Clem’s legend grew following Chickamauga, although some stories may be apocryphal. One holds that his drum was destroyed at the Battle of Shiloh, earning him the nickname “Johnny Shiloh” and serving as inspiration for the song, “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh.”
However, the 22nd Michigan, Clem’s unit, was not mustered until the summer after the Battle of Shiloh, making it unlikely Clem saw action in the battle with that regiment.
John Clem went on to fight at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Kennesaw and Atlanta, where he was wounded twice. Clem was discharged from the Army in 1864 at age 13, but sought to rejoin the military in 1870.
Nominated to West Point by President Ulysses S. Grant, Clem failed the entrance exam several times before Grant appointed him a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
He enjoyed a successful second military career, rising to the rank of colonel and assistant quartermaster general by 1906. He retired on the eve of U.S. entry into World War I with the rank of major general, the last Civil War veteran to actively serve in the U.S. Army.
John Clem died in 1937 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.