Drummer Boy Willie McGee, Civil War Hero and Fraud

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About the Book

On December 7, 1864, just one week after the bloody battle of Franklin, Tennessee, William McGee, a drummer boy from Newark, New Jersey, was credited with leading a Federal force to a decisive victory over the Confederates in a clash just thirty miles from the carnage at Franklin. This 15-year-old Irish-American, on convalescent duty and acting as an orderly to General Lovell Rousseau, was recognized for the capture of two guns, several hundred prisoners, and the saving of Fortress Rosecrans in Murfreesboro from the famed Nathan Bedford Forrest.
For his actions, young McGee would soon be awarded a Medal of Honor, written up in newspapers and books as a glorious New Jersey legend, be commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Army at age 18, and then, inexplicably at the height of his notoriety, virtually disappear from history for more than 100 years. This is the story of a lost war hero, a man-child with the world at his feet, whose fall from grace is accelerated by fame, lies, alcohol, bigamy, and murder.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Fox is a retired librarian from Fredon, New Jersey. He often speaks on both Irish emigration and New Jersey history.

Bibliographic Details

Thomas Fox
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 275
Bibliographic Info: 35 photos, 3 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3289-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8240-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by Joseph G. Bilby      1

Preface      3

Introduction      9

1. The Watch, the Note, the Murder      15

2. The Regiment, the Drummer, the Medal      26

3. Baton Rouge, 1868      41

4. The Legend of Willie McGee      51

5. The Trial      58

6. The Battle of the Cedars      74

7. The Court-Martial      92

8. McGee, Magee, and the President      102

9. Prison      113

10. The Push for Freedom      131

11. New Life at Twenty-One      141

12. Willie McGee, Family Man      158

13. Exposed      176

14. “A Moral Wreck”      185

15. The Lost Years      203

Epilogue      221

Appendix 1. The Bonfoey Case      229

Appendix 2. McGee Timeline      232

Appendix 3. The McGee File      235

Appendix 4. 33rd New Jersey Infantry      236

Regiment Musicians      237

Chapter Notes      241

Bibliography      257

Index      263

Book Reviews & Awards

“complete”—The Journal of Military History; “excellent”—Irish America.