Sunday, March 15, 2020

Harrison Tyler ("Tip") Prentiss - Civil War Drummer Boy

Biography of Harrison Tyler Prentiss
Posted to 26 Apr 2012 by Walter Waggoner

Biography of Harrison Tyler “Tip” Prentiss

Harrison Tyler, better known as Tip Prentiss was born November 19, 1840 in Lewis County, Missouri.  His father was Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss and his mother Margaret Sowdosky.  One may assume that, in this very patriotic and Whig family, he was named for President William Henry Harrison and Vice President John Tyler, who became the first vice president to succeed a president, who died while in office.  They were elected on the same ticket in the month and year of Tip’s birth.

The Prentiss family moved from Missouri to Quincy, Illinois about the time of his birth, most indicating that it was in 1840 when his father Benjamin and mother Margaret and the Prentiss clan, including his grandfather Henry Leonidas and grandmother Rebecca also made the short trip over the Mississippi River east to a free state.  Little is known of Tip’s childhood.

By the time of the census of 1860, Tip was listed as an apprentice steamboat pilot, a profession he followed later in life.  A more famous contemporary steamboat pilot was Mark Twain, also of Marion County, Missouri, where the Prentiss family had first settled.  However, Samuel Clemons was leaving the profession about the time that Tip was beginning.

With the outbreak of war in 1861, Tip followed his father and enlisted in the Tenth Illinois Infantry Regiment.  After his ninety day term was up, he returned home and later enlisted as a drummer in the Fiftieth Illinois Regiment.  After his ninety day term was up, he returned home and later enlisted as a drummer in the Fiftieth Illinois Regiment.  Tip transferred from the Fiftieth Illinois to the Eighty-fourth Illinois where he also served as a musician.  Tip participated in the battles of Ft. Henry, Ft. Donelson, Ft. Pillow, Shiloh, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.  

Tip transferred from the Fiftieth Illinois to the Eighty-fourth Illinois where he also served as a musician.  Tip participated in the battles of Ft. Henry, Ft. Donelson, Ft. Pillow, Shiloh, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. 

At the Battle of Shiloh Tip, ran to the rear, as did so many men during the first day of battle.  While Tip was running away from the battlefield front, his father was busy trying to hold the line at the Hornet’s Nest against the Confederate onslaught.  It was said that as Tip ran for the rear he met up with an aide to his father.  According to the story Tip asked, “Where is the old man?”  The aide replied that, “He’s out there where you hear all that fighting.”  Tip responded saying, “Well, if he is out there one member of the family in the fight is enough, I’m going to the river.”  When Tip ran for the safety of the bank of the river, he had plenty of company.
Tip was well liked throughout his life.  It was claimed that he was “the best drummer in the Union army” and that he was always mirthful and a jokester.[1]  Not all of the children of Ben Prentiss followed him back to Missouri from Quincy, although most did.  Sons Tip and Guy were adults and remained in Quincy, although Tip would eventually follow his father to Bethany.  Tip had a married daughter who remained in Quincy.

Harrison Tyler Prentiss was a well known river man in Quincy and was a likeable and popular figure in the community.  In 1882 Tip and two other men were heroes, when they rescued a drowning woman who had jumped off the bridge into the Mississippi.  They prevented her from committing suicide.  Tip and his two friends were in a boat and close enough to the woman, so that they were able to row their boat to the spot where she had jumped into the water.  They were able to successfully fish her out of the water.  Not long afterwards Tip suffered a stroke that was accompanied by paralysis to his right side.

By 1887 Tip Prentiss had gone to live at the newly established Illinois Soldiers and Sailor’s Home in Quincy.  From there he left to rejoin the Prentiss family in Bethany where he died on April 21, 1897 at the home of his brother Jacob.[2]  Tip preceded his father in death, when Benjamin died February 8, 1901.

[1] History of Northwest Missouri, vol. 3, 1308.
    The story of Tip fleeing the battlefield coincides with the disarray of his unit, the Fiftieth Illinois Regiment, on the first day of the battle. 
[2] Herald, May 30, 1882.
    Whig, April 24, 1897.

Found on eBay at

with the following text information (edited):


An excellent post-Civil War drum belonging to Shiloh Union Drummer Boy Harrison Tyler ("Tip") Prentiss who served in the 10th, 50th and 84th Illinois Infantry.

The drum was presented to him by a friend (who was a ship owner) when Prentiss owned a ship that travelled back and forth to New Orleans after the Civil War.

Prentiss belonged to the Missouri G.A.R. Post for several years along the river where he owned his own boat.

