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John Lincoln Clem
by John T. Marck
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

John Lincoln "Johnny" Clem

Johnny Clem was born in Newark, Ohio on August 13, 1851. At the age of nine, he ran away from home in May 1861 to join the army. When he arrived at the commander's office of the 3rd Ohio Regiment, he was told that the army didn't enlist infants. Undaunted at being turned down, he then went to the 22nd Michigan Regiment, but the commander told him the same thing. Still determined to join the army, he decided to tag along with the 22nd Michigan anyway. Conducting himself like a regular drummer boy, he eventually wore down the officers, so they agreed to let him stay. Although he was still not on the rolls technically, he did perform numerous camp duties and was paid the same thirteen dollars a month that regular soldiers received, only his pay was donated by the officers.

In April of 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh, Johnny Clem's drum was destroyed by an artillery round. From this a news story developed, whereby he was called "Johnny Shiloh." At the Battle of Chickamauga, more than one year later, Clem was riding an artillery caisson on the battlefield on its way to the front lines. He now carried a musket that had been cut down in size, more suited to his size. During a Union retreat, with Clem still riding the caisson, a Confederate officer noticed the cannon and caisson and started after it. As the officer moved closer, Clem shouted out for him to surrender. Ignoring the boy, the Confederate officer came closer yet, and Clem shot and killed him. For his actions here, the newspapers got hold of the story, and dubbed him, "The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga." After Shiloh, but before Chickamauge, Clem was placed on the regular enrollment and now received his own army pay.

Throughout the war, Johnny Clem remained in the army and helped out as a courier. When the war ended, Clem attempted to get into West Point, but was turned down because he had little if any education. Appealing to President Grant, who happened to have been his commanding general at Shiloh, Grant appointed him a 2nd lieutenant in the Regular Army on December 18, 1871.

By 1903, Clem had become a colonel and assistant quartermaster general. When he retired from the army in 1916, he had attained the rank of major general.

John Lincoln Clem died in San Antonio, Texas on May 13, 1937.

Copyrightę John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.