Union Musicians photo holds some surprises!

Claude Bauer

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This photo of Union fife and drum musicians, thought to have been taken at Camp Griffin in Langley, Virginia, has some things you rarely see in a picture of field musicians:

Most striking is the number of fifers--drummers almost always outnumbered fifers in these units. Here, at least 7 fifers are holding their instruments with an equal number of drummers. There may be more fifers posing without their instruments visible.

What's more, there are 22 of them--a very large group for field musicians. They might be assembled from all the Companies in a Regiment.

One fifer has a pistol in his belt--this is extremely rare. Musicians were usually unarmed, except for the ceremonial musicians sword, which was useless as a weapon and an encumbrance in the field, so not seen in many pictures--there are a few visible here.

The next striking feature of this picture is the number of fifers with mouthpieces on their instruments. These were common at the time, but not all fifers used them. There apparently was no bias about using them like there is today, when people call them "cheaters" (not a period term). But it must have made for a unique sound when that many were used at the same time, because the heavy pewter mouthpieces of the day did alter the tone of the instrument, making it sound more like a whistle than a fife.

While most drum slings were the white cloth type, there are a few leather ones here as well, and one with a stick holder, unlike most other slings of the day.

We also see a drummer wearing boots, rather than the standard issue brogans, and a fifer with a vest on under his coat, which is unbuttoned. Not a single one is wearing a musician's "bird cage" frock coat, and there are no civilian hats among them, something else that was common among field musicians.

Finally, there are a number of older musicians present. I've been asked by visitors to events if all the musicians in these armies were kids. This clearly shows otherwise--although a beard can make someone look older, these appear to be what we would call young adults, some even older, esp. the fifer in the middle of the second row.

This version of the photo was enhanced for clarity:
Union musicians, thought to be taken at Camp Griffin in Langley, Virginia 2.jpg


This is the original photo:
Union musicians, thought to be taken at Camp Griffin in Langley, Virginia. .jpg
 
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James N.

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This photo of Union fife and drum musicians, thought to have been taken at Camp Griffin in Langley, Virginia, has some things you rarely see in a picture of field musicians:

Most striking is the number of fifers--drummers almost always outnumbered fifers in these units. Here, at least 7 fifers are holding their instruments with an equal number of drummers. There may be more fifers posing without their instruments visible.

What's more, there are 22 of them--a very large group for field musicians. They might be assembled from all the Companies in a Regiment...
Isn't there supposed to be one of each for each company, thereby making for ten fifers and ten drummers per regiment? Agreed that somehow 22 is at least 2 musicians too many!
 

8thFlorida

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And all white musicians pictured in this photo. Were there any black musicians that served in the Federal Army? There were black musicians on the Southern side.
 

Claude Bauer

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And all white musicians pictured in this photo. Were there any black musicians that served in the Federal Army? There were black musicians on the Southern side.
Yes, there were black Field Musicians in the Union army. There are none in this picture because the black musicians would have been with the USCT units. See this thread on this forum about what the US Army believes to be the "first" black musician for the Union:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/first-black-union-musician-to-enlist-during-the-civil-war.182882/

There is considerable debate about the designation of "first" since there were USCT units formed before his, and many argue they must have had musicians too. Regardless of who was first, they were present. (You may recall in the movie "Glory" where the 54th MA is getting ready to attack Ft. Wagner and the officer sends the musicians to the rear.)

I'd be interested to see some photos and accounts of black Field Musicians in the ranks of the Confederate army. There's not a lot of information on that subject out there. Field Musicians hold rank in the service, they were not there in a support capacity as were most blacks who were with the Confederate army, but not fighting in it as an enlisted soldier.
 

James N.

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... There is considerable debate about the designation of "first" since there were USCT units formed before his, and many argue they must have had musicians too. Regardless of who was first, they were present. (You may recall in the movie "Glory" where the 54th MA is getting ready to attack Ft. Wagner and the officer sends the musicians to the rear.)
Image (14)crop.jpg
 

Claude Bauer

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