Tag Archives: Soldiers

Patrol Comique

Patrol Comique

Patrol Comique

Location:            Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University  (Durham, North Carolina)

Title of Song:     Patrol Comique

Composer:         Hindley, Thomas

Illustrator:        Zimmerman

Publisher:          Standard Music

Year & Place:    1886; New York, New York

Collection/Call Number/Copies:              Music #719

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: hasm.n0719

Basic Description

This image depicts four African-American individuals. Three stand in a row in the foreground while one sits in the background playing a banjo and tapping his feet.  The raised legs of the characters closer to the viewer indicate that they are dancing.  Everyone in the group sports formal attire with the men in double breasted suits.  The male in the far left of the pictorial space wears a top hat while his counterpart at the very right stands out with his bayonet and darker boots. In combination with his hat and long pants, his garments mark him as a member of the military.  The woman moving gracefully in the center of these men wears a long, short-sleeved dress as well as a hat adorned with feathers.  With an open fan in her left hand, she daintily grasps and raises her dress in the other.  The woman looks to the man to her right in an adoring manner.  While their racial distinction is clear, little attention, has been given to their distinct facial features.  Similarly, the group stands in an indistinguishable setting.  The vertical floorboards, however, suggest that they are indoors.

Personal Description

The lack of attention to details suggests that the illustrator was not keenly concerned with their individual identities.   There is nothing particularly striking, extravagant, overdone or especially poignant about this image.  Rather, what seems important is conveying the general idea of music and dance and the jovial interactions.  These festivities, however, do not reference a real social situation located in a specific date and time.  It is one that seems both real and imagined.  The male characters recall the prototypical respectable gentleman while the female recalls the chaste, graceful, properly reared, Victorian notion of femininity.  And it seems from the title, “Patrol Comique” that there is an attempt to derisively mock these people.  Rendered beautifully above the characters it suggests that this is a humorous rendition of black characters in this social setting.  One might look to what is only subtly pronounced in the image – dark Skin and formal dress – as pointing to a contradictory social situation.  Nevertheless, there are other elements that make this an odd social situation.  These characters are dressed up as if they will attend a fancy ball and they awkwardly dance with only the aid of a musician and a banjo.  Additionally, the presence of two males dancing with one female is another source of tension.

Reality Check

Reality Check - A Fancy Dress Ball on Seventh Avenue, 1872 - The Black New Yorkers

A Fancy Dress Ball on Seventh Avenue, 1872; New York, NY.

Source: Dodson, Howard, Christopher Paul Moore, and Roberta Yancy. The Black New Yorkers : The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology. New York: John Wiley, 2000.

 

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The Invalid Corps

The Invalid Corps

Location:         Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University  (Durham, North Carolina)

Title of Song:  The Invalid Corps

Composer:      Wilder, Frank

Illustrator:      Bufford, J. H.

Publisher:        Henry S. Tolman

Year & Place:  1863; Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:               Music B-1084

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:  hasm.b1084

Basic Description

This lithograph depicts six male soldiers standing in a row.  While these soldiers occupy the center of the pictorial space, a flag waves in the background and there are trees etched faintly. Four out of six men suffer from a physical injury either to a leg or an arm.  Two play drums on the far sides of the composition while a man in wearing a sling on his right arm engages in conversation with knock-kneed soldier to his right.  Some carry bayonet guns while others have swords.  Whereas most of the men wear official army garments, two wear clothing that is undifferentiated from that which a civilian might wear.

Personal Description

The visual strategy here in combination with the song’s title attempts to create a logical rationalization for the supposed disability of blackness.  In other words, to convey the handicap of being a Negro, the object’s creator rendered a situation that would unequivocally signal weakness or lack of ability.  It is almost as if, the simple presence of whites in blackface would not communicate this message in clear nor a funny manner.  Here, the artist visually conflates the disability of the body with blackness, implying that a black regiment literally cannot fight in a war.  They are literally, in-valid.

Reality Check

54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was a group of black soldiers of African that served in the civil war.  One of the first black regiments to be recruited in the North, its incipience was the result of the urgings of Frederick Douglas.  Under Governor John Andrew, the regiment was created in February of 1863 with twenty-one officers and four-hundred men.  It was led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, a white male who was the son of New York abolitionists.  The group was dominated by free black males who had been, as civilians, printers, blacksmiths, mechanics and carpenters.  They came from states in the South, the North and Canada.  Depicted here are first sergeant Jeremiah Rolls of Ohio; corporal Abram Simms, George Lipscomb of Ohio, Sergeant Thomas Bowman of Ohio, Corporal Isom Ampey; and Sergeant Major John H. Wilson of North Carolina.  The group received notice to report to battle in South Carolina in May of 1863 and these men were just a few of those who fought in the noted battle at Fort Wagner.  During this fight Wilson was wounded.  Bowman was wounded later in a battle in Florida in 1864.

Sources:

Greene, Robert Ewell. Swamp Angels : A Biographical Study of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment : True Facts about the Black Defenders of the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: BoMark/Greene Pub. Group, 1990.

Burchard, Peter. “We’ll Stand by the Union” : Robert Gould Shaw and the Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment. New York: Facts on File, 1993.