View Full Version : Civil War Pipers

Bob Norris
04-28-2007, 03:33 PM
Anyone know anything about pipers and the Civil war? (US) I would imaging there were many but I cannot find any information.

04-29-2007, 05:11 AM
There have been several threads on this topic on this forum- check it out.
This is one of those issues where wishful thinking, false analogy, and fantasy usually triumph over a clear-headed historical approach which requires evidence. The evidence is meagre, which only opens the door for speculation. It seems to be difficult for non-historians to grasp that the lack of evidence for something does not automatically put the stamp of plausibility on anything one wishes to imagine.
So you will hear things like "A friend's brother said that he heard that his cousin saw some book that had a picture of pipers in the Civil War" etc etc and this vague "evidence" will make the rounds, and people will become conviced that every Civil War battle was lead by pipers etc etc. It's all ridiculous.
The truth, as far as the evidence goes, is that there was a regiment called the 79th New York State Militia, raised before the war, which originally wore kilts (it had only about 300 members). There is no evidence that they had a pipe band though you will hear people say that they did. They did NOT wear kilts during the war. See my website www.celticpiper.net (http://www.celticpiper.net) for the most complete discussion of the 79th NYSM's uniform and a discussion of the possibility that they had pipers. There is even more fantasy concerning Confederate pipers. Demand evidence. You won't get any.

Bob Norris
04-29-2007, 05:53 AM

Thanks ,, I think :wink: I did a search here and didn't find anything before I posted. I have also searched all over the net with no results. Living in South West Virginia near the North Carolina border where there is a long history of folks with Scottish decent I figured there should have been some Confederate pipers. Ill keep looking.

04-29-2007, 02:50 PM
I asked noted Civil War music historian and performer Bobby Horton once some years ago if he had ever come across any story involving the bagpipes and the US Civil war, and he told me no, regretably. But it's hard to imagine a complete absence of piping in either army, given the period's fondness for music and the important role music played in the camp life of soldiers on both sides. So what happened to all those pipers and why aren't they remembered? Was it just a time when it was too difficult to get piping supplies from the UK?

I have read in some books that the 79th NY had its pipe band seconded to Washington City for public duties during the war. Also, allegations that there are pictures of 79th NY prisoners after First Manassas wearing kilts. Confirmation, anyone?

Bob Norris
04-29-2007, 03:26 PM
But it's hard to imagine a complete absence of piping in either army, given the period's fondness for music and the important role music played in the camp life of soldiers on both sides. Yes its really hard to imagine. With the various types of music brought with the people who began migrating to America some considered to be the roots of bluegrass music including dance music and ballads from Ireland, Scotland and England There are just to many folks in these parts to imaging no pipers.

I occasionally am asked to play for Civil War re en-actors groups. I often ask them "why bagpipes" None of them can say why for sure but many have un documented stories of pipers playing.

Needless to say I am intrigued by this and will try researching more. If anyone has any info I would sure appreciate it.

04-29-2007, 07:19 PM
Try looking up the New York Irish Regiments(Irish Brigade). It is said,with some authority, that they began the war with pipers but lost them to artillery fire at 1st Manassas.

Iain Sherwood
04-29-2007, 10:47 PM
The 79th New York certainly mustered and marched off to pipers in New York City - there is a photograph of them on parade - but I don't know if they piped into battle after Bull Run.

04-30-2007, 03:03 AM
How would they have gotten reeds at the time? I would ask this for the 18th and 19th centuries in general. Were they having them imported(and shipped at what I imagine would be great cost) or were they making substitues of local materials?

