Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jordan B. Noble Owned Snare Drum: African American Drummer in the Battle of New Orleans/War of 1812

Up for Auction at

Born into slavery in 1800, Jordan Bankston Noble was only 14-years old when he became the drummer for General Andrew Jackson's 7th Regiment. Noble beat the call to arms for the troops at the Battle of New Orleans and stood with the members of his unit in defense against the British attack. General Jackson, Noble and the men of 7th Infantry were considered heroes by the residents of New Orleans. After the war, two of young Noble's commanders took ownership of him and his mother. It was through their efforts that Jordan became a free man and one of New Orleans' most celebrated 19th-century black musicians.

Because of his extreme patriotism, after the War of 1812, Noble continued his military career as a drummer during the Second Seminole War of 1836, the Mexican War (under Zachary Taylor) and the Civil War. At the outbreak of the Civil War he raised a company of freed African Americans (the "Louisiana Native Guards") to fight for the South. After Union General Benjamin Butler took control of New Orleans from the Confederacy, Noble then raised a new regiment that fought for the North. It was under Butler that Noble served as a Captain of the U. S. 7th Louisiana Regiment Infantry (African Decent). Upon returning to New Orleans after his military service, Noble rose to fame for his valor and commitment to his community.

Noble became known as the "The Drummer Boy of Chalmette" and was also fondly called "Old Jordan" in his later years. He was often seen and heard playing the snare drum currently offered at auction, and would even timelessly recreate the famous drumbeat that was heard on the fields of Chalmette during the Battle of New Orleans, along with the many other military beats he performed throughout his service to this country.

Noble became such a fixture of New Orleans' culture, the local newspaper, The Daily Picayune, told the story of "Old Jordan" and his "well-worn drum" in an article published June 21, 1890, the day after his death.

"He gave frequent "field music" entertainment with his historic drum that he carried with him throughout all his services, and many will remember the white-headed old man and his well-worn drum, so often seen during the exposition of 1884-1885. The famous drummer boy of New Orleans has gone to join his comrades of many campaigns. Peace to him and honor to the brave man who served his country so often and so well."

The drum offered at auction is the one Noble played from his time in the Seminole Wars to the end of his life in 1890. It is the very same one Noble was seen with at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition/New Orleans World's Fair (1884). After his death, his widow sold the drum to Gaspar Cusachs, who exhibited it at the Colonial Museum in New Orleans (1903) and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition/St. Louis World's Fair (1904), before loaning it to the Louisiana State Museum for more than a century.

It is an exceptionally important military snare drum, with the music store's label inscribed in ink at the top "JB Noble" and bearing the name "Klemm & Brother's, No 287 Market St. Philadelphia." Early Philadelphia directories listed the drum maker at 287 1/2 Market St. from 1828 thru 1843. Concurrent with those dates, a New Orleans directory listed a Klemm Brothers store at 45 Canal St. in 1832.

The drum, with Federal eagle and shield on a standard military blue background, features the eagle and shield along with standard tack decoration, drumheads, rope and leather tensioners and brass snare tensioner on the side. It is 16.5" tall, with a diameter of 16.75". Although some of the paint is worn and chipped, the graphic eagle remains vivid and is surrounded by 24 stars (one chipped away) representing the 24 states admitted between 1821 and 1836.

Provenance: The Gaspar Cusachs Collection, Louisiana State Museum, 1908-2016

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