Friday, June 22, 2012

A Drummer's Hymn Book

The Special Collections department of the State Library is delighted to announce receipt of a new donation to our collection, an item that adds to the richness of the Civil War-era materials already maintained by the repository. The Soldier’s Hymn Book, published in 1861 by the Young Men’s Christian Association, has particular value in that it was owned by a soldier named Albert P. Hills, a drummerboy who served in Company I of the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteers during the Civil War. Throughout the hymnal, Hills drew several illustrations including “Chaplain Clark in the Pulpit,” an eagle clutching arrows and a shield, a sow, and a field drum.

The staff in Special Collections sought to gain more information about the owner of the hymnal, and through their research they found that Hills enlisted as a drummerboy in the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteers at the young age of 15. Although both of his parents opposed his decision to join, they could not dissuade him, and it was then that Hill’s father, Albert Smith Hills, chose to accompany his son and enlist in the regiment with him. Both father and son served in General Burnside’s army in North Carolina, and they fought and served in several battles including the battle and capture of Roanoke Island.

The Soldier’s Hymn Book is just one example of the State Library’s extensive number of items and collections that document Massachusetts’ contribution during the Civil War. Anyone can visit Special Collections and view these historical treasures. Please visit us in Room 55 of the State House, and for more information about our hours, visit our website at

Casey E. Davis
Reference/Exhibition Intern
Special Collections Department