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Civil War drummer remembered

July 20, 2012
By Sam Shawver ( , The Marietta Times

Andersonville Prison, in south-central Georgia, was no place for a teenage boy during the Civil War. But the notorious compound was where 15-year-old Maryland native Ransom Powell spent eight months of his life in 1864.

Thirty-four years later Powell died in Marietta, and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery where his grave now stands beneath a tall cedar tree.

"He only came here during the last four or five years of his life. At one time he lived on Fifth Street. The house is still standing (in the 300 block) but it's been split up into several apartments in recent years," said Scott Britton, local Civil War historian and executive director of The Castle museum in Marietta.

Article Photos

SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Scot Monaghan holds a copy of “The Civil War Memoirs of Little Red Cap, a Drummer Boy at Andersonville Prison,” edited by Harold Scott, Sr., of Cumberland, Md.. It’s among the local history and Civil War volumes at Barking Dog Books and Art LLC in Marietta.

He said Powell, given the nickname "Little Red Cap" by fellow soldiers during his time at Andersonville Prison, has become better known through a book, "The Civil War Memoirs of Little Red Cap, a Drummer Boy at Andersonville Prison," edited by Harold Scott, Sr., of Cumberland, Md.

Powell was just 13 years old in May 1862, when he enlisted with Company I, 10th W.Va. Infantry, as a drummer, according to local historian Dan Hinton.

"He was born in Allegany County, Md., in February 1849, and was captured at Moorefield, Va. (now W.Va.) in February 1864," he said.

Fact Box

About Ransom T. Powell, a.k.a. "Little Red Cap"

Born in Allegany County, Md., February 1849.

Died in Washington County, Ohio, January 1899.

Buried in Marietta's Oak Grove Cemetery.

Enlisted as drummer boy for Company I, 10th W.Va. Infantry.

Union prisoner at Andersonville Prison, Sumter County, Ga., February to September, 1864.

Source: Local historians Dan Hinton and Scott Britton and Times research.

According to Hinton's research, Powell was officially paroled by the Confederates on Oct. 16, 1864 at Varina, Va.

According to a description of Andersonville Prison by the National Park Service, the facility received its first Union prisoners in February 1864, and was designed to hold 10,000 people. But by August of that year the prison population was 32,000.

The overcrowding led to 12,912 deaths due to poor health and nutritional conditions by the end of the war in May 1865.

The prison property grew from 16 acres in February to more than 26 acres in June 1864.

Hinton said Powell was discharged from military service on May 11, 1865.

After the war, Powell was appointed to a position in the federal Bureau of Pensions, one of five Maryland appointees to the post, and he was later promoted to pension examiner, according to Scott in "The Civil War Memoirs of Little Red Cap."

Scott wrote that Powell eventually moved his family from Maryland to Jackson County, Ohio, and later to Marietta. According to Scott, the family was living on Gilman Avenue when Powell died.

"He died on January 24, 1899, in Marietta from pneumonia and asthma," Hinton said.

A copy of "The Civil War Memoirs of Little Red Cap" is among the Civil War and local history books at Barking Dog Books and Art LLC on Front Street in Marietta.

"The book was originally published in 1997-it's not a rare work, but it is uncommon on the market," said Marianne Monaghan, co-owner of the bookstore with husband Scot.

"Powell was 26 when the memoirs were written, from March 1875 to January 1876, ten years after the end of the Civil War," she said.

Scott begins the memoirs book with a quote attributed to Powell:

"I owe my deliverance to him from whom all blessings flow. I feel like exclaiming with the psalmist of old: 'Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness! For his wonderful works to the children of men!"



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