Powell Teen Brings Civil War History To Life By Taking On Drummer Boy Character

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Playing the part of an American Civil War drummer boy is just part of how much a 13-year-old enjoys history.

Payton Seats told 10TV’s Kristyn Hartman that he loves the story of Johnny Clem so much that he re-enacts it.

“I started like Johnny Clem,” Seats said. “When he started, he didn’t know how to play. I went as it went along. I took basic drum lessons and applied the 12 essential elements to the drum music I play now.”

Seats is a child from Ohio just like Clem was.  He ran off to join the Union Army during the Civil War when he was about 9.

Turned away from the 3rd Ohio unit for being too young, Clem tried the 22nd Michigan unit, where he won over the Union’s officers and let him follow the regiment and adopted him as a mascot and drummer boy.

Seats was about the same age as the drummer boy when he first picked up his drumsticks.

Choosing to re-enact history would not have been possible without the support of his parents.

His father, Rob Seats, said his son was the one who got him and his wife involved. As the teen’s interest in Clem and Civil War history grew, he realized that he had to participate with him.

The Seats join Payton in tented, kerosene-lit Civil War encampments where they watch their son stay true to history -- even when it comes to food such as hardtack.

“It’s a mix of salt, flour and water, and it hardens to the point it won’t break,” Payton said.

The 13-year-old knows plenty about that day and age, but knows even more about Johnny Clem.

“At the Battle of Chickamauga, he had three bullet holes in the back of his cap,” Payton said.

Payton’s parents and other Civil War historians watch as he is able to do his job on the journey back in time. In a common North vs. South battleground, Payton is the only kid in the field.

“He can hold his own against anyone who wants to talk about how things were done in the Civil War,” musician and historian Steve Ball said. “I’m inspired by that.”

Payton’s confidence does not falter when the other historians and musicians start playing music. He simply pulls out the fiddle that has been in his family since the Civil War.

Payton loves to play the instrument, just as much as he loves playing Johnny Clem.

“I hope that he would be proud,” Payton said. “Not of just me but of the whole entire re-enactment. That teaches the public how hard it was to be a soldier.”

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