A Letter Home

envelopeIt has been quite some time since I posted on the topic of drummer boys. Below is a transcript of one of the letters of Felix Voltz, a drummer boy in the 187th New York Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War.

According to author J. Arthur Moore’s bio on Voltz: “Felix Voltz ran away from home on January 30, 1865 to enlist (to his family’s dismay). He mustered out with the company on July 1, 1865, at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and served as a drummer in the 187th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry for five months. Felix wrote letters to his family in Elmira, New York, which described the rigors of Union Army life from February through June 1865.”

Here is Voltz’s entry in the post-war regimental roster:


One thing in particular is the revelation that many of the drummers were responsible for furnishing their own drums as backing was directed towards more pressing wartime necessities. As the vast majority of drummer boys were young they were dependent on their parents or guardians to provide the means in which to obtain the instrument. We can assume their fears were subsided knowing that their boys were not assigned to a combat role and were serving as musicians. (Note: This letter is held in the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech):

March 3d / 65 187 Regt

Dear Parents Brths & Sisters

Now I will let you know how I got in the Drum Chor I had to go on Picket Duty the other day and when I came back I got sick for two or three days but I got over that and then I went to Tony the Orderly and ask him if they had A Drummer for our Company Says he No sir then he told me to wait A day or two and he would set about it then he to Drum Major and when he come back he told Me to go over to the Drum Major he wanted too see Me when I come over there who was Drum Major was Joe Koack and he told Me if it was possible he would get Me in and then he came over and told me to give up my Musket and come with him then he said he would try and see if he could get Drum for Me here but he said I could not draw any government Drum down here he told Me to write Home fore one and have it send here you Tony can go and do this favor for Me he said the best and cheapest place you can buy one is on the corner of Main and Tiagarer Sts a new music Store and please buy a good one and I will make it all right as soon as I get My Bounty and he Joe told Me best way and the quickest way to send it would be by Mail / they tell us we will get our Bounty the 15th of this Month then I will send home all I possible can. No More news this time I will write again as soon as possible please tell Mother not to wearry herself about Me for I am allright yet and I hope will be so for the next year and tell here I am in no danger what so ever all I have to do is to take care of Me and my Drum and learn how to Drum as soon as possible…(follow up letter)…my Drum arrived here yesterday alright in good Order and Joe Roach says that you could not send A better one for here in the Army I thank you Brth A W for doing that favor…

I remain your truly Son and Brother.
Felix Voltz

Regular visitors to this blog may recall that I have often posted before on the history of the drummer boy. As a Civil War author and historian I relish the opportunity to combine both of my interests. (See past posts on the subject: Major A.H. JohnsonHistory of Drummer BoysThe Long RollOnline Photograph CollectionDrummer BoyCivil War RudimentsWelcome new visitors103rd Ohio Preserved DrumCourage and Distinction). You can also search for keyword “Civil War” for a complete listing.

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