Drummer Boy of Shiloh, The [Laws A15]

DESCRIPTION: "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.
AUTHOR: Will S. Hays
EARLIEST DATE: 1862 (sheet music published by D. P. Faulds)
KEYWORDS: Civilwar death youth
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: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)
FOUND IN: US(Ap,Ro,SE,So)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Laws A15, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh"
Randolph 239, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh" (1 text)
BrownII 230, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh" (1 text plus two excerpts, one of which approximates the whole song)
Boswell/Wolfe 58, pp. 96-97, "The Drummer Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard, #150, "The Drummer Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-CivWarFull, pp. 140-142, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS1, p. 270, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh" (1 text)
DT 364, DRUMRBOY*

Roud #773
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Battle of Vicksburg" (lyrics)
NOTES: 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.
According to E. Lawrence Abel, Singing the New Nation: How Music Shaped the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Stackpole, 2000, pp. 201-202, "The song's cover page was as evocative as the song. The scene is the aftermath of the battle. The dying drummer boy is on his knees, hands clasped together in prayer, supported by a kneeling soldier. To his left, a distraught soldier has dovered his face with his right hand. Three other soldiers are to his right. One is dead. Another, wounded, is looking mournfully at the dying boy. A third has his head buried in his hand in grief...." Abel shows a copy of this cover, although too small to see the details. On p. 203 Abel shows the southern version of the sheet music, with a much less effective drawing; it also deliberately omits the name of composer Will S. Hays and dedicated the piece to Harry Macarthy (author of "The Bonnie Blue Flag").
This is somewhat ironic, given that Hays was "a Southerner by upbringing" (Abel, p. 202). - RBW
Last updated in version 3.8
File: LA15

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.