Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums

Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums

by Bruce P. Gleason Ph.D
Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums

Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums

by Bruce P. Gleason Ph.D


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Stemming from the tradition of rallying troops and frightening enemies, mounted bands played a unique and distinctive role in American military history. Their fascinating story within the U.S. Army unfolds in this latest book from noted music historian and former army musician Bruce P. Gleason.

Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums follows American horse-mounted bands from the nation's military infancy through its emergence as a world power during World War II and the corresponding shift from horse-powered to mechanized cavalry. Gleason traces these bands to their origins, including the horn-blowing Celtic and Roman cavalries of antiquity and the mounted Middle Eastern musicians whom European Crusaders encountered in the Holy Land. He describes the performance, musical selections, composition, and duties of American mounted bands that have served regular, militia, volunteer, and National Guard regiments in military and civil parades and concerts, in ceremonies, and on the battlefield. Over time the composition of the bands has changed—beginning with trumpets and drums and expanding to full-fledged concert bands on horseback. Woven throughout the book are often-surprising strands of American military history from the War of 1812 through the Civil War, action on the western frontier, and the two world wars.

Touching on anthropology, musicology, and the history of the United States and its military, Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums is an unparalleled account of mounted military bands and their cultural significance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806154794
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date: 10/13/2016
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Bruce P. Gleason is Associate Professor of Music Education and Music History at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the founding editor of Research and Issues in Music Education. His numerous articles have been published in the Journal of Band Research, Military History Quarterly, National Guard Magazine, the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, and other journals.

Read an Excerpt

Sound The Trumpet Beat The Drums

Horse-Mounted Bands of the U.S. Army 1820-1940

By Bruce P. Gleason


Copyright © 2016 University of Oklahoma Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8061-5479-4


Middle Eastern and European Traditions and the Birth of the Mounted Band

STEMMING FROM THE PRACTICE OF GIVING DIRECTION TO ONE'S troops — and taunting those of the enemy — music has been an integral part of warfare for millennia. Horses and other animals have played prominent roles in battle for the past three to four thousand years as well, and coupling them with military music has resulted in a tradition of horse-mounted military musicians, initially as signalers and motivators (and enemy frighteners) and later as members of bands. This practice was common with several cultures including the ancient Celts, who used seventy-centimeter-long metal cones with cavalry troops in Germany, and with the Romans, who inspired their cavalry troops with several different styles of horns. However, a more direct connection with later mounted bands was the practice of mounting kettledrummers and trumpeters on elephants during the Sassanian period in Iran (224–651 a.d.). This practice spread to donkeys, camels, and horses, and became central to mounted bands during war and peacetime — a tradition that crossed Europe and finally spread to the Americas. It was this Middle Eastern tradition that European crusaders found upon their arrival to the Holy Land — a varied culture of military musical instruments — trumpets (anafir/al or nafir/añafil), horns (buqat/buq), shawms (zumur), kettledrums (kusat, nakers), drums (tubul), and cymbals (kasat) — all of which were used on horseback (see figure 1.1).

Through these encounters, the returning crusaders introduced kettledrums into Europe, which came to be used at court and in the military — including on horseback. Initially called "nakers" from the Arabian naqqara and varying from four to twelve inches in diameter, kettledrums became larger throughout the fifteenth century and, rather than simply giving two different dull or clear sounds, were moving to the idea of "high" and "low" — as music theoretical tonal concepts of tonic-dominant harmony (first and fifth pitches of a scale) were making headway in Western music. The probable advent of these larger instruments in Western Europe was 1457 when a pair of "tabourins like great kettles" were described by the archbishop of Cologne as a novelty seen in an embassy from Ladislaus of Hungary to France to seek the hand of Madeleine, daughter of King Charles VII.

Along with mounted kettledrums, records indicate that trumpets and other wind instruments were also part of the European court picture. One such source is a Bologna statute of 1405 that concerns the hiring of trumpeters for ceremonies celebrating students completing doctoral degrees. The document states that, along with trumpeters needing to be ready for the ceremonies, they were to be paid more if on horseback. A problem of holding these long trumpets at court, on the march and on horseback, was alleviated shortly before 1400 when instrument makers began taking advantage of the various melting points of different metals and learned to bend tubing effectively — resulting in S- or folded-shaped instruments — reducing instruments' lengths by about two thirds (see figure 1.2). These advancements, compounded by the facts that battles were becoming larger and more complicated; the human voice was no longer discernible in battle; and the advent of gunpowder was further increasing the decibel levels of warfare, the trumpet found a permanent place in Western armies. While trumpeters served both with cavalry and infantry units, gradually the latter began replacing them with side drummers, fifers, and in some instances, bagpipers — with trumpeters and kettledrummers remaining with the cavalry, taking their cue from court trumpeters, who served on horseback.

