When I was researching letters for The Long Roll I didn’t come upon any that depicted the camaraderie that was shared between Drummer Boys on both sides. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to think that having the chance to interact with someone your own age would be a welcome opportunity for these boys among men. It is tragic that the one rare moment of interaction I was able to find took place under heartbreaking circumstances. This letter, written by Union drummer Delavan Miller, shows the empathy that one side could have for the other.
After the fighting at Sailor’s Creek had ended, Delavan Miller and his friends in the drum corps of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery found a Confederate drummer boy, wounded and taken prisoner. “My sympathies were stirred as they had never been before,” Delavan recalled when he wrote his memoirs, “as a boy, scarcely 16 years old, was lifted out of the wagon…. He, too, was a drummer boy and had been wounded two or three days before. We got our surgeon and had his wound dressed and gave him stimulants and a little food, but he was… “all marched out,” he said… We bathed his face and hands with cool water… [and] before leaving “Little Gray”, as we called him, two boys knelt by his side and repeated the Lord’s prayer… In the morning the little Confederate from the Palmetto state was dead and we buried him on the field with his comrades. Twas war- real genuine war.”
It is easy to forget that Drummer Boys were also among the casualties of war and many died of the same wounds as their adult comrades. There is no total that I am aware of for how many Drummer Boys died during the Civil War but there were quite a few who perished either in battle, from disease, or as prisoners of war. Their sacrifice is far too often overlooked. If you are interested in reading more about the wartime experiences of these boys download The Long Roll: DOWNLOAD HERE.