The Drummer of Niklashausen, was actually Hans Boehm, a popular preacher of the 15th century. He was executed on July 19, 1476. He was originally a shepherd at Helmstadt, between Würzburg and Wertheim. He often played the drum and fife for rustic dances until the beginning of 1476 when the preaching of the Franciscan Capistrano worked a great change in him. Boehm alleged that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him and called him to be a prophet and preacher of repentance. In the village of Niklashausen near his home there was a picture of her already reputed miraculous and visited by pilgrims. Here, at the end of March, he began to preach, having burnt his drum in token of conversion. Lacking not only secular education but even elementary religious knowledge, he yet made a deep impression on his hearers by the innocence and purity of his nature. He did not stop with calling the peasants to repentance, but showed increasing bitterness against the clergy and nobles, who, he said, would find no place in the kingdom announced to him by the Virgin; taxes were to be abolished, no one was to have more than another, and all men were to live as brothers. His fame soon spread throughout central and southern Germany, and crowds of pilgrims, put as high as 40,000, thronged to hear him. He seems to have intended to lead them in an armed rising; but Bishop Rudolf of Würzburg had him arrested on July 12, and warded off the danger of a great peasants' war. Two days later, 16,000 of his followers appeared to rescue him, but were dispersed; and on the 19th, a recantation having been extorted from him, he perished on the scaffold as a heretic and enchanter.
Article originally taken from The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica - Chambers. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc02.boehm_hans.html.
Bibliography from the original article:
C. A. Barack, Hans Böhm und die Wallfahrt nach Niklashausen im Jahre 1476, Würzburg, 1858; C. Ullmann, Reformers before the Reformation, i, 377–392. Edinburgh, 1877 (a very detailed account)
E. Gothein, Politische und religiöse Volksbewegungen vor der Reformation, pp. 10 sqq., Breslau, 1878
H. Haupt, Die religiösen Sekten in Franken vor der Reformation, pp. 57 sqq., Würzburg, 1882.