By Mark Carpenter
Civil War history buffs here will be excited to know that a new PBS series, “Civil War: The Untold Story” will feature the story of John A. Cockerill of Adams County, famed 15-year old drummer boy at the Battle of Shiloh.
As a drummer boys at Shiloh, Cockerill was exposed to the horrors of war in a battle that sent shock waves throughout the Union and the Confederacy with its enormous casualty figures. Cockerill later published a book, “A Boy at Shiloh: The Story of the Battle By One Who was not a Hero” and in that book, he gives this description of one of his early brushed with the carnage.
“I passed the corpse of a beautiful boy in gray who lay with his blond curls scattered about his face and his hand folded peacefully across his breast. He was clad in a bright and neat uniform, well garnished with gold, which seemed to tell the story of a loving mother and sisters who had sent their household pet to the field of war. His neat little hat lying beside him bore the number of a Georgia regiment. He was about my age and at the sight of the poor boys’ corpse, I burst into a regular boo-hoo and started on.”
At the age of 26, Cockerill became the managing editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer and later became editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. After leaving St. Louis, he resumed his newspaper career at the New York World as the editor and then later at the New York Herald.
“Civil War: The Untold Story” is a five-part series that debuts on Cincinnati’s WCET on April 27.Cockerill’s story is featured in the second episode titled “A Beacon of Hope.”
If you want a sneak peek of that second episode, it will be shown next Monday at 7 p.m. at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Tickets for the advance showing are $10 and can be reserved by calling the Freedom Center (513-333-7737) or by visiting the center’s website at www.freedomcenter.org.