Abram F. Springsteen and His Civil War Drum- Part 4

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

Helbling Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)

Abram Furman Springsteen, the youngest drummer boy in the Civil War (so it was claimed) had his glory in war, but he also had his pain, like all soldiers.

Abram beat his drum on a 185 mile march over mostly impassable roads through the Cumberland Mountains in March; part of the journey was through snow. In April they marched to Jonesboro, Georgia, with Abram beating his drum for 4 days while they covered 100 miles, burned bridges and destroyed railroad tracks as they moved.

"The Work of the Firing at Resaca" in The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes, edited by Francis T. Miller, 1911, Review of Reviews, NY, NY, via Archive.org. Public Domain.
“The Work of the Firing at Resaca”- a photo of how the land looked around the area after all calibers of shells and ball had torn up the land; in The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes, edited by Francis T. Miller, 1911, Review of Reviews, NY, NY, via Archive.org. Public Domain. (Click to enlarge.)

The youngest drummer boy and his regiment had joined with General Sherman on his Atlanta Campaign, and after the Battle of Resaca, Abram was ordered to assist the wounded in the field hospitals. Abram’s own words describe what happened next:

“In company with another litter drummer boy, I proceeded at once to my reg and after getting our grub [food], we started back (as we supposed in the direction of the hospital) but in fact in an opposite direction altogether and were soon lost upon the field where we wandered around among the dead and dying until the break of day when we found our way back to the hospital where we remained on duty until the 16th when we moved from Resaca, wading the Ostanaula river and crossing the Cossawattee, overtaking the enemy at Cassville, on the 18th…[we] went into an entrenched position…on the 26th behind which we lay under fire of three batteries… until relieved on the 1st of June. Our loss at this place was 16 wounded.”

Wandering among the dead and wounded in the dark, crossing rivers while trying to keep his drum from getting soaked, laying in a trench for six days while under fire- how his parents would have worried for their little boy!

Abram likely thought his luck had really run out though, when he was captured at Spring Hill, Tennessee. It was after midnight, and they had marched almost continuously for a week. Abram carried his knapsack and drum, keeping a beat to keep the troops moving. Abram continued the story:

“… I became exhausted and was compelled to sit down by the road side this being the first time I had given out since my enlistment. In a short time the troops were out of sight and realizing that it would be useless for me to attempt to overtake them before reaching Franklin, I waited until the wagon train came up when I climbed upon our Regt Baggage Wagon unslung my drum and knapsack and resting my elbow upon the rim of my drum.”

Civil War Wagon Train by Matthew Brady, NARA via Wikimedia Commons, Public domain.
Civil War Wagon Train by Matthew Brady, NARA via Wikimedia Commons, Public domain. Probably a stereoscope photograph. (Click to enlarge.)

“I soon fell asleep but this sweet rest did not last long for after going about a mile or so or just as we reached a place called Spring Hill, Tenn. about 15 miles from Franklin, we were fired upon and surrounded by the enemy a detachment of rebels. When I awoke, and realized fully what had happened, I sprang from the wagon and in so doing by [sic] hat fell from my head and while searching for the same in the darkness, was along with several others captured and at once hurried away from the road into a patch of woods where two of us made our successful break for liberty. We soon found our way back to the road and striking out reached Franklin at day break where I soon rejoined my command… I lost my knapsack, drum and hat. One of the boys provided me with a cap which tho a little large, answered the purpose very well.”

Abram captured a Rebel drum at Ft. Anderson, and they marched into Wilmington, North Carolina on the 23rd of February, 1865. They found a number of Yankee prisoners that had been left behind when they routed the enemy.  Seeing them, Abram was probably even more thankful that he had escaped after his capture- he could have been in a similar situation in a Confederate prison. Of the POWs, Abram reported:

“They were all in a deplorable condition– a good many having been wounded and their wounds not having been properly attended to- were alive with vermin. Among them I met a young man by the name of Albert Lockwood of Indianapolis, Ind. whom I had known since childhood in Indianapolis. I took him in charge, gave him some of my clothing, a blanket and seven dollars in money and also gave him the Rebel drum I had captured at Ft. Anderson to take home for me, he having been furnished transportation to his home in Indianapolis.”

After many more long marches and days of beating his drum for his company, Abram and the Indiana Volunteers returned home. It was a joyous homecoming, as would be expected. His mother and oldest sister made him a nice dinner at the late hour of 9 o’clock in the evening. They talked about his experiences and what had gone on with the family while he was gone.

Abram finished his diary with:

“… we all retired but I could not sleep. No indeed, the sounds of the drums and fifes were in my ears and the dear old faces of the boys to whom I had become so attached were constantly before me and I almost regretted that the war was over.”

The drum that Abram carried through most of his service was lost to the Rebs when he was captured at Spring Hill, Tennessee. He probably had use of another drum during his remaining seven months in the service, though he does not mention that in his diary.  In February, 1865, he did send home the Rebel drum he captured, but he was not discharged until 21 June 1865. The men of his company gave him a gift of a drum at some point, and that is the drum he cherished and used for all those years with the G.A.R., for parades, recruitment, etc. It is also the drum seen in all the posts of this series, which has been passed down to the oldest male descendant in each generation.

Addendum: In 1877 Abram was the manager of a band of 16 men called the “Great Western Band.” He also played drum solos for theater performances, including one called, “Lightning Express” for the Mossler Brothers Concert on 29 December 1881 in Indianapolis. His sister-in-law, Jennie (Taylor) Springsteen, sang a song at that same concert.  So Abram continued his interest in drumming throughout his life.

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 GenealogyBank.com.
  2. “Diary of Abram F. Springsteen” transcription, done by family members. Thank you for sharing!
  3. “Mossler Brothers Concert,” in Indianapolis Sentinel, 29 Dec 1881, volume XXX, number 363, page5, via GenealogyBank.com.


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