Friday, November 14, 2014

Dr. Fredrick Fennell Playing The Last Soistman Drum Ever Built

Reader Michael Jedd wrote to us:

This evening my son brought over some old photo albums of mine. Included is a photo of Dr. Fredrick Fennell playing on my drum.  Dr. Fennell was guest conducting a U.S. Coast Guard Band Concert in New London.  I believe it was the fall of 1980.  A very good friend of mine hosted a party for Dr. Fennell at his house.  Knowing of Dr. Fennell's Fife & Drum Recording with the Eastman Wind Ensemble on the Mercury Label I decided to bring my drum to the event.  He graciously played a few notes on the instrument.

I thought you would appreciate the photo.


Michael G. Jedd

Ed. Note: For more about the drum, please see "The Story Behind the Last Soistman Drum Ever Built", this blog, June 23, 2009, and the comments to that post.

19th Century Sheet Brass Eagle Stencil

Reader Bruce Jarvis wrote to us:

Several years ago, I acquired a 19th century sheet brass stencil of a fairly detailed eagle that I suspect may have been used as a template for military drums.  The eagle measures approximately 13" H x 17" W.  The eagle has outstretched wings between which is a three band arch of 22 stars.  Unlike every drum eagle photo I could find, this one clutches the ribbon in its talons rather than its beak but the ribbon is wide and clearly designed to take added lettering.  I was wondering if you wouldn't mind looking at a photo of it to give me your sense of what it is.

Thanks for your time and help,

Bruce Jarvis

Ed. Note: I could not find anything with a quick Google search.  Readers with information to share are asked to do so by email to

Monday, November 10, 2014

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy, by Josephn Goodhue Chandler, (American, 1813-1884)

Depicted with a river and hills in the distance, sky at sunset.  Oil on canvas, 44-1/2 x 31-1/4.

The stretcher and remnants of an old printed label reading in part "... rear entra(nce) NEW YORK / ... YORK /ANTIQUES EXPOSITION ... ." The label is said to have referred to Albany at one time, indicating an exhibition in that city, possibly celebrating the centennial of 1876.  Chandler was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where his family owned a small farm.  After a brief apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker, he studied painting in Albany, New York, between the years 1827-1832.  Most of his known paintings date from 1837-1852, a period when he traveled parts of the Connecticut River Valley, particularly northwestern Massachusetts, working as an itinerant painter.

Provenance: Alice Braunfeld, Los Angeles, early 1980s.

Literature: For additional information on the artist, see John W. Keefe, "Joseph Goodhue Chandler, Itinerant Painter of the Connecticut River Valley," The Magazine Antiques, November 1972, pp. 849-854.  Note the resemblance of Chandler's maternal grandparents, figs. 2 & 3, to the drummer boy.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Mother And The Three Camps - An Analysis by Fred N. Johnson

Fred N. Johnson recently updated his continuing analysis of The Camp Duty.  His analysis, titled "The Mother And The Three Camps", can be downloaded in PDF.

Fred's manuscript, "The Mother And The Three Camps", can be downloaded in PDF.  Here's the introduction:

"The Mother and The Three Camps\2\ is one of the oldest military drum beatings. It is still played today by drummers worldwide. “Mother” refers to “The Mother Roll”, which is the 5 stroke roll. British troops called this drum beating “Run, boys, run”.\3\
The objectives of this piece of writing are to:
  1. Provide a brief history of The Three Camps.
  2. Clarify historical, contemporary and modern notation to help some drummers better understand and enjoy playing this historical beating.
  3. Clarify performance characteristics that have been altered or misunderstood over time.
  4. Provide an instructional document by way of examples and explanations of roll notation and varying roll velocities transcribed into modern notation.
  5. Invite input to further enhance this piece for continued publication on the Canadian Associates Drumming Rudimental Excellence (CADRE) website.\4\"


    2 Referred to throughout this paper as “The Three Camps”.
    3 Songs & Music of the Redcoats 1642–1902, by Lewis Winstock.

