Kingsley, who was 44 when he enlisted in the Union Army, was older than many of his fellow veterans, who averaged 25.8 years old when they served, according to the American Battlefield Trust.
When Kingsley died in 1893, at age 83, the Herald and News of West Rupert, Vt., eulogized him as having “the distinction of being the best drummer in the Army of the Potomac.”
The Auburn Morning Dispatch on September 1st, 1886, called Kingsley “The Boss Drummer” when Kingsley was set to appear at an upcoming Grand Army of the Republic reunion there.
“’Uncle Truman’ of the 22d N.Y.S.V. Band, was well known throughout the army of the Potomac as being the only drummer in the army that could play the reveille, which he did in 1861 at the head of the army as it passed over Alexandria bridge into Washington,” the paper reported, according a blog post by Todd Degarmo of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
“He is the greatest drummer in the world and the only one that can correctly drum the ‘double drag doubled’ and his ‘points of war’ is worth going miles to hear.”
Kingsley enlisted in New York’s 22nd Regiment at Troy on May 22nd, 1861, according to the New York State Military Museum.
He was transferred to the regiment’s musician unit on June 6th.
Twelve officers and 88 enlisted men from the 22nd Regiment died during the Civil War, according to the book New York in the War of the Rebellion by Frederick K. Phisterer, published in 1912.
Kingsley was discharged in June 1863, and continued his drumming at Grand Army of the Republic meetings and events.
“The rooms of Post Wing (the Glens Falls Grand Army of the Republic post) were closely packed last night with old veterans and their friends,” The Morning Star reported on December 16th, 1886.
“Drum Major Truman Kingsley drummed the ‘Points of War,’ rattling the sticks with that skill which long ago made his drumming famous.”
On many an evening, Kingsley could be heard playing outside in downtown Glens Falls to announce the start of a Post Wing Grand Army of the Republic meeting.
“The veteran drummer, Truman Kingsley, sounded the ‘Points of War’ in Fountain Square (now the Centennial Circle roundabout) last evening, as a reminder of the meeting at the rooms of Post Wing,” The Morning Star reported on July 21st, 1886. ”The venerable gentleman manipulated the sticks as vigorously as a youth of twenty, and to hear him at a distance one would not think he had passed the age of three score and ten.”
He often drummed on Memorial Day and at Civil War soldier reunions, sometimes marching with “Uncle Truman Kingsley’s Famous Veterans Iron Brigade Band.”
He was among those who marched down Glen Street on August 14th, 1886 in a grand parade for the 22nd Regiment reunion at Glens Falls.
“The venerable Truman Kingsley, who is seventy-six years of age, manipulated the drum sticks as vigorously as he did twenty years ago, and was seconded by John Wright and Joseph McEwen,” The Morning Star reported on August 17th.
It was a boom weekend for local businesses.
“All the hotels were crowded to overflowing. … The number of guests accommodated and provided with meals at these cozy little hostelries was surprising.”
D. Peck & Co., one street vendor, alone, sold 40 bushels of peanuts.
The veterans that attended were orderly.
“The fact that the police made but one arrest for intoxication last Saturday (the day of the reunion) speaks well for the motley crowd that thronged the streets throughout the day.”
Kingsley taught drumming to a younger generation.
“Truman Kingsley and John Wright will instruct the members of the J.S. White Drum Corps of South Glens Falls on the art of playing drums,” The Morning Star reported on July 15th, 1886.
Artist Mary Harris of Glens Falls painted a portrait of Kingsley around 1887.
The portrait is now in the collection of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
His fellow veterans admired Kingsley. Fellow Civil War veterans made Christmas merrier for Truman Kingsley in 1885.
“The members of Post Wing, G.A.R., evinced a fraternal feeling by providing their comrade, the venerable drummer Truman Kingsley, with a fine fat turkey and accessories for his Christmas dinner,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on December 25th, 1885. “The old gentleman was profuse in his thanks, and values the gift doubly on account of the source from which it came.”
Kingsley was known throughout New York and Vermont.
“Mr. Truman Kingsley of Glens Falls has recently visited in town,” the Middlebury Register of Vermont reported on January 23rd, 1891. “Though quite advanced in years, he is still as active as many a younger man.”
Kingsley was living at Middlebury with his son when the Civil War veteran died in 1893.
“Mr. Kingsley has been feeble for some time, but was about, as was his habit, until a recent date,” the Herald and News reported on July 6th, 1893.
Click here to read a post on The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library blog with more information about Mary Harris, the artist who painted the portrait of Truman Kingsley.
Photo of Truman Kingsley courtesy The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.