This statue commemorates John Clem, perhaps the youngest member to ever serve in the US military. Clem ran away from home at the age of nine and served as the drummer boy for the 22nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Co. C. In his later life, Clem had a distinguished military career and rose to the rank of Brigadier General by his retirement in 1915. This statue was dedicated in his honor and stands at the entrance to Veterans' Park.
Newark was established in 1802 and this small farming community later experienced growth as resources in silica,
iron, oil, and glass helped spur industrial development as companies such as Owens
Corning Fiberglass opened factories in the area. Currently, Newark
boasts a population of almost 48,000 people and the city and surrounding area
provides a plethora of many activities to explore and enjoy.
Veterans’ Park is located on North 6th
Street and West Main Street and is run by the Licking County Historical
Society. The society oversees the
Buckingham House, the Sherwood Davidson House, the National Heisey Glass Museum, and
the Veterans Walk of Honor. The six-foot
statue of John Lincoln Clem, as a drummer boy, stands at the entrance to the
park. It was created by sculptor Mike
Major and was dedicated in 1999.
Born in Newark, Ohio on August 13,
1851, John L. Clem left his home at the age of nine and attempted to enlist
into the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 3rd Ohio rejected him because
of his young age. After being rejected,
he soon joined the 22nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry by following the
unit on their deployments. The 22nd
Michigan eventually adopted him as their mascot and made him their drummer
boy. Some stories have the 22nd
Michigan at the Battle of Shiloh, but the unit had not been mustered into
service at the time of the battle. Clem,
most likely, was a member of the 24th Ohio, as told by his
sister. During the Battle of Shiloh, Clem
had his drum destroyed by a Confederate shell.
He was given the nickname “Johnny Shiloh” after the battle. During the Battle of Chickamauga on September
19-20, 1863, Clem got separated from his unit. A mounted Confederate Colonel attempted to
capture the young Union drummer. Clem,
armed with a sawed off musket, shot and killed the Colonel. Upon returning to his unit, he was promoted
to Sergeant, becoming the youngest to ever achieve noncommissioned officer
status in the U.S. Army. Clem was given
the moniker “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.”
In late 1863, Clem was captured by Confederate forces, but was later
part of a prisoner exchange. After his
release, Clem served under General George Thomas and fought in the Army of the
Cumberland until the end of the war. At age
fourteen, Clem mustered out of the Union Army on June 26, 1865.
Clem was unsuccessful multiple times in his attempt to enter West Point. Even though he never made it into West Point,
in 1871 President Ulysses Grant commissioned Clem a Second Lieutenant. By 1874 Clem was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1875, he graduated from artillery school
and was stationed in Texas where he fought against American Indians and Mexican
outlaws. Clem continued to be promoted
throughout his military career. In 1901,
Clem achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He was sent overseas to serve as the Chief Quartermaster of the Philippines
from 1903 to 1905. In August 1903, Clem
was promoted to the full rank of Colonel.
Clem served as the Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the Lakes
starting in 1911 until the mandatory retirement age of sixty-four in 1915. Upon his retirement, Clem was promoted to
Brigadier General. During his military
career, Clem first married Anita Rosetta French. She was the daughter of Major General William
H. French, who for several months was the commander of the 3rd Army
Corps during the Civil War. Their
marriage produced one child, John L. Clem, Jr.
Mrs. Clem passed away in 1899 after twenty-four years of marriage. John Clem’s second wife was Elizabeth
Sullivan whom he married in 1903. This marriage
produced a daughter, Anne Elizabeth, in 1906.
Anne would later become a nun and helped establish the Carmel of
Reno. She was the Mother Superior of the
Carmel of Reno in 1967 at the time of her mother’s death. After retiring in
1915, John Clem returned to Texas to live out his days. On May 13, 1937, he died at the age of
eighty-five. He is buried in Arlington