Preserving the Past

Those of you who frequent this blog are probably aware that I split my writing interests between drumming and the American Civil War. This has resulted in me publishing multiple books, articles, and posts on both subjects. My online book The Long Roll (available for free download above) distinctly combines the two. Recently I was given a unique and very special gift. I received a pair of drumsticks made from wood legally harvested from “witness” trees that were standing on the field during the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. These are made from White Oak taken from the Longstreet Tree and were played at the 74th PA Monument. They are number 003 of 100. These cherished instruments were presented to me by Jim Smith, an accomplished Civil War-era drummer and period-collector. Jim runs a website called “The Yankee Drummer” where he provides professional conservation, restoration, and repair services.

In 1913, 74th PA drummer Peter Guibert marched from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg for the battle’s 50th Anniversary Reunion. In 2013, Jim Smith, then 70 years old, followed in Peter’s footsteps using Peter’s 74th PA drum. Throughout his adventure, Jim beat period cadences upon Peter’s relic drum using sticks that had been turned from trees that witnessed the historic battle in July of 1863. Jim now makes similar sticks available on his site. He also makes drums from his extensive collection available for purchase. Its amazing the condition that these drums are in and many are still playable. Jim still uses several for his own reenactment events.

After close to seven decades of assembling an incredible collection of rope-drums Jim has pledged to find new homes for these relics where they can be appreciated. His treasures cover the 1300’s through the mid 1900’s with a concentration on Civil War instruments. 2021 promises to be a big year for The Yankee Drummer as they still must inventory another 110+/ drums, plus swords, fifes, as well as original images of tintypes and CDVs of drummers.

After viewing a presentation Jim gave at the U.S.A.R.D. Convention it is evident he has a tremendous knowledge on the history of the drum and a tremendous skill playing it. Here is a video of Jim performing in the field:

As reenactment numbers continue to fall Civil War drumming may become a lost art. One can only hope that the tradition is passed down from generation to generation so that we can keep the spirit alive. Jim Smith is doing just that. Through his hobby and his business, he is preserving the history of the boys who courageously marched off to war with nothing more to protect them than a pair of sticks. Now you can own apiece of that courage simply by getting online and visiting The Yankee Drummer.

Visit Jim’s website at:

View The Yankee Drummer catalog at:

Purchase “Witness Tree” Drumsticks at:

Contact Jim at:

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