Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 20, 2001, pg. 20
This article is dedicated to the memory of our Civil War veterans buried in Riverside Cemetery as we approach Memorial Day. Albionís participation in the Civil War was intense, as hundreds of area men went off to war to fight for the Union. There are numerous stories about Albion individuals who served in the War Between the States. These next two weeks Iíd like to feature an incredible story about one of them, George Washington Stone, Albionís "Little Drummer Boy."
Georgeís original name was George W. Timmons. Born in New Berne (Craven Co.), North Carolina on August 27, 1849, his father, Captain William Timmons was involved in the West Indies trade. His mother was an Irish Catholic and the couple had serious religious differences, no doubt concerning the religious training of their two boys and one daughter. The couple separated and the mother took the kids to New York, attempting to find employment there. Unfortunately things did not work out and George was found homeless on the streets by the Childrenís Aid Society. Soon George (at age 8) and his brother Joe and 31 other waifs were loaded on an 1857 "Orphan Train" which went west through Michigan and stopped at Albion.
George and his brother Joe were chosen and adopted by Simeon A. (1795-1865) and Martha (1794-1860) Stone, and their surname Timmons was changed to Stone. The Stones (who are buried in East Eckford Cemetery) were elderly farmers who owned 120 acres of land on the southwest corner of B Drive South and 24 Mile Road, near the Warner School. In those days, there were no child labor laws, and adopted "Orphan Train" children often worked long hours on the farm for their adoptive parents. George should not be confused with the 19th century Albion dentist of the same name, Dr. George W. Stone, who was a totally different person and unrelated.
George was befriended by Albion dry goods merchant George N. Davis (1834-1916) who became a lifelong friend. The Civil War began. Davis served as Captain of Company D of the First Michigan Sharpshooters regiment, and recruited George as musician/drummer on March 6, 1863. Stone was only 13 years old at the time! This was allowed under special rules that permitted persons under 18 to join as musicians/drummers if they had their parents permission. George actually ran away from home however, in order to join. Thus he was Albionís "Little Drummer Boy" in the Civil War!
The Michigan Sharpshooters served gallantly throughout the War, much of it in Virginia. This was the same outfit that General William Henry Harrison Beadle (buried in Albionís Riverside Cemetery) was a part of. The 1998 book by Raymond J. Herek (Wayne State University Press) "These Men Have Seen Hard Service" gives a detailed account of the Sharpshooters, and makes mention of Stone and Davis.
Stone was well liked by his fellow comrades, and they helped him to learn to read and write by bringing him books. George served throughout the war until his muster out in July, 1865. Despite several illnesses, he missed only one engagement (that due to furlough) and was recognized for meritorious conduct. Although assigned the duty as a drummer, Stone "was the bravest child that man ever saw. Whenever a fight began, Stone always shucked his drum and under some pretense or other shouldered his way into the front rank where he could pick up a Springfield [rifle]." (Herek pg. 138) In one battle he fought on the front line and helped assist Colonel Charles DeLand of Jackson. Stone was also involved in the siege of Petersburg, Virginia through the last week of the war. Years later, Stone and two other comrades went back in 1899 to return the "Petersburg Grays" unit flag that the Sharpshooters had captured in 1865 as a war trophy.
In a twist of fate, one time during the War George received a needle case as part of a "care package" sent by Union women supporters in Pennsylvania. In it was a generic handwritten note by a girl to the Union soldier who would receive the case. After corresponding, this girl turned out to be Georgeís long lost sister!
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1865 photograph of 15 year-old George W. Stone in uniform in the Civil War, alongside of his drum. Photograph courtesy State Archives in Lansing. Next week: life after the Civil War for Albionís "Little Drummer Boy."
George W. Stone, Drummer Boy
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic