American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

Eddy, the Drummer Boy

One of the saddest stories of the war is the story of Little Eddy, the Drummer Boy.

His father, a Union man of East Tennessee, had been killed, and his mother had gone to St. Louis with Eddy, then about twelve years old, in hope of finding a sister who lived there. Failing in this, and getting out of money, she applied to the captain of one of the companies in the Iowa First to get Eddy a position as drummer boy. The regiment had only six weeks longer to serve, and she hoped that during that time she might get work for herself and find her sister. The captain was about to say that he could not take so small a boy, when Eddy spoke out, "Don't be afraid, captain, I can drum."

Upon this, the captain replied, with a smile, "Well, well, sergeant, bring the drum, and order the fifer to come forward."

The fifer, a lank, round-shouldered fellow, more than six feet high, came forward, and bending down with his hands on his knees, asked, "My little man, can you drum?"

"Yes, sir," said Eddie, "I drummed for Captain Hill in Tennessee."

The fifer straightened himself up and played one of the most difficult tunes to follow with the drum; but Eddy kept pace with him through all the hardest parts and showed that he was a master of the drum.

"Madam, I will take your boy," said the captain. "What is his name?"

"Edward Lee," she replied, wiping a tear from her eye. "Oh! captain, if he is not killed, you will bring him back with you, won't you?"

"Yes, we'll be sure to bring him back. We shall be discharged in six weeks."

Eddy became a great favorite with the soldiers; and the tall, lank fifer used often to carry him "pick-a-back" over the hard roads and muddy places.

After the battle of Wilson's Creek, little Eddy could not be found. By and by the corporal, who had been searching for him, heard the sound of his drum not far away.

The company was to march away in a very few minutes, but not liking to leave the little fellow, the corporal went to find him.

He found him sitting up against a tree, looking deadly pale.

"O corporal, I am so glad you came! Do give me a drink of water! You don't think I'll die, do you? That man lying there said the doctor would cure my feet."

Poor little Eddy! both feet had been shot off by a cannon ball. Looking around, the corporal found a Confederate soldier lying dead not far from Eddy. He, poor soldier, although he was himself dying, had crept up to Eddy and tried to bandage the little boy's feet.

While Eddy was telling the story, a Confederate officer came up and took the corporal and his little friend prisoners.

Very tenderly the officer lifted Eddy upon the horse before him, and started for the camp; but before they reached it, the little drummer boy was dead.