The Drummer Boy, an Essay
An essay by Helen Marie Melly More, Marlborough, Massachusetts, 7 July 2002
Company A & G - 104th PA
1861 - 1865
John W. Morgan spent four years serving his country during the Civil War and returned home a much wiser 19 year old.
Just prior to the Christmas season in 1861, John Morgan, son of Harvey Morgan, boarded the old stage that traveled from Yardley to Bristol at the Fallsington Hotel. He was only 15 years old, eager to be at the front and dreaming of glory. The first destination on his long journey was Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
He was expected, but the equipment for the 104th Ringgold Regiment at Camp Lacy had not arrived, so he along with other recruits were quartered for two weeks at the government's expense at Oram's Hotel, standing on the site of the future Lenape Hall. During their wait they were instructed in "police duty", pitching tents, and other skills they would need in the near future.
John Hargrave, the 104th's drum major, took the drummer boys in hand, teaching them the manipulations of the fascinating drumsticks. All in due course it would become clear that the rhythmic beating would set the marching pace and, in trying times, bring cheer and boost the morale.
The drums were heavy and the barrels of the United States regulation drums were too long for many of the boys to be able to carry them clear of the ground. Later Colonel W.W.H. Davis won the hearts of the boys when he went to Philadelphia and ordered smaller drums for his smaller boys, of which John Morgan was one. "It is against the rules to beat the drum on both ends at the same time", Davis told the bewildered boys. Davis relaxed a bit and explained "I mean one end with the drum sticks and the other end beating the ground as you drag it over the bumps and ridges."
Morgan was asked if Colonel Davis was kind to them, "Oh, yes, indeed", he replied. "May I tell you of a visit I made to him long ago, years long after those stormy years together"? John then explained: Colonel Davis' eyesight at the close of a long life of ninety years had become impaired. He placed his hand on John's shoulder and said, "This is one of my boys, is it not? Morgan of the happy drum sticks? Ah's manys the time I had to take you little codgers, one in front of me on my horse and one behind as I ferried you across creeks and marshes."
John Morgan's prized possession was his drum, "I love it, though I recall to this day the over-tired muscles after a long day's march over Northern fields and Southern miles, scorching sun and blinding storms, when the drum grew heavier and heavier until it took all the grit a fellow had, not to let the others know just how near a body came to collapsing. Then someone would shout 'lively there, boys,' and then the little fellows went at it with renewed vigor."
"Back home we thought of the war as all glory. I remember how I first became interested in the drum. During Lincoln's first election, Stony Hill boasted a fife and drum corps that was in great demand for the political parades. I marched proudly in those processions carrying the tassels of the banner, but it was the music that really stirred me. I asked a friend to make me a set of drumsticks, which he did. I practiced faithfully, beating out some sort of tatoo on hay scales, boxes or anything that came my way."
"Seeing how desirous I was of learning to drum, Charles Lewis kindly taught me two or three beats, and from then on my one ambition was to be a drummer boy. When the call came for the enlistment of drummer boys to serve in the Civil War, as young as I was, I went post haste to Doylestown and enlisted."
The Stoney Hill drum corps, known as the Cooper Shop Band, had awakened the dormant music within the lad, and thus gave to the war, "The Drummer Boy of Fallsington". Pvt. Morgan served until February 1864, when he was discharged. Because of his fine penmanship he signed many of the discharges under orders of his Captain, John E. Corcoran, including his own. The Drummer Boy immediately re-enlisted as a veteran volunteer and served until the end of the war and was discharged under general order in 1865.
When asked about the service he rendered, he replied that he could not recite from memory but that he had a partial list from the War Department at Washington. "The 104th Regiment left the State of Pennsylvania for the front, November 1861; went into camp at Georgetown, D.C. March 29, 1862; moved to Fortress Monroe, Virginia; was assigned to First Brigade, Third Division, Fourth Corps, Army of the Potomoc; participated in Siege of Yorktown, April 5th to May 2nd, 1862; was in the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia; May 5th, skirmishes at Seven Pines, Savage Station and Chickahominy, Battle of Fair Oaks, and many more engagements".
Upon returning home, John Morgan took up his residence in Tullytown, where he resided for forty-four years in one home. He would often tell stories of the four years spent in the thick of things. Some were pleasing or humorous, and others pathetic instances, all the while handling his prized drum.
John W. Morgan
Born: 20 January 1845 (Philadelphia, Penn.)
Parents: Pvt. Harvey Morgan (20th Penn. Cavalry) and Amanda Melvina King
Spouse: Phoebe A. Moon
Died: 8 May 1922 (Tullytown, Bucks County, Penn.)
"John Morgan's military background was obtained from a 1930 newspaper in a column called The Passing Years by Louise White Watson, and shared with we descendants of Union Army Soldiers who served with the 104th Pennsylvania. I dedicate this chapter to those brave, young Lads in all Civil War Regimental Units who, with their prized drums, truly did make a difference."
Copyright © 1997 by Helen Marie More. This copy contributed for use in
the USGenWeb Archives. HMore@compuserve.com or visit http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/HMore/ or