American Drummer Boy

The History behind the Story

Drum Calls

The beat of the Drum was one of the most important ways of communicating orders to Civil War soldiers.  Whether it was wake up call, the beat to march to, or the order to attack, the drum was essential to control the Army.  But the risk for a drummer boy was high.  Hundreds were killed and thousands wounded.

A cannon ball came bouncing across the corn field,” a drummer boy recalled, “kicking up dirt and dust each time it struck the earth.  Many of the men in our company took shelter behind a stone wall, but I stood where I was and never stopped drumming.  An officer came by on horseback and chastised the men, saying ‘this boy puts you all to shame.  Get up and move forward.’ We all began moving across the cornfield… Even when the fighting was at its fiercest and I was frightened, I stood straight and did as I was ordered. … I felt I had to be a good example for the others“.

              –Source “The Boys War” by Jim Murphy


A soldiers daily life began early in the morning, often before daylight.  This drum call signaled that it was time to get up and begin the day.

Call To Battle

The tension before a large battle was intense.  The anticipation of moving onto the line even greater.  This call was the signal to the unit that it was time to move into battle position.


A great deal of every soldiers life in the past and in the present is training.  Part of that training is the march, where moving and thinking as a unit is practiced.  This drum march provided the beat to step to.


Even the somber and sobering event of an execution was militarily precise.  This drum beat is the last sound a person executed would hear before the volley of rifle fire resounded.

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