Drummer boys were children recruited as drummers for use on the battlefield.
Until well into the 19th century, western armies recruited young boys to act as drummers. The drums were an important part of the battlefield communications system, with various drum rolls used to signal different commands from officers to troops. Although there were usually official age limits, these were often ignored; the youngest boys were sometimes treated as mascots by the adult soldiers. The life of a drummer boy appeared rather glamorous and as a result, boys would sometimes run away from home to enlist. Other boys may have been the sons or orphans of soldiers serving in the same unit. The image of a small child in the midst of battle was seen as deeply poignant by 19th century artists, and idealised boy drummers were frequently depicted in paintings, sculpture and poetry.