Henry Lightner (1798-1883): The Drummer Boy of Fort McHenry

On the morning of Sunday, September 11, 1814, drummer Henry Lightner as well as other militia volunteers at Fort McHenry sounded the alarm at the approach of the British invasion fleet.  At sixteen years, Henry served in Captain John Berry’s Washington Artillery of the 1st Regiment, Maryland Volunteer Artillery. Captain Berry commanded the shore batteries along with two other militia companies.

Earlier, the company had marched from Baltimore to Fort McHenry earlier to the tune of Henry Lightner’s drum accompanied by fifes. It may well be that he played a favorite tune of his “The Girl I Left Behind.” As a member of the Association of Old Defenders’ of 1814  his presence was well known as he played the tune in the years to follow in many parades every Defenders’ Day in September. A tinner by trade in his adult years he was a member of the Methodist church. In the latter years of the 19th century as each of the participants in the defense of Baltimore past away, akin to the passing of the minute men of the days of the American Revolution, newspapers printed their passing – mutual respect for the citizen-soldiers of 1812.

Henry Lightner died in Baltimore on January 24, 1883 and was buried in Baltimore Cemetery.  

“The Drummer Boy’s Funeral.- The funeral of Mr. Henry Lightner, the drummer-boy of 1812, who died on Thursday in the 85th year of his age, took place yesterday afternoon, from the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. Richard McCullough, No. 49 East Eager street. Rev. Luther T. Widerman, pastor of Monument-Street M.E. Church, conducted the funeral services, and was assisted by Revs. A.M.Courtney, and A.S. Hank. The pallbearers were selected from the congregations of Monument-Street, Greenmount-Avenue and Madison-Square M.E. Churches and from Harmonia Lodge, I.O.O.F., a delegation from which also attended. Mr. W.H. Daneker, secretary of the Old Defenders’ Association, was present.” 

 The Sun, January 27, 1883. 

Sources: The Sun (Baltimore), January 25, 1883 and September 9, 1882.

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Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I enjoyed reading this article about my great-great grandfather Henry Lightner. The drum he played during the Battle of Baltimore was also played by his father in the Revolutionary War.It was in his possession until his death. The drum then passed to his daughter Elizabeth and then to my grandfather, Henry Lightner McCulloh. My grandfather then donated the drum and another to the Flag House Museum in Baltimore.

  2. Henry Lightner, the Drummer boy of Fort McHenry is my GGGG Grandfather

  3. He’s my GGGG grandfather as well…I had added him to my family tree some years ago with no knowledge of who he was until someone contacted me about him.

  4. Recently doing family research on my Mentzer side from Pennsylvania I discovered that Henry Lightner was a distant second cousin. How honored I was and happy that he is still being honored in our nations history.


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