39th GEORGIA DRUM
Updated: November 9, 2010.   

    There are times in a historian's life that make all the hours of research in libraries, driving the country side to remote locations, and burning your eyeballs out looking at microfilm worth while.  Seeing the drum returned to Northwest Georgia to the home counties of the 39th Georgia is one of them. 

    The drum was acquired from the Gratz Historical Society, Gratz, Pennsylvania.  They acquired it at auction from a collector prior to his passing away.  They bought the drum as a substitute for another one that was advertised as an 1812 drum and out of their price range.  Mr. Paul H. Ross in coordination with the Whitfield-Murray County Historical Society acquired the drum in late 2002. 

    I do not know the chain of custody or any story prior to that point in time.  I had a drum expert look at a photo of the drum in December 2001 and he noted that the drum was from the mid-Nineteenth Century because of the following characteristics:

    1. The shell is held together with a very common bond, tacks.

    2.  The drum cord is very typical of the period and even more typical of Confederate drums, Union contract drums always used three braid twisted linen cord.

    3.  The drum ears, post-Civil War drum ears tended to become tear drop shaped instead of square.  The fact that the rope runs through the counterhoops (not a metal hook over the counter hoop) places it before 1870.

    However, I suspect that the heads may have been changed or someone at some point in the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century had done some work on it.  If you look inside the blow hole, which I have, you will see a label that says, “Walter D. Moses & Co., 103 East Broad Street, Oldest Music House in Virginia.” Walter D. Moses & Company was established in 1879.  (Source:  Richmond, Virginia:  The City on the James, The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principle Business Interests, Richmond, Virginia: George W. Engelhardt, Publisher, 1902-1903, p. 144.)  Normally, this label indicates who manufactured the drum or when someone has done a repair they will place their label here.  Walter D. Moses was born about 1862 and his father was Alfred.  I checked the Richmond City Directories and did not find the name among music instrument makers or dealers.  I did find that Alfred Moses lived in the Poor House in 1860 and in 1870 he was a merchant. (Source:  1860 and 1870 Federal Censuses).

     The drum is unusual in that it is not a square drum (i.e. 12 X 12, 14 X 14, 16 X 14, or even 16 X 20 inches).  Typically, square drums were used because they were less likely to tip vertical.  It by my source back in 2001 that this drum was a band or an orchestra’s drum “impressed” into service.  This is speculation and we do not have any way of proving that.

    I would like to thank Mr. Paul H. Ross for all his efforts in getting the drum back and letting me know of its return.  I can not put into words the excitement, and pride that I felt when I first saw the drum up close.  When I saw the words Free or dead painted onto the drum it sent chills up and down my back.

    I would also like to thanks the ladies at the Murray County Library for their kindness and hospitality during my visit.  The use of the digital camera helped ensure timely publishing of these pictures on the web site.