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Eighth Michigan Infantry Co. C
The Drummers of the 8th

drummer of vicksburg.gif

The Drummer Boy of Vicksburg and The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock

Charles Howard Gardner and Robert Henry Hendershot were two young boys who served as drummers in the Eighth Michigan.

Charles Gardner lived in Flint, Michigan. When Charley was thirteen years old his father joined the Second Michigan Infantry. Then his favorite teacher, S.C. Guild, signed up with the Eighth Michigan Volunteer Infantry. Charley, already a good drummer, pleaded with his mother to let him volunteer and "take the place of a man who can handle a musket." His mother eventually consented, and Charley, too, joined the Eighth Michigan. As Charley's regiment was on its way to Port Royal, South Carolina, Charley and his father met in Washington, DC. It was the last time they saw each other--his father died of typhoid fever in Alexandria, Virginia, later that year. Captain Guild was killed in the battle at James Island, South Carolina, June 16, 1862. Charley stayed with the regiment, enduring long marches, short rations and weeks of being besieged in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the siege of Knoxville, Charley was wounded, but appeared to be recovering. However, he died on his way back to Detroit with his regiment. His mother, sister and brother, expecting him to arrive at any time, received instead a message about his death.

Robert Henry Hendershot became known as "the Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock." The Eighth was stationed near the Seventh Michigan during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. On December 11, 1862, the Seventh was trying to cross the Rappahannock River under fire. Robert answered a call for volunteers and ran to help push the boats. He had crossed the river when a shell fragment hit his drum and broke it into pieces, so he picked up a musket. He encountered a Confederate soldier and, taking him as prisoner, brought him back to the Seventh Michigan. The story of a boy capturing a man made him a hero. Robert survived the war and toured the nation putting on drumming performances and telling of his experiences. Many poems were written about him including "The Hero of the Drum".

The Hero of the Drum
by George W. Bungay

THE drummer with his drum
Shouting "Come! heroes, come!
Forward march, nigher, higher!
When the veterans turned pale,
And the bullets fell like hail,
In that hurricane of fire
Beat his drum,
Shouting "Come!
Come! come! come!"
And the fife,
In the strife,
Joined the drum, drum, drum--
And the fifer with his fife and the drummer with his drum,
Were heard above the strife and the bursting of the bomb.
The bursting of the bomb,
Bomb, bomb, bomb.

Clouds of smoke hung like a pall
Over tent and dome and hall;
Hot shot and blazing bomb
Cut down our volunteers
Swept off our engineers;
But the drummer beat his drum,
And he beat
"No retreat!"
With his drum:
Through the fire,
Hotter, nigher,
Throbbed the drum, drum, drum,
In that hurricane of flame and the thunder of the bomb,
Braid the laurel wreath of fame for the hero of the drum!
The hero of the drum,
Drum, drum, drum.

Where the Rappahannock runs,
The sulphur-throated guns,
Poured out iron hail and fire;
But the heroes in the boats
Heeded not the sulphur throats,
For they looked up higher, higher,
While the drum,
Never dumb,
Beat, beat, beat,
Till the oars
Touched the shores,
And the fleet feet, feet,
Of the soldiers on the shore, with the bayonet and gun,
Thought the drum could beat no more, made the dastard rebels run.
The dastard rebels run,
Run, run, run.


SOURCE: Bungay, George, W. In Dodge, William Sumner. Robert Henry Hendershot; or, The Brave Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock. Chicago: Church and Goodman, 1867, pp. 156-158.