04-30-2007, 05:06 AM
Iain, the photograph you alude to, which appears with commentary on my site, is a pre-war photo of the 79th NY in a 4th of July parade. There are three men standing widely spaced in front of the regiment who may, just may, be pipers. Some think they are officers holding swords. The photo is not very clear. I personally think that they are pipers holding their pipes in "pipes down" position, but look at the photo and judge for yourself. There is no written evidence whatsoever that the 79th ever had pipers. This story about the pipe band of the 79th playing at the White House is mere legend- there is no evidence.
The photos of prisoners of the 79th taken at First Bull Run show them wearing the 79th's service dress unform, which consisted of the normal US kepi, the distinctive and unique 79th NY tunic, and Cameron of Erracht tartan trews. Only the first 300 members of the PREWAR 79th NY were issued the regiment's full dress, which consisted of glengarry (with unique two-row dicing), unique tunic, horsehair sporran, kilt, red&white diced hose, and buckled shoes. The regiment, like many prewar militia units, had more than one uniform, and they would never have imagined wearing their full dress on active service. When the regiment was brought up to full strength (1,000) for war service, these new members were only ever issued the regiment's service dress. The kilts and glengarries were never worn during the war, a fact supported by a number of photos, paintings, and etchings.
Go to my site for the complete story.

Matt Buckley_dup1
04-30-2007, 05:48 AM
Originally posted by pancelticpiper:

Go to my site for the complete story. Perhaps your site covers the "complete" story of the 79th and pipers (or lack thereof). But the original question was not about the 79th, it was, rather, whether any evidence exists of piping during the Civil War.

The recent history written of the 79th, i.e. W. Mark McNight's "Blue Bonnets O'er the Border - The 79th New York Cameron Highlanders" does refer to some eyewitness evidence of solo piping during the war. Of course, I would not list "Blue Bonnets" among the ranks of works written by top-level Civil War historians, e.g. Krick, Pfanz, Rhea, Gallagher, Robertson, Donald,etc., as some of the scholarship in "Blue Bonnets" may be suspect. However, in my Civil War reading over the past 30 years I have come across references to solo piping.

My favorite, mentioned in "Blue Bonnets" but also confirmed in other sources, is the preserved letter home of the soldier in a Minnesota regiment (I think it was Minnesota) complaining to his loved ones of a piper playing "alleged tunes" on the GHB. Gotta love the phrase "alleged tunes". Other references exist suggesting that solo piping did take place from time to time in various regiments, Federal and Confederate. Another letter home makes reference to the capture of a Southern officer with a set of pipes in his possession.

I do agree that no evidence exists indicating official endorsement of piping, or that pipers at any time led troops into battle. For reenactment purposes, I believe the pipes are best left at home.

Rob MacDonald
04-30-2007, 02:55 PM
Remember that 'pipe bands' were a very new thing - no-one is sure just when pipers and drummers started to play together - and then as now many people didn't like or approve of the custom!. Marches or 'Quicksteps' composed for the pipes hadn't been around for long at that point either...

Many immigrants served in the Civil War, and quite a few of them were veterans - so it's possible that some former Highlander brought his pipes and played out of a sense of fitness (what's a fight without a soundtrack?) but you'd think one of the many diarists would have commented on hearing them ("I did hope that we had got rid of those things for a bit" as one Officer of the 3rd (Scots) Guards once remarked!)

Just to muddy the water further: I have read a reference to a Northumbrian piper who played in the Civil War, but have been able to find out nothing else about him.

"History" is pretty much whatever you want it to be anyway....

04-30-2007, 03:38 PM
TwitchyFingers posted: "How would they have gotten reeds at the time?"

I believe they got reeds from McAllister's great grandfather. Being such, one reed lasted the entire four years! :wink:

05-01-2007, 05:45 AM
I think Rob has got it about right. The Civil War was a big engagement, and there were LOTS of musicians in it. But we are talking about many standard military bands, rather than pipe bands etc. The 79th was actually not the only state militia with Scottish honors, but was one of about 8 such units (eg. the Chicago Highland Guard). You would think there would have been some pipers in the lot, but there does not seem to be any documentary evidence out there. Beside the pre-war photo, there is another piece of documentation, from a letter or diary entry or what have you by one William Todd of the 79th. I think it dates from the time of Vicksburg, 1863:

"We...have a new 'institution' attached to the regiment - nothing less than a Scotch 'piper' from Michigan, who joined us on our way down here. He has a full suit of the kilts and often so entertains us with his alleged 'tunes' on the pipes, that we have several times threatened to 'fire him out', and not allow him to perform again till he learns how."

This seems to suggest that for some time before, there were no pipers in the unit before this guy came, and he was apparently not much of a piper.

There might well have been others, but probably scattered here and there throughout the armies.

