In 1928, Merton Edwin Krug, author of History of Reedsburg and the Upper Baraboo Valley, also researched and wrote a story about a young drummer boy from LaValle. This short story was published in the Reedsburg Free Press, August 30, 1928, and also in the Milwaukee Journal.
Krug visited the home of George Inman and his wife, Mary, who were living in LaValle. George was 82 at the time, and the Civil War, in which he served, had been relegated to history books for over 70 years.
During the interview, many interesting stories were related to Krug by Mr. Inman. He indicated that he had been with Sherman on his famous “March to the Sea.” “They always called me the youngest man in Sherman’s entire army! I was a drummer,” said George.
George Inman, a native of England, was born in 1846, and came to America with his parents and 16 siblings in 1858 at the age of 12. They settled in Ironton Township.
Krug noted in his article, “But they came at a time when the outbreak of the Civil War was imminent; and it was destiny that placed them in the land in time to fight for the nation’s unity. Mr. Inman remembers those days, and he cannot but feel proud of the part he played in the war.”
It was during the warm autumn days of September, 1861, that George Stevens, of Reedsburg, began recruiting a company of volunteers from the northwestern parts of Sauk County. “George Inman was but a boy of fifteen but he set his heart on going with the company,” wrote Krug.
George was permitted to accompany the new recruits to Madison, but was not allowed to go any further, primarily because of his age. To join the Union Army, a soldier had to be at least 18.
Col. Bryant of the 12th Regiment, told Inman to go back home and “Wait a while.” Krug noted that, “The spirit, which can never be killed, and very seldom suppressed, was in his heart, the Union was calling him.” A trait which seemed all too common among the youth who wanted to join up and help their countrymen, “beat those Rebs.”
But George Inman would not be dissuaded, even though his parents attempted to convince him to remain at home until he was older.
So, when he decided he could wait no longer, he formulated a plan with a neighbor boy his own age to run away and join the army.
That day finally arrived in late December of 1861. One night he went to bed as usual, and waited until his parents were fast asleep. Getting up at 11:30 p.m., George slipped out of his upstairs bedroom window and, along with his friend, took off for Madison to join the Union Army. The weather was undoubtedly cold, and we can assume that they probably walked all the way, hitching buggy rides as the opportunity arose.
Finally they reached Camp Randall where new recruits were encamped. They were allowed to train with the troops, however after three days had passed, George’s father showed up to try to induce him to return home. It was noted that his father was, “heartbroken and his mother was heartbroken,” but the pleas went unheeded. George would not be dissuaded, he was going to join the army.
Krug wrote, “Then, decided Jack Inman, if the boy must go, he would go to look after him. Accordingly, word reached Martha Inman that both her husband and her boy were in the army.”
After Jack Inman had been mustered into the army, he received word that 15-year-old George, had been rejected. “In his desperation, George went to the Col. Bryant, and told him of his plight, saying that because his father was now in the ranks, it would not be fair to reject him. Accordingly, the Colonel took the matter under advisement. ‘We’ll fix that!’ he told George, ‘we’ll make you a drummer.’”
Taking the place of a man from Boscobel who had been drafted, George received a bounty of $300 cash ($8,200 today) for enlisting and was allowed to join his home company.
Company B of the Twelfth Regiment of Wisconsin was duly mustered into the Union Army on January 11, 1862, and left Camp Randall for Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Right up front leading the way was George Inman, beating out the marching cadence with his drum for the troops as they went off to war.
During the spring of 1862, they were stationed in Missouri, Kansas, and Kentucky. That summer, George was employed as a skirmisher—soldiers who proceed or rear guarded the troops against the advance of the enemy. In the fall, he was in actual battle, led by some of the Union’s most notable generals. In November, he, along with his company, and doing his duty as a drummer, headed south with the Army of the Mississippi, under General Grant. George also served under General McPherson, whom he idolized and said was, “the best general in the whole Union Army at the time of his death.”
