Old South Military Antiques

20th Georgia Drum
Item #: OS-7195

  The Border Rangers became Co. B, 20th Georgia Infantry



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  "Beautifully and Boldly" painted head



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  "MEMPHIS" over "TENN" over "14""


  The sling and drumsticks are original, but not to this drum



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  Large "61" date is crosshatched into the brass body


  The drum has an all brass body


  Even the leather snares are completely original


  Still has the original iron sling snap


  1861 Invoice from James A. McClure to the Confederacy for Drums.


  The Memphis Daily Avalanche (Memphis, Tennessee) · 17 Aug 1861

This is one of most truly spectacular items that I have had the pleasure to own. It was not only carried by a Confederate regiment; it was made by a Confederate contractor. The drum is attributed to the Memphis Novelty Works, Thomas Leech & Company in 1861. It is number 14. It is totally original and unaltered in any way. Every rope, string, head, keeper etc... is original, even the leather snares are original. The sticks and sling are period originals, but not to the drum.

It is well known that the Memphis Novelty Works sold drums early in the War, but there is only one other survivor known and it has restoration. Thomas S. Leech, had moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1854 to establish a cotton dealership. It was financed by his partners: his brother John B. Leech, Thomas Harrison, Sir Arthur Forwood, and Sir William Bower Forwood of Liverpool, England. Leech opened the firm of Thomas Leech & Co., Cotton Broker, at 35 Front Row Street in Memphis. As war became imminent, Leech formed a new partnership with S.B. Carver and J. F. Frank, began to expand their business to include war material. The Military items were sold under the name of "Memphis Novelty Works Thomas Leech & Co.” Under this name the company manufactured and sold Swords, Side Knives, Belts, Buckles and Pistols.

With the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in the spring of 1862 and the subsequent fall of the state of Tennessee into Union hands, the company, decided to relocate their business to Columbus, Mississippi.

Though there is no soldier’s name on the drum, only the maker’s address, the "Border Rangers” and star painted on the head, combined with the large "61” carved into the upper half of the drum’s body, give us enough information to discern between the four "Border Ranger” companies that served the Confederacy. Two can be dismissed outright, because they were cavalry. Of the other two possibilities, only one of them was in service in 1861; that was the 20th Georgia Infantry. And it is possible that there was a yet undiscovered company known locally as the "Border Rangers” But all information available points to the 20th Georgia Infantry, and it is known that the 20th Georgia Infantry had its own band of twenty four musicians, two of which were drummers.

The 20th Infantry Regiment was formed at Columbus, Georgia, in May, 1861, and soon moved to Virginia where it was assigned to the Army of the Potomac, later to be the famed Army of Northern Virginia. The "Border Rangers” were from Muscogee and formed Company B of the regiment.

The company was accepted in Confederate service at Columbus, Muscogee County, Georgia, on May 23rd, 1861. Columbus, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee, the home of The Memphis Novelty Works had excellent rail connections and the two cities engaged in extensive commerce, making it quite easy for the company’s drummer to acquire the drum.

After the parades and goodbyes, the 20thboarded the trains for Virginia. They had been ordered to proceed by the Muscogee and Southwestern Railroad to Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, by Special Orders No.57, on June 13th, 1861. The company was mustered in Confederate service for the war at Richmond, Virginia, on June 19th, 1861. It served in General Early's, Toombs', and Benning's Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. In April, 1862, it had 560 effectives and fought with the army from the Seven Days' Battles to Cold Harbor except when it was with Longstreet at Suffolk, Chickamauga, and Knoxville. The unit endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches and fought to the bitter end at Appomattox. It sustained 76 casualties during the Seven Days' Battles and 152 at Second Manassas. Of the 350 engaged at Gettysburg, more than thirty-five percent were disabled. The regiment lost 95 men in the Overland Campaign and the fighting around Petersburg. It surrendered 18 officers and 191 men.

As mentioned earlier, the 20th Georgia contained 24 musicians.[1] At the beginning of the War, these men were musicians playing soldier. It wasn’t too long before they were veteran soldiers, playing music on special occasions. In the rowdy ruckus that prevailed during the first celebratory days occasioned by the Confederate States having reasserted their sovereignty, the band was in high demand for festive occasions far and wide. Very soon after, they were trained to deliver military signals for both camp and field, and how to "beat” a company into step. Not infrequently they were used to inspire and stiffen the backbone of men bent past the point when they would have otherwise broken. These were the noble occasions of course; the more enjoyable occasions were when the Confederate Infantryman marched gaily through the towns and villages in his rags and sufferings, as they did throughout the South far and wide, to the admiration of the ladies and the respect of their sires. Even their enemies saw the man[SP1] under the dust and rags, as the oft quoted lady of Maryland wrote: "They were the dirtiest men I ever saw. A most ragged lean and hungry set of wolves. Yet there was a dash about them that the northern men lacked.”

Of the 24 musicians in the 20thRegiment, only two were specifically listed as drummers[2]. A bass drummer and a snare drummer. These two men were Benjamin L Cain and Timothy Buckner. Unfortunately, the only clue I have as to which one of them played this drum is the "61” date cross hatched into drum’s brass body near the rim. Both men enlisted in 1861, so that date could not differentiate between them. However, I found that both gave dearly to the Confederacy, Ben Cain was disabled for life from a wound received at Second Manassas and Tim Buckner was killed at Petersburg on July 16th, 1864. It is also possible that some of the other men listed simply as "musician” also played drum.

This, 14.5 by 12.5 inch snare drum is one of only two known survivors attributed to the Memphis Novelty Works. I think it more than likely they L&R drums were made by James A. McClure, a Memphis musical instrument maker who sold numerous drums to the Confederacy. L&R likely only retailed the drums made by McClure. The other survivor has restoration, while this one is 100% original and unaltered in any way. This is little doubt after you take into consideration the known maker, the known history and the stellar condition that this is one of the best surviving Confederate military drums.


[1] https://sites.rootsweb.com/~gatroup2/georgia_csainfantry.htm Troup County, CSA Infantry Units of Georgia

[2] https://sites.rootsweb.com/~gatroup2/georgia_csainfantry.htm Troup County, CSA Infantry Units of Georgia

Price $28,000.00 USD