Articles & Stories


E. Dudley Scrugham

The Little Drummer Boy

In The Civil War

By Frieda Curtis-Wheatley - 2013

Ethelbert Dudley Scrugham was born June 23, 1849, in Fayette County, Kentucky, to Joseph and Panthea Ewing Scrugham. In the year 1860 Dudley was living with his maternal grandparents.
The Confederate States of America's Second Kentucky Infantry Regiment, a part of the First Brigade, was organized July 13, 1861, at Camp Boone in Tennessee. They were encamped for three months undergoing strict military training. The men served on foot until 1864 when they were mounted on horses.
E. Dudley Scrugham enlisted in 1862, at the age of 13, in the Second Kentucky Infantry Co. I, as a musician. He is listed as a drummer on the Company Muster Roll, as being present August 1, 1862, to October 31, 1862, at Camp Murfreesboro. He is also listed as being in the same place for the next four months. During this time he enlisted for a period of three years.
Young boys, too young to fight, were allowed to join the Union and the Confederate Armies during the Civil War as drummers. Drums were used daily for communication. Each series of drum beats had a special meaning and were used to announce reveille, assembly, breakfast, sick call, guard duty, drill duty, lights out, etc. Part of the drummer's duty was to march alongside to keep the men in step while on a march. His important job began during the noise and confusion of battle. With the shells bursting, cannons firing, and the horses and wounded screaming, it was impossible for the soldiers to hear the spoken orders. Keeping near his commander, the drummer began beating out his signals of maneuvers. The "long roll" was the signal to attack. He had a signal for the soldiers to load their weapons and a signal to fire their weapons. The drummer also sounded retreat. The young boys were expected to help carry the injured off the battlefield. The drummer boys played an important and dangerous part during the war.
Pvt. Dudley Scrugham accompanied Gen. Braxton Bragg on his raid into Kentucky in 1862. Dudley was present at the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) in Tennessee on December 31, 1862, until January 2, 1863. General Bragg was stationed on the east bank of Stones River with his Rebels, while Gen. William Rosecrans converged with his Union soldiers from the northwest.
Both armies slept New Year's night with the greater part of the field in the possession of the Confederates. The cold morning of January 2nd showed the Union still entrenched instead of on the road to Nashville as General Bragg expected. Between the Confederate attacking lines and the Federal position lay open grounds of fields and pastures, in full view of the Union batteries on the opposite side of the river.
At the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River), located a mile east of Murfreesboro, 12,906 Federals and 11,739 Confederates became casualties. A grateful Lincoln thanked Rosecrans and his men for "a hard earned victory," but other opinions were that few battles had cost more and gained less. Brig. Gen. Roger W. Hanson was injured in the charge at Stones River, and later died. Hanson's Second Kentucky lost 108 men out of 422 engaged. The battle ended with neither side a winner. Pvt. Dudley Scrugham was injured in the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) and left a cripple but remained in service until the close of the war. As General Breckinridge rode through the carnage, with tears in his eyes, he was heard to say, "My poor Orphans. My poor Orphans." With these words he gave the little band of men everlasting immortality throughout the annals of time.
The Orphan Brigade moved on to Manchester and Tullahoma, Tennessee, to spend three months. The music of regimental bands, including the drummers, provided diversion during this time of inactivity. On March 20th a brigade was sent to guard warehouses at McMinnville, Tennessee.
On April 22, 1863, Pvt. Dudley Scrugham, a 13-year old drummer, was taken prisoner along with 127 other Orphans at Morrison, located south of McMinnville. Union Captain Stone was ordered to proceed to the Tennessee capital of Nashville with the prisoners. The prisoners arrived at Market House in Nashville, and from there they were transferred to the large wooden Military Prison in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, located on the north side of Broadway between 10th and 11th Streets. The prisoners arrived in Louisville on May 2, 1863. The little drummer boy would spend his 14th birthday in a Union prison.
It is unknown if Dudley was released from this Louisville prison and paroled back to his regiment or if he was held prisoner until the end of the war. His obituary states that although he was crippled he served until the end of the war. It also states that Scrugham was the youngest member of the Orphan Brigade.
By the year 1875, E. Dudley Scrugham, was living on Chestnut Street in Louisville. In the ensuing years he is listed as a clerk/druggist. In the year 1900, Dudley, 50 years old and single, lives with his sister, Mary E. Anderson, and her husband, Jasper, a storekeeper, in Jefferson County.
Between the years of 1902 and 1906, Dudley Scrugham moved to the Confederate Home at Pewee Valley in Oldham County, Kentucky. The Confederate Home, the former Victorian-style summer resort Villa Ridge Inn built in 1889, opened for the veterans on October 23, 1902. The three-and-one-half story building, surrounded by extensive verandas, contained 92 rooms. The Confederate and the United States flags were unfurled to fly above the home. The ornate sign, now at the Pewee Valley Confederate Veterans Cemetery, graced the main gate to the home. A walkway led from the home down to the railroad tracks. Fire destroyed most of the Confederate Home buildings on March 25, 1920.
E. Dudley Scrugham, 57-years old, died September 10, 1906, of tuberculosis at Louisville's City Hospital, after a stay of four months. He had been taken to the hospital from the Confederate Home for an operation. He is buried in Jefferson County's Cave Hill Cemetery next to his sister, Mary, and her husband. (Section 5 Lot 63). The Orphan Brigade veterans participated in the service as the former drummer boy was laid to rest.

Information: Confederate records, Box 319, Roll 87 LPL; Courier Journal 9-10-1906; History of the Orphan Brigade by E.P. Thompson 1898; Reminisces of a Soldier by Lt. LD. Young.

Frieda Curtis-Wheatley, 600 Hatherleigh Lane, Louisville, KY 40222, shares this article with our readers.