Portrait of Johnny Clem

Nicknamed Johnny Shiloh and Drummer Boy of Chickamauga during the Civil War, John Clem remained in the U.S. Army and received a promotion to brigadier general when he retired from the army on August 13, 1915. Congress later awarded him an honorary promotion to major general on August 29, 1916. [Wikimedia Commons]

John Lincoln Clem Facts

August 13, 1851 - May 13, 1937

Key facts about John Clem, also known as Johnny Shiloh and the Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.

Advertisements

Full Name:

  • John Lincoln Clem (AKA John Joseph Klem)

Birth Date:

  • August 13, 1851

Birth Location:

  • Newark Ohio

Parents:

  • Roman and Magdalene Klem

Education:

  • Local elementary schools

Occupation:

  • Soldier
  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USA)

Spouse(s):

  • Anita Rosetta French (1875)
  • Elizabeth Sullivan (1903)

Nickname(s):

  • Johnny Shiloh
  • Drummer Boy of Chickamauga

Place of Death:

  • Antonio, Texas

Date of Death:

  • May 13, 1937

Place of Burial:

  • Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Significance:

  • John Lincoln Clem (christened John Joseph Klem) was born on August 13, 1851 at Newark Ohio.
  • Johnny Clem ran away from home and tried to enlist in the Union Army before his tenth birthday.
  • The commander of the 3rd Ohio Infantry rebuffed Johnny Clem’s first attempt to join the army as a drummer boy because of the youth’s small stature and his tender age.
  • Johnny Clem claims to have unofficially joined the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment in 1861; however, the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment was not mustered into volunteer service until August 29, 1862.
  • Johnny Clem claims to have fought at the Battle of Shiloh on April 7, 1862 with the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment; however, the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment was not mustered into volunteer service until August 29, 1862.
  • Johnny Clem may have fought at the Battle of Shiloh on April 7, 1862 with the 24th Ohio Infantry Regiment.
  • Johnny Clem earned the nickname “Johnny Shiloh” when he reportedly avoided death or serious injury from a shell fragment during the Battle of Shiloh.
  • Johnny Clem officially mustered into the volunteer army as a private with Company C of the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment on May 1, 1863, at Nashville, Tennessee.
  • During the summer of 1863, the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment served with Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland, driving Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee toward Chattanooga.
  • During the summer or fall of 1863 Clem changed his middle name from Joseph to Lincoln (in honor of President Abraham Lincoln) and that he changed the spelling of his last name from Klem to Clem.
  • Johnny Clem gained national notoriety for his actions during the Battle of Chickamauga (September 18-20, 1863), although details surrounding his deeds were ambiguous.
  • Johnny Clem reported that during the Battle of Chickamauga he became separated from his unit and he avoided capture by shooting a Confederate colonel who was pursuing him.
  • Johnny Clem earned the nickname “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga” for his exploits during the Battle of Chickamauga.
  • Johnny Clem claims that he was promoted to the rank of sergeant after the Battle of Chickamauga, making him the youngest non-commissioned officer in the history of the U.S. Army. However, Clem’s official muster-out voucher, dated June 26, 1865, lists his rank as a “pvt” (private).
  • In October 1863, Confederate troops captured Johnny Clem while he was guarding a train in Georgia.
  • Johnny Clem asserted that while he was held prisoner, Confederate General Joseph Wheeler exhibited him as a fighting Yankee baby, exclaiming “what sore straits the Yankees are driven, when they have to send their babies out to fight us.”
  • In December 1863, Confederate officials released Johnny Clem as part of a prisoner exchange after he was held prisoner for two months.
  • Johnny Clem served as a mounted orderly on General George H. Thomas’ staff with the Army of the Cumberland through the Atlanta and Franklin-Nashville Campaigns until the end of the Civil War.
  • Johnny Clem mustered out of volunteer service on June 26, 1865 at the age of fourteen.
  • In 1870, Johnny Clem’s attempts to secure an appointment to the United States Military Academy were stymied due to his lack of lack of schooling.
  • On December 18, 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant commissioned Johnny Clem as a 2nd lieutenant in the 24th United States Infantry.
  • On October 5, 1874, Johnny Clem was promoted to 1st lieutenant.
  • After graduating from artillery school at Fort Monroe in 1875 Johnny Clem was sent to Texas where he campaigned against American Indians and border outlaws for several years.
  • While stationed in Texas, Johnny Clem married Anita Rosetta French in San Antonio on May 24, 1875.
  • Johnny Clem’s first wife was the daughter of Major General William H. French who commanded the 3rd Army Corps for several months during the Civil War.
  • Johnny Clem and Anita Rosetta French had one child, John Clem, Jr., during their twenty-four year marriage that ended with Mrs. Clem’s death in 1899.
  • On September 23, 1903 Johnny Clem married Elizabeth Sullivan of San Antonio, Texas.
  • Johnny Clem and Elizabeth Sullivan were the parents of one child, Elizabeth Ann, born on June 24, 1906.
  • In 1890 Johnny Clem transferred to the quartermaster corps.
  • Johnny Clem was promoted to captain on May 4, 1882.
  • Johnny Clem was promoted to major on May 16, 1895.
  • During the Spanish-American War (1898), Johnny Clem served as Chief Quartermaster of the Department of Puerto Rico, where he remained until 1901.
  • Johnny Clem was promoted to lieutenant colonel on February 2, 1901.
  • Johnny Clem was Deputy Quartermaster of the Department of Texas from 1900 to 1903.
  • Johnny Clem was Chief Quartermaster of the Philippine Department from 1903 until 1905.
  • On August 29, 1903, Johnny Clem was promoted to the full rank of colonel.
  • Upon returning from the Philippines, Johnny Clem organized a relief column during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
  • Johnny Clem was Quartermaster of the Department of Texas from 1906 to 1911.
  • Johnny Clem was Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the Lakes from 1911 to 1915.
  • Johnny Clem retired from the army on August 13, 1915 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 64.
  • When Johnny Clem retired, the Army promoted him to the rank of brigadier general, as was customary for soldiers having achieved the rank of colonel.
  • Johnny Clem was the last Civil War veteran still on active duty with the army at the time of his retirement,
  • By a special action of the U.S. Congress, Johnny Clem was promoted to major general on August 29, 1916, in recognition of his service during the Civil War.
  • Johnny Clem died San Antonio, Texas on May 13, 1937 at the age of eighty-five.
  • Johnny Clem was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Advertisements

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John Lincoln Clem Facts
  • Coverage August 13, 1851 - May 13, 1937
  • Author
  • Keywords John Lincoln Clem
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 31, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021