Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Ohio Moments

Boy, 9, Civil War hero

On May 13, 1937, Ohio native Johnny Clem, also known as the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga," died in San Antonio, Texas.

In spring 1861, John Joseph Klem (he later changed the spelling of his last name) ran away from his Newark home at age 9 and tried to enlist with the 3rd Ohio Regiment. After the commander told him the Army didn't accept infants, he tried to join the 22nd Michigan - which also refused him. He tagged along anyway, and the 22nd eventually adopted him as mascot and drummer boy. Officers chipped in to pay him $13 a month. They allowed him to enlist two years later.

During the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, Clem rode on an artillery caisson as the 22nd retreated. A Confederate officer noticed the boy and shouted for him to surrender. Clem, then 12, shot and killed the officer. The newspapers picked up the story, and Gen. George H. Thomas promoted him to lance corporal.

Captured by Confederate cavalry in late 1863, Clem was exchanged a short time later. He was discharged from the Army in 1864, age 13. But he rejoined, when President Ulysses S. Grant made him a second lieutenant in 1871. Clem remained in the Army until 1915, when he retired with the rank of brigadier general. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

- Rebecca Goodman

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8361.

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