William E. “Willie” Johnston, drummer boy of Company D, 3rd Vermont Infantry, has the distinction of being the youngest soldier to ever receive the Medal of Honor, presented to him at age 11 for gallantry on the battlefield in the Seven Day Battle Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Young Johnston is the subject of a book written, Lincoln’s Drummer, written by G. Clifton Wisler.
In the Soldiers’ Record of the town of St. Johnsonbury, Vermont, it is written:
Born in Warrentown, St. Lawrence County, N. Y. Son of William Johnson, member of Company B, 3d Regiment. Resided with his father in St. Johnsbury when he enlisted. Age twelve years. Enlisted in Company D, 3d Regiment, May 1, 1862. Mustered into United States service same day. Drummer. Re-enlisted at Brandy Station, Va., February 15, 1864. Transferred to Company H, February 15, 1864, and thence, as Drum Major, of 20th Regiment of Veteran Reserve Corps. Mustered out of service December 30, 1864.
Willie was with the 3d Regiment in the tedious and hazardous conflicts of the seven days campaign in the Peninsula, and received from the Secretary of War a star medal for heroic conduct during this time. This conduct was meritorious beyond that of other drummers, in so much as he retained his drum and brought it off on the retreat, while they, to lessen their burdens, threw theirs away. Upon reaching Harrison’s Landing Willie’s was the only drum to be found for use at the division parade.