Cabinet Card Photograph of Musician Avery Brown
America's Youngest Civil War Soldier
Avery Brown poses with his new, highly engraved, gold-plated Wonder
cornet made by the C. G. Conn Company of Elkhart, Indiana, in an
autographed 1887 cabinet card acquired by the Museum for its C. G. Conn
Avery Brown (1852-1904), Musician:
America's Youngest Civil War Soldier
President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 call for an
troops to swell the ranks of the Union Army was met with enthusiastic
response and long lines at local recruiting centers. Perhaps it was all
the excitement and commotion at the Delphos, Ohio, recruiting station that
first attracted the attention of Avery Brown, an eight-year-old,
fatherless boy. Or perhaps it was the attention showered on him by the
veteran, Samuel Mott, who encouraged the 4'6", blue eyed, red-haired
youngster to play his snare drum as a morale booster at the recruitment
Twice Avery accompanied new recruits to Camp Chase in
Twice he was denied permission to enlist. On the third trip, Samuel Mott
refused to allow the processing of the latest batch of 101 recruits,
unless the drummer boy was also allowed to volunteer. Reluctant
permission was granted, and on August 18, 1861, Avery Brown was mustered
into Company C, 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at the age of 8 years, 11
months, and 13 days. Like many enthusiastic young patriots of his day, he
lied about his age, claiming to be 12 on his enlistment papers.
Brown proudly persevered on the front for 1-1/2 years,
inspiring the troops with his martial music played on a captured
Confederate drum, that he was dubbed "The Drummer Boy of the Cumberland,"
until illness forced him to take a disability discharge in 1863. Three
years later, Brown followed his friend, Nelson Doty, to Elkhart, Indiana,
where he secured employment as a stonecutter and musician.
In the course of the next 25 years, Avery Brown
throughout Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, and became one of Indiana's best
known solo cornetists. He befriended the Elkhart musical instrument
manufacturer, Charles Gerard Conn, and became an enthusiastic member of
Conn's Veteran Light Artillery, the only all-veteran company of it's kind
to be formed in the United States following the war. As a result of their
close association, Avery was in a unique position to witness and test
every new Conn cornet model, as it came out of the factory.
For the November 1891 issue of C. G. Conn's
the firm of Butler and Knox was made from an 1887 cabinet card photograph
of Avery Brown posing with his new gold-plated Conn Wonder cornet, the
hand engraving on which alone was said to have cost upwards of $200. A 4"
x 5-1/2" print of the 1887 Avery Brown photograph was acquired by
the Museum for inclusion in its Conn Company Archive. It bears Avery
Brown's autograph on the back of the mounting and was presented by Brown
to another Civil War veteran, Louis Germain (born in Clinton County, New
York, in 1836), who is known to have worked as a clerk in a wholesale
house in Goshen, Indiana, just a few miles from Elkhart.
A close examination of the photograph by a researcher
Zavada, confirmed that Brown is wearing a uniform of the Grand Army of the
Republic (G.A.R.). The long badge pinned to his jacket is a G.A.R.
membership badge made in the early 1880s by J. K. Dawson, from melted-down
Confederate cannons mixed with other alloys.
Avery and his wife, Cynthia, left Elkhart during the
in Texas, Wisconsin, and Michigan, but returned before the end of the
century. The famous Civil War veteran died at his Elkhart home on
November 2, 1904, and was buried in Elkhart's Grace Lawn Cemetery where
his tombstone commemorates his distinction as the Civil War's youngest
enlisted soldier. Although the whereabouts of his Wonder cornet is
unknown, the Confederate drum is preserved at the Elkhart County
Historical Museum in Bristol, Indiana, along with his discharge papers and
a tintype of the young "Drummer Boy of the Cumberland."
Source: Margaret Downie Banks, America's Shrine to Music Museum
Newsletter, 28, No. 1 (February 2001), pp. 7-8.
Links to Civil War Era Pages on the National Music Museum
Bucktails Regiment Bass Drum
Civil War Instruments on
Exhibit at Museum
Civil War Drums and Brass
Three Civil War
Violin Played by
Civil War Soldier
Last Band: Concert and CD Release
National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069