Brooklyn’s little drummer boy

In 1860, 11-year-old Brooklyn kid Clarence D. McKenzie joined the 13th Regiment of the New York State Militia as a drummer boy; his job was to drum different signals to help troops communicate on the battlefield.

In June 1861 his unit took a steamer to Annapolis, but before he saw combat there he was accidentally shot and killed by another member of his regiment. He was 12 years old and the first Brooklyn resident to die in the Civil War. Thousands attended his funeral, touched by “Brooklyn’s Boy Martyr” as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle called him.

Clarence was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery under a monument depicting a drummer boy that still stands today. Shortly after his death, his Fulton Street church published a book (digitized here) about what a heroic, god-fearing boy he was. I doubt an adventurous kid like Clarence would appreciate being portrayed as such a goody-two-shoes, but it’s an interesting piece of historical ephemera.

Brooklyn’s drummer boy hasn’t been forgotten: Kensington’s PS 230 was renamed the Clarence D. McKenzie school back in March.

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One Response to “Brooklyn’s little drummer boy”

  1. The fireman memorial at a Brooklyn cemetery « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 225 acres on the Bushwick-Ridgewood border, doesn’t get a  fraction of the attention Green-Wood Cemetery […]

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