THE LITTLE DRUMMER-BOY
BY ALBERT BUSHNELL HART (ADAPTED)
A FEW days before a certain regiment received orders to join
General Lyon, on his march to Wilson's Creek, the
drummer-boy of the regiment was taken sick, and carried to
Shortly after this there appeared before the captain's
quarters, during the beating of the réveille, a
good-looking, middle-aged woman, dressed in deep mourning,
leading by the hand a sharp, sprightly looking boy,
apparently about twelve or thirteen years of age.
Her story was soon told. She was from East Tennessee, where
her husband had been killed by the Confederates, and all her
property destroyed. Being destitute, she thought that if she
could procure a situation for her boy as drummer, she could
find employment for herself.
 While she told her story, the little fellow kept his eyes
intently fixed upon the countenance of the captain. And just
as the latter was about to say that he could not take so
small a boy, the lad spoke out:—
"Don't be afraid, Captain," said he, "I can drum."
This was spoken with so much confidence that the captain
smiled and said to the sergeant:—
"Well, well, bring the drum, and order our fifer to come
In a few moments a drum was produced and the fifer, a
round-shouldered, good-natured fellow, who stood six feet
tall, made his appearance. Upon being introduced to the lad,
he stooped down, resting his hands on his knees, and, after
peering into the little fellow's face for a moment, said:—
"My little man, can you drum?"
"Yes, sir," answered the boy promptly. "I drummed for
Captain Hill in Tennessee."
The fifer immediately straightened himself, and, placing his
fife to his lips, played the "Flowers of Edinburgh," one of
the most difficult things to follow with the drum. And nobly
did the little fellow follow him, showing himself to be
master of the drum.
When the music ceased the captain turned to the mother and
 "Madam, I will take the boy. What is his name?"
"Edward Lee," she replied. Then placing her hand upon the
captain's arm, she continued in a choking voice, "If he is
not killed!—Captain,—you will bring him back to me?"
"Yes, yes," he replied, "we shall be certain to bring him
back to you. We shall be discharged in six weeks."
An hour after, the company led the regiment out of camp, the
drum and fife playing "The Girl I left behind me."
Eddie, as the soldiers called him, soon became a great
favorite with all the men of the company. When any of the
boys returned from foraging, Eddie's share of the peaches,
melons, and other good things was meted out first. During
the heavy and fatiguing marches, the long-legged fifer often
waded through the mud with the little drummer mounted on his
back, and in the same fashion he carried Eddie when fording
During the fight at Wilson's Creek, a part of the company
was stationed on the right of Totten's battery, while the
balance of the company was ordered down into a deep ravine,
at the left, in which it was known a party of Confederates
An engagement took place. The contest in the ravine
continued some time. Totten suddenly
 wheeled his battery upon the enemy in that quarter, and they
soon retreated to high ground behind their lines.
In less than twenty minutes after Totten had driven the
Confederates from the ravine, the word passed from man to
man throughout the army, "Lyon is killed!" And soon after,
hostilities having ceased upon both sides, the order came
for the main part of the Federal force to fall back upon
Springfield, while the lesser part was to camp upon the
ground, and cover the retreat.
That night a corporal was detailed for guard duty. His post
was upon a high eminence that overlooked the deep ravine in
which the men had engaged the enemy. It was a dreary,
lonesome beat. The hours passed slowly away, and at length
the morning light began to streak along the western sky,
making surrounding objects visible.
Presently the corporal heard a drum beating up the morning
call. At first he thought it came from the camp of the
Confederates across the creek, but as he listened he found
that it came from the deep ravine. For a few moments the
sound stopped, then began again. The corporal listened
closely. The notes of the drum were familiar to him,—and
then he knew that it was the drummer-boy from Tennessee
playing the morning call.
 Just then the corporal was relieved from guard duty, and,
asking permission, went at once to Eddie's assistance. He
started down the hill, through the thick underbrush, and
upon reaching the bottom of the ravine, he followed the
sound of the drum, and soon found the lad seated upon the
ground, his back leaning against a fallen tree, while his
drum hung upon a bush in front of him.
As soon as the boy saw his rescuer he dropped his
drumsticks, and exclaimed:—
"O Corporal! I am so glad to see you! Give me a drink."
The soldier took his empty canteen, and immediately turned
to bring some water from the brook that he could hear
rippling through the bushes near by, when, Eddie, thinking
that he was about to leave him, cried out:—
"Don't leave me, Corporal, I can't walk."
The corporal was soon back with the water, when he
discovered that both the lad's feet had been shot away by a
After satisfying his thirst, Eddie looked up into the
corporal's face and said:—
"You don't think I shall die, do you? This man said I should
not,—he said the surgeon could cure my feet."
The corporal now looked about him and discovered a man lying
in the grass near by. By his dress he knew him to belong to
 army. It appeared that he had been shot and had fallen near
Eddie. Knowing that he could not live, and seeing the
condition of the drummer-boy, he had crawled to him, taken
off his buckskin suspenders, and had corded the little
fellow's legs below the knees, and then he had laid himself
down and died.
While Eddie was telling the corporal these particulars, they
heard the tramp of cavalry coming down the ravine, and in a
moment a scout of the enemy was upon them, and took them
The corporal requested the officer in charge to take Eddie
up in front of him, and he did so, carrying the lad with
great tenderness and care. When they reached the Confederate
camp the little fellow was dead.