The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse: Instrumental Pieces

We continue our look at music inspired by the Battle of Gettysburg, and today present two instrumental pieces: Pickett’s Charge March, and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Pickett' s Charge March

Pickett’s Charge March by John Prosinger (University of Virginia Library)


Pickett’s Charge March

While the Battle of Gettysburg was a defeat for the South, pride could still be taken in the bravery of Southern soldiers.  The following march was composed by John Prosinger of the Hollins Institute of Virginia sometime between 1863 and 1865; this song commemorates the bravery shown by those sections of the Army of Northern Virginia that made Pickett’s Charge.  Please note this is an instrumentalist piece.  All the music comes from instruments, and there are no verses.

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Another instrumentalist piece commemorating the Battle at Gettysburg, in this case the Union victory, is the song Battle of Gettysburg composed by J.C. Beckel in 1863.  In the piece, Beckel tells the story of the battle through melody alone; once again, there are no words.  Even so, certain sections represent the various events of the battle.  In the sheet music, there are notations describing the various events that go along with the music.  Note the incorrect parts stating that general’s Darius N. Couch and William F. Smith attacked the Army of Northern Virginia from the rear, as well as a combined assault by the Union army.  The notations for the song are as follows:

  1. March of the Grand Army of the Potomac under Major General George Gordon Meade into Pennsylvania July 1st. 1863.
  2. The Rebels approaching under General Lee (cavalry advance).
  3. Halt.
  4. Attack on the 1st and 11th Corps and fall of General Reynolds.
  5. Genl Reynolds killed.
  6. Tremendous firing of the Rebels, answered by the Union forces.
  7. Shells flying.
  8. Retreat.
  9. Drums beating.
  10. The 3rd Corps advancing gallantly (music as if approaching in the distance, gradual cres.).
  11. Drums.
  12. The 5th & 6th Corps come up bravely to the tune of Yankee Doodle.
  13. Drums.
  14. The New York Volunteers and Pennsylvania Militia, under Genls Couch & Smith cross the Susquehanna and attack Lee in the rear.
  15. Grand combined attack of the whole Army under Genl Meade.
  16. Terrific Cannonading.
  17. The Rebels retreat, flying in all quarters.
  18. Cannon.
  19. Grand victory of Genl Meade.
  20. The old flag floats again over Gettysburg.
  21. Three grand hurrahs and a tiger.
  22. Cries of the wounded.
  23. The Rebel prisoners marching to Baltimore.
  24. Grand Finale. Star Spangled Banner.

In the next and final part of the series, we’ll be looking at “songs of victory.”

-Nate Hess
Gettysburg NMP


About Gettysburg National Military Park

Welcome to the official Wordpress page for Gettysburg National Military Park. This page is maintained by National Park Service employees at Gettysburg National Military Park.
This entry was posted in Civil War Music, Romances of Gettysburg and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s