Monday, October 06, 2014

New and Noteworthy---Music Along The Rapidan River: The War, The Soldiers and Their Music December 1863-April 1864

Music Along The Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music and Community During Winter Quarters, Virginia, James A. Davis, University of Nebraska Press, 347 pp., 31 b/w illustration, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $45.00.

From The Publisher:  In December 1863, Civil War soldiers took refuge from the dismal conditions of war and weather. They made their winter quarters in the Piedmont region of central Virginia: the Union’s Army of the Potomac in Culpeper County and the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia in neighboring Orange County. For the next six months the opposing soldiers eyed each other warily across the Rapidan River.

In Music Along the Rapidan James A. Davis examines the role of music in defining the social communities that emerged during this winter encampment. Music was an essential part of each soldier’s personal identity, and Davis considers how music became a means of controlling the acoustic and social cacophony of war that surrounded every soldier nearby.

Music also became a touchstone for colliding communities during the encampment—the communities of enlisted men and officers or Northerners and Southerners on the one hand and the shared communities occupied by both soldier and civilian on the other. The music enabled them to define their relationships and their environment, emotionally, socially, and audibly.

James A. Davis is a professor of musicology at the School of Music at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is the author of Bully for the Band! The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band and his articles have been published in numerous journals including Journal of Military History, American Music, and Nineteenth Century Studies.

Blurb: “Delightfully readable. A complete study of the Civil War where it meets music and national life.”—Randal Allred, professor of English at Brigham Young University–Hawaii

CWL:  Davis introduces the book with material on music and communities during the Civil War era. Chapter One: Winter Quarters in Virginia, 1863-1864; Chapter 2: Music and the Community of Soldiers; Chapter 3: Music and the Military Community: Chapter 4 Military Balls and the Officer's Community; Chapter 5: Music and the Religious Community; Chapter 6: Brass Bands and the Intersection of Musical Communities. He concludes the book with a discussion of the impact of 1863-1863winter quarters on these communities of soldiers and the war itself.

The illustrations are somewhat unique; they consist of soldiers with their instruments and the building and tents were the music was performed.  The index reveals that the most frequently discussed topics are:  brass bands, civilians, communities and audiences, military camps as homes, the various types of music and lyrics performed and the relationships that are revealed; and women. The troops of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Virginia are frequently used as examples.

At the price of $45, readers may wish to request the book through a local library, either for its addition to the collection or borrowing it through inter-library loan.  Of course, libraries accept donations to purchase particular items and donors are often the first borrowers.

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