Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Admiral Edward Boscawen and a Drumming Tradition

Admiral Edward Boscawen and a Drumming Tradition

Edward Boscawen by Sir Joshua Reynolds, ca. 1755

Admiral Edward Boscawen,(1711-61) joined the  British Navy at the age of 12 years and remained in its service for the rest of his life. Though he died young, he achieved one of the great careers in British naval history. One example of his success came as commander of the British Blue fleet during the investment of Fortress Louisburg, July,1758, thus providing a staging area for Gen. James Wolfe’s campaign against  Québec City. Boscawen was nicknamed “Wry-necked Dick” due to a habit of cocking his head to one side, as captured by Reynolds in his portrait above.
During the French West Indies campaign, Boscawen took part in capturing the island of Guadaloupe. Lasting from January to May of 1759, the battle resulted in the British wresting Guadaloupe from the French.  In the first Treaty of Paris (1763) France regained the West Indies by relinquishing its claims to Canada.
In his book, As If An Enemy’s Country, Richard Archer wrote: After the conquest of the island of Guadaloupe during the Seven Year War, Admiral Edward Boscawen procured 8 or 10 boys whom he gave to his brother, at the time the commanding officer of the 29th regiment. Boscawen thought the boys would be attractive and exotic ornaments and made them drummers, starting a tradition that continued until 1843. [1.]
Were these Afro-Caribbean boys the genesis of exotically clad Negro or Blackamoor drummers in Britain’s military bands?  After a conversation about Boscawen a scholar friend, David Waterhouse did some research and sent me the following report:
Blackamoor first appears in Lord Berners’s translation of Froissart (1525), referring to two blacke Moores richely apparelled: so already there was the tendency to dress them up.

British Band in St. James courtyard. ca. 1790.
Meanwhile, I think I have tracked down the immediate source of your story about Admiral Boscawen. Hugh Barty-King, in his The Drum (London: The Royal Tournament, 1988), p. 57, says:
“But the man who brought a spate of black drummer appointments in the British army was a naval man, Admiral Boscawen. Being in the Caribbean at the surrender of Guadeloupe in 1759, he cornered ten West Indian boys and brought them home in his ship. Once in England he presented them to his soldier brother who commanded Thomas Farrington’s Regiment, the 29th Foot (late The 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment). Permission was obtained from King George III to retain them as drummers, the last of the line dying in July 1843. From then on it became The Thing to have black drummers in British military bands and dress them more and more fancifully…
There is more, both before and after this passage: Barty-King refers to Moorish drummers in the 4th Dragoons as early as 1715.
David sent me the lenghty entry on Adm. Edward Bascawen from the Dictionary of National Biography, published by Oxford University Press in 60 volumes in 2004. There is no mention of him being associated with negro, black or Blackamoor drummers.
“Stories containing incorrect information persist. They are repeated over and over. I don’t know Hugh Barty-King. What was his primary source? You must go back to the primary source.” David Waterhouse
And so gentle reader, until  a primary source is found, we must take the Boscawen story as written by Archer and his probable source Hugh Barty-King, with a grain of salt.
True or not, I believe all the accounts above about Blackamoor and black drummers had to do with Snare Drummers only. Boscawen’s battle for Guadaloupe predated the famous print of a British Band in St. James courtyard by perhaps thirty years and by nine years the disembarkment of the 29th Regiment at Boston. Therfore my next question is, when and by whose order did British bandsmen begin playing Bass drums, Cymbals, Triangles,Tambourines,Tenor drums and the Jingling Johnny? This instrumental component was referred to as the Janissary by British band musicians. [2.] Surely, they were meant not for combat, but for Pomp and Circumstance only.  A Janissary was not with the 29th Regiment in Boston,[3.] as it certainly would have created a sensation and been reported.
Post script:
The Court-marshal and execution of Adm. John Byng (1704-57) was a very controversial and dark affair in British military history. Adm. Boscawen, a strict traditionalist, signed both orders in 1757. Notables including The First Lord of Chatham, William Pitt (1708-80), came to Byng’s defense, but George III refused to repeal the judgement.  Byng knelt on a pillow and instructed the guardsmen to fire when he dropped his handkerchief.
The shooting of Admiral Byng.
The shooting of Admiral Byng.
[1.]  See Archer, Richard under Sources.
[2.] The Janissary, meaning New Soldier, was formed in Turkey by an Ottoman sultan sometime during the late 12th century and disbanded by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826. Young men and boys were kidnapped or otherwise recruited from countries outsideTurkey and trained for duty as bodyguards for the sultan. The Janissary and their music were encountered by the west during European crusades which began in 1096. After their defeat at the second battle of Vienna in 1683, Turkish music instruments were collected from the field of battle by European soldiers. As a sign of respect, Suleiman I sent the Polish hero, Jan Sobieski now King John III, whose cavalry threw back the last Ottoman attack, a troop of Janissaries and its musicians. Not much time passed before composers such as Gluck, Haydn and Mozart made use of the new and exotic Janissary sounds.
[3,.] This was the British occupation referred to in the title of Archer’s book. The Bostonians considered themselves British citizens loyal to the King and were not amenable to being occupied by soldiers. As Archer said: The presence of a standing army was alarming enough to the citizens of Boston, but having armed Irishmen and  Afro-Caribbeans in their midst was a nightmare.
a.) Anderson, Fred: The War That Made America: A Short  History of the French and Indian War: Viking  and The War That Made America Llc and French and Indian War 250 Inc. 2005.
b.) Archer, Richard: As If An Enemy’s Country, The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of Revolution, Oxford University Press, 2010.
c.) Fisccher, David Hackett: Washington’s Crossing: David Hackett Fischer, 2004 and Recorded Books, 2004.
d.) Philbrick, Nathanial: Bunker Hill, A City, A Siege, A Revolution: Penguin Audio Books.
e.) Tourtellot, Authur Bernon: William Diamond’s Drum, Doubleday and Company Inc, 1959.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Possible Bass Drum with Right-facing Walking Eagle, Pre-Civil War

