Drummer Boy Willie McGee Civil War Hero and Fraud

Wartime heroism is often a deserved celebration of those who have displayed bravery in the face of danger. There is another kid of war hero however who is usually a symbol more or less created by the public and the media so that the trauma of war becomes slightly more tolerable. This is not a new phenomenon, as an excellent new history book notes. "Drummer Boy Willie McGee, Civil War Hero and Fraud," by Thomas Fox, tells the story of the boy who gives this book its title, and is credited, at the tender ago of 15, with capturing several hundred rebel prisoners during a key battle in Tennessee. At just 15, Willie McGee, an Irish kid from Newark, New Jersey, became a public sensation. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, then joined the army three years later, only to, more or less, disappear from history. Fox fills in the blanks, which include an intricate web of lies, murder, bigamy and a New York bartender who may or not be the famous drummer boy. This is an Irish-American story that has gone unexplored for far too long. ($35 / 267 pages / McFarland)


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