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Fort McHenry Volunteers Capture Civil War Sound On CD

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

National Park News

Two weeks ago, the volunteers of the Fort McHenry Guard released a new CD entitled “Fun and Fury” that features performances of popular pieces from the American Civil War. 

“Fort McHenry had an important role during the Civil War and we are a player in the sesquicentennial,” says ranger Jim Bailey. “The federal garrison of the fort aimed the large ten-inch Columbiad cannons on the city to keep Baltimore in the Union and also arrested hundreds of suspected Confederate sympathizers, including the grandson of Francis Scott Key.”

“We have a number of new permanent exhibits devoted to the Civil War and it is mentioned in our long-range interpretive plan, but it is through music that this era is truly brought to life,” says Tina Cappetta, the park’s superintendent. 

On selected summer weekends the fifes and drums of the Fort McHenry Guard put away their War of 1812 attire and don the uniform of the Second U.S. Artillery, the fort’s garrison from 1861 through 1865.

Being part of the field music at Fort McHenry means learning the music of two eras.  In addition to the War of 1812, participants have to also be conversant in the history and music of the Civil War. 

“It is not as easy as they make it look; the beatings are different and the style is different since you are looking at a 52-year difference in time between 1812 and the Civil War,” says Timothy Ertel, park ranger and music coordinator. “We wanted to leave a legacy for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War as well as the War of 1812 – something that visitors could listen to and appreciate after the big commemorative events were over.”

The volunteers began rehearsing and researching six months ago. 

“’Fun and Fury’ was the slogan for the Second U.S. Artillery, but it also sums up what it was like to make this CD happen in six months,” says lead fifer and Tyler Mink.

Rehearsals took place every weekend, with the members researching archives and historic music manuals during the week.  While Civil War enthusiasts will be treated to such recognizable pieces such as “The Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Dixie,” this CD features lesser-known music that was once very popular – such as “Oyster River,” and “Fort McHenry Quickstep.”

“I am extremely proud of this volunteer corps, they have been playing together for almost a decade and yet the average age is 18,” says Jim Bailey, park ranger and volunteer coordinator. “Having played together for so many years, the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps has the look and feel of a close-knit Army unit - and that comes through in their playing.”

The Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps have played at almost all the major sesquicentennial events on the East Coast, including those at Manassas NBP, Antietam NBP, Harpers Ferry, NHP, Arlington House and Gettysburg NMP.  Plans are underway to support other NPS units in 2014 even though they will have a full plate with War of 1812 events that year.

 “This unit embodies so many things in Director Jarvis’ Call to Action – History Lesson, Arts Afire, and Next Generation of Stewards are just the top three,” says Cappetta.


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