Seattle Pacific University's Rope Drum Corps

The Drums of War

By Clint Kelly ( | Photos by Dan Sheehan
The Rope Drum Corps uses Civil War era drums at events such as Ivy Cutting on the Seattle Pacific University campus, giving listeners an opportunity to hear drums that once lead soldiers into war.
To be a drummer boy in the Civil War was one of the most dangerous positions in the regiment. Because it was his job to signal the troops to assemble, advance, or retreat, he was often targeted by the enemy. Every military commander understood: Kill the drummer and silence the drum and you will throw the opposing regiment into confusion and chaos. 
Director of Percussion Studies Dan Adams owns six authentic Civil War drums, half ceremonial, half showing the scars of battle. “Each has its distinct voice,” says Adams, “and produces a sound you cannot get from anything else.” Years after acquiring them, he still gets spine-tingling chills whenever they are played, especially together. “I don’t know a lot of other universities that use their historic drums in concert.”
He knows that many collectors of the rare and expensive Civil War drums preserve them by leaving them to sit unseen on a shelf. He takes a different approach. “These things need to talk, to be heard. No two sound exactly alike.” Like old sailing ships, the drums are constructed of whatever wood was available in the area at the time, mostly the maple and ash of the eastern hardwood forests.
Dan AdamsDan Adams
The SPU Rope Drum Corps leads the processional of faculty and graduates at Ivy Cutting, plays for area Memorial Day commemorations, regales audiences at the Northwest Percussion Festival, and performs at two campus concerts in winter and spring. The March 5 percussion concert at 7:30 p.m. in E.E. Bach Theatre was free, open to the public, and featured the historic drums.
It is the more advanced percussion students who are allowed the privilege of playing the Civil War drums, but still they receive a complete tutorial in how to keep the instruments tuned, their historical significance, and how to properly play and care for them. Adams, whose resonant voice bears a timbre not unlike the drums, smiles. “These drums instilled a sense of valor and patriotism in the soldiers of the Civil War. We treat the instruments with a lot of respect.”
Adams’ interest in the drums blossomed in his student days when he visited Civil War battlefields, bought a “pretty beat up” battle drum to restore, and “got the bug.” He has grown experienced in spotting fakes (“watch for makers labels on the inside of the drums”) and always keeps his eyes peeled for additions to his collection. And he thinks back to those little drummer boys, most too young to fight, who risked their lives to guide the troops.

Dan Adams

Dan Adams

Director of Percussion Studies and Percussion Ensemble
Phone: 206-281-2143
Office: Beegle 1

Education: MM, University of Washington
Dan Adams, the director of Percussion Ensemble, has been director of percussion studies at Seattle Pacific since 1988. Mr. Adams earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Idaho and a Master of Music degree from the University of Washington. His principal teachers have been Howard Robbins, Joe Morello, Peter Erskine, Babatunde Olatunji, Adebisi Adeleke, Tom Collier, and Jim Chapin.
Mr. Adams has more than 40 years' experience as a private percussion instructor. He has served as the district music supervisor for the Rainier School District and, since 1978, he has been a special percussion consultant to the Olympia School District.
Mr. Adams has performed with the Ashi Opera of Japan, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Allegro Dance Series, Pacific Northwest Chamber Chorus, Orchestra Seattle, Olympic Brass Ensemble, Seattle Pro Musica, Choir of the Sound, and the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society. His musical theater credits include the Civic Light Opera, Tacoma Actors Guild, Chinook Dinner Theater, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, the Village Theatre, the Renton Civic Theater, and the Bagley Wright Theater. He has shared the stage with artists such as Johnny Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Pam Tillis, Delbert McClinton, Albert Collins, Hal Ketchum, Chaka Khan, and Etta James. His recording credits include Messenger, the Soni Ventorum, the Diamonds, Ventures guitarist Nokie Edwards, Primo Kim, the Mazeltones, Gene Nygaard, Lucky Garcia, Greg Adams of Tower of Power, Forrest Lee Jr., contemporary artist VEO, and Orchestra Seattle.

Visit his website at

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lancraft Old Timers 1963

Uploaded to YouTube on Aug 25, 2008
See the traditional "Sturtz" style of drumming that is fading from use in many Ancient Corps. Names Like Frank Moriarty, Frank Arsenault, Hugh Quigley, Jack Tencza, Jack McGuire, Bob Redican to name a few.

Lancraft Fife & Drum Corps Historical Archives
Sound Track: 1975 State Convention, Torrington, Connecticut

Video Conversion: Sherwood "Woody" Sheades
Video Editing: David J. DeLancey

Note: Sound track is the last time Lancraft competed in the Connecticut Fife & Drum Association as a corps.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Majestic's Prophonic Snare - Innovative

Innovative technology to the art of snare drum musicianship

Majestic’s new Prophonic concert snare drums bring innovative technology to the art of snare drum musicianship. It’s newly designed mechanism allows for the use of up to four different types of snare material simultaneously, each with individual tension adjustment and throw off levers, while still allowing all to be engaged or disengaged together with a master switch. This unique feature combined with a variety of available shell configurations and many options for snare type allow the Prophonic snare drum to be easily configured for a multitude of concert settings. From the largest orchestra hall to the most intimate chamber setting, the Prophonic sets the new standard for the professional classical percussionist.

