The band of the 71st New York Volunteer Infantry

Under Fire

By Charles Johnson Post
General:

Private Charles Johnson Post witnessed the eagerness of the 71st New York's Regimental band to fight. He relates his experience in the following account.

The account:

[Post relates the following incident  during the day of the battle of San Juan Hill] "A regiment of the Second Brigade was jamming itself through the trail, and then came some of the Sixteenth Infantry's bandsmen. In battle, bandsmen followed a regiment and carried off the wounded. The band leader and the drum major were swearing earnestly. A soldier stumbled and dropped [from a wound]. His rifle fell from his hand. On the instant a bandsman darted forward, throwing his tenor horn into the brush. He grabbed the rifle and unbuckled the dead man's cartridge belt. It was this sort of thing that the drum major was swearing about - half the bandsmen had discarded their instruments and picked up rifles and cartridge belts.

'You hear me, pick up that goddamn horn! You hear me!'

The bandsman paid no attention.

'You pick up that goddamn horn!' shrilled the drum major. ' An' that's an order!'

The bandsman looked at him. 'Not by a goodamsite, Dan' he said. 'You think I'm agoin to get shot at an' not shoot back!'

'Goddam!' ejaculated the drum major. He darted at another bandsman, who was unbuckling a cartridge belt from a soldier who had been wounded - and who was helping him do it. The band had few instrumens left; but for every missing horn or fife there was a Krag rifle and a belt of cartridges. A fortnight later I saw some of those instruments; they had bullet holes in them, they were dented and battered and roughly straightened out."


Bibliography:

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Post, Charles Johnson, The Little War of Private Post : The Spanish-American War Seen Up Close. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), 173-174.


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