Saturday, May 31, 2008

Antietam Battlefield Drum

Regulation Horstmann Eagle Drum with 1915 affidavit

[All information and photos from Stephen B. Rogers, Antique Arms and Historic Americana.]

ANTIETAM BATTLEFIELD RECOVERED INFANTRY EAGLE DRUM US Regulation Horstmann drum with ca 1915 affidavit of recovery in 1862. A wonderful piece with a great history: a nicely painted eagle drum shell recovered on the battlefield of Antietam soon after the battle in 1862! Relics of Antietam are hard to come by. Gettysburg relics are almost common by comparison. Here is a chance to acquire not only a desirable Civil War piece to begin with, a regulation painted eagle drum by a major contractor to the government, but also a relic of the bloodiest day of the Civil War.

The drum shell itself is full height and not cut down: 13 inches tall, and 16 3/8 inches in exterior diameter. There are no heads, rims, hoops, or ropes, but good original paint, bright, with only minor losses. The paint is the regulation eagle holding arrows and wreath, with a spray of clouds and sunrays above, along with a red ribband with white lettering reading “Reg. US Infantry” with space for the numeral to be filled in as they were all meant to be and seldom are. The ground panel is the regulation light blue that has shifted in places to a slight green tone, as most have, because of the varnish. The pattern of the eagle and the pattern of the brass tacks around the vent hole on the side pinpoint the drum as a product of the Horstmann firm of Philadelphia. Pasted on the exterior bottom edge is an old star pattern paper label with an inscription in old ink reading:

8 T[e]nor [d]rum Battle of Antietam Civil War

This was obviously placed on the drum for identification in a display of war relics. Matching this is a metal bordered circular cardboard tag reading: “Tenor / drum shell / picked up on the / battleground of / Antietam after/ Battle of Antietam / in 1862” with the number “8” on the reverse. Whether this was placed on display in a local GAR hall or in a private museum is not known at the moment, but the number “8” is obviously an inventory number for a collection or keyed to a catalog of a display.

The best part, however, is on the inside. Pasted on the interior is an affidavit signed by a Justice of the Peace on behalf of Jacob B. Lightner, testifying that the drum was recovered from the Antietam battlefield shortly after the battle in 1862. The affidavit is torn on the upper left, but enough remains to be very clear:


] that on this ..21st of.. July ..A.D.
]re me the subscriber a Justice of the Peace of
]aryland in and for Washington county aforesaid
]ed… Jacob B. Lightner…
] due form of law that ..this Tenor
] was picked up after
]attle of Antietam in
]ptember Eighteen Hundred
and Sixty Two (1862) on
said Battlefield.

John Hu…. J.P.
My commission expires May 5th 1916

Obviously, with the JP’s commission expiring in May, 1916, and the affidavit being dated July, the document must date to 1915 or earlier. We might suppose that the drum was to be displayed in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of Antietam in 1912, but Maryland Justices of the Peace seem to have served two-year terms, so we are probably dealing with July 21, 1915, or July 21, 1914 as the date for the affidavit.

Next to the affidavit is pasted a 1926 dated newspaper column with a letter written about the Battle of Antietam apparently in response to an earlier letter or article about Gettysburg. The author is a woman from the midwest, the publication is not noted, and the letter seems to have no bearing on this particular drum, being simply pasted in as a testimony to the importance of the battle.

Identification of Owner: There are several Civil War soldiers named Jacob Lightner with no middle initial, or with a different one. Since middle initials are often dropped or misrecorded in official records it is possible, pending further research, to assign the drum to one of them. The two strongest candidates are:

1) Jacob Lightner, Co. D, 133rd PA, is a strong candidate. His regiment arrived on the Antietam battlefield the day after the battle and remained camped near Sharpsburg until the end of October, and was involved in clean up operations on the field. He would have had the opportunity to recover the piece and the time to send it home.

2) Jacob D. Lightner, Co. E, 7th Maryland, which recruited in Frederick, Md., and was assigned to Williamsport, Md, from September 1862 to January, 1863. He would have been relatively close to the field and to home for a time after the battle.

A third candidate is not a soldier: Jacob B. Lightner, who was born in Washington County, Maryland, in 1862, and was the son of William Lightner, a Washington County resident. Jacob B. apparently lived his entire life in Washington County: married at the Zion Reformed Church in Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1885, resided on W. Church St. in Hagerstown at least between 1894 and 1917. By trade a butcher, he appears in city directories as late as 1935/36. It is possible the drum was recovered by a member of the family, probably Jacob’s father, preserved as a relic after the battle, and Jacob B. Lightner’s affidavit is a testimony of its history as personally known by him. His middle intial matches, he lived near the field, and resided in the county where the affidavit was sworn at the time if was made.

Condition: Stable and very displayable. The drum has a horizontal crack about 2/3 the way up the drum and running almost all the way around, but scarcely visible from the outside. The crack has been closed up and stabilized by two different repairs visible on the interior. The first repair is quite old. Three thin, wide strips of wood veneer were laid vertically across the crack and glued into place to stabilize it. The second repair is more modern and a bit more sloppy: three narrow, thicker pieces of wood were also glued over the crack, and other glue was applied to the interior along the crack, etc. These do not affect the affidavit or newspaper column pasted inside. The older stabilizing strips match the color of the interior of the drum. The newer pieces are much lighter in color.

The damage may or may not have occurred during the battle. Certainly, it would explain why the drum was abandoned by the musician and not salvaged by the army afterwards. It did not happen after the affidavit was pasted inside: although there is a partial tear in the document along the line of the crack, it is not torn in two. Indeed the repair looks old enough that it may have been done soon after the drum was retrieved from the field. In any case, it was done before 1915, perhaps in preparation for placing it on display. From the phrasing of the metal rimmed tag, “tenor drum shell,” and the placement of the exterior label along the bottom edge of the body, it seems clear that heads, ropes, etc., were missing even then, and perhaps damaged and discarded on the battlefield.

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