I had an opportunity to spend some time in Gettysburg during the 150th anniversary celebration. What a very cool experience to be in that historic spot at that time. I really can’t explain it but even though we, as a family, go there about once a month, there was something about being on the battlefield during those few days. Let me recap some of the things we did during that week.
On Sunday June 30th we went and hung out with the 1st Pa Reserve Corps Field Music and played fifes and drums with them at both the Daniel Lady farm and at the Lutheran Theological Seminary. This group of young men and women is actually a Boy Scout Venture crew made up of some terrific young men and women. After spending time with them, we went to the opening ceremony over near Meade’s HQ. The opening ceremony was good with the exception of the keynote speaker who completely missed the point. Prior to the opening ceremony, I ran into Garry Adelman and GNMP Director of Education Barbara Sanders.
On July 1st, we arrived in Gettysburg at 7:15am. We were invited to a special event by our favorite Civil War author, J.D. Petruzzi. This event was a presentation on the first shot of the battle at the First Shot monument at 7:30 in the morning! I really can’t describe how cool it was to be on that spot where exactly 150 earlier, Marcellus Jones fired that fateful shot.
After that it was back to Seminary Ridge where we met back up with our fife and drum friends and played most of the morning. One cool thing that did happen was that from out of nowhere, a large group of people came walking across the field and we wondered what was going on. I quickly realized that it was a group of reenactors and spectators recreating the march of the Iron Brigade from the Emmitsburg Road across the fields to join the fighting in Herbst Woods.
Due to some other obligations we didn’t make it back until later in the week but had a great time meeting old friends and seeing all of the exciting things that were going on. We were genuinely surprised at the number of people. Perhaps it was the times we were there or the fact that I know how to avoid the main roads, but we did not have much trouble with traffic or getting around town.
On Saturday the 6th, we went back and spent some time in the afternoon exploring the battlefield. That evening we attended the 150th field Mass which was celebrated by Cardinal Dolan. What an amazing way to end a terrific week! The ceremony was amazing, Cardinal Dolan’s homily was great and it was just very somber to remember all those who lost their lives 150 years ago. My son CJ even got to exchange zuchettos with the Cardinal.
Various types of music played key roles throughout the Civil War from the fife and drum to the bugle calls which rallied the soldiers and directed them on the parade ground and in battle. There were sentimental and patriotic songs which soldiers sung in camp in order to pass the time while remembering the homes they left behind.
There are numerous activities which will expose students to some of the most popular sounds of battle and songs of camp life, thereby bringing the emotions of the period to the forefront. The following example provides combines the use of low tech audio CDs with the high tech Internet.
First, the teacher can purchase any number of Civil War music CDs. Groups such as the 97th Regimental String Band, Acoustic Shadows of the Blue and Gray and David Kincaid provide an excellent collection of some of the most popular songs of the period while Camp Chase Fifes and Drums is a nationally known fife and drum group with three CDs from which to choose. Some of these websites even provide sample clips from some of their more popular songs.
If you have access to iTunes, then you can search for Civil War era music. If you search for 119th NYSV within iTunes, you should get a list of songs from the 119th New York Field Music. These songs provide not only some of the more popular marching tunes of the period but also some of the camp duties musicians would have been required to play.
Second, search the Internet for the lyrics to several popular songs. The website Poetry and Music of the War Between the States has lyrics to many period songs. Then you can divide the class into several different groups, perhaps one Union and one Confederate, and assign each group a particular song. Each group can learn to sing their song and discuss the words as they relate to the context of war.
Next, provide the entire class with the words to “Home, Sweet Home.”This is a tune which both sides of the war would have known and sung. Students can then talk about the commonalties among all soldiers, such as missing the comforts of home and the companionship of loves ones.
Finally, do a YouTube search for Camp Chase fifes or even Civil war fife and drum and you will get a great collection of videos of Civil War reenactors playing period songs on fifes and drums. Below is a sample of Camp Chase Fifes and Drums playing Frog in the Well and Old Zip Coon:
I have found a few more videos on YouTube that I would like to share with you. The first two were done by Tapsbugler (those familiar with the hobby will know who this is) and the first video is Field Musicians of the Civil War and the second video is Brass Bands of the Civil […]
I have to admit right up front that I am not a big user of YouTube. I have viewed some clips that people have sent me but I’m not a regular user. That being said, someone sent me a link the other evening to a video of a Civil War Fife & Drum group playing […]