George and his unit also participated in the fall of Vicksburg and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. During this last battle, he recounted an interesting anecdote.
Krug wrote, “The rebel Army was stationed high up on the mountainside, and the mountain was so straight up and down that they were unable to hit the Union troops close to the mountain below, in consequence of which fact the Rebels lighted the [cannon] balls and rolled them down the side of the mountain. Mr. Inman says that to prevent them from going off he and the others ran after them and pulled the fuses out. In this battle, Mr. Inman was wounded. It was only a slight flesh wound, but for a time he was unconscious. When he regained consciousness he was on a stretcher, being rushed to the rear. He made inquiry as to whither he was being taken, and, upon being informed, sprang from the stretcher, and returned to the field of battle.”
George and his unit moved on to Atlanta and remained through the entire campaign, acting in his capacity as a drummer and skirmisher. He also assisted the Ambulance Brigade during and after the battles.
There were times when the food supplies ran low, and the men were sent on foraging expeditions. Inman describes one those expeditions to Krug: “In one particular instance he and another fellow were out alone having been given permission to do so, but instructed to return in a short time, by his commander. Night fell upon the headquarters; dawn came again; then another day passed; another night, and so on until four days had passed. Then late in the afternoon, the two returned. When word reached the Commander that the young foragers had returned he gave orders that they appear in audience, and decreed that they be court-martialed. Young George begged that they be allowed to explain and the Commander went to see the two lads and what they had foraged. He was greatly amazed when he saw four wagonloads of foraged foodstuffs and a retinue of 300 Negroes who had followed the two youths in from the country through which they had foraged.”
George was also a general favorite among the soldiers and had many personal discourses with Generals Grant and Sherman. “Many times did they share their tents and grub with the youngest drummer boy in the whole vast army,” wrote Krug.
“On the 24th of November, from Atlanta, began Sherman’s Grand March to the Sea. The call of the bugle, the tap of the drums, the stirring of such glorious songs as Tramp, Tramp, Tramp and Marching Through Georgia, how well does George Inman remember them till this day! With his drum and taps, beside the fife, miles and miles did he march, leading his company in the greatest march in American History, Sherman’s March to the Sea,” noted Krug.
The march took them to the battles of Pocotolingo River, the campaign in the Carolinas, crossing the Edisto River, and the charge upon the rebels at Orangeburg.
And then, the war of the Rebellion was over. The Union had been preserved, and the citizens of the reunited states celebrated that occasion in Washington D.C. in May, 1865. And George Inman’s unit was marching with thousands of other soldiers, in the Grand Review.
The Review was still fresh in George’s mind when Krug interviewed him in 1928. “A parade from morning till night, tens of thousands marching on the streets. There had been a band stand erected at a good point of advantage, where a large number of musicians were assembled, among whom was a lad of scarce 19, who had entered the conflict in ’61 at the age of 15 and who now sat in the band stand, playing his drum for the endless train of humanity that filed by on that day of the Grand Review,” wrote Krug.
George saw the new president of the United States, James Buchanan, who became president after the death of Lincoln a month before. He noted that he still recalled Buchanan’s face after some 70 years.
After the events in Washington, Inman left with his company for Louisville, KY, where they were all mustered out on July 16, 1865. Since Company B was mostly from the Sauk County area, they returned to Madison where the unit was disbanded on August 9th, and the weary soldiers, including LaValle’s drummer boy, returned to their homes and families.
“Mr. Inman finished his story with a feeling of gladness, for the joy of living those days that, when being lived, had not been quite so joyous, was a pleasure he had not had in years. He is very proud of his record (of which he has a right to be) and has never regretted having entered the army against the will of his parents,” wrote Krug.
George Inman married in 1868, and to him and his wife, Mary, were born seven children. The family lived on a farm near Ironton for several years. They also resided in Iowa, and for several years in Chicago, where George was the chief engineer for the pumping station. They returned to the farm and in 1912 came to LaValle to reside. Inman died in 1932, and is buried in the LaValle Cemetery.