Music along the Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music, and Community during Winter Quarters, Virginia

Music along the Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music, and Community during Winter Quarters, Virginia

Music along the Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music, and Community during Winter Quarters, Virginia

Music along the Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music, and Community during Winter Quarters, Virginia

Excerpt

The Rappahannock’s stately tide, aglow with sunset light,
Came sweeping down between the hills that hemmed its gathering might;
From one side rose the Stafford slopes, and on the other shore
The Spottsylvanian meadows lay—with oak groves scattered o’er.
Hushed were the sounds of busy day—the brooding air was hushed,
Save for the rapid flowing stream that chanted as it rushed.

—Opening lines of the poem “The Rappahannock” by Capt. C. H.
Chamberlain, published in Confederate Veteran (1895).

On January 27, 1864, Luther Furst felt content. A signalman with the Union Sixth Corps near Brandy Station, Virginia, Furst and his messmates had finished building their shelter and could now boast of “excellent quarters & a splendid fireplace.” A southern wind kept the temperature moderate enough that the ground was thawing and he and his comrades could forgo a fire during the day. All told it was “very warm and pleasant.” Added to this restful setting was a gift no soldier would deny: “Tonight the 1st New Jersey Band serenaded the gen. and staff. They discoursed some very sweet music.” Furst’s life as a soldier and the peculiar setting of his camp combined to make the sound of a military band a particularly satisfying aesthetic experience. This musical and personal transformation was something most soldiers experienced during the winter encampment of 1863–64 in central Virginia. As Lt. Samuel Porter of New . . .

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