Tim McCall loves history, and he also loves art. So, he combined the two passions in an unusual project – creating a replica of a pre-Revolutionary War drum, which he played during the Manhattan Veterans Day parade to help his Sons of the American Revolution chapter march in cadence.
“I love artistic challenges,” said McCall, the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Junction City.
The drum project began about three weeks before the Nov. 11 parade when McCall stumbled upon a drum for sale online that was advertised as being like those used in the Revolutionary War. The drum caught his attention and he said: “I went down a rabbit hole.” Eventually, he found a video on YouTube from the U.S. Army Museum that showed a Revolutionary War snare drum that looked like the one online.
What most intrigued him in the video was that the drum, made around 1750, had a pine tree motif painted on it, a symbol of the Massachusetts Bay colony, and below the motif, written in Latin, was the phrase: “It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.”
McCall thought that if he bought the drum online, he could paint the same motif and create a replica of the Revolutionary War-era drum.
“I thought, ‘that could be kind of a cool project,’” McCall said.
He purchased the drum and began the intricate process of painting the motif. The attention to detail required would overwhelm most people, but McCall has a fine arts degree and said he has a talent for painting.
The hardest part, he said, was figuring out the design itself. He took a screen shot of the drum in the video and enhanced the image to see the details of the motif.
Using acrylic paints, he patiently reconstructed the motif along with the Latin phrase.
“It took a while for each painting session to dry. So, I worked late at night while my young kids and wife slept,” McCall said.
Once he finished the painting, McCall still wasn’t satisfied.
“I wanted to make it look like it had gone through some battles,” McCall said. “I had to strategically put in nicks and bumps. I smeared coffee grounds onto it and scratched it up.”
The result was a drum that is remarkably like the museum piece.
“I don’t know that it is an exact reproduction, but it doesn’t really matter,” said McCall.
In the 18th century, drums were used on the battlefield not only for music but as a means of communication. On a noisy battlefield, it was difficult for soldiers to hear commands, so certain drumbeats indicated commands such as “attack” or “retreat.”
Drummers were often young boys or older men, which is why the term “Drummer Boy” came into use. The drummers were often on the frontlines, exposing themselves to enemy fire.
McCall joined SAR along with his father George because of his love of history and, as a way to share something with his father. He researched his family history and confirmed stories from his father that he had an ancestor involved in the Revolutionary War, Captain Michael Dayton of the Connecticut militia.
The genealogist for Kansas SAR researched the ancestry of McCall’s 6-year-old adopted son Kalel and found that he also had a Revolutionary War ancestor, Samuel Doxey of New York.
“I was so very happy to discover that,” said McCall, because it means he can share the SAR experience with his son. McCall and his wife Jennifer also have a 3-year-old daughter Amira.
In preparation for the Veterans Day parade, he researched the clothes that militia wore during the Revolutionary War period and even looked at the last will and testament of his ancestor for clues. He wore a brown coat with yellow pants and white, knee-length socks along with a tri-corned hat.
McCall isn’t sure how many hours he spent on the drum project but considered it a labor of love.
“It made me feel connected to the past,” McCall said.