“The Drummer Boy of Shiloh”


"On Shiloh's dark and bloody ground The dead and wounded lay. Amid them was a drummer boy Who beat the drum that day." One of the many Federal casualties at Shiloh was a young drummer boy. He is mourned and buried by older survivors.


There being no canned music in Civil War times, the musicians had to stay fairly close to the front lines, and drummer boys were periodically killed. Chances are that several were killed at Shiloh. Steven E. Woodworth's _Nothing But Victory: The Army of the Tennessee 1861-1865_ (Vintage Civil War Library, 2005), p. 162, reports one instance: "Young drummer Jese Nelson was in the act of firing a rifle when he was shot through the head and killed." No doubt a similar report helped inspire this song. - RBW

Historical references

  • April 6-7, 1862 - Battle of Shiloh. The army of U.S. Grant is forced back but, reinforced by Buell, beats off the army of A.S. Johnston. Johnston is killed. Both sides suffer heavy casualties (Shiloh was the first battle to show how bloody the Civil War would be)

Cross references


  1. Laws A15, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh"
  2. Randolph 239, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh" (1 text)
  3. BrownII 230, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh" (1 text plus two excerpts, one of which approximates the whole song)
  4. DT 364, DRUMRBOY*
  5. Roud #773
  6. BI, LA15


Author: Will S. Hays
Earliest date: 1862 (broadside)
Keywords: Civilwar death youth
Found in: US(Ro,SE,So)