I’ve written extensively on the history of the Civil War Drummer Boy here before. One search for the term will bring up over a dozen posts exploring the subject. No instance however presents a story quite as remarkable as that of Johann Christoph Julius Langbein.
J.C. Julius Langbein was born in Germany in 1845. His family immigrated to the United States when he was still a young boy. Langbein grew up in Brooklyn, New York and at the onset of the American Civil War, he volunteered at the young age of only 15. With his parent’s permission Langbein enlisted with the Union Army’s 9th New York Volunteers, also known as Hawkins’ Zouaves. There he served as a drummer boy. Langbein was young and small, with feminine features that earned him the nickname “Jennie” by the soldiers in his regiment. In January of 1862 his regiment joined General Ambrose Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition.
During the Battle of Camden on April 19, 1862, Lieutenant Thomas L. Bartholomew was hit in the head by shrapnel and collapsed. Langbein ran to his aid despite continued heavy enemy shelling and rifle fire, and managed to guide the officer to relative safety. The regimental surgeon determined that the officer was too far gone to save but Langbein was determined that the lieutenant would not be left behind to die. He snuck him into the wagon of other wounded men headed to the federal hospital on Roanoke Island where he received life-saving care. After the Lieutenant’s recovery the drummer boy was subsequently recommended for the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery and valor that can be bestowed upon a member of the United States military. One such citation is that of the Medal of Honor for Johann Christoph Julius Langbein. It stated: “A drummer boy, 15 years of age, he voluntarily and under a heavy fire went to the aid of a wounded officer, procured medical assistance for him, and aided in carrying him to a place of safety.”
According to his bio Langbein left the regiment in 1863 and returned to his home in New York City. He took up the uniform again in 1869, this time as an infantry officer with the New York National Guard, where he rose to the rank of captain. Returning to civilian life once again, Langbein became a lawyer and then judge in the state of New York. In 1905 he was elected commander of the Medal of Honor Legion. (Drum and Drumsticks used by Langbein)