Friday, September 11, 2015

Fantastic Find: Revolutionary War Soldier Owen Madden's Songbook

You may have noticed that there was a fifer and drummer in my ancestor Abraham Heath's company of the 6th Virginia Regiment.

To better understand the vital role of these musicians, you can read what historian John U. Rees has to say on the subject here.

"The position of a fifer or drummer was not necessarily an easy one to fill. They were expected to learn the many tunes played in the army, from popular melodies like "Roslyn Castle" to practical beats such as "Water Call" or "Roast Beef." In an eighteenth century army music was used to transmit orders and to regulate the daily routine of the soldiers. In camp the reveille and tattoo denoted the beginning and end of the soldier's day. Other calls signaled the men to assemble for meals or for detachments to gather wood and water. If the army was ordered to march the routine of the troops prior to setting off, and the accompanying music, was adjusted accordingly. While on the move music provided a cadence to regulate the rate of march, and in battle drums and fifes could transmit or supplement the commands of the officers and would hopefully bolster the morale of the soldiers to some degree."

The Museum of the American Revolution has added a number of video in which their intern Matt Skic plays his fife along to a tunebook in their collection that was owned by Owen Madden, a fifer in the 3rd New York regiment.

[Scale Pages]

[Peggy's Brandy]

[Putman's Height]

[The 7 Stars]

[Boston March]

While I can't guarantee that the 6th Virginia Regiment's fifer Reuben Tucker played any of these tunes, it's great to hear the sort of sounds that Private Heath and his fellow soldiers would have heard daily.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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