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Drummed out of camp: an incident at Camp Scott in York PA

Thief being drummed out of a Union encampment on Morris Island in South Carolina. Library of Congress image dated 1863. Photographed by Harris & Peale.

Camp Scott was a military training camp located on the old fairgrounds in downtown York, Pennsylvania, during the Civil War. Thousands of young men there received their indoctrination into the service and basic training before being transported southward to various posts in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia / West Virginia. The site is today entirely covered by blocks of cityscape. Row houses now stand where the barracks and parade grounds were once located.
In its day, Camp Scott was a lively, vibrant place where the locals could mingle with the new soldiers and watch them drill. The majority of the new recruits would become good soldiers; some would be killed in combat; others would suffer grievous wounds. Most would come home to their wives and other loved ones.
For a few soldiers, Camp Scott would be a place of personal shame, where their misdeeds would result in public punishment and disgrace.
Here is one such story, as taken from the May 24, 1861, edition of the Baltimore Sun (courtesy of

Drummed out of Camp, near York, PA – In a recent issue, says the Harrisburg Telegraph, we alluded to the fact that a court-martial had been ordered at Camp Scott for the trial of Frank Grant, charged with committing a violent assault upon the person of a fellow soldier named McGowan. The court terminated its labors on Saturday by finding the defendant guilty, and ordering that he forfeit all the pay due him as a soldier, and be drummed out of the service. The sentence was carried into effect in the presence of the entire camp. A correspondent thus describes the ceremony:
“Shortly after eight o’clock Grant, who had been kept under guard since the occurrence, was taken charge of by a guard of five men, with a sergeant, stripped of his uniform, and with his hands tied behind his back, and in his shirt sleeves, marched in front of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Regiments, a martial band playing the Rogues’ March, or a tune something akin to it, which I thought to be that known by the name of ‘Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself.’ He was then conducted in the same manner all around the camp, finally out of it, placed in the town tombs [jail], where he will remain at the disposal of the civil authorities.
It was a humiliating scene, and much sympathy was felt in behalf of the poor fellow as he walked along with his head down, and hat drawn over his brow. He begged to be shot rather than be subjected to the disgrace of being drummed out of the service; and when an officer visited him in the lock-up, and offered to do all in his power for him, Grant begged that he would exercise his friendship by killing him on the spot.”
The correspondent then opined, “The sentence and its prompt and effectual execution was necessary, and will serve as an example to others.”
It must have worked, because I have not encountered any other documentation of any other soldier being formally drummed out of Camp Scott.
Here is what I do know about Mr. Grant:
Twenty-seven-year-old Francis Grant was a dark complected, brown-eyed machinist from Pittsburgh. Short at 5′ 4″ in height and with dark hair, he enlisted as a private in Company C of the 13th Pennsylvania Infantry for a term of three months. He began his brief military career at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, where the regiment was formally mustered into service on April 15, 1861. Eleven days later, Grant and his comrades embarked on a train for York, where they quartered at Camp Scott near the 12th Pennsylvania Infantry. Grant became involved in an altercation with Private Benjamin Franklin McGowan of Company A of the 13th and was arrested and court-martialed in late May.
Frank Grant had only been a soldier in the Union Army a little more than a month when he was ingloriously drummed out of the service at Camp Scott in front of some two thousand of his fellow soldiers. He was then locked up in York’s city jail to await charges of assault.
I have not located any record of the results of his court appearance, but it must have been brief. In early August 1861, Grant rejoined the army in Washington D.C. as a trooper in Company G of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, apparently having learned his lesson. He was honorably discharged on August 14, 1864 on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. There is nothing on his service record to indicate he ever again ran afoul of the authorities.