05-01-2007, 07:56 AM
We of Michigan hang our heads in shame. :(

Rob MacDonald
05-01-2007, 11:36 AM
I don't think that they would be dependant on the UK for piping supplies - after all, there were several uileann pipe makers in the US at that time and you can bet that they wouldn't stay in business long if they depended on transAtlantic shipping.

I've been told that most if not all of the older Border and Uillean pipes used drone (and maybe chanter too?) reeds made from elder twigs.

Is there a local wood or cane in the eastern US that approximates elder or even A. Donax?

John S. Foley
05-01-2007, 02:05 PM
Twitchy, don't worry...

If he claimed he was a piper, and couldn't, then he must have been saying he was from Michigan...and wasn't. :thumb:

Joe Korber
05-01-2007, 02:10 PM
Originally posted by denny:
Try looking up the New York Irish Regiments(Irish Brigade). It is said,with some authority, that they began the war with pipers but lost them to artillery fire at 1st Manassas. Why would NY Irish regiments be parading about with GHB's in front of them in 1860 hmm?
Bull Run or 1st Manassas is a pretty well documented battle with countless non-combatant witnesses, I have never seen a mention of a cadre of pipers being mowed down by artillery

Actually in a first hand account of winter camp life of the Irish brigadeby a fellow named Cunnigham there is mention of what is probably an uillean piper playing with other instruments, one evening but its only one mention.. nothing to support the decades old desire of GHB players to show up at Civil War reenactments, doesn't seem to stop them from coming anyway

jk :smokin:

05-02-2007, 04:03 AM
Thanks Erracht and Joe for keeping to the evidence. Where is the EVIDENCE for these Irish Brigade pipers? People always talk in vague terms but the evidence never seems to surface. The reason could be, I suspect, that there ain't any. Joe nails it on the head- it begins with "desire" (what I call "wishful thinking") and evidence is distorted, misinterpreted, or created to suit the desire.
The Irish Brigade myths combine two seperate strands of "creative history", one, that pipers were common on Civil War battlefields, and two, that the Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland was traditionally played in Ireland. Francis O Neill, writing in the first decade of the 20th century, makes it clear that the adoption by the Irish of the Highland pipes was a recent process. The surge of Irish patriotism caused people to reject things English and adopt things viewed to be Celtic. A need for a marching bagpipe was felt, and it was met by co-opting the GHB and removing one tenor drone in imitation of the Derrick woodcut in the Elizabethan book "Image Of Ireland". (The actual, traditional Irish Warpipe had been extinct for 200 years at this point, and no examples survived. Had a real Irish Warpipe survived in a museum it undoubtedly would have been copied, but as it was, the Irish nationalists made do with what they had at hand.) O Neill utterly rejects the adoption of the GHB as a sham, calling the GHB "foreign", and champions instead the uilleann pipes.

05-02-2007, 05:59 AM
Here is a discussion on the very same topic, quite heated:


Two posts are of note. One is that there was ONE event at which two pipers played Uillean pipes for the Irish Brigade. The other is this ad:

CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE, January 21, 1862, p. 4, c. 9

Pipers Wanted for the
Scotch Regiment.

Apply personally or by letter at 101 Washington street, Room No. 8
Daniel Cameron, Colonel Commanding.
Parties raising Companies or parts of Companies are requested to apply as above. Every facility will be extended, and liberal inducements offered to parties recruiting in the country. The Scotch Regiment will probably be the last accepted by the Government from Illinois.

Also this claim from a guy who has read an 1880s regimental history:

1. It is a fact that the 79th NY was piped out of the city in May of 61 by the pipe band of the New York Caledonian society. This was a civilian "club" and did not follow them to the seat of the war, out of NY county, or even probably a few hundred yards beyond Broadway.

Regarding Piob Mhor or "Irish Warpipes" in Ireland, this is a topic I have heavilly researched. I will give documentary evidence for this, but will try to do so tomorrow as I have to run now.

05-02-2007, 07:59 AM
There seem to be two separate issues:

1) official military pipers.

2) any soldiers or any others who may have played pipes during the time period.

