Musc. John Catlin
Drummer, Co. E
John Catlin enlisted in 1862, at the age of 12 years, in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry as drummer boy. As early as 1860 he began to raise drum corps. At that time the Lincoln campaign was at its height.
Everybody joined some sort of an organization. Torchlight processions were extremely popular. Young Johnny Catlin lived in Delavan, Wisconsin, and as he was quite handy with the drumsticks his services were in demand whenever the boys went out to whoop it up for the Presidential candidates. He formed several drum corps in the neighborhood of Delavan and had a great time generally. When the war broke out he immediately enlisted as drummer boy with the 18th Wisconsin Volunteers. Somehow or other his size escaped the attention of the enlisting officer, and the boy, filled with pride, strapped on his drum and took position with his company preparatory to its last parade before going into the field. He rolled away at his drum, and it was the proudest moment of his life.
The men were drawn up for inspection, and in a moment along came the Colonel.
"Why, what in thunder is this?" said he, stopping in front of the youthful drummer.
"That is our drummer boy, and he is a daisy," answered Captain Perry.
"What are you going to do with him?" asked the Colonel.
"Take him along," replied the other.
"Not much," thundered the commanding officer. "This is no kindergarten. We ain't running a nursery," and then turning to young Catlin he said: "You go home and pick up chips for your mother. The war is no place for chickens that hain't got their pin feathers."
Johnny fell out of ranks, was very much discouraged, and tried it again with the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry. He was told after he had played a tattoo that his size was all that was against him, and finally after his father had signified his willingness to let his son go, was promised a berth provided a larger boy did not turn up. The larger boy came to hand next day, and again Johnny was left to see the soldiers march away to war without him.
However, he persevered, and finally was made happy by an appointment of drummer boy in Company E, 28th Wisconsin Infantry. Arrayed in his new uniform Johnny Catlin went to war. He traveled in a hay wagon from Delavan to Whitewater, Wis., where he joined his Regiment the next day. Young Catlin served through the war, and afterward enlisted Oct. 21, 1870 at Ft. Sedgwick for 5 years. He served in Co. I, 14th U. S. Infantry where he played in regimental band. He returned to Chicago where he was discharged May 5, 1873 for health reasons. Since 1874 he was connected with the 2nd Regiment Band, I.N.G., as drummer and drum major.
John Catlin married first wife, Carrie, July 24, 1872 and they had four children: Edwin Leonard, b. Feb 10, 1879; Sarah, b. July 13, 1881; Laura Aurelia, b. Dec. 25. 1883 (a Christmas baby) and Phillip Sheridan, b. March 8, 1885. Carrie died July 7, 1887 -- apparently she never recovered her health after giving birth to Phillip.
John married widow Mary Lena Obermiller on Sept. 18, 1889, but the marriage would last only five years. He lived at 1210 Trumbull Ave. in Lawndale, Illinois until his death on Aug. 24, 1894. He was a member of the G.A.R., Harvey Dodworth Post. Honorary pallbearers at his funeral were from the 28th Regiment: C.W. Bixby, William Durant, George S. Sawyer, Thomas H. Gault, and F.W. McWhorter. John was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Chicago on 26 August 1894.
This biography was printed in the booklet commemorating the 28th Regiment's 12th Reunion on 13 June 1894 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Additional information from his pension file provide by Gary Clifton Wisler.