Majestic's new Prophonic concert snare drums bring innovative technology to the art of snare drum musicianship. It's newly designed mechanism allows for the use of up to four different types of snare material simultaneously, each with individual tension adjustment and throw off levers, while still allowing all to be engaged or disengaged together with a master switch.

This unique feature combined with a variety of available shell configurations and many options for snare type allow the Prophonic snare drum to be easily configured for a multitude of concert settings. From the largest orchestra hall to the most intimate chamber setting, the Prophonic sets the new standard for the professional classical percussionist.

For Audio Samples

Henry Potter & Company's New Drums


These classic side drums come as standard with a 16” x 16” rope tension shell, calf heads, gut snares and traditional patterned stud-work. Different paint finishes and emblazoning available on request.
These side drums were originally built for The Guild of Ancient Fifes and Drums. The Guild was formed from a group of aficionados and professionals with an interest in historical and Basel fifing and drumming and appeared in period costume, complete with tricorn hats, playing at various parades and gatherings. These drums can be heard on the recordings Lo Sposalizio and The Coronation of King George II by The Kings Consort.

16" "Side Drums"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers' Day


Friday evening, April 27, 2001, I had the good fortune to bring 215 attorneys and spouses/significant others onto the base at Marine Air Station Miramar near San Diego, California.  We arrived in 5 luxury busses, each of which was boarded at the gate by a sharp "Tom Cruise" type Marine Captain of all of 27-33 years old who took command of each bus and narrated as we rolled onto the base and then past a guard and onto the air field.  215 professionals and family then "fell out," mouths open, eyes-wide open, as we looked into what appeared to be a Sears Auto Repair for F-14s and F-18s.  We could hardly believe our eyes, or our good fortune.

For the next hour or so, we were treated to a guided tour of the jet aircraft in the hangar.  We crawled over, under and around a half dozen single seaters, each larger than the busses that brought us there, as the Marine Captains explained everything they could, short of divulging anything confidential.  Each of us touched these jets, and were, in turn, touched by them and by the Marines who daily operate, fly, maintain and train in them.

To see the cockpit from atop a set of wheeled metal stairs and realize that there's just no space there to fit anything more than a relatively modest-sized pilot really drove home the seriousness of their business.

We were told that the day prior to our visit the pilots had dropped bombs in Utah.  One of our members remarked that he did know that we had declared war on Utah.  Now that was funny.

After more than an hour, we had to get going.  Our busses then ferried us to the Officers' Club (in the Tom Cruise movie, "Top Gun" the "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" scene was filmed there) where we enjoyed a first class dinner with entertainment by a California beach band playing Beach Boys and other 60s and 70s music.

As the coordinator of the event, I had an opportunity to address the group prior to dinner, welcome them to Miramar and also to tell them something of my connection with Miramar as well as to pay tribute to my parents who had a very big connection with Miramar.  My remarks, reprinted below, were very well received.  They are reprinted here for your reading and, I hope, your enjoyment.

Ellis Mirsky
Son of Joe and Lucille Mirsky

Welcome to Miramar:

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. And good evening Jarheads (we invited the Marine officers to join us for dinner . . . and they did!  We fed about a dozen Jarheads that evening.)

"We are delighted to be here at Marine Air Station Miramar, also known as the place where Tom Cruise showed Kelly McGillis some of his best maneuvers.

"We are indeed fortunate to be here and honored to be in the presence of our Marine Corps hosts. The United States Marine Corps is universally acknowledged to be the finest military organization in the world. Other services seek to emulate the Marines. Other countries try to build their own corps. But there is only one Marine Corps. And it’s ours.

"On behalf of The Network of Trial Law Firms and all of our corporate guests, spouses and significant others, I want to thank the Marines here at our dinner whose selfless dedication to our country is part of the bedrock on which our liberty depends. As lawyers we know all too well that without law, there can be no order. However, without order, there can be no law. The Marines give us order, on a global scale.

