Workday Wednesday: Abram Springsteen and his Civil War Drum, Part 2

Drum of Abram F. Springsteen, youngest Civil War soldier. Posted with permission of family.

Helbling Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)

Yes, his parents must have truly regretted the day they bought Abram Furman Springsteen a drum.

Jefferson Springsteen, his father, was probably the one who went to get Abram from the Army office where he was ‘drumming up’ recruits for the Union, and dragged him back to school, where a ten year-old boy belonged.

But Abram persevered with his drumming to recruit soldiers. And Jeff went back to get him again, and took him back to school.

At first, at the age of ten, Abram likely thought he could do his part for the war effort by his drumming. By the time he turned eleven on 5 July 1861, though, ideas were probably constantly swirling through his mind of the glory of battle and the brotherhood of soldiers forged only by fire. By October, the desire to become a soldier was so strong that once again Abram ran away, but this time he acted on the plan he had made- he enlisted in the 35th Indiana Volunteers, Company A, as a private.

And again, Jeff and Anna Springsteen went to take their child from the military and back to home and school where he belonged. They probably knew he would run away again- his father’s genes for adventure had surely been passed to young Abram. The 35th was to be a Home Guard to protect Indianapolis, so Abram’s parents finally agreed to allow him to stay.

Civil War Regimental Fife and Drum Corps, via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain. (Click to enlarge.)
Civil War Regimental Fife and Drum Corps. We don’t know if Abram is in this picture or not, but he probably was much shorter than the men in this photo. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (Click to enlarge.)

We don’t know if Abram took his own drum, or was more likely issued a federal drum that he could use as he marched at the front of the column of Indiana Volunteers. He learned the various drum rolls that were used as commands on the march and on the battlefield, and would have practiced with the men as they drilled in ranks; he may have even helped stand watches or run errands for the officers. Abram’s life continued in this vein for two months, until the end of the year. On 31 December 1861, the inevitable happened- his regiment was ordered to be transported to the frontlines. Upon learning of this, Abram’s parents, Jefferson Springsteen (1820-1909) and Anna (Connor) Springsteen (1824-1887) requested his discharge. The Army was not about to lose a warm body, however, no matter how short or how young, and they refused to muster him out. Abram did not want to go back home anyway.

The family was distraught, including his six siblings. (We know that Anna Missouri (Springsteen) Beerbower was especially worried, as they were close.) The federal government continued to prohibit Abram from mustering out because he was underage, arguing that his parents had signed with permission at his enlistment. Their reply that they thought the enlistment was just for the Home Guard fell on deaf ears.

Desperate measures were required.

Abram’s law-abiding parents kidnapped him.

They locked him inside the house.

Do you remember anything about Jefferson Springsteen from previous posts, and his jobs in Indianapolis? They include being the first Chief of Police in Indianapolis, a Detective, etc. through the years. So kidnapping his son and going against federal law must have been a tough thing for him to do. But it was his son, and Abram was just too young to go off to war.

What a handful Abram was- he continued to run away, be caught, be locked in the house again; and repeat. What was a parent to do?

To be continued…


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “Hoosier Youngest Civil War Soldier,” by Louis Ludlow, in The Evansville Courier and Press, Evansville, IN, page 4, columns 1-3, via
  2. “Diary of Abram F. Springsteen” transcription, done by family members. Thank you for sharing!


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