As warfare methods progressed, quick-moving cavalry units began appearing with the demise of armored knights. These advancements coupled with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century idea of retaining standing armies of ordered units of officers and rank soldiers between wars resulted in structural advancements, including the coding of signals and training of musicians — which heretofore had apparently been agreed upon for each battle. Writing in 1639, Gervase Markham lists the main cavalry signals of the time, "which we generally call Poynts of Warre," as "Butte Sella, or Clap on your Saddles"; "Mounte Cavallo, or Mount on Horsebacke"; "Al'a Standardo, or Goe to your Colours"; "Tucquet, or March"; "Carga, Carga, or an Alarme, Charge, Charge"; "Auquet, or the Watch," as well as several "other Soundings ... as, Tende Hoe, for listening, a Call for Summons, a Senet for State, and the like." While early calls are lost in history, those of later years, which varied by country, era, and military unit, appear in Georges Kastner's Général de Musique Militaire.

Governing the use of these signals, and of trumpet and kettledrum practice in general on and off the battlefield in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire — which in turn influenced use in other countries for several centuries — was the robust trumpeters' and kettledrummers' guild. The subsequent status of these instruments ensured that their playing by anyone other than members of the guild — who were obliged by oath not to reveal the secrets of their techniques — was forbidden.

On the march, trumpeters rode at the head of the troops, and, in addition to sounding the many calls in camp and on the battlefield, they performed the confidential tasks of carrying messages and secret letters and conducting parleys and negotiations with the enemy. In these duties, the kettledrummers, where available, would supplement the trumpeters or sometimes substitute for them. Because of these crucial responsibilities, as well as the stringent guild considerations and rigorous apprenticeship-training period of field trumpeters and kettledrummers, when captured and imprisoned by the enemy, they were exchanged only for other officers (noncommissioned officers by the nineteenth century) — or other equal-standing personnel depending on the era.

Kettledrummers and trumpeters were a "protected species" — typically remaining near the commander in camp and riding in front of him during parades and to the rear of the action in wartime — safely conveying various orders through signals. As tradition dictated the honor of these musicians being noncombatants, writing in 1622 in his Five Decades of Epistles of Warre, Francis Markham indicates that a drummer was to be regarded as "rather a man of Peace than of the sword, and it is most dishonourable in any man wittingly and out of his knowledge to strike him or wound him." Similarly for trumpets, Gervase Markham, in his "The Souldier's Accidence," asserts, "The Trumpeter is not bound to any Armes at all, more than his Sword, which in former times was not allowed, but with the point broken," showing that trumpeters were noncombatants and were to be revered in battle.

Because of this status, the employment of kettledrums signified a certain stature and rank within military units and were reserved for cavalry units and initially then only within a king's troops. Cavalry units at this point did not include dragoon units, which, although they traveled by horseback, fought on foot and were not comprised of gentlemen — and were thus relegated to side drums and hautbois (double-reed instrument that was a predecessor of the oboe but more related to the ancient shawm). Lesser units were allowed to have kettledrums when the drums were captured in battle — a custom borrowed from the Saracens — as indicated by Altenburg when writing of the Prussian cavalry in 1795: "Kettledrums are looked upon as a great decoration for [any] regiment. If they have been lost in an encounter, the regiment is not allowed to carry any again, according to the rules of war, until it has acquired another pair by conquest from the enemy." Accordingly, they were prized trophies of war up through the nineteenth century. Thus, while official policy and gentlemen's agreements protected kettledrummers on the battlefield, Manesson Mallet felt it necessary to include in his Les Travaux de Mars of 1691 an exhortation for kettledrummers to be courageous soldiers as well as good musicians: "The kettledrum player should be a man of courage, preferring to perish in the fight, than allow himself and his drums to be captured."

The threat of losing kettledrums warranted serious precautions so that it became customary for four cavaliers to precede the kettledrummer at port arms when traveling through enemy territory and into battle. Frederick the Great pushed this idea even further and instructed all mounted units to store their kettledrums in strongholds until the particular war was over. They were also safely guarded when the troops were in garrison.

Along with playing in battle and in camp, trumpeters of a cavalry squadron would have ridden together at the front of the unit between, to, and from battles, giving signals together in unison (see figure 1.3). Sometimes accompanied by a pair of kettledrums, they would have also enlivened the march with a few memorized tunes — signals, fanfares, marches, and flourishes — birthing the idea of a trumpeter corps numbering between twelve and fourteen men under the direction of a trumpet major.

