MG John Lincoln Clem Sr.

MG John Lincoln Clem Sr.

Newark, Licking County, Ohio, USA
Death 13 May 1937 (aged 85)
San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 2, Site 993
Memorial ID 2284 · View Source
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Civil War Figure, United States Major General. On May 24, 1861, at just 9-years of age, he left his home in Newark, Ohio, to join the fighting that had recently erupted in what would become the Civil War. His mother had been killed in a train accident, and he was now free to do his part to protect the Union. The first thing he did was to change his name. He was born John Joseph Klem, but changed his middle name to Lincoln because of his admiration for President Abraham Lincoln. He then changed the spelling of his last name, spelling his name with a C instead of a K which was used by his German immigrant family. Although he would become the youngest soldier ever to serve in the United States Army, he quickly found the army wasn't interested in boys his age. When he applied to the commander of the 3rd Ohio Regiment, the officer turned him down. He then tried the 22nd Michigan, and its commander said roughly the same thing. Determined, he tagged after the regiment, acted just as the other drummer boys did, and wore down resistance. Though still not regularly enrolled, he performed camp duties and received a soldier's pay, $13 a month, a sum donated by the officers. The next April, at Shiloh, his drum was smashed by an artillery round and he became a minor news item as "Johnny Shiloh," the smallest drummer. More than a year later, at the Battle of Chickamauga, he rode an artillery caisson to the front and wielded a musket trimmed to his size. In one of the Union retreats, a Confederate officer ran after the cannon he rode with. Clem shot him, although it's uncertain if the officer was killed or wounded, and later eluded capture by playing dead. Once reunited with his regiment, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, becoming the youngest American soldier ever to hold that rank. His heroic action also earned him national attention and the name, "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga." The remainder of the war found him at Murfreesboro, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Atlanta. He was captured by Confederate forces shortly after Chickamauga, but was exchanged two months later. Twice he had ponies shot from under him, later served as a courier, and was wounded in the hip by a shell fragment. Between Shiloh and Chickamauga he was regularly enrolled in the service and thereafter received his own pay. He was discharged from the Army in 1864, at the age of 13. After the war, he tried to enter West Point but was turned down because of his slim education. He then made a personal appeal to President Ulysses S. Grant, his general at Shiloh. The appeal was heard by Grant, who personally handed him his second lieutenant's commission on December 18, 1871. He saw action during the Spanish-American War, and in 1903 became a Colonel and assistant quartermaster general. In 1915, he was promoted to Brigadier General; and retired in 1916 as a Major General after 53 years of active duty, the last Civil War veteran on active duty. When the United States entered World War I, Clem, now 65, sought permission to be activated to join the fighting in France, however President Woodrow Wilson refused his request. He retired to San Antonio, Texas, where he would later die.

Bio by: Ugaalltheway

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The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga
Major General, US Army


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 2284
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for MG John Lincoln Clem Sr. (13 Aug 1851–13 May 1937), Find a Grave Memorial no. 2284, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .