My grandfather’s story has been put together over a period of 80 years. As a child I listened to my father tell what he remembered of his father’s war stories. Years later my army husband obtained Almon’s Military Service Record and Civil War medal. In the 1970s I tried to trace his childhood on microfiches of the 1850 and 1860 census, without success. I did obtain the history of his regiment from the Virginia State Library, and found there the story of Almon’s enlistment.
The censuses are now online, and my professional researcher daughter began bringing me not only the census records, but pages from city directories, marriage license registers, newspapers, etc. with my grandfather’s name listed. She took me to the National Archives and introduced me to the Military Service and Pension Records, and, using the regimental history rosters, I began hunting through the members of Almon’s company and regiment who were either wounded or captured at Chickamauga. When I found a letter written by my grandfather in one of the folders, I knew it was time to sit down and start the book.
Then I found a second-cousin-once-removed who is the custodien of some of Almon’s memorabilia, including a 24-page hand-written memoir of his Civil War experiences that he dictated to his daughter. It deals mainly with those months he spent as a prisoner of war.
I was aided enormously by an 1879 book by John McElroy, who was imprisoned in the same four Confederate prisons as Almon and described his experiences in very vivid prose. Even more useful was a journal written by a member of Al’s regiment, William Bluffton Miller, published in 2005, for it told the day-to-day activities of the regiment as it marched from Louisville to Chickamauga.
Putting all these bits and pieces together has been challenging and enormously satisfying. I’d like to share it with you. Read the first chapter by clicking near the bottom of the page.
Drummer Boy of Company C: Coming of Age in the Civil War was published by Cypress Communications on September 20, 2013, the 150th anniversary of Almon’s capture at the battle of Chickamauga.
Comments by National Park Service Historian Emeritus Edwin C. Bearss:
“With [the author] being the granddaughter of a Civil War veteran, it was an enlightening experience and an honor to review the subject manuscript Drummer Boy of Company C: Coming of Age in the Civil War. I have long been interested in the service of youths such as her grandfather who served as drummer boys in the Civil War.
“In the past I have written an introduction for a book on Willy Johnson, who at 12 years and 10 months of age became the nation’s youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor. I have long been familiar with the service of such drummer boys as Johnny Clem, “the drummer boy of Shiloh,” Orion P. Howe of the 55th Illinois, a Medal of Honor recipient at 14 at Vicksburg, and Charlie King of the 49th Pennsylvania who shortly before his thirteenth birthday became a KIA at Antietam.
“As he had on two previous occasions, Almon ran away from home and sought to enlist. He was finally successful at age 14 in enlisting in the 75th Indiana Infantry as a drummer. He was captured at Chickamauga on September 20, 1863, and held as a Confederate prisoner-of-war until November 30, 1864, at Savannah, Georgia, when he was paroled and exchanged and rejoined his regiment. During his more than 15 months as POW, he survived such hellholes as Andersonville, Florence, etc.
“As one who has been interested in the Civil War since I was in the 7th grade in 1935-36, I have read many diaries and memoirs, but only a few highlighting the service and experience of [ordinary] soldiers (drummer boys) such as Almon Beneway, as researched and told [here] by his granddaughter. I wish that such a publication with its supplemental illustrations and documents had been available in my youth. If they had been, I would have at a far younger age got to see ‘our war’ as they did as early teenagers.”
Download first chapter 1st chapter.