"I want to acknowledge some of the folks in our own group with ties to the Marine Corps. 
  • Fredrick Block, father of my partner, Richard Block, served in the Marine Corps.
  • Captain Alex Chotkowski, of the Rome, McGuigan law firm (Hartford, CT)
  • Captain Richard Fox, husband of Kathy Fox of the Wildman, Harrold law firm (Chicago, IL)
  • Corporal Timothy Patrick Rooney, active, with service in Kosovo, Bosnia and his father Timothy Patrick Rooney, retired, having served in Viet Nam, nephew and brother-in-law of George Murphy of the Hecker Brown Sherry and Johnson law firm in Philadelphia, PA)
  • Gary Robinson, Navy flight-surgreon based in San Diego in the early 60's, father of Brett Robinson of Pro Bass.
"I am sure that there are more, but that’s what we were able to come up with just from the folks attending our program.

"Now, I want to tell you a little bit about Miramar from a very personal perspective. And I want to tell you about two very special Marines -- my parents.  Now I don’t call them Marines just because they are strict, demanding, principled, and honorable people, which they are. I call them Marines because they were, or, as they like to say, are: Marine Sergeant Lucille Mirsky and Marine Staff Sergeant Jacob ("Joe") Mirsky – Mom and Dad.

"Against the wishes of the then commandant, the first Women Marines during WWII began arriving February 13, 1943.  At that time, women were trained at Hunter College in the Bronx.  Mom enlisted in June, 1943, and was called up in August, 1943.  By that time the training center had been moved to Camp LeJeune, NC.

"Mom is proud to say that Women Marines have always been called Marines, as opposed to the other services.  Although her duties during WWII were largely clerical and office work at Headquarters at the Naval Annex in Arlington, Virginia, she was/is a Marine.

"Mom was stationed at Henderson Hall, a compound specifically for Women Marines, in Arlington, Virginia.  She says that when they fell out for calesthenics at 0500 each morning, Arlington Cemetery was just over the wall.

"Sunday, December 7, 1941, Dad went down to a recruiting station in Manhattan to enlist.  It was 7:00 p.m.  He couldn’t get near the building because of the lines of men waiting to enlist.  Cops were all over the street trying to control the crowds.  People were told to go home.  They just couldn't accommodate the number of volunteers who turned out.  Dad returned several times until he was permitted to enlist in May, 1942.  He waited until August 17, 1942 when they called him.  That day he traveled 26 hours in box cars with wooden seats to Yemassee.  Then 30 miles by cattle truck to boot camp at Parris Island, SC.  From there on in, he says, it was double time all the time.  The Marine Corps had no dungarees or boots to give them and for a week they trained in their civilian clothes.  A week later they were issued dungarees and boots.  8 weeks in PI, and they were shipped to Camp LeJeune, NC for 4 weeks on the rifle range.  Dad qualified as a Marksman (that means, he said, he could hit the target).  He was then transferred to Quantico, Virginia where he was able to practice his shooting.  He qualified as an expert and earned $5 per month extra for a year.

"In February, 1945 every Sergeant and better at Quantico (there were 117 of them) who had not been overseas, was put on a three-part troop train (Army, Navy, Marines).  The Army slept 2 per bunk, and the Navy stacked their men 4 high.  Each had their own galleys. The Marines, though, had individual bunks with a Pullman Porter to keep the train car neat.  The train stopped 3 times each day at “Fred Harveys” to eat.  But only the Marines left the train for meals.  And they did so at every stop. The Army and the Navy ate from their galleys.

"In California, the train stopped at Linda Vista, a train station, and the Marines were transferred by truck to Miramar.  Upon arrival they were put in barracks near the airfield.  No mattresses, they slept on wire webbing.  One day everyone had to fall out.  My Dad and another Marine were told to get their sea bags and report to a jeep.  He thought for sure, this is it.  He was finally getting to go overseas -- the reason he enlisted.

"Instead, he was taken to an airplane hangar with a sign “Construction and Maintenance School.”  Dad attended that school and earned a 3.9 average, so they kept him on to teach at the school and work on the base as a carpenter.  One of the projects he worked on was a 10'x10' portable broadcasting booth that was sound-insulated.

"That was April or May, 1945.  Mom, having been discharged from the Marine Corps previously, followed by train about that time.

"Dad stayed in the Corps until May, 1946 until he was discharged, having earned his 36 points, pretty much just by being in the Corps and doing his job.  Prior to discharge, Dad took a 3-4 day course, “how to become a civilian.”  Dad thinks he did very well in that course.  Mom thinks that’s a matter of opinion.

"So, discharge papers and $200 “travel allowance” in hand, Dad left the gate, seabag over his shoulder, and took a bus into Linda Vista.  Mom had lined up a house to live in.  I arrived about a year and a half later in November, 1947.

