Camp Music

Yankee Brooke

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Location
PA
Please, for the love of all that is holy and right, don't bring another steel stringed acoustic guitar into camp...They were not invented until the early 1900's. A classical guitar is more representative of what would have been available, but a soldier would not have had one in camp. They were considered a "women's" instrument at the time, plus you can imagine the headache one would quickly have become on campaign.

IMO, instruments are better left at home. The average soldier would not have had one, for various reasons, even if he had the ability to play. Other than enlisted musicians with bugles, fife, and drums, maybe officers may have had a banjo or fiddle since they had a better ability to carry large items.

I would think something like a harmonica, or other small instrument that was closer to pocket sized would have been the most common. Relatively inexpensive and easily kept on person. I would not think anyone would want to bring an expensive banjo, guitar, fiddle, etc on campaign to be lost or damaged, plus where would you put it? Unless you are lucky enough to get it on the company baggage train, you're probably leaving it behind...
 

Lampasas Bill

Corporal
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Artist Edwin Forbes did a drawing, later produced as a print, showing a soldier in winter camp serenading another with a cigar box fiddle. If one is musically inclined, it's hard to suppress the urge to play.
 

heyclaire2

Cadet
Joined
May 7, 2019
Location
Old Lyme, CT
I appreciate all your comments. I was thinking harmonica for sure. And something homemade like the cigar box fiddle. There have always been itinerant fiddlers. Old World and New. But of course YB made a good point about damage. There were camp followers though -- right? -- who might have been trusted to keep a precious instrument safe during battle or bad weather? And I think officers might have helped protect an instrument that wasn't their own. Surely a good officer would appreciate the comfort and pleasure their men got from listening or singing along. I agree that those who love music are determined to make it no matter the circumstances!
 

Yankee Brooke

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Location
PA
I do believe the DIY type instruments would have been most prevalent, and are probably what's being talked about in accounts of instruments in camp. But I'm no expert, this is just my opinion based off of what I know about camp/soldier's lives. Instruments would have been woefully impractical if not in winter quarters, garrison, or other "permanent stay" type situations.

I'm mostly just peeved at the steel stringed guitars. They aren't correct to the period and therefore shouldn't be there.
 

heyclaire2

Cadet
Joined
May 7, 2019
Location
Old Lyme, CT
I do believe the DIY type instruments would have been most prevalent, and are probably what's being talked about in accounts of instruments in camp. But I'm no expert, this is just my opinion based off of what I know about camp/soldier's lives. Instruments would have been woefully impractical if not in winter quarters, garrison, or other "permanent stay" type situations.

I'm mostly just peeved at the steel stringed guitars. They aren't correct to the period and therefore shouldn't be there.
I couldn't agree more. Anachronisms in any context drive me completely batty. A Puritan woman on screen with clean well-manicured fingernails. A Viking in my favorite tv show saying "Sure". It makes me want to scream. I write historical fiction, so period authenticity is very important to me. I'm sure most re-enactors feel the same way.
 

Lampasas Bill

Corporal
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
From articles I've seen on dug artifacts, parts of harmonicas and jaw-harps are not uncommon, at least in Union camps. Have any of you relic hunters come across such things?
 

Yankee Brooke

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Location
PA
I couldn't agree more. Anachronisms in any context drive me completely batty. A Puritan woman on screen with clean well-manicured fingernails. A Viking in my favorite tv show saying "Sure". It makes me want to scream. I write historical fiction, so period authenticity is very important to me. I'm sure most re-enactors feel the same way.
Now if someone went through all the trouble to make a cigar box guitar, I wouldn't care much that it wasn't something you'd see in a camp(again women's instrument, nobody wants that stigma), I'd be extremely impressed.
 

mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
When I think of officers playing musical instruments I always think of Master and Commander-The Far Side of the World. The movie, although I have also read the books. A different war though.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I have seen I don’t know how many photos & drawings of self-liberated banjo players. It is an African instrument that was ubiquitous throughout the South. The Gore Center at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro TN has a collection of thousands of CW era sheet music.

A drum, fife, jaw harp, fiddle & some sort of banjo were typical plantation instruments. I can’t play a note myself, but am fascinated by live music. A group of musicians here in Murfreesboro perform CW period music. They have done extensive investigations of parlor & camp music. Once you start looking, you will find both performances & scholarship online. The Carolina Chocolate Drops music is a pretty good idea of what string bands would have sounded like.

