Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Yankees Are Sending Babes

John Lincoln Clem a Union drummer boy, who was only 9 years old when he tried to join the army, became a paid member of the 22nd Michigan January 5th 1863.

John Lincoln Clem was born John Joseph Klem, August 13th 1851 in Newark, Ohio the son of Roman and Magdalene (Weber) Klem.  Following his mother’s death when he was 9, he ran away to become a drummer boy in Union army.  Clem’s first attempt to join up in May 1861 was rejected by the 3rd Ohio Infantry because he was so small and young.  From here he moved onto the 22nd Michigan.  They also turned him down, but this time he just “joined” them.  The men of the 22nd adopted the boy as their mascot and he became their drummer boy.  The officers of the 22nd chipped in to pay Clem a soldier’s wage.

The legend around Clem is that he precipitated in the Battle of Shiloh, where his drum was said to have been smashed by an artillery round. On January 5th 1863 he officially became enlisted in Company C of the 22nd.  Clem became famous during the Battle of Chickamauga.  He was seen riding an artillery caisson and on the front line shooting a musket which had been remade to fit his small size.  During a retreat of the Union, Clem refused to surrender to a Confederate Colonel and shot him instead.  Following the battle he was promoted to Sergeant, the youngest ever non commissioned officer in Union service.  Clem was captured October 1863 in Georgia by Confederate cavalry.  He was exchanged in a short time, but the Confederate newspapers reported on Clem’s young age to show "what sore straits the Yankees are driven, when they have to send their babes out to fight us."  After serving with the Army of the Cumberland and being wounded twice, Clem was discharged in September 1864 at the age of 13.

After the war Clem finished his early education.  He served as the Captain of the “Washington Rifles” a militia unit in the District of Columbia in 1871.  After an attempt to enter the United States Military Academy failed, Clem with the help of President Ulysses S Grant became a Second Lieutenant in the 24th United States Infantry December 18th 1871.  He would become a First Lieutenant in 1874.  Clem would continue with Army serving in the Spanish American War and rising in rank and becoming the Chief Quartermaster at Fort Sam Houston by 1906 in Texas as a Colonel.  He retired at the mandatory age of 64 in 1915, with the retirement rank of Major General.  He was the last Civil War veteran to be on active military duty.  Clem died in San Antonio, Texas May 13th 1937.  He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

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