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May 06, 2019

Noblesville Civil War Drummers

Noblesville Civil War Drummers

By: Sherri Bonham

I recently stumbled on a sad moment in history when the Indiana Room received a request for information on former Noblesville resident John Shay. The initial request did not include any details, so I looked in the index of our oldest local county histories and found only one John Shay. He was listed in the 1880 History of Hamilton County and in the History of the formation, settlement and development of Hamilton County by Augustus Shirts. In both books, his name was found in the section on the Civil War. He is listed as a “musician” in the 75th Regiment, Indiana Infantry and in 1862 was discharged on December 6, 1862 for disability.

The 75th Indiana Regiment Infantry Division organized in Wabash and mustered in on August 19, 1862. The regiment left Indiana for Louisville on August 21 and then to Lebanon, Kentucky.

Noblesville Ledger, September 14, 1870 – Page 3

I looked John Shay up in the 1860 Census and found him living in Wayne Township with Calvin and Melisa Malory (Mallery). He was 10 years old, which makes him 12 years old when he went off to war. He was a drummer boy.

By going to Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database at the National Parks Service (there is a link from the Indiana Room page under Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System) I was able to find the Battle Unit Details of the 75th Regiment, Indiana Infantry. Before John Shay was discharged, he was in these battles: the pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky October 1-20, the Battle of Perryville Kentucky on October 8, the March to Bowling Green on October 26-November 3, then to Scottsville November 10 and Gallatin Tennessee on November 25, 1862.

Drummers provided a crucial service to their regiments. Due to the noise of battle, it might be impossible to hear orders from officers but each order had a specific drumbeat to communicate an order such as attack or retreat. That must also have made them valued targets.

There was another soldier in his regiment by the name of Garrick (Garrett) Malory (Mallery) and I checked to see if John Shay and the Mallery’s might be related. According to the 1850 Census, Calvin and Garrick were brothers, but I have not been able to find if John Shay was a cousin of the Mallerys. However, I found that a Shay (Shea) family lived very near a family with a 12-year-old son Calvin Mallery in New York in 1850. Perhaps the neighbors migrated to Indiana together.

According to Hamilton County and the Civil War by Joe Burgess, Garrick also was a drummer boy and was killed in Scottsville, Kentucky on November 13, 1862. There is a picture of Garrick in the back of the book.

This is a sad story, but it could only have been traced by using local history books and online resources, including census records, to make this story come to life.

There will be a class entitled Exploring Military Records in the Genealogy Classroom at Noblesville on May 25 at 9:30. Register here, or call the Indiana Room at 317-770-3244.

Please contact me in the Indiana Room if you have questions or comments.