One of the more interesting aspects of drummer boy history that I found while researching material for The Long Roll was the experiences of African Americans. To my surprise, I found examples of black drummers on both sides who had unique stories and survived the war.
One individual however is a mystery. In fact, I was unable to come up with any detailed information other than a name and regiment. We know that his name is Jackson and he is a runaway slave. He appears to be around 12-13 years-old and he enlisted in the 79th U.S. Colored Troops in Louisiana. There is however, one source that names him as Taylor and serving in the 78th regiment of the USCT. There is also some speculation that he is the son of his master and that he was contraband in the Confederate Army.
Looking at his clothes in the left photo he does not appear to be well taken care of. These before and after photographs depict the remarkable transformation that took place when a runaway slave joined the ranks of the Union Army. I was unable to find a “Jackson” or a “Taylor” (as a first name) on the roster of the 79th USCT. Perhaps as a young boy he did not merit an entry. It appears his story has been preserved only in a photograph and first name with the rest of it shrouded in mystery. If you’re interested in learning about drummers whose stories we can tell download your copy of The Long Roll above.