Youngest Drummer Boy?

Gilbert Van Zandt is believed to be the youngest enlistee in the Union Army during the Civil War. Born on December 20, 1851, “Little Gib” joined the ranks of Company D, 79th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the age of ten years, seven months, and sixteen days. Before enlisting, Van Zandt had volunteered as a drummer for the local recruiting office. He hoped to encourage men to enlist in the Union Army at the beginning of the war. He wore a uniform designed by his mother. Barely four feet tall, Van Zandt served initially as the company’s drummer boy, and later as a courier for the regiment. Distinguished for his bravery under fire, young Gilbert saw action in the battles for Atlanta, Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the Carolina Campaign. He was discharged from service on June 9, 1865, already a seasoned veteran at thirteen. President Andrew Johnson offered the young veteran the choice of attending the United States Military Academy at West Point or of keeping a pony that Van Zandt had used in the war. Van Zandt chose to keep the horse, which he had named “Fannie.” Van Zandt died in Kansas City, Missouri on October 4, 1944 at the age of ninety-two. His lengthy life made him one of the last surviving Civil War veterans. For a free 50-page book on the wartime experiences of drummer boys from both sides download The Long Roll.

2 Comments

Filed under Drums and Drumming

2 responses to “Youngest Drummer Boy?

  1. Excellent work. Again. Your insight on Civil War drummer boys makes for educational and, yes, fun reading. Thank you. // Best, Scott K Fish

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