"Mom (78) and Dad (79) are alive and well and retired in Boca Raton, FL.  Both are active members of the Marine Corps League; both are officers in the Tamarac Detachment of the Marine Corps League (  Mom is an active member of the Women Marines Association. And both are proud to say, they are Marines.

"Thank you and enjoy dinner."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

British H. Potter Drum Looks Like a Brown Drum

A reader writes:
I found your information while cruising the internet to identify a drum that my husband’s grandfather owns.  The “story” is that it is a drum from the Battle of Waterloo.  The family’s heritage is English.  Attached are pictures.  Should I attempt to open the drum to see if there are labels inside or should I take it to a specialist to open it?  Any info is helpful.  [16"D x 18"H]

My response:
Your husband's grandfather's drum appeared to me to be an American drum from the early 19th Century.  Based on the design features that I could see in the photos, and especially the tack pattern, my initial inquiry was to check to see whether it's a drum by Eli Brown or someone else from the Brown family.

See my blog for a number of articles about Brown drums (

You might see a paper label inside the drum by looking through the vent hole.  If there's anything visible, please send a photo.  It might give me clues as to the drum's origin.

As far as opening or disassembling the drum, leave that to a rope drum expert.  Chances are pretty good that if there's any information inside the drum, you'll see it through the vent hole.  Plus, there's very little chance that you'll be able to reassemble the drum yourself.

I can recommend local experts if you provide your area of the country.

Note: I noticed that the drum appears to have been roped upside down.

Further Information (and imagine my surprise):
We shined a light into the vent hole and found the following label (pics attached):

Real Manufacturer of

I did not see any other labels or writing.  We live in Milwaukee, WI and appreciate any info you can supply!

So fans, do we believe the label?  Can anyone shed light on this?

More Photos:

Evidence that the Drum Post-Dates the Battle of Waterloo (1815):
Our reader posted her question on the Vintage Drum Forum and received a lot of good information, some of which is provided below:

Henry Potter was just one of many flutemakers working in London in the middle of the 19th century. Not as famous as Nicholson, Rudall & Rose, Boehm or Pratten, he is often confused with the earlier but seemingly unrelated William Henry Potter. Although Henry died on 31 August 1876, his company continued under his name until 1950. 

Henry Potter was born in 1810 (the same year as John Clinton) into a family with a solid musical background. Henry’s father Samuel Potter (1772 - 1838) had enlisted in the Coldstream Guards at the age of 14 in 1786, and eventually by 1815 had risen to the rank of Regimental Drum Major. Samuel completed 30 years service with the Guards and resigned from the army in 1817 to set up a workshop located in King Street, Westminster for the purpose of making drums and wind instruments. Samuel seems to have concentrated on instruments with a military band connotation, such as drums, bugles, fifes, horns and trumpets. He actually wrote several published treatises, one being a method for playing the fife (1815) and the other being a manual for drums, fifes and bugles (1817). 

Samuel’s son Henry (1810 – 1876) presumably learned about instrument making from his father, and continued the business after his father’s death in 1838. By 1841 he was well established as his father’s successor, with premises at 2 Bridge Street, Westminster. He continued in his father’s footsteps as regards the making of military instruments, but appears to have had a strong interest in flute making as well. Clearly he must have quickly built up a good reputation as a flute maker, since otherwise it is inconceivable that John Clinton would have entrusted the manufacture of the early Clinton-system flutes to him, in particular the 1851 Exhibition model. Henry Potter remained in the instrument business all his life, and his company remained active until around 1950.  Source: John aka 
longjohn, Vintage Drum Guru.

Essentially, the argument that John makes (convincingly) is that a drum bearing the H. Potter label could not have been in existence in 1815 (Battle of Waterloo) because H. Potter (Henry Potter) was born in 1810 and would have been only five years of age in 1815.  QED.

Note, however, that the label could have been applied years after its original manufacture at a time when the drum might have been brought in for repair (the fact that the drum has been disassembled is evident from its being roped upside down, even though an experienced drum repair person would not have done that).

So, it might not be a drum made by H. Potter at all.  Rather it might have been repaired by H. Potter well after the Battle of Waterloo.  That explanation leaves open the possibility that it was in existence at the time of the Battle of Waterloo, but only if the drum was not made by H. Potter.

Also, CT Pro Percussion notes in that forum that the Hard White head is a Leedy head from the 1940's (ish), not original to the drum.