If you want a simple way to survey what soldiers carried, look at the ads in news papers. The CW era Nashville Daily Union Banner is available online from the Library of Congress. Not only does it have ads for instruments, it lists concerts & other entertainments. For example, a large Circus performed three times a day during Hood’s “siege” of Nashville.

it won’t do to leave out the regimental bands. Some of them were made up of professional musicians. The band of the 9th Michigan was especially good. One local Murfreesboro belle, Martha Ready Morgan’s sister Alice attested to that. She reluctantly listened to a serenade on the Murfreesboro square & grudgingly admitted that it was the best band she ever heard. When Forrest captured the 9th in July 1862, his cavalry had no use for the band instruments.

His men had carted off everything that was not nailed down. After a 50 mile match to McMinnville TN, he allowed the band to keep their new German silver instruments in exchange for a concert. Curiously, depending on which side he was on, soldiers who heard the concert wrote that the band played patriotic music from their side. Patriotic ladies who served biscuits during the concert secretly flashed Union colors.

After they were exchanged, the 9th’s band played a regularly scheduled series of concerts in Nashville during the Christmas season. After the Battle of Stones River, the band played as the 9th marched through the square & retook their old campsite in front of Oakland’s plantation. Once again, the old growth trees along the Maney family’s carriage lane & the eternal spring echoed with the sound of regular band music.

Along with sound of their band, who would play at the drop of a hat, the self-liberating people who flocked to Murfreesboro played music & sang. My house was moved onto the 9th’s campsite after the war. When I read about the music that was performed in the 9th’s camp while sitting on the screen porch, I can at least hear the wind in the trees, the birds & the night chorus they would have heard.
 

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Apart from the much more common brass bands or drum corps was this interesting group in Hampton's battery:

The String Band of Hampton's Battery F, Independent Pennsylvania Battery (as of 1862)
C. C. Arensberg, Leader and Violin
George V. Marshall, Second Violin and Guitar
James Wilson, Cornet
George Ritchie, Flute and Piccolo
Alonzo Cavitt, Bass Viol
Edmund J. Wilkins, Guitar and Violin
Frank A. Merrick, Flute

In September 1861, the 40th New York (Mozart regiment) formed a choir of twenty picked voices with four instrumentalists, two of whom played the violin and two the flute.

The winter (1861/1862) entertainment in the 2nd New Hampshire included fiddles and banjos.

In summer 1863, the two most popular tunes played in Lee's bands were "Dixie" and "Bonnie Blue Flag." Both sides liked "Maryland, my Maryland."

Musicians in the 148th Pennsylvania played fancy tunes like "Faded Flowers," "Gentle Annie," "Wrecker’s Daughter," and "Village Quickstep."

From the diary of Charles Henry Peterson, 12th New Jersey, 1863:
-February 2. We played 2 or 3 new polkas and about 13 or 14 other pieces.
-February 17: Evening played, Granny, will your dog bite? First time.
-March 3: We consolidated bands and marched in review before Gen. Hooker. Numbered 21 without drums or cymbals.
-March 4: Harry arranged a new piece called Kingdom Coming. We played it.
-March 10: Been rehearsing a new opera piece by Don Parquil.
 

Yankee Brooke

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Location
PA
Also look up the 2nd South Carolina String Band, they do a great job. You can find a bunch of their stuff on YouTube
I agree, although he plays a steel stringed Martin, so not quite how it would sound in 1862. They are awesome to see live though, I have to admit.
 

Claude Bauer

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
I am curious about what music was played in the camps. Songs. Instruments. Etc. I assume there must have been a lot of hymn singing and singing of patriotic songs. Do any of you have information on this?

Soldiers playing Camp Music would probably have used minstrel banjos (different from modern banjos) fiddles, fifes and/or drums (brought by Field Musicians), tin whistles, bones, jaw harp, and possibly harmonica (they were around at the time, but were rare and not prevalent in the armies).

Instruments not likely to be found in camp include guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, and bagpipes. (Of course, there were always exceptions, but generally speaking that was the case.)

Regimental brass bands provided music for officers and enlisted men alike, but the term Camp Music generally applies to music made by the soldiers with whatever instruments they had on hand. There was probably spontaneous acapella serenading and singalongs of popular tunes as well.

As mentioned by others, visit the Music & Songs of the 1860s forum for more information about period music.
 
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