Trumpeter corps music would have gradually involved harmony — especially during the second half of the eighteenth century, when trumpets in other pitches were added to the E? or D trumpets. While the trumpet parts for signals and marches were set, kettledrummers were expected to supply a rhythmic bass part and to fill this in with improvisations. Moreover, since they were symbolic of nobility and wealth, they were thus expected to show extravagance in their playing. This display was described by Altenburg as "artful figures, turns, and movements of their bodies" by Manesson Mallet, who stated that a kettledrummer "should have a pleasing motion of the arm, an accurate ear, and take a delight in diverting his master by agreeable airs," and by Johann Heinrich Zedler, writing in 1735 (a little less respectfully), "which elsewhere would seem ridiculous." Like that of trumpeters, kettledrum playing technique was therefore passed down from generation to generation with students learning by rote from masters, all of whom played by memory throughout their careers.

Toward the close of the eighteenth century, cavalry regiments began expanding music for mounted purposes by extending trumpeter corps. According to Farmer, the initial addition to British cavalry bands (and presumably to those of other countries) was the horn, which had been used mounted for the hunt for centuries, and was already in use in some dragoon units and had been found useful in sounding more elaborate signals like the "retreat." Farmer indicates that "combined with the trumpet, some 'showy' flourishes could be obtained, and the authorities were not slow to observe the excellent results."

An addition of a bass of some kind was another early acquisition, initially found in the trombone, the natural complement to the trumpet. Several Russian cavalry bands, including those of the 2nd Ukrainian Cossack Regiment and the Siberian Uhlan Regiment, were comprised exclusively of silver trumpets and trombones (apparently with varying instrumentation), made by an anonymous German instrument maker between 1812 and 1816 living in St. Petersburg. Edward Tarr indicates that these instruments were gifts from Tsar Alexander I to the regiments who had displayed particular bravery in repelling Napoleon. A German newspaper account of a Russian cuirassier trumpeter corps in 1813 during the Russian occupation of Paris confirms the existence and ambience of these cavalry trumpet-trombone bands and recounts,

The heavy cuirassier regiment with large horses had ... its own music corps, [which was] not only beautiful and most effective, but also completely appropriate to and most characteristic of such a choir of soldiers. It consisted only of six trumpets and six trombones. The musical pieces were also completely as they should have been for their warlike destination in general and their character in particular, also as far as the nature and the most powerful effect of these very instruments were concerned. The tempo was moderate.

Ludwig Degele, writing in 1937, lists ten trumpets (four in G, four in F, and two in low C), with three trombones for German cavalry bands in 1805. In France as well, cavalry bands began encompassing broader instrumentation after a brief suppression by Napoleon (in 1802 because they were monopolizing horses and equipment). Kastner states that they were soon reinstated and were instrumented with sixteen trumpets, six horns, and three trombones.

Further developments in instrumentation came to the cavalry through infantry bands, which by this point were based on Harmoniemusik — a combination of pairs of hautbois, clarinets, horns, and bassoons, to which were initially added the regimental drums, which had been typically reserved for marching and signaling. Further percussion instruments had been added to bands with the addition of "Turkish" music of bass drum, cymbals, tambourine, and triangle, a practice that spread through Europe after the power of the Ottoman Empire began to diminish at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and which, along with military music, influenced classical and folk genres. Moreover, Mameluke mounted bands captured by General Jean Baptiste Kléber during the Siege of Acre in 1799 served as a model for Western mounted bands, and in addition to trumpets, as they had continued with their Middle Eastern background, included timpani, chapeaux chinois, and cymbals.

While more common in infantry bands, by the 1770s, woodwinds and added percussion were also being adopted by those in British cavalry regiments — with trumpeters often doing double duty on these instruments for dismounted duties. This instrumentation was generally not part of mounted performances — except for dragoon units, which had traditionally utilized hautbois and side drums (see figure 1.4) and gradually horns and bassoons. As dragoon regiments became regarded as full-fledged cavalry, in some units trumpets and kettledrums replaced hautbois and side drums, and, consequently, the "bands of music" of hautbois, horns, and bassoons were superseded by trumpeter bands — mounted and dismounted — like other cavalry units.


Excerpted from Sound The Trumpet Beat The Drums by Bruce P. Gleason. Copyright © 2016 University of Oklahoma Press. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi

1 Middle Eastern and European Traditions and the Birth of the Mounted Band 3

2 American Revolutionary War and 1812 to Mexico 21

3 Civil War and the 1860s 39

4 The 18603 and Plains Indian Wars 61

5 The 1870s to 1890s 79

6 Spanish-American War Era 99

7 Turn of the Twentieth Century 111

8 Mexican Expedition, World War I, and the 1920s 129

9 The 1930s, Federal Units 151

10 Rise of the National Guard 163

11 The 1940s, Demise of the Tradition 183

Appendix: Veteran U.S. Cavalry Musicians 201

Bibliography 203

Index 231

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