CT Pro Percussion also provided photos of the below drum that he notes came through his shop a few years ago and which has been traced back to the 3rd New Jersey British Militia.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Great American Eagle Decorated Snare Drum, Circa 1810-1830

Great American Eagle Decorated Snare Drum, Circa 1810-1830. Very large, commensurate with its early date of manufacture, 17 1/2" diameter and 19 3/4" high. Retains the original ink script paper label inside, across from the air hole, "M. A. BAKER / No. 10". Exceptionally fine condition, retaining 95% of the original paint, which is all sound but exhibits some crazing. There are just a few small abrasions on the eagle panel. The heads and ropes are excellent with the top head showing obvious age and some staining, else perfect. The bottom head retains the original snares and is separated and dried out along one edge, also showing considerable honest age. The ropes are correct, showing obvious age, and the drum retains six of the original seven rawhide sewn leather tighteners. Although these parts appear to be original and are commensurate with the condition of the rest of the drum, there is certainly the possibility they were part of an old restoration, although there is nothing that would necessarily indicate that to be the case. The drum exhibits a high seam with seven brass tacks, also commensurate with its early date of production. The body of the drum is maple, and the back side, opposite the eagle, exhibits what appears to be a bullet hole. Whatever struck the drum created an approximately 5/8" hole, with some additional splintering and two line cracks but the area remains very sound. A great American drum, and the earliest eagle decorated / likely regular U.S. Army, drum we've ever handled.

Heritage Auctions.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


The Last Ten Miles


Reprinted from Not So Modern Drummer

One bright day in early Spring, 2013, I met up with friend and fellow collector/ historian, Craig Caba, at his home in Central PA, to look at and talk about some of our old drums. Our conversation soon found its way to the project of another mutual friend, Jim Smith, known affectionately as, the “Yankee Drummer.” Jim had realized that there wasn’t a memorial to the Civil War Musician, and creating one would be rather expensive. To help fund this endeavor, he had the idea of selling commemorative replicas of Civil War drum sticks made from the wood of “witness trees”…..trees that were present and alive on the Gettysburg Battlefield during the time of the Battle in 1863.

At the suggestion of friends, Jim also decided to recreate the little known,
but epic journey of a certain veteran drummer of the “Late Hostilities.”

That certain veteran was Peter Guibert, Drummer of Co. F, 74th PA, who at 70 years old, marched with his old drum to the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg. Jim, also 70 years old, would recreate the march of 200 miles from the Pittsburg area to Gettysburg in 19 days, this time to honor Peter Guibert and celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Battle. Jim would use the same drum that Guibert used while in the War, and on his journey in 1913…….. 100 years ago to the day! Craig and I eagerly decided we would accept Jim’s invitation to join him in Cashtown, for the last ten miles of this historic journey to Gettysburg.
Born in Germany on January 4, 1844, Peter Guibert, of Allegheny County, PA, mustered into Company F, 74th PA at Camp Wilkins, near Pittsburg, on September 14, 1861, as a musician. During the next three years, these men fought and died in different theaters of the War, and for a period of time, in the Army of the Potomac. Before the end of 1862, the 74th eventually found itself as part of their former regimental commander, Col. Schimmelpfennig’s, new brigade. General Schimmelpfennig’s brigade was in Schurz’s division and part of Howard’s 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac. At Chacellorsville, VA, in May, 1863, they were heavily engaged and on the second day of fighting, they were placed on the left of the 11th Corps, which was on the Union right. When the regiments on the far right belonging to the 1st Division broke, the 74th, along with other regiments of its brigade, changed fronts and held off the Confederates of General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson, losing 52 men. Less than two months later, they were again in the thick of it at Gettysburg.
