The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga: Early Life and Determination

Born on August 13, 1851, in Newark, Ohio, John Lincoln Clem’s life would become a remarkable story of courage, determination, and service. While his early years were marked by tragedy, these only fueled a burning desire to contribute to a cause greater than himself.

At the tender age of nine, tragedy struck as his mother was killed in a train accident. Following this loss, Clem’s life took a turbulent turn when his father remarried, prompting young Clem to venture off on his own and seek a purpose in the Union Army, even before he reached the age of ten.

Drummer Boy John Lincoln Clem circa the early 1860s (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

His first attempt to join the army as a drummer boy was met with resistance due to his small stature and young age. But Clem was determined and undeterred. He would go on to earn the nickname “Johnny Shiloh,” a moniker that would forever link him to his indomitable spirit. The defining moment for this nickname came during the Battle of Shiloh when a shell fragment narrowly missed him, leading to the nickname “Johnny Shiloh.”

In his own words, he stated: