The Union Soldier who changed his name to Lincoln

Young John Clem

Young John Clem



In admiration of President Abraham Lincoln, Union soldier John Clem changed his name to “Lincoln.” Well, almost. He changed his middle name to “Lincoln.” His name was John Joseph Klem which he changed to John Lincoln Clem. This is someone many people have heard about.  John Clem is claimed by some to have been the Union Army’s youngest soldier. I don’t think that is actually factual, however. Yet, he does have an interesting claim-he was the last Civil War veteran actively serving in the U.S. Army. He achieved the rank of Major General in 1916. He wanted to serve in World War One and requested from President Wilson that he be activated to do so. President Wilson refused. John Clem was most famous as a Civil War drummer boy. At age eleven he tried to enlist in an Ohio unit but was not permitted to do so. He was allowed to enlist when he turned thirteen. He became a member of the 22nd Michigan Infantry. Legend has it that drummer boy Clem was actually Johnny Shiloh who participated in the Battle of Shiloh with the 22nd Michigan. Unfortunately, that can’t be true because the 22nd Michigan did not serve at Shiloh. Clem did take part in many actions including the Battle of Chickamauga. During his service he also gained acclaim for having shot a Confederate Officer (for which he was promoted). He was also wounded twice during the war and became a POW. Clem did muster out of the Union Army service eventually (1864) but wound up in the military for a second time after the war. President Grant approved his commission as an officer. He retired from the military when President Wilson denied his request for service in France. He died in 1937 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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