Bands And Music

Music played a large role in the lives of Civil War soldiers, both on and off the battlefield. Recruitment rallies always had a military band playing, which inspired many young men to join up, and most volunteer regiments joined up with a complete band of their own. The bands helped boost soldier morale during long marches, serenaded them in camp, and inspired them before, and sometimes during, battles.

The most common kinds of instruments played in regimental and brigade bands during the war were drums and brass instruments, usually bugles, and sometimes fifes. Cavalry and artillery units only used bugles, and the bugler was considered their regimental musician, responsible not only for music, but also for signaling on the battlefield. Individual regiments got so used to hearing their particular bugler play, in fact, that they could tell his bugle calls from any other regiments' bugle calls.

Drummers were vital for battlefield communication. The type of weapons used in the war created huge amounts of smoke, so visibility quickly became very limited. Drummers helped soldiers locate their unit and helped keep the units together. Drums were often the most effective way to relay signals to troops on the battlefield,

Civil War band.

since during a battle the noise of guns and fighting often drowned out the sound of voices. When soldiers heard a long roll being played by the drummers, they knew that this was a signal to march into combat. Off the battlefield or at camp, three single drumbeats signaled the end of a soldier's day.

Later in the war, as the armies changed tactics to a guerilla-type method including trench warfare and smaller, quicker units, they used buglers more and drummers a bit less. In addition to new methods of fighting, the weapons on the battlefield had become more powerful and much louder than at any other time in history, and amid the noise, the drums were hard to hear.

know your slang here's your mule—a term the infantry used to insult the cavalry web feet—a term the cavalry had for the infantry battle of the bands

Often at sunset, regimental bands on both sides would play songs back and forth to each other, matching each other's playing of a particular song. They often started out with marching music and popular songs, and as the evening wore on, they would play softer, slower songs. It has been documented that in December 1862, a couple of weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg, which up to that time had been one of the bloodiest battles of the war, 100,000 Union troops and 70,000 Confederate troops were camped on opposite sides of the bank of the Rappahannock River. The regimental bands were playing their usual evening rounds of songs, and as the evening wore on, one of the Union bands started playing "Home, Sweet Home." One by one all the other regimental bands joined in, all other activity in the camps stopped, and all 170,000 men were silent as they listened to the bands play the song. When the song finally ended, there was a moment of silence, and then suddenly both sides started cheering. One soldier wrote, "Had there not been a river between them, the two armies would have met face to face, shaken hands, and ended the war on that spot."


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Most of the drummers and buglers in the Civil War were boys, sometimes as young as 11 years old. While each side banned boys from fighting—the Union said recruits had to be 18 and the Confederates also had age limits—the easiest way to sneak into the army was as a drummer or bugler. They were officially "nonfighting" positions so most recruiters let them sign on without too many questions about their age. Since civil war facts & trivia

H One Union drummer named Orion Howe, who was 14years old, won the Medal of Honor (which was first given out in the Civil War) for relaying orders on the battlefield even though he was terribly wounded.

H The Union army had more than 40,000 drummers and buglers. The Confederates had20,000 who served.

H The second role of the musicians during the war was as stretcher bearers. When battles were over the band members were assigned the job of carrying the wounded off the battlefield.

John Lincoln Clem, nicknamed Johnny Shiloh, age 12, 1863.

most people didn't even have birth certificates, let alone other forms of identification, sneaking into the army on either side wasn't very difficult.

One of the most famous boy soldiers in the Civil War was a drummer named Johnny Clem. He first tried to join the Union army when he was nine, but was turned down, so he ran away from home and attached himself to the Twenty-Second Michigan Infantry Unit. The soldiers in the unit liked him, so they let him stay, chipped in to pay his wages, and even made him a uniform and a cut-down shotgun. He did errands around camp for the soldiers, and they taught him how to be a drummer boy. During the Battle of Shiloh, a shell ripped through his drum, and Johnny Clem was given the nickname Johnny Shiloh. In 1863 the army

John Lincoln Clem, nicknamed Johnny Shiloh, age 12, 1863.

know. your. slang fit as a fiddle—in good r 11 r 11 11 ii- 1- 11 1 shape, healthy, feeling good finally formally allowed him to enlist, and he rose to the rank of general before his career was over. When he died in 1937 he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Drum Corps.

make your own civil war bugle

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