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Haunts & Jaunts: A drummer boy in Round Hill Cemetery

Haunts & Jaunts: A drummer boy in Round Hill Cemetery

The final resting place of John George at Round Hill Cemetery. (Photo by Rick Hinton)

By Rick Hinton

There are nuggets of Southside history sitting, silently tucked away. Obscured from daily thought, they weather the years as one generation replaces another; and almost alwayshave a story to tell.

One such is Round Hill Cemetery at Epler and Old Meridian Street (135), encompassing what was once two separate cemeteries and boasting that John George – former Revolutionary War drummer boy for George Washington himself – is buried there. George enlisted in 1777 at the age of 17 in the First New Jersey Battalion, initially serving his first three years in the war as the drummer boy for George Washington’s Headquarter Guard. As the story goes, he was a participant in the Maxwell Brigade and saw his fair share of action at Clay Creek, Brandywine, the battles of Germantown and Monmouth and the brutal winter campaign of Valley Forge.

For George’s first three years, he was a private. Re-enlisting in 1780, he returned as a sergeant and was involved in the Battle of Yorktown, retiring from Washington’s Continental Army in 1783. Because of his service, George received a veteran’s land grant of 100 acres. He chose Kentucky, marrying and raising a large family. When his wife died in the late 1830s, he moved with his daughter and son-in-law, Peter Stuck, to Perry Township, living with them in a house just east of the currentUniversity of Indianapolis. Upon his death in 1842, he was interred in Round Hill Cemetery.

Round Hill Cemetery was in the middle of nowhere back in the day. The present graveyard was established in 1830 and has expanded throughout the years. Two other Revolutionary War soldiers and one Civil War veteran also reside in the cemetery. Unfortunately, some markers are no longer legible.

What was a drummer boy?

Musicians have played a role on battlefields for centuries. Drumming provided cadence and encouragement to the soldiers marching forward into confrontation. Drumming carried over into the future Civil War, with drummer boys being even younger than their
predecessors. As the years rolled forward, the drum was replaced on the battlefield with a bugle.

There were several drummer boys for George Washington. You would not think there could only be one drummer for the entire Continental Army. Alexander Milliner, also a drummer and buried in Rochester, N.Y., was a lifeguard for Washington’s personal security detachment. Frederick Hesser, drummer boy for Washington and buried in Orwigsburg, P.A., is another. Robin Englemen writes – “In a way, every drummer who served in the Continental Army was Washington’s drummer.” After all, the army itself was considered Washington’s.

It was a rainy Saturday when I found the grave and those of “Stucks” close by. Even
with Meridian St. close by, the cemetery was quiet and peaceful. Reports say that in the 60s or 70s, two boys each claimed they had separate encounters with a man with “weird or strange” clothing. It was later determined that the clothing was from the 18th or early 19th century. John George? Who knows?

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