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The drummer-boy of the Rappahannock.

Recently, a bright boy, with dark eyes and ruddy cheeks, came to my desk and gave me a brief history of his adventures at the battle of Fredericksburgh. He was neatly dressed in a military suit of gray cloth, and carried in his hands a pair of drumsticks — his drum was destroyed by the fragment of a shell immediately after his landing on the river-bank, in that hurricane of sulphury fire and iron hail on the twelfth of December, 1862.

The reader will distinctly remember that for several days a curtain of thick fog rose up from the waters of the Rappahannock, completely hiding from view the artillery that crowned the opposite hills, and the infantry that crowded the sheltering ravines: but the preparation for the great fight, so hopefully commenced, was continued amid the thunder of cannon and the volcanic eruptions of exploding batteries.

The hazardous work of laying the pontoon-bridges was frequently interrupted by the murderous fire of rebel sharp-shooters, concealed in the stores and dwelling-houses on the bank of the river. To dislodge these men, and drive them out of their hiding-places, seemed an impossible task. At a given signal, our batteries opened with a terrific fire upon the city, crashing through the walls of houses and public buildings, not sparing even the churches in which treason had been taught as paramount to Christianity. In this storm of shot and shell, which ploughed the streets and set the buildings on fire, the sharp-shooters survived, like salamanders in the flames, and continued to pour a deadly fire upon our engineers and bridgebuilders.

In this dilemma it became evident that the bridges could not be laid except by a bold dash. Volunteers were called for to cross in small boats; forthwith, hundreds stepped forward and offered their services. One hundred men were chosen, and at once started for the boats. Robert Henry Hendershot, the hero of our sketch, was then a member of the Eighth Michigan--acting as a drummer. Seeing a part of the Michigan Seventh preparing to cross the river, he ran ahead, and leaped into the boat. One of the officers ordered him out, saying he would be shot. The boy replied that he didn't care, he was willing to die for his country. When he (the boy) found that the captain would not permit him to remain in the boat, he begged the privilege of pushing the boat off, and the request was granted. Whereupon, instead of remaining on shore, he clung to the stern of the boat, and, submerged to the waist in water, he crossed the Rappahannock. Soon as he landed, a fragment of a shell struck his old drum and knocked it to pieces. Picking up a musket, he went in search of rebel relics, and obtained a secesh flag, a clock, a knife, and a bone ring. On opening a back-door in one of the rebel houses, he found a rebel wounded in the hand, and ordered him to surrender. He did so, and was taken by the boysoldier to the Seventh Michigan. When the drummerboy recrossed the river from Fredericksburgh, General Burnside said to him, in the presence of the army: “Boy, I glory in your spunk; if you keep on this way a few more years, you will be in my place.”

Robert is a native of New-York, but moved with his parents to Michigan when he was an infant. His father died ten or twelve years ago, leaving his mother in destitute circumstances, and with a family of four children to support and educate. About fifteen months ago, “our drummer-boy” went from Jackson (Michigan) to Detroit, with Captain C. V. Deland, in the capacity of waiter in the Ninth Michigan. With that regiment he went to Louisville, West-Point, Ky., and Elizabethtown, Ky.--at the last-named place he was appointed drummer-boy. Since that time he has been in six battles, as follows: Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Shelbyville, McMinnsville, and Fredericksburgh. At the battle of Murfreesboro, where the Union forces were taken by surprise before daylight in the morning, after beating the long-roll, and pulling the fifer out of bed to assist him, he threw aside his drum, and seizing a gun, fired sixteen rounds at the enemy from the window of the court-house in which his regiment was quartered, but bur men were compelled to surrender, and they were all taken prisoners, but were immediately paroled, and afterward sent to Camp Chase, Ohio.

Soon as the news came from the Rappahannock that Robert had lost his drum in that terrible tempest of fire and iron, The New-York Tribune Association promised to make good his loss and give him a new drum.

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Robert Henry Hendershot (1)
C. V. Deland (1)
Burnside (1)
George W. Bungay (1)
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December 12th, 1862 AD (1)
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