America’s Youngest Soldier

While most 10 year old boys play with super soakers, Ohioan Johnny Clem trained with a real gun during the American Civil War. Clem was born in Newark on August 13, 1851. At the age of 10, he ran away from home to become a drummer boy in the Union Army. He tried to enlist in the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment but was immediately turned away due to his young age. He eventually joined a Michigan infantry group as they were passing through Newark. Johnny trained with the other soldiers and was made the mascot and drummer boy. Since Clem was too young to join the army officially, the other soldiers chipped in to pay him a regular soldier’s wage of $13 a month. Johnny was an active participant during the Battle of Shiloh and the Battle Chickamauga. He demonstrated his courage and calmness during numerous life-threatening encounters. His stories became legend throughout the Union Army. Following the Battle of Chickamauga, Clem was promoted to sergeant, making him the youngest non-commisioned officer in the history of the United States Army. He was also one of America’s youngest soldiers ever. He served in the military over 40 years and was eventually promoted to Major General of the United States Army. At the time of his retirement in 1916, he was the last Civil War veteran to serve in the U.S. Army.

 

JohnnyClem

 Photo via: OhioHistoryCentral