Was Patrick Murphy a Union Army drummer boy?

I am trying to find out if my great grandfather was a drummer boy in the Union Army during the Civil War. His name was Patrick Dennis Murphy and he was living in Boston. I have a Civil War sword in my possession that I was told belonged to him.

  • Dear Mr. MacPherson,


    Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


    We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the series Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Civil War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1917 (Record Group 94) that includes a digitized index card for a Patrick D. Murphy. There may be additional index cards that have not yet been digitized and made available online through the Catalog. This series is an index to Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War in Record Group 94. Some of these records have been digitized and are available using the Catalog. Unfortunately, not all of the records for Massachusetts have been microfilmed or digitized. We also located the series Enlistment Papers, 1798 - October 31, 1912 and Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798 - 1914 (M233) in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1917 (Record Group 94) that include military service files of the Regular Army.  For more information about the non-digitized records in these records series, please email the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) at archives1reference@nara.gov.


    You may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgment as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience as we balance mission-critical work and the safety of our staff during the pandemic.  Please check NARA’s web page about COVID-19 updates for the latest information.


    M233 has been digitized and is available on Fold3 as Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914; on Ancestry as U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914; and on FamilySearch as United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914. There may be a fee for using Ancestry and Fold3. Instead, please check for access at your local library as many library systems subscribe to these sites, making them free for their patrons. FamilySearch may be accessed with a free account.


    We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!


  • I knowmy grandfather Patrick Dennis Murphy was born September 30th 1852 in Boston. His father was Timothy Murphy. I saw a reference that he may have spent time in an Old Soldier’s Home in Boston. How could I find out if there is any record of him in such a place.


  • Aloha,

    Still hoping you can reply to my last question.


    Ricahrd MacPherson

  • Dear Mr. MacPherson,

    Please try How To: Add a Photo or Image to your Post or Comment to attach your image or How To: Contact Another User to send an email.

    We hope this helps!

  • Richard

    Just want to clarify some things.  GGF name was Dennis Patrick or Patrick Dennis Murphy - as you have given both names?  You said his father was Timothy but what was his mother's name?  Do you have birthdates or birthplace for either of them?  Did GGF have siblings?  I'm trying to find them on census records around 1860 to try & trace him through the census records & see if he served or maybe his father served.  I found an 1870 Census for a Timothy Murphy & family in Boston - wife is Joanna & kids are Patrick, Thomas, Dennis, Nellie & Annie.  The son Patrick is listed as 15yrs old so would have been born c.1855. - You gave a 1852 birthdate for your GGF - are you sure of that? 

    - You mentioned GGF Patrick's wife was Joanna Hennessy - do you know when they married?

    - you brought up the family owned a bar Murphy's By The Sea - I found a mention of this bar in 1940 papers but unsure how this connects to Patrick Murphy. Did your GGF live into 1940's?  Do you have his death date or obit?

    - Thanks to Rebecca Collier's reply, I have followed you & if you follow me we should be able to see each other's email & can communicate easier that way. 

    Let me know!


  • Richard

    - That is a Model 1850 Staff & Field Officer's sword. There was also an 1850 Foot Officer's sword that has a different handguard than this.  Officers in the volunteer regiments had to purchase their uniforms & were not issued swords - they would have had to purchase it.  I am not sure if the Regular Army Officers were issued swords during the CW or if they also had to purchase them.  Maybe someone on the Hub has more knowledge on that.

    - This is not something a musician would be carrying so what exactly is the family lore re: this sword?  Was it something maybe he was given at the end of the War, or do you think he or another ancestor was an officer & carried it in the War?

    - This site has some info on swords U.S. Army Regulations Illustration: Link 11d Swords and Scabbards (tripod.com)

    - Also see my note of Apr. 29


  • His name was Dennis Patrick Murphy. I think his mother's name was Johanna. He was married to Joanna Hennessy 9/27/1883. Joanna's father was Daniel Hennessy who was born in County Cork, Ireland 8/15/1822. Murphy's By the Sea was owned by the Murphy's. I saw that Dennis Murphy was listed in census documents as liquor clerk, and importer. His son Paul Murphy ran Murphy's By the Sea.


    Richard MacPherson

  • Thanks for the reply. The family story is that he was a drummer boy. I've seen photos of Civil War drummer boys with a dress sword. There was also a story in the family that mentioned Admiral Farragut but I don't have any details.

    I appreciate your research on this subject.

    Richard MacPherson

  • Richard

    A musician would not have had this sword - it was a sword for an officer & was a sign of rank.  There was a musician's sword but that is a smaller sword (you can search online for an image).  The musician's sword might have been kept & maintained if assigned to a garrison post, but on the march, it was a cumbrance & was often discarded, as were blankets, heavy coats & other superfluous items.  This is a quote from The Recollections of a Drummer Boy by H.M. Kieffer (who enlisted in the 150th PVI in Aug. 1862 when he was 17 yrs. old), describing the Mud March in early 1863...

    “Drummer-boys carried no arms except a straight thin sword fastened to a broad leathern belt about the waist. Of this we had been in the outstart quite proud, and had kept it polished with great care. However, this "toad-sticker," as we were pleased to call it, on this mud-march caused each of us drummer-boys a world of trouble, and well illustrated the saying that "pride goeth before a fall." For as we groped about in the darkness and slid and plunged about in the mud, this miserable sword was forever getting tangled up with the wearer's legs, so that before he was aware of it, down he went on his face in the mud. My own weapon gave me so many falls that night, that I was quite out of conceit with it. When we reached camp after this march was done, I handed it to the quartermaster, agreeing to pay the price of it thrice over rather than carry it any more. The rest of the drummer-boys, I believe, carried theirs as far as Chancellorsville, and there solemnly hung them up on an oak-tree, where they are unto this day, if nobody has found them and carried them off as trophies of war.”

    - All that said, your GGF still could have served as a musician.  Tracing him & maybe his dad through the census & seeing if we can find him on the 1890 Vet Schedules may be helpful.  The 1890 Vet 'Census' usually indicates where they served Regular Army, Volunteer, Navy or Marine) & the dates they served.  It usually gives the Regiment number & Company or th  On the bottom of the form, it gives their address, any disability incurred & remarks.  Depending on the person the took the info the 'address' way just be  the name of the town, but especially in cities, may give the street address.  If you can identify the soldier on census records & if they list the street they lived on & possibly cross match that with a listing in the city directory & then check the address on the 1890 Vet Census its a way to confirm a veteran listed is the same man on the census.  In my experience this has worked best when looking at a city like Boston or Philadelphia as not all cities or town will have a period directory to reference or addresses on the 1890 Vet Schedules.

    - So to find the family in the census...Do you have census records on the family?  I am attaching an 1870 Census to see if you think this is your GGF?  Note there is a child named Patrick & a child named Dennis

    - Let me know what you think

  • Hi all, I just joined History Hub, and I am so impressed with how much time and effort you people do to help others in their searches. BRAVO! 

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