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Band Music, and Camp Life

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The following account appeared in the Cleveland Press on June 3, 1898. It descibes the effect that the army bands had on camp life.

The Account:


They are a Pleasant Part of Camp Life --- They Make the Volunteer Homesick, However.

by Alfred O. Anderson

"Mobile, Ala., June 2. - Open air concerts by the regimental bands are without doubt the pleasantest feature of camp life with the Fourth Army Corps

Every evening a 7:30 the band of each of the six regular regiments marches out into the open space in front of the colonel's tent, and for an hour the air is made sweet by such music as only a military band can make. A day made hard by steady drills, and the never-ending work of keeping the camp going is concluded --- conditions of harmony and quiet  one would look for least in a big military camp, where sentries patrol with loaded guns and where 40,000 steel jacketed bullets are piled up in heavy wooden boxes covered by a tarpaulin.

The sun has diappeared behind the distant woods; officers and men are lying or sitting in front of their tents smoking away furiously to keep off the mosquitoes, the only disadvantage of the camp; camp fires burn briskly, and a quiet breeze off the bay carries off the resinous odor of thousands and thousands of pines. A sharp 'halt' rings out and the musicians stop at the command of their sergeant and arrange themselves in a semi-circle.

The soldiers meanwhile leave their company streets and group themselves around the ring of flickering lights. In their dark clothes, accentuated by the shadows of the pines, through which a monotonous moonbeam penetrates with difficulty, they look at a distance like small boulders on tree stumps, being motionless and quiet as things inanimate.

Then the music begins. First the Star Spangled Banner or some other patriotic melody, and then by degrees from classical selections to light opera, and finally to the tunes which everyone knows and all small boys can whistle.

Imperceptibly the audience has doubled in size. Townspeople in crash suits and girls in light-colored shirt-waists have joined the circle, unseen in the dark and unheard on the carpet of pine needles. Volunteers too, from their camps across the railroad are gathered among the soldiers being distinguishable before their uniform came by their light colored linen shirts.

Gay fragments of conversation are wafted from the officers' row, and a merry laugh from the wife or sister of a man with shoulderstraps.

Across the big drill ground the music from the other bands in dimmly heard now and then, and a round of applause which seems strangely discordant.

All is peaceful and quiet. What are the thousands of soldiers thinking about? When the 'Banks of the Wabash,' 'My Old Kentucky Home' or 'Narcissus' is played, do they worry abut the war and possible death before a foreign sun?

No, the old soldier lets the morrow take care of itself. With the volunteer it is different.

'Are you going over to the concert tonight, Willie,' one Texan volunteer asked another.

'No, the d---d music makes me homesick,' was the reply."

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