Unfortunately, at this time, we have no information about this drum.  It's slated to be offered at auction by Americana Auctions in January 2014.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Possible Gideon G. Owens drum (94th OVI) by Wm. S. Tompkins

Possible Gideon G. Owens drum (94th OVI) by Wm. S. Tompkins

Information from eBay Auction:

17 1/2" diameter by 15" height, eBay item no. 290999686135.  Offered for sale by "GreeneSgt" for a starting bid of $9,999.00 and a BIN price of $13,250.00.

This drum has a beautiful patriotic scene with US flags, a man writing at a desk and scrolls.

Star enlays of different woods. Maker: W.S. TOMPKINS, YONKERS NY

Drum head has Co.C 94th Regt. OVI on the drum head along with some of these battles:

Yates' Ford, Kentucky River, August 30-September 3. Yates' Ford August 31. Tate's Ferry, Kentucky River, September 1. Retreat to Louisville, Ky., September 2–3. Pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky October 1–15, 1862.

Battle of Perryville, Ky., October 8. March to Nashville, Tenn., October 16-November 7, and duty there until December 26.

Advance on Murfreesboro December 26–30.

Battle of Stones River December 30–31, 1862 and January 1–3, 1863. Duty at Murfreesboro until June. Tullahoma Campaign June 23-July 7. Hoover's Gap June 24–26. Occupation of middle Tennessee until August 16. Passage of the Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River, and Chickamauga Campaign August 16-September 22. Davis Cross Roads or Dug Gap September 11. 

Battle of Chickamauga September 19–21. Rossville Gap September 21. Siege of Chattanooga, Tenn., September 24-November 23.

Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign November 23–27. Lookout Mountain November 24–25. Missionary Ridge November 25. Pea Vine Valley and Graysville November 26. Ringgold Gap, Taylor's Ridge, November 27.

Demonstrations on Dalton, Ga., February 22–27, 1864. Tunnel Hill, Buzzard's Roost Gap and Rocky Faced Ridge February 23–25. Atlanta Campaign May 1-September 8.

Demonstrations on Rocky Faced Ridge May 8–11. Buzzard's Roost Gap May 8–9. Battle of Resaca May 14–15. Advance on Dallas May 18–25. Operations on line of Pumpkin Vine Creek and battles about Dallas, New Hope Church and Allatoona Hills May 25-June 5. Pickett's Mills May 27. 

Operations about Marietta and against Kennesaw Mountain June 10-July 2. Pine Hill June 11–14. Lost Mountain June 15–17. Assault on Kennesaw June 27. Ruff's Station, Smyrna Camp Ground, July 4. 

Chattahoochie River May 5–17.

Buckhead, Nancy's Creek, July 18. Peachtree Creek July 19–20. Siege of Atlanta July 22-August 25. Utoy Creek August 5–7. Flank movement on Jonesboro August 25–30. Near Red Oak August 29. Battle of Jonesboro August 31-September 1.

Operations against Hood in northern Georgia and northern Alabama September 29-November 3. March to the sea November 15-December 10. Siege of Savannah December 10–21. Campaign of the Carolinas January to April 1865. Near Rocky Mount, S.C., February 28.

Taylor's Hole Creek, Averysboro, N.C., March 16. Battle of Bentonville March 19–21. Occupation of Goldsboro March 24.

Advance on Raleigh April 10–14. Occupation of Raleigh April 14. Bennett's House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. March to Washington, D.C., via Richmond, Va., April 29-May 20.

Grand Review May 24.


(Thank you GunBroker for http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=370490186#PIC.)

And these photos answer some questions.  First, the plaque simply identifies the maker (but at least it does that) as Wm. S. Tompkins.  Also, the inlaid details are characteristic of a Tompkins drum.  I'm not sure about the pulls or the metal snare mechanism.  Just insufficient information for me to form an opinion.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bill McGrath Shows Us How to Play a Snare Drum - Any Snare Drum

Thanks go to Paul Guiness who posted this information and video on YouTube, April 8, 2013.  It's a treasure:

William A. McGrath, Jr. of Rochester, New York performs in the Individual Snare Drum category at the Drum Corps Associates "D.C.A." World Championship Individuals Contest in Rochester , New York , on August 30, 1996.

He represents a Junior Drum and Bugle Corps known as the Emerald Cadets of Rochester (Irondequoit), New York which was in operation from 1958 to 1969 as a field competition corps. Bill appears here as an Alumni member of that corps wearing the original Emerald Cadet uniform.

In this clip Bill plays an "Ancient-style" Rope Drum, a modern high tension snare drum with a Kevlar head, then a 1960's-70's style snare drum with a more flexible synthetic drum head. Although he plays three different drums here he does not play on any of them simultaneously therefore maintaining the individual aspect of performing in the Individual Snare Drum category.

The Hellcats: Why Rope Drums?
By Staff Sergeant J. Andrew Porter

Percussive Notes, the journal of the Percussive Arts Society, Vol., 49, No. 3, pp. 50, 51, May 2011

PDF here.