The 74th, still part of Howard’s 11th Corps, found itself on the Union right during the fighting of July 1, 1863. Placed on the 11th Corps left, they were soon caught up in the rout that broke the Union right. Falling back through Gettysburg, they reformed on Cemetery Hill where they remained for the rest of the battle. During the remainder of the War, the 74th saw service in South Carolina and the Washington defenses. After mustering out of the 74th, Guibert soon enlisted in Co. D, 77th PA, in February, 1865, again as a musician, and headed for Tennessee until mustering out in August, 1865.
Following the War, Peter Guibert returned to civilian life in Allegheny County near Pittsburg and worked as barber. 1913 brought about the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. That year, Peter turned 70 years old and held a strong desire to attend the anniversary ceremonies of the epic battle he participated in 50 years ago. Being the largest and most costly of the Civil War’s battles, he knew veterans from all over the country would attend. Instead of taking a train, horse, or automobile, he decided to walk the distance. He would be accompanied on this journey by his friend, 62 year old John Conroy, an Army veteran, (1872-77) who fought Comanche Indians in Texas. On May 26th, 1913, they stepped off from the steps of what was then the Allegheny City Hall at 9:00 a.m. Ahead were 200 miles of some of the most challenging ridges and heights of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains, chief among them was the Bald Knob Summit, with a height exceeding 2900 ft., and the Tuscarora Mountain (2458 ft.), among many others.
On the march, Guibert would beat his drum and entertain the folks along the way, many times in return for refreshments and lodging. On the morning of June 12th, the Guibert party departed from the Cashtown Inn, Cashtown PA, where they had spent the night, and began the last ten miles to Gettysburg. Completing the trek in 19 days, the two weary travelers entered the edge of Gettysburg on morning of June 13th where they were picked up by the Bell Telephone wagon and given a ride to the center of town.
There, they played a free concert and stayed at the City Hotel (now the James Getty Hotel), located on the square, until after the reunion festivities were complete. While in Gettysburg, Peter seems to have been quite active as several creditable accounts have him entertaining many of the inhabitants and veterans; apparently earning enough money to fund his stay. Peter also took the opportunity to join, and be photographed with, veteran musicians of the Union and Confederate ranks for a one-time performance of “The Blue and Grey Reunion Band of 1913.” He was also featured as the opening act for the epic silent film: “The Battle of Gettysburg.”
Jim Smith acquired the Guibert drum directly from a member of the Guibert family, niece Betty Mower, of Delmont. She had learned of the Yankee Drummer through a local newspaper article in 1982. The old Civil War drum had been passed to her through the family and had languished in attics for decades. Jim bought the drum along with an old newspaper article about the 1913 trek and then met with several members of the Guibert family over time. Through diligent work, he was able to piece together much of the life of Peter Guibert and even found additional period newspaper articles about the trek and his time spent in Gettysburg. However, Jim’s commitment to the trek began during a visit with Peter’s Grandson, Clarence Guibert, who at one point “expressed concern that peter’s name was not listed in the official PA records in Gettysburg.” Jim later found Guibert’s name in the records…misspelled…the error has since been corrected.
Peter Guibert’s field drum was one of the newer designs available to the drummers of the era. The shell was constructed of solid brass and is somewhat heavy. It has a very efficient, brass snare adjustor that isn’t the frequent norm of what most period drums utilized. Jim has since made small metal parts that over-lay the wooded hoops at the point over of the rope holes, to help protect against the wear and pressure of the ropes bearing down on these old hoops. Other replacement parts include hemp rope, leather ears, skins and snares.

