Sheepskin fiddlers (drummers) and straw blowers (fifers); companies of infantry were authorized to have one of each. Assembled in their regiment, the drummers and fifers comprised the field music.
Why did Civil War armies have field music? Who were the men and boys that enlisted as musicians? What were their duties and responsibilities? What did the soldiers think of field music and later, as veterans what were their thoughts?
Tyrone (Ty) Cornbower will answer these questions and more using slides, displays and music during his presentation, “Sheepskin Fiddlers and Straw Blowers – Field Music during the Civil War”. The FREE presentation will be at 7 p.m. on September 15 at the York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market Street, York, Pennsylvania. The public is welcome!
Ty has been playing the fife since 2003; becoming interested in this “ear-piercing” instrument after hearing Camp Chase Fife and Drum Corps at Gettysburg National Military Park’s Music Muster. Self taught; Ty has attended the Don Hubbard Field Music School at Fort Delaware in 2006, where he learned the duties of a field musician. He is a member of the 87th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry Living History Association, Federal Volunteers Brigade and the 11th Pennsylvania Fife and Drum Corps.
In his living history displays, Ty uses a fife copied from an original used during the Civil War. His drum is a reproduction of a rope tension contract drum; having skin heads and eagle design as the originals. The music he plays comes from tune books available during the war.
Note: Many adjectives have been used to describe music played from the fife; some of which can’t be put in print. Ear plugs will be provided for those individuals with ears that are sensitive to the “shrill” notes of the fife.
Ty grew up in York County (the Spring Grove area) and had a general interest in the Civil War for many years. Ty had toured the battlefield a few times in his youth and had traveled through Gettysburg many times during the years he attended Shippensburg State College (now University); where he acquired Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in biology. However, interest in the Civil War remained just that; an interest.
Later in life, he obtained a copy of Edwin Coddington’s The Gettysburg Campaign – A Study in Command for something to read during a family vacation. His interest in the war grew.
The following year, his family spent a vacation week at Gettysburg; touring the battlefield by car and horse. Ty picked up a copy of John Billing’s Hardtack and Coffee. His interest in the war grew some more.
Ty and his wife, Sue, returned to Gettysburg later that summer to attend the park service’s music muster. The Camp Chase Fife and Drum Corps were performing. After the performance, Ty approached the fifers and inquired about playing the fife. From their recommendations, he procured a fife and instructional CD and taught himself how to play the fife. Ty has been playing the fife since 2003.
Ty is a member of the 87th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers Living History Association where he carries a rifle during battle scenarios and plays camp duty on the fife. He also plays the fife as a member of the 11th Pennsylvania Fife and Drum Corps; playing at various venues.
Needless to say, Ty’s library of Civil War books continues to grow.
Ty and his wife, Sue, are volunteers with the Civil War Dance Foundation’s dance troupe the Victorian Dance Ensemble; demonstrating dance and assisting with balls at many locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.