Artifact Insight: Confederate Bass Drum
Confederate Bass Drum, Captured at Missionary Ridge, 1860-1863. Gift of the Jewell Family. THF159778
This drum was likely left behind by fleeing Confederates as Union soldiers drove them from the hill during the battle of Missionary Ridge, part of the Chattanooga Campaign in Tennessee, on November 25, 1863. The astonished Confederates panicked, broke rank, and fled pell-mell. A Union victory. In less than a year and half, the Civil War would end and the Union would be preserved.
The abandoned drum was probably picked up from the battlefield by a member of the 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a Union unit that participated in the Missionary Ridge assault.
This battlefield souvenir was then taken to Fulton County, Ohio, where it was preserved by members of the local Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), an organization of Union veterans. By the 1880s, Fulton County had about 11 G.A.R. posts. To these Union veterans, this drum symbolized victory over Confederate forces. The drum was likely displayed in the G.A.R. hall at Wauseon in Fulton County.
A few days before the Missionary Ridge battle, Abraham Lincoln gave his eloquent Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania. For us today, this drum symbolizes the end of the Civil War and the “new birth of freedom” spoken of so memorably by Abraham Lincoln on that day.
Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.
musical instruments, music, Grand Army of the Republic, Civil War, by Jeanine Head Miller