With no makers label or any markings in or on the shell, the maker
remains unknown. However, a brass shell construction at this time
suggests that the drum was imported from Europe.

The sound is exceptionally full and projects well, especially when played with heavy, robust sticks. When Jim acquired the drum, it had a broken head with an old silver-tipped stick inside. He then fully restored the drum to playing condition and has kept it in that condition.
According to local newspaper accounts, Peter Guibert and John Conroy not only trudged along with this old field drum, but a rope tension bass drum and pedal, fife, calliope, harmonica, slide whistle, and various other musical instruments for the purpose of Guibert performing as a “one-man-band,” as he “was well-known as an entertainer.” Jim also included an old rope tension bass drum as well as other musical instruments in keeping with the spirit of the trek.
After 190 miles on the road, Jim and his friend, Ray Zimmerman (who plays the part of John Conroy) arrived at the Cashtown Inn where they met up with Craig and me. On this day, the Peter Guibert Trek of 2013 had a slightly larger entourage of seven people, including Len DeCarlo (trek coordinator), Duane Myers, and Dick Mizikar, along with two vehicles. I had brought along my circa 1840 Porter Blanchard field drum so I could play along with Jim for this final 10 mile leg of the journey. While at the Cashtown Inn, Jim and I played our drums for each other, as well as together. One thing about playing authentic rope tension drums with calf skins and gut snares is that you clearly hear all three aspects of the drum: There is the basic sound of the drum, and the sound of the snares, but then you hear the sound of the “drone,” which is something I think that’s missing from drums with plastic heads, synthetic snares, and muffling. The sound of these old drums really “carries” outdoors.
We stepped off in mid-morning… Jim, “Conroy,” Craig and I, along with our escort vehicles, and headed east down Old Route 30, “The Lincoln Highway,” through Cashtown… The same route that Confederates under Lt. General A.P. Hill used 150 years ago, as they headed east to Gettysburg, playing a cadence as we went. In doing so, the feeling of history was almost over-whelming as we felt the trodden path of so many other travelers of the past.
The day was extremely hot and humid…as I imagine it was in 1863 and in 1913. As the sun rose high in the sky, I could feel its effects start as we played our drums on the hot road. We stopped at every waving flag and cemetery along the way and properly saluted with drum and hand. The dogs did not bother with us as I wondered if the drums intimidated them. One of the stranger things we learned was that cows apparently like drums! At every instant of the sound of the drum, herds of cows would line up along the fences and watch…moving along as we did…pleasantly animated.
As we progressed, residents would venture out to see what the racket was all about, many times offering us drinks and sandwiches, while eagerly soaking up tales of the trek. At one point, we heard the sound of a drum set coming from a house along the route. We decided to serenade our newly found compatriot with a rousing and spirited round of Three Camps. The commotion worked as the drummer from within soon appeared on the front porch and applauded our completion of the piece. At other points we were saluted by the local veterans, who we respectfully saluted back. Passing vehicles would honk and wave. Everybody cheered. And so it was as the Peter Guibert Trek proceeded along the 200 hundred mile route that seemed full of goodwill.
Jim Smith, at 70 years of age, had completed one of the most challenging and epic journeys to honor any veteran of the “Late War” in grand style. The combination of heat, humidity, rain, and wind (or lack of it) only added to the reality of walking such long distances with a drum. Another daunting danger was the traffic which made safety along the way a major concern. There were no major mishaps in this regard, as the most common occurrence seemed to be the constant honking of horns and waves of well-wishers in general. Through it all, Jims pace, style, and playing were precise and purposeful, and being a master drummer and historian, he knew all the music and calls.
The route was full of high elevations and valleys and as Craig and I would occasionally lag behind talking, we could see that Jim (and “Conroy”) repeatedly would take each hill like a Roosevelt! Jim Smith appeared larger than life on that day. In keeping true to the form of the original trek, Ray had quietly arranged to have a wagon of the Bell Telephone Company waiting for them as a surprise on the morning June 13th as they prepared to take Gettysburg, just as Peter Guibert and John Conroy did 100 years ago to the day!
Arriving at noon in the Gettysburg Square, they played a free concert by the James Getty Hotel and met with well-wishers and family. Also joining them was friend and fellow drummer John Beck, President of the Percussive Arts Society, who was also at the initial step-off in Pittsburg. Later that day, Jim delivered dirt from Peter Guibert’s grave to the 74th PA regimental marker on the Battlefield. As did Peter, Jim stayed at the Hotel on the square and remanded in the area until much of the festivities came to a close.
Heat, fatigue, and dehydration played a large part on the march for military drummers and soldiers alike. This is something that we would be reminded of during the Trek and celebrations leading up to and during the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as with the previous reunions and the Battle itself. During this time, several drummers and bandsmen “went down with the heat” and needed to be transported to the local hospital.

I was quickly reminded that being a drummer during
the “Late Hostilities” was no easy task. During this last
ten miles of Jim’s Trek, Craig and I learned of so many
things that affected the daily life of early drummers
and soldiers while on the march.

Peter Guibert died on December 7, 1933, at age 89. He had played music all of his life, as the music was deep within him. Known as the “Wizard of the Drums” and the “Master of Military Music”…names that a “God Father” of the rope drum community the likes of Jim Smith, could easy personify without fault. But Jim, the Yankee Drummer, had earned his own new moniker as he entered Gettysburg right on time, the very same day as did Peter Guibert, exactly 100 years ago…now we refer to him as “Jim Smith: Iron Man of the Alleghenies.”
In the end, the big question here is…Why did Peter Guibert decide to walk the 200 miles to Gettysburg?…Especially when the government offered free train passes to any Civil War veteran wishing to attend the reunion. The only reason offered by Smith is that Guibert apparently walked everywhere! With the Peter Guibert Trek of 2013 behind us, I find myself happily reminiscing with Craig as we look back on and talk about the privilege and the experience we had partaking in recreating this historic, yet telling journey. We also embraced the camaraderie we found in all who took part in making this event a huge success. “There are many historical artifacts out there that have interesting stories to tell but rarely get the opportunity”…Jim Smith has taken the opportunity to do so and has marched with it and made it so. Our special, indebted thanks to Jim for offering us the opportunity to share with him … The Last Ten Miles.
From Lancaster County, PA, Thoughts from the Shop….
Brian Hill

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Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a veteran touring and studio musician, with attendance at several universities and schools of music, he graduated from Belmont University, Nashville, TN, with studies in music, business, and history. Residing in rural Lancaster County, PA, he continues to play music as well as restoring and researching the drums and lives of the people who made history with them.