Joseph V. Litchfield Drum

Drum c.1860
Attributed to Israel E. Glover
Wood, rope, metal, leather
Dims: H 25 ¾” x W 24”

This large drum was owned by Joseph V. Litchfield of Medford, who served in the 5th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War. The drum is painted in red, white and blue stripes. A large eagle is depicted spreading its wings, along with a shield and banner reading “e pluribus unum.” The design recalls the Great Seal of the United States of America, adopted in 1782, in which an eagle with wings spread holds a shield, grasping an e pluribus unum scroll in its beak, and arrows and olive branch in its talons. The stripes of the shield represent the states joined together through the union, while the arrows and olive branch symbolize war and peace. The drum also features a brass tack design around the air hole.

A label pasted inside the drum refers to the possible maker or seller, “Israel E. Glover/ Three Doors from Concert Hall Boston/ Music Store Number 75 Court Street.” Boston’s Court Street was a bustling thoroughfare in the mid-19th century, with jeweler and millinery shops, daguerreotype studios, and several music stores, as seen in the photograph below c.1855. The Concert Hall referenced in Israel Glover’s label was at the corner of Court and Hanover Streets. It provided a venue for meetings and musical performances from the mid-1700s through the 19th century. Nearby at 61 Court Street, the Boston Union Band was “prepared to furnish any number of musicians for military, fireman’s and civic parades,” as well as, “Commencements, School Exhibitions, Serenades, Wedding or Fishing Parties, Pic-Nics, &c.”

While little is known of the history of use of the Litchfield Drum, it is similar in style and decoration to other Civil War era drums. Drummers played an essential role in both daily life and battle communications of Civil War regiments. In his Drum! magazine article, “Historic Collectible: Civil War Drums,” Chet Falzerano notes that “over 32,000 regulation drums were manufactured from 1861 to 1865 for the Union Army alone.” At 24 inches in diameter, the Litchfield bass drum is considerably larger than the typical Civil War snare drum which averaged 15-16 inches in diameter.

Joseph Vinal Litchfield was born in Scituate on July 20, 1818 to Atwood and Olive Litchfield. He worked as a housewright and married Susan Pratt. He enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts Regiment at the age of 40. He lived to be 80 years old, and died in Brookline, Massachusetts.

(Photographs of drum by Ed Nute Photography.)

Curriculum Connections

This Scituate Historical Society Collections Highlight connects with the following Massachusetts State Curriculum Frameworks:

History and Social Science Framework

5.T5. Slavery, the legacy of the Civil War, and the struggle for civil rights for all

The Civil War and Reconstruction: causes and consequences

Using primary sources such as diaries, reports in newspapers and periodicals, photographs, and cartoons/illustrations, document the roles of men and women who fought or served troops in the Civil War.

Arts, Grades 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

11. Relate artistic ideas and works to societal, cultural and historical contexts to deepen understanding.