Richard Coulter Drum

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RICHARD COULTER DRUM was born in Greensburg in 1825, and was graduated from the Greensburg Academy to Jefferson College. He did not remain long enough to be graduated there. Returning to Greensburg he began to study law, and in the meantime had learned the printing business. When about nineteen years old the Mexican war came, in 1846. His older brother was already a graduate from West Point, and from him he had imbibed a military spirit.

December 8th, therefore, he entered the Mexican war as a private in Company K, First Pennsylvania Volunteers. In February. 1847, lie was commissioned second lieutenant of infantry, and assigned to the Ninth Regiment. In the battle of Chapultepec September 13, he gallantly led a charge, and was brevetted. But his success was saddened by the death of his brother, who fell in the famous charge upon Belen Gate.  At the close of the war he was transferred to the Fourth Artillery, and with it was ordered to Florida. In the same regiment were such men as Pemberton, A. P. Howe. Garnett, Mansfield, Lovell, Fitz John Porter, and others who afterwards attained distinction in the Civil war. At Fort Sumter, September 16, 1850, he received the promotion to first lieutenant earned at Chapultepec. For the next ten years he was with the army and served with the Sioux expedition with Gen. Harney, and was with him in his efforts to preserve peace during the Kansas disturbances of 1855.

In November, 1856. he was appointed an aide to Gen. Persifer F. Smith, and also acted as assistant adjutant-general of the Department of the West. In 1858 he returned to his battery at Fortress Monroe, and was made adjutant of the post. March i6, r86r. His western experience gave him great knowledge of the western situation and was unfortunate for him, for it took him away from the east, during the Civil war, when great opportunities to achieve fame and earn promotions were open to all brave and capable military men. He nevertheless was of great service to the Northern cause in the way of holding open and guarding an overland route of travel to the west, and of keeping the Indians from revolting. The Mormons and the Mexican frontier also needed constant attention, for the resources of the Northern states were already severely strained by the war in the Southern states. How well he performed these duties in the west was shown in a substantial manner by the people of San Francisco and the west. October 1, 1860, they presented him with a purse containing over $40,000 in gold as a mark of their appreciation of his services during the war. August 3, 1861, he was promoted to the rank of major, and July 17, 1862, to that of lieutenant-colonel. At the close of the Civil war he returned east and was made adjutant-general to Gen. Meade, whom he accompanied south in the efforts of that period to reconstruct the states of Georgia and Alabama. He remained in the south until March, 1869, when he was promoted to a colonelcy in the Atlantic division of the army, with headquarters at Philadelphia. When Gen. Meade died he was made adjutant-general to Gen. Hancock, his successor, and remained in that position till 1873. At that time he was sent to the Division of the Missouri, with headquarters at Chicago, and remained there till May 2, 1878.

In 1877 the country was convulsed with labor riots, and Gen. Drum's personal judgment and sound discretion which he exercised so wisely on the Pacific coast during the Civil war were again called into requisition, The riots came unlocked for, and when Generals Sherman and Sheridan were both in the far west, far removed from the telegraph. A howling mob filled the streets of Chicago, and they were rendered still more lawless by exaggerated reports of the success of the strike in Pittsburg. Knowing his ability, the War Department at Washington gave Gen. Drum full power to maintain the public peace. He at once collected all the military forces within reach, and with them guarded the city's property by placing Gatling guns at the most strategic points. He moreover patroled the entire city with bristling bayonets, and by these vigorous measures cowed the mob without firing a single gun, and yet saved the city from the slightest damage. For these services he received the public plaudits of the people of Chicago and the highest commendations of the War Department.

On May 2, 1878, he was ordered to Washington, where he remained till the retirement of Adjutant-General Townsend, on June 15, i88o, when he succeeded him by appointment, and became the only adjutant-general in the history of the nation, it is said, who had not been educated at West Point. One of his first efforts in his new position was to recognize the militia of the different states, and try to have them uniform as much as possible in their drills, rules, forms of government. etc. The militia he recognized as a nursery from which, in tines of war, the nation could readily secure officers and men trained in military tactics. The response to this overture of friendship came most heartily from all parts of the country. To be thus recognized by the Government was more than the militia had expected, and, when it came from a man so distinguished in the military annals of the country, it was indeed overwhelming. Later he sent out tactical works, blank forms and books prescribed for the regular army, and for the first time sent out regular army officers to inspect the militia of the different states at their camps and musters. The great advantage which this innovation has since been to the National Guard can scarcely be appreciated. Their great improvement dates from the day Gen. Drum extended a helping hand to the state militia.

He was married in early life to a young woman named Morgan. the daughter of a notable family of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and while he remained adjutant-general was the head of one of the most fashionable and charming households in Washington City. Though now many years retired from the army, he is yet living and in good health. He is about five feet, nine inches in height, dresses in excellent taste, and is apparently almost as quick in his movements as though he were a young man. Throughout all his life he wrote rapidly, decided quickly, and executed promptly. The people of Westmoreland county are proud of his life and character, and may well regard him as one of their most gifted sons.

Source: Page(s) 660-662, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

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