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

Foreword by Joseph G. Bilby

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.