Another noted drummer boy was Robert Henry Hendershot who became known as 'the Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.' He was a drummer boy for the Eighth Michigan. His regiment was stationed near the Seventh Michigan during the Battle of Fredricksburg, 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 was being brought up by his widowed mother. He was apparently quite a handful for her.
Not lot is known about Robert's childhood. He was quite a kid, but full of stories. We are not sure where he was born or even when. His mother was habing trouble controlling him. He ran away from home several times and was becoming hat we would call today a delinquent. Robert claimed to be 10 years old in the summer of 1861 when he first tried to emoist (summer 1861). Various dicuments and accounts of his life place his birthday from 1846 to 1851. And there are four different birthplaces from Michigan to New York City. These discreapncies seem to arise from different accounts provided by Robert as he spoke with various journalists. He may not have been sure himself. He seems to have grew up in Jackson County, Michigan, but we are notvsure he was birn there. His widowed mother may also have hoped that military life might instill some discipline in her delinquent son.
Robert wanted no part of school. As a result, when he entered the military he was not even able to sign his name.
The Confederacy began the Civil War by firing on Fort Sumter (April 1861). War fever soon spread throughout the North and South and that included Jackson County, Micigan. One of the persons affected was a very young Robert Hendershot. Robert had no idea what War meant. For that matter most adults in 1861 had not idea. He wanted no part of school and was getting into trouble. The War sounded exciting to him. His mother was unable ton control him and appeas to have thought tht alittle discipline would do him good.
At the time he attemoted to enlist, Rober was described as "a slight-framed boy, 41/2 feet tall, with fair hair, hazel eyes and a ruddy complexion. He bore a deep scar under his right eye that he would submit as his first badge of courage. He soon dropped his implausible claim to have received that scar as the result of a severe wound at Shiloh (at the time his regiment had been camped more than 600 miles away)." Robert soon became a fixture in the camp of the Jackson County Rifles who wre preparing for the War. He began practiced drum calls--apparently all the time. One of the recruits called him"a perfect little pest."
Robert tagged along with the Rifles to Fort Wayne, outside Detroit. There the Rifles became Company "C" of the 9th Michigan Infantry. Robert attempted enlist at this time with the men, but the mustering officer rejected him because of his youth. That did not, however, stop Robert. When deployment came, he simply boarded the train with the men. Here the story is a bit confused. He may have stowawayed. Or he may have been employed as a servant by Captain Charles V. DeLand, the commander of Company "C" and editor of Jackson's newspaper--American Citizen. Robert finally managed to enlist. He formally enlisted in the 9th Michigan (March 1862) At that time the regiment moved from Kentucky to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Robert after enlisting remained with Company "C", which was posted at the Murfreesboro courthouse as provost guards. Robert was in Murfreesboro when Confederate Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest conducted a pre-dawn raid on the town (July 13, 1862). Robert claimed that he fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire, which was apparently the case. It was substantiated by several 9th Michigan soldiers.
Robert became known as 'the Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.' He was a drummer boy for the Eighth Michigan. His regiment was stationed close to the Seventh Michigan during the Battle of Fredricksburg, Virginia. The Seventh was trying to cross the Rappahannock River under fire (December 11, 1862). 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.
We have found quite a few portraits of Robert by several different photographers. One was taken at the famed Brady studio in Washington, DC..
The 1864 CDVv is by J.E.Biddle - Poughkeepsie N.Y. and shows Hendershot as Civil War Drummer Boy with drum and flag. Signed on the back "Robert Hendershot Drummer Boy of the Rappahonnock" (figure 1).
Another CDV portrait of Henderson was owned by Civil War veteran Joseph Brown and is accompanied by a card written by a descendant which states:
"Joseph Brown knew him and was in the hospital at the same time as he. Hendershot introduced J.B. to President Lincoln when the latter visited the drummer boy at the hospital." (click on figure 1).
There is also a portrait taken at Matthew Brady's studio in Washington DC. Brady is of course noted for his Civil War photography. I am not entirely about the uniform Robert is wearing. It is a dress uniform, but is not done in the dark blue of most Federal uniforms.
The 1885 Cabinet Card of Hendershot as an adult is by "Child - Newport R.I." and shows Hendershot as G.A.R. vet with medals and ever-present drum. Signed on the back "Providence R.I. Dec. 25th 1885 - To my old and true friends Henry A. and Evelyn Kelsey -
R.H.Hendershot - Chamberlain - Brule County - Dakota" Sounds like Mr.Hendershot led quite the life. Civil War hero and
Robert survived the war and toured the nation putting on drumming
performances and telling of his experiences. Many poems were written about him; "The Hero of the Drum" is one of those poems."
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