This week, I had the opportunity to view the independent film American Drummer Boy by Writer/Director C. Dorian Walker and producer, Elain Nogay Walker. The story takes place in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and chronicles the coming-of-age of young Johnny Boone (Cody Newton) who runs away from his Kentucky farm in hopes of joining his hometown unit, Company A of the 11th Kentucky Infantry, U.S. His adventures take him behind Confederate lines where he is captured and accused of being a spy. With the help of a shady English minstrel, Reginald T. Deets (Clay Watkins), he escapes but is forced to mascaraed as a Rebel drummer with the 24th Mississippi Regiment. He experiences battle on the other side before eventually escaping to the North and finding his unit. There, while serving as drummer boy, he demonstrates valor under fire and is awarded the Medal of Honor (this a true occurrence).
Walker bases the storyline on a compilation of true events. Those events are described in some detail in a companion documentary, Call to War, also on the DVD, which is quite good and includes interviews with historians such as Bill Bright, Curator of the Kentucky Historical Society. It tells the true stories of William Horsfall, 14, who became one of the youngest recipients of the Medal of Honor and Asa Lewis who, although serving with distinction, was sentenced to death before a firing squad of his own unit because he went home to help his recently widowed mother put a crop in.
Two performances stand out in the film. Cody Newton (X Files, The Movie) is quite good in his lead role of young Johnny Boone (pictured above). Clay Watkins also does an admirable job as Reginald T. Deets, Johnny’s sometimes mentor. The music score by Eric Colvin is outstanding.
The film will be of interest to Civil War re-enactors because of its attention to historical details and would be perfect for young audiences as a teaching tool for the American Civil War. The team has put together a nice website which includes teacher resources available here. Recommend.