Washington’s Drummer

John George is believed to have served as the drummer boy for George Washington’s Headquarters’ Guard. He enlisted in 1777 at the age of 17, in the First New Jersey Battalion. This battalion was part of the Maxwell Brigade which served under Washington’s direct command. George is listed on muster rolls as the unit’s drummer boy. The brigade participated in action at Brandywine, and took part in the battles at Germantown and Monmouth. They were also present at Valley Forge. George served two three-year enlistments. His first three years were served as a private and when he re-enlisted in 1780 he returned to the ranks as a sergeant. He was present at Yorktown and continued in the Continental Army until 1783.

As a member of Washington’s special unit George was personally awarded a badge of Military Merit in recognition of more than six years of faithful service. After his time in the army George received a veteran’s land grant of 100 acres near Mercer, Kentucky. He would not receive his Revolutionary War pension for almost 40 years. Initially he received nine dollars a month, but his pension records indicate that it was later increased to twelve dollars because he had been a non-commissioned officer.

Down through the years many researchers have maintained that Sergeant John George was unquestionably a drummer boy of Washington’s Guard and many of his acquaintances claimed to have seen a certificate signed by Washington personally, confirming George’s assignment as a drummer with the Guard. The certificate has been lost for many years, but the research of Revolutionary War records indicates that John George could have been the Guard’s drummer for more than half of the war.

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