The Rouge's March -- for 200 years, the tune no soldier wanted to hear

Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
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Jan 8, 2012
Pictured below is a Union Civil War soldier with a shaved head being drummed out of the Army to the "Rouge's March." Notice the fifer and drummer following the prisoner and the soldiers leading him with their muskets turned upside down with fixed bayonets pointing backwards, in the position of "Secure Arms." The regiment, or at least the man's Company, was probably formed up to watch this punishment.

The Rouge's March first appeared in a British military manual in 1756 and was used by the British and American forces for 200 years. The last US Marine to be drummed out to the Rogue's March was shown in Life magazine's Picture of the Week for April 20, 1962.

The melody of the tune has been characterized as "derisive" and "mocking." In the British Army, the youngest drummer would kick the prisoner in the butt after the tune, adding to the disgrace of the moment. (Also see related thread on using musicians to administer punishments: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/using-musicians-to-administer-punishment.164480/#post-2145310)

The Rogue's March was typically used for drumming out incorrigible offenders – often, those who stole from their comrades, like the poor fellow in the picture below, who is carrying a sign that says "THIEF" in large letters.

It was also used when removing others from camp--in one notable instance, US General Mead expelled a newspaper reporter by having him placed backwards on a mule and led through the ranks to the Rouge's March.

Rogues march.jpg

In an illustration by Edwin Forbes titled, "A Bitter Lesson," two soldiers with shaved heads are drummed out the Army during the Civil War:

435px-A_Bitter_Lesson'_by_Edwin_Forbes Based on a contemporary sketch Two thieves are drummed ...png


The tune was played at the hanging of Major Andre, the British officer charged with spying during the Rev War and was once used to aggravate Aaron Burr of all people:

“On the evening of the tenth (1806), a crowd gathers and surrounds the tavern where Burr has taken rooms. A fifer and drummer appear and play, “The Rouge’s March,” as Burr dines inside. This is a tune the colonel would know, one played universally in the armies of the United States and Great Britain whenever a soldier or an officer is being expelled from the ranks. The sound would accompany a ceremonial ripping of the insignia from the miscreant’s uniform; it would be played as he is kicked out of the barracks and onto the streets to fend for himself. It is a cheerful little tune with a brief, mocking coda: “dee dah, doo dah,” in slow time. Being kicked out of the army in those times was sometimes a blessing. Burr is nothing if he is not amusing. To a companion at dinner, as the sound of the fife and the rumble of the snare drums penetrate the walls of the tavern, Burr merely remarks that he enjoys martial music.”
--Jefferson and the Gun-Men, pg 255

This is what the Rouge's March sounds like:


See these articles for the full history of the tune:
https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Rogue's_March_(1)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rogue's_March
 
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Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
I agree, way to upbeat for intended purpose
Yes, it is a bit lively for the occasion. Here's a rendition of what the early British version sounded like with vocals. There are different versions of the lyrics:

Fifty I got for selling me coat, Fifty for selling me blankets,
If ever I 'list for a soldier again The devil shall be me sergeant.

Poor old soldier, poor old soldier!

Fifty I got for selling me coat, Fifty for selling me blankets,
If ever I 'list for a soldier again The devil shall be me sergeant.

 

Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
Addenda:

1.
The B&W photo in the OP is titled: "CIVIL WAR: PUNISHMENT. The 'rogue's march.' Union soldiers marching a thief out of camp at Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Photograph, July or August 1863."

2. This is an account of a soldier in the 19th Mich. who was tired of not getting paid, so he created some money of his own and used it to swindle a local farmer. He was marched before his regiment to the Rouge's March before his punishment:

"A sergeant in Company F compensated his own poverty by making his own. Some called it Kalamazoo Railroad Money. He wound up paying a citizen who could not read, nor write, for a hog. Two dollars was asked for, on which the sergeant handed him a five-dollar bill and got three dollars of legal tender back as change.

The regiment found him out and denounced him as a villain and unfit to associate with honest men. The command was called to dress parade, while this man marched before all his comrades had the Rogue’s March played specially for him, then placed in the guardhouse to do manual labor for one month and to live upon bread and water for half of it.
"

3. This political cartoon from an 1871 edition of Harper's Weekly on p. 1076 shows "the Tammany Hall Ring being drummed out by the song "The Rogue's March"....This cartoon shows William Tweed, Peter Sweeny, and Oakey Hall marching to the song from Tammany Hall to a Penitentiary." Zoom in on the notation in the score for a laugh.
 
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