The presenter was from the same town and G.A.R. Hall.

Remnants of gold pain are on the drum which probably was used at Town G.A.R. meeting.

There is a very beautiful engraving and complete drum heads with no damage.

Papers are included with the drum, as well as original drum sticks.

Drum is about 7-1/2" tall and 16 inches across.

Very stable and still sounds great to play.

Capt. H.R. Corley of the Mississippi Daily presented the drum to Prentess.

Prentiss served along with his father during the Civil War [who] was a Brigadier General.

prentiss served as the drummer boy at the battle of shiloh
fantastic illinois history  and much reading comes with the drum about his rich life

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Legend of Drake’s Drum

The Legend of Drake’s Drum

by Ellen Castelow
“Take my drum to England, hang it by the shore,
And strike it when your powder’s running low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port of
heaven, and drum them up the channel as we
drummed them long ago.”
Sir Henry John Newbolt 1862-1938

Sir Francis Drake is best known for calmly finishing his game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe as the Spanish Armada sailed up the English Channel. Whether this is a true story or not, the larger-than-life Tudor mariner was famous in his own lifetime for his dangerous voyages and exploits.

Sea captain, explorer, slave trader, privateer and pirate: Drake was all of these and more. To the Spanish he was a pirate (El Draque) but to the English, he was a hero. From the singeing of the King of Spain’s beard – his raid on Cadiz in 1587 – to his voyages around the world ( the first Englishman to do so) Drake was immensely popular.

After his death a legend arose involving a drum, emblazoned with his coat of arms, that had reputedly accompanied him on all his voyages. This was an early European side drum, used on board ship for calls to arms or for entertainment; Drake was fond of music and on his circumnavigation, he took four viol players with him on the voyage. Whilst the drum dates from the 16th century, the coat of arms that decorates it was added in the 17th century.

It is generally believed that Drake’s drum was among the 13 drums rescued from Hawkins’ and Drake’s fatal last voyage to the Caribbean in 1596. Shortly before his death off the coast of Panama in 1596, it is said that he ordered the drum to be taken to Buckland Abbey, his home in Devon. He is said to have vowed on his deathbed that if England were ever in danger and the drum was sounded, he would return to defend his homeland.

Drake’s Drum on display at Buckland Abbey, before it was moved to The Box in Plymouth.

The drum is also said to mysteriously beat by itself during times of peril. Legend has it that it has been heard to beat at important times in English history:
– when the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World in 1620
– when Napoleon Bonaparte entered Plymouth harbour as a prisoner aboard the Bellerophon
– in 1914 on the outbreak of World War One
– in 1918 on HMS Royal Oak just before the surrender of the German fleet
– during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.

Two British army officers also claimed they heard the drum beating during the Battle of Britain in September 1940. It was also said to have been heard beating quietly in 1982 during the Falklands War and on 7th July 2005 when London was hit by a terrorist attack.

The legend of Drake’s drum fits into the category of ‘king of the mountain’ or ‘sleeping hero’ folklore. These are tales of national heroes ready to awake at times of national need, such as the legend of King Arthur and his knights, sleeping in Avalon waiting to arise when required.

Drake’s role as a protector of England is first mooted in a poem written by Charles Fitz Geffrey only a few months after Drake’s death, ‘Sir Francis Drake, His Honourable Life’s Commendation And His Tragical Death Lamentation’. The last few lines of the poem seem to suggest that he is forever watchful over England:
“The sea no more, heaven then shall be his tomb
Where he a new made star eternally
Shall shine transparent to spectator’s eye
But shall to us a radiant light remain
He who alive to them a dragon was
Shall be a dragon unto them again
For with his death his terror shall not pass
But still amid the air he shall remain
This role continued because England wished it to be so! “

The legend was further reinforced in 1897 with the publication of Sir Henry John Newbolt’s famous poem, ‘Drake’s Drum’, some lines from which are quoted at the head of this article.

Drake’s Drum, arriving at Buckland Abbey from Plymouth City Museum, 1951

The drum has been in the ownership of Drake’s descendants since the late 16th century. It was first mentioned at Buckland Abbey in an account of traveller George Lipscomb in 1799 and it was at Buckland in 1938 when it was rescued from the fire that beset the Abbey. It was acquired by Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery from the family in the 1950s and returned to Buckland Abbey on loan. The drum has now been moved to The Box, in Plymouth, which opens in May 2020. Buckland Abbey is in the care of the National Trust.

P.R. Winn, Drummaker

An article by W. Lee Vinson, author and publisher of and . For Lee's story about ...