Recently I saw in the local newspaper that there was going to be a guided tour dealing with the American Revolution at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. Of course, there are a number of luminaries buried there – Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights leader), Frederick Douglas (antislavery advocate), and Col. Nathaniel Rochester, the founder of the city in the early 1800s.
There’s also a section in the Mount Hope cemetery called, “Revolutionary Hill” where a number of soldiers who took part in the Sullivan Expedition of 1789 against the Seneca Indians are buried. As a result of General Sullivan’s expedition – which was carried out under the direct order of George Washington – the Senecas lost most of their land in western New York. This land was then partitioned out in land grants to veterans of the Revolution in payment for their service (in lieu of monetary compensation, because the new federal and state governments were broke at the end of the war). As a consequence, there are grave sites of veterans of the Revolution to be found throughout the region, including those at Mount Hope Cemetery.
On the cemetary tour it was a surprise to learn that also buried at Mount Hope is a soldier of the Revolution named, Alexander Millener, who is identified in the cemetary Guide as “George Washington’s drummer boy.” To see an article on Millener with photos click here – Alexander Millener
Then, a few days after the tour an e-newsletter arrived from the Percussive Arts Society with an article on John George, who lies buried in a cemetery in Indianapolis (PAS offices are there), and who is also named as a drummer boy for Washington. To sees his bio,click here – John George
It’s certainly possible that when they were boys, both Millener and George did service with Washington’s body guards, but it’s also possible that one or both may (or may not) have only crossed paths with Washington at some point in time, but without serving directly in his body guards, and that later in their lives they embellished on their service history. One red flag is the incorrect name on Alexander Millener’s Pension Certificate. It names “Alexander Maroney” instead of “Alexander Millener.” Either the U.S. War Dept. made a mistake or Millener conveniently assumed the history of a drummer boy for Washington.
I mentioned these thoughts to Robin Engelmen about whether or not these various drummers were actually attached in an official military way to Washington and did service directly under him as part of his guards or assigned to him in battle.
Robin said, “In a very real way, every drummer who served in the Continental Army was “Washington’s drummer”. After all, the army itself was considered Washington’s. And they thought of themselves as such. Perhaps they were not being disingenuous nor even guilty of glorifying themselves with such an appellation. It’s quite possible that in their minds they were speaking the literal truth.”
Finally, there is another pioneer cemetary in East Bloomfield (NY) – the town next to ours – where another drummer boy named, Jonnathan Adams, from the American Revolution is buried. Below is a photograph of the headstone.
It is both astonishing and interesting to find these names from the past so close by, yet so unknown to some of us who identify with their commitment to drumming.