Children in History
The Civil War

Johnny Clem, "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga"

Johnny Clem, "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga"
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.2

     challenging words:    regiment, fragment, wounded, combat, rank, hometown, bravery, lieutenant, military, prisoner, emergency, sawed, lasted, admission, veteran, general
     content words:    Civil War, Johnny Clem, John Joseph Klem, Union Army, Twenty-second Michigan, In May, Johnny Shiloh, John Lincoln Clem, John Clem, Military Academy

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Johnny Clem, "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga"
By Cindy Grigg

1     The Civil War began in the spring of 1861. More than ten thousand young soldiers under the age of eighteen served in the Union armies. Johnny Clem was one of these.
2     John Joseph Klem wanted to join the Union Army in May of 1861. He ran away from home. His mother had recently died. He was only nine years old. Twice he was turned away. They said he was too young and too small. When the Twenty-second Michigan regiment passed through his hometown in Ohio, he tagged along. He smuggled himself aboard their train. When they got off the train, here was this small, dirty, and tired boy. They finally made him their "emergency" drummer boy. They made him a uniform small enough to fit. Officers paid him out of their own pockets a regular soldier's pay of thirteen dollars a month. In May 1863 when he was twelve, he officially enlisted in the Twenty-second Michigan and received pay from the army. It was told that a shell fragment hit the drum he was carrying during the Battle of Shiloh. The impact knocked him out. His fellow soldiers carried him to safety. They began calling him "Johnny Shiloh." With no drum to play, Johnny became a regular soldier. They sawed off a musket's barrel so it wasn't too heavy for him to carry.
3     In September 1863, Johnny was in the Battle of Chickamauga. He was almost captured by a Rebel officer. He escaped by shooting the officer. After the war, Johnny learned that the officer had lived. He said, "When I heard that I had not killed that Confederate officer, it was the best news I ever got." His bravery in the Battle of Chickamauga was noted by two generals. He was commended for his bravery. He was promoted to sergeant. He was the youngest person ever to hold this rank in the U.S. Army. Newspapers told his story. Johnny became known as the "drummer boy of Chickamauga." At about this time, he changed his name and its spelling. He was now John Lincoln Clem.

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