John Lincoln Clem
Major General, United States Army
at Newark, Ohio, in 1851 as John Joseph Klem, but changed his name as a
youth because of his admiration for President Abraham Lincoln.
He fought in the Civil War at the age of ten. In May 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he attempted to enlist as a drummer-boy in the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, but was rejected on account of his age and size.
Subsequently he joined the 22nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry and accompanied that unit to the field and in the Summer of 1862 was regularly enlisted as a drummer in that regiment. He displayed fearless spirit in the Battle of Shiloh, where his drum was destroyed by a piece of shell.
At the Battle of Chickamauga he served as a marker and carried a musket instead of a drum, and particularly distinguished himself. he had been in the thickest of the fight and three bullets passed through his hat. He became separated from his companions and was seen running, with a musket in his hands, by a Confederate Colonel who called out, "Stop you little Yankee devil!" He halted and brought his musket up when the Colonel rode up to make him a prisoner. With a swift movement, he brought his musket up and fired, killing the Colonel instantly. He escaped and for that exploit on the battlefield was made a Sergeant, put on duty at the Headquarters of the Army of the Cumberland, and placed on the roll of honor.
In 1871 he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and became Colonel and Assistant Quartermaster General of the United States Army in 1903.
He died in San Antonio, Texas, on May 13, 1937
and was buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery. He is famous
in history as "The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga"
In spring 1861, John Joseph Klem (he later changed the spelling of his last name) ran away from his Newark home at age 9 and tried to enlist with the 3rd Ohio Regiment. After the commander told him the Army didn't accept infants, he tried to join the 22nd Michigan - which also refused him. He tagged along anyway, and the 22nd eventually adopted him as mascot and drummer boy. Officers chipped in to pay him $13 a month. They allowed him to enlist two years later.
During the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, Clem rode on an artillery caisson as the 22nd retreated. A Confederate officer noticed the boy and shouted for him to surrender. Clem, then 12, shot and killed the officer. The newspapers picked up the story, and General George H. Thomas promoted him to Corporal.
Captured by Confederate cavalry in late 1863,
Clem was exchanged a short time later. He was discharged from the Army
in 1864, age 13. But he rejoined, when President Ulysses S. Grant made
him a Second Lieutenant in 1871. Clem remained in the Army until 1915,
when he retired with the rank of brigadier general. He is buried in Arlington
Gravesite photo courtesy of Ron Williams
Updated: 12 November 2000 Updated: 24 June 2001 Updated: 31 August 2002 Updated: 22 February 2003 Updated: 10 October 2003 Updated: 16 September 2005 Updated: 20 August 2006 Updated: 28 March 2007