Newark, OH

John Clem was one of the youngest soldiers in the Civil War, at nine years old when he unofficially joined.

Sara B
Photo byBy unattributed, no markings - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain,

At ten years old, a drummer boy named John Clem (Klem) was one of the youngest soldiers in the Civil War. As well as the youngest non-commissioned officer in US history and the youngest decorated civil war hero on either side of the Civil War.

He was born on August 13, 1851, in Newark, Ohio. He ran away from home at 9 to join the union army after his mother was killed in a train accident. He tried to join the 3rd Ohio infantry, but they sent him away, telling him he was too young and too small, so he also tried to enlist in the 22nd Michigan they also refused him.

However, he was persistent, and he decided to follow the 22nd Michigan around, and eventually, they adopted him as a mascot and gave him the drummer boy position. The officers from the regiment all pitched in to provide him with an average soldier's pay of 13 dollars a month. Finally, two years later, he was officially allowed to enlist.

During the Battle of Chickamauga, he made a name for himself; he rode an Artillery Kayson to the frontlines and used a musket designed for his small size. Confederates surrounded the Union, and a confederate colonel spotted Clem and stated.

The best thing a mite of a chap like you can do is drop that gun.

He did not; instead, he shot the colonel and found his way back to the Union side. After the battle, john was promoted to Sargeant; it was at this point he became the youngest non-commissioned officer to serve in the US Army.

He became known as the drummer boy of Chickamauga. With his regiment, Clem went on to fight at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Kennesaw, and Atlanta, where he was wounded twice.

Oct 1863, he was caught in Georgia while serving as a train guard. The Confederates took his uniform, including his hat with three bullet holes in it, which upset him. He was released during a prisoner exchange shortly after. The Confederate army used him as an example of how desperate the Union was for soldiers; they were enlisting children.

"what sore straits the Yankees are driven when they have to send their babies out to fight us."

In 1864 he was honorably discharged at 14 and finished high school. After he finished school, he enlisted in the national guard in 1871; when he finished school, he attempted to get into West Point but failed the entrance exam twice.

Instead, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him a second lieutenant in the 24th infantry regiment in December 1871. He attended and graduated from artillery school at Fort Monroe and was promoted to captain in 1882; he was then transferred to the Quartermaster Department, where he stayed the rest of his military career.

Clem had a successful military career, becoming a Colonel by 1906. Clem retired as a Major General and was the last Civil War veteran to serve in the US army actively. John Clem died in 1937 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Comments / 32

Published by

I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news.

Pasadena, CA

More from Sara B

Comments / 0