia
Campaign. The first battle was a Resaca, Georgia on May
25,1863 where the rebels were forced to retreat. From that time till
the Battle of Atlanta they were constantly under fire. The next
battle they engaged in was at Franklin, Tennessee. Following that
were two days of fighting at Nashville where the southern troops
were driven back. The company then marched to Washington, D.C.
In June and July of 1865 the majority of the
survivors were mustered out. Of the 1,000 men enlisted in the 118th
Regiment (that is Companies A-F) only about 400 returned.