Thursday, November 26, 2015

CFD - A Civil War Surprise

Note from Matt Alling, Author: I know that it has been several weeks since my last post but I  couldn’t decide which drum to write about next.  The problem with a drummer/drum historian cataloging an entire museum's drum collection, and writing about it while doing so, is that every drum is potentially the next story.

I have been debating for weeks about which of several drums to write about and it came down to which drum revealed the most complete story first.  This drum was the winner and I hope is one that will encourage many of you to make the trip to the Museum of Fifers and Drummers in Ivoryton, Connecticut to see the collection in person.


CFD - A Civil War Surprise
by Matt Alling
CT Pro Percussion
203-228-0488 - Phone
MFD Drum #14 (Company collection number, not label number) had been listed simply as “Brown Drum” with no additional information other than it had been played by "Alex Smith".  The drum measures 16.5” x 14.5” and is actually a B.E.&M. Brown drum dated 1822, Bloomfield Connecticut.  The drum has a nice early Brown tack pattern on it that I have seen previously on several B.E.&M. Brown Drums.
On taking the drum down from the shelf for inspection and cataloging I found a list of names signed on the top head of the drum:
Bert Cahl
Mary Wilke
Zack Lemoor (?)
Walter H. Greaszy (?)
And about 6 other names that I can’t decipher. 
Flipping the drum over, there is writing all over the bottom head and a tremendous history and some writing that I never expected.  Right near the snare bed the following writing appears:

William K. Bunnell
Co. B. 27 Reg C.V.
Aug. 23 – 1862 (?) July 27  1863
Research revealed a roster for the 27th Regiment, an infantry division based out of New Haven Connecticut. William Bunnell was a private in the regiment and the regiment appears to have been active for only 9 months.

I should note that while William Bunnell is listed as a private, he  is not listed as one of the musicians.  The one issue I have with the information that I found on the drum is that on military archive and genealogy sites the unit is listed as being formed in October 1862, but the writing on the drum indicates August.
Service includes defense of Washington D.C. until November 1862, advance to Falmouth, Virginia, November 7-19, Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 12-15, “Mud March” January 20-24,  1863, at Falmouth Until April 27th, Chancellorsville Campaign April 27- May 6, Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-5, Gettysburg Pennsylvania, Campaign June 11- July 24, Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3 and mustered out on July 27, 1863. During this time the regiment lost 4 officers and 42 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in combat, and 22 men lost to disease.

In addition to that information, there is a lot of additional writing on the bottom head that helps add to the provenance of the drum, including a history of the drum with the Bunnell family and beyond:
“This drum was used by Russell Bunnell of Seymour and later New Haven Conn. Also used by his son Frank S. Bunnell of New Haven Conn. Used by Bunnell Drum Corps Later and by Louis Bunnell of Oneita NY.”
Eventually the drum ended up in the hands of Alex Smith who played with Chester Drum Corps and was then sold, as noted on the bottom of the drum:

“This drum was bought from the collection of Alex Smith of North Haven, Conn. 1958 by Bruce Shepard West Haven, Conn.”

The drum is now on permanent loan by Bruce Shepard to the museum, where it will continue to be displayed for as long as the museum exists.  To say that I was surprised to find this information right on the head and no information in the archives would be an understatement.  The drum will be taking its place as a true centerpiece in the collection going forward.

Note: For more information about this and all of the drums in the collection, please visit or contact the Museum of the Company of Fifers and Drummers.  Please remember to support the museum and make a donation when you visit or through the site by becoming a member of the company.

See the Museum's website.

By Matt Alling
CT Pro Percussion
203-228-0488 - Phone

1 comment:

  1. Was wondering if you could explain the Chester/Alex Smith connection. During his long career (he started in 1892)I have found him with Bunnell's but also for shorter lengths of time in the Quinnipiacs, Landcraft, and Foot Guard. I'd be quite interested in knowing more about his participation in the Chester corps! Thanks. Susan


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