John Lincoln “Johnny” Clem

BornAugust 13, 1851, Newark, OH
DiedMay 13, 1937, San Antonio, TX
Years of service1863–1864, 1871–1915


Born in Newark, Ohio, 13 Aug. 1851, Clem ran away from home in May 1861 to join the army and found the army was not interested in 9-year-old boys. When he applied to the commander of the 3d Ohio Regiment, the officer said he “wasn’t enlisting infants,” and turned him down. Clem tried the 22d Michigan next, and its commander said roughly the same. Determined, Clem tagged after the regiment, acted “just the same as a drummer boy,” and wore down resistance. Though still not regularly enrolled, he performed camp duties and received a soldier’s pay, $13 a month, a sum donated by the officers.


The next April, at Shiloh, Clem’s drum was smashed by an artillery round and he became a minor news item as “Johnny Shiloh,” the smallest drummer. More than a year later, at the Battle Of Chickamauga, he rode an artillery caisson to the front and wielded a musket trimmed to his size. In one of the Union retreats a Confederate officer ran after the cannon Clem rode with, and before the drummer killed him, said, “Surrender you damned little Yankee!” This pluck won for Clem national attention and the name “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.”

Clem stayed with the army through the war, served as a courier, and was wounded twice. Between Shiloh and Chickamauga he was regularly enrolled in the service and thereafter received his own pay. After the Civil War he tried to enter West Point but was turned down because of his slim education. A personal appeal to Pres. U.S. GRANT, his general at Shiloh, won him a 2d lieutenant’s appointment in the Regular army 18 Dec. 1 871, and in 1903 he became colonel and assistant quartermaster general.

He retired from the army as a Major General in 1916. d. San Antonio, Tex., 13 May 1937.