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Department 1

Civil War Institute


When I think about the battle front, I think about soldiers in uniform marching off to fight with their weapons and small mementos from home. I also think about the many doctors and nurses who provided care to men riddled with bullet holes and disease. I never thought of drummers, though, until I saw the snare drum pictured above. However, this drum and the many others like it were an integral part of army life. For the drummers themselves, their instrument represented a unique avenue of service where zealous, but often underaged, patriots could join the war efforts without being directly engaged in active combat. To soldiers in the midst of battle, listening to the drum could either inspire patriotism or fear, depending on whether the staccato taps came from their own drummers or those of the enemy. Outside of combat, the drum helped to create order in camp and in drill, as well as provide some musical relief from the dullness of a long march or extended period of encampment. Drum-based music accompanied nearly every aspect of life for Civil War soldiers. [excerpt]


This blog post originally appeared in The Gettysburg Compiler and was created by students at Gettysburg College.