As to number 1, it seems like there is pretty good evidence that there probably weren't any official pipers, though if the advertisement mentioned is real it could indicate a single regimental piper was desired, but it wouldn't necessarily indicate that there was one (maybe no one responded to the ad).

As to number 2, roughly 10% of the population fought in the war. If there were more than 10 pipers in the land at the time odds are at least one of them was in the army. Would he have played his pipes? Why wouldn't he?

Well, we have the letter home quoted above. Maybe he was a world class piper but his "alleged tunes" were piobaireachd....

About a year ago, I mentioned to my dad that Neil Anderson was being sent to Iraq, and that I wondered if he'd get much opportunity to play his pipes. My dad said something along the lines of 'oh sure he will. They probably know he's coming and have plans already. The army likes that kind of thing.' My dad was in the army for 28 years, so he knows a little about that end of things. Even if there were no "official" pipers in the Civil War armies, there could have easily been individuals who's piping abilities were called upon by their commanding officers.

So I guess the question that follows from all this is "how many pipers were there [here] in that time period."

When you look at engravings and photos of Civil War encampments there are musical instruments, but there don't seem to be pipes. You'd think that with all the Scots who settled in the South that there would have been some indigenous piping tradition, but there doesn't seem to be. Fiddles, yes. Pipes, no. Why did the fiddlers keep fiddling while the pipes fell silent?

It's possible that there are accounts of pipers and family traditions of pipers out there waiting to be discovered. There are all sorts of family materials that aren't part of the public record. There was a story on the radio a year or two ago about a woman who had just died. She was notable in that she was the documented widow of a civil war veteran. So there could be 2nd hand accounts out there just waiting to be collected. Or not.


05-02-2007, 01:16 PM
It's so strange that less than a hundred years earlier, units of kilted Scots with pipers could be found in many American Revolution batles on both sides, yet by the Civil war, there are none at all to be found? After all the celebration Highland pipers had earned in their exploits in the Royal Army? You've got to wonder what happened to all those Highland emigre communities (in the South especially), where did their piping traditions go? Why weren't they emulating their cousins in the British military?

As a sidebar -- about the old Irish Warpipe, has no manufacturer or hobbyist ever tried to recreate one from scratch, based on period illustrations/records and making a best guess as to tonal qualities? If people can attempt to reproduce instruments of ancient Greece and Rome and the Middle Ages -- which they do -- you'd think the Irish warpipe would merit some attention from someone.

Dave Sanderson
05-02-2007, 04:35 PM

One has to realize the sentiments at the time at the conclusion of the American Revolution.

Anyone with Loyalist tendencies left for Britain, Canada or any other British juristiction, these of course included any Scots pipers. Anyone who was neutral to the whole idea of the Republic stayed and was absorbed into the new society. There was a fundimental shift in American society away from anything seemingly British to the point of violence so it would have been prudent to lay aside the pipes. Succesive generations till the Civil War simply would not have had the possibility of learning the pipes as they would have been forgotten. Pipeing in the United States is a relatively new concept compared to Canada.

My sidebar is, it will be almost 7 months to the day that I will have laid the pipes down at Yorktown for the 225th commeration till later this month when I play out the retireing RSM of the Queen's York Rangers. Queen's Rangers still going after all these years.

Adam Sanderson
05-03-2007, 01:24 AM
As Dave says, these army pipers tended to return to Scotland or North to Canada after the American Revolution. Donald Ruadh MacCrimmon was certainly in America during the Wars of Independence, he was gazetted Lieutenant in a corps of loyalist Scotsmen called "The Caledonian Volunteers" in 1778, and had a price on his head.
But, I think that people are overlooking the fact that a set of Great Highland Bagpipes was a very expensive outlay in those days, far, far beyond the reach of the ordinary man.
In the old Highlands, chiefs acted as patrons to the pipers. Post Culloden, for many the only way to learn to play or obtain a set of pipes was to join the army. (And I can assure you that this was still the case for many in Scotland in the 1970's). There certainly were not pipers everywhere, some clachans (Highland towns) would have only one piper, many had no piper at all. If that was the case in the Highlands of Scotland, it's surely not so hard to believe that the GHB would be very scarce indeed in the USA.
Fiddles, on the other hand, were easier to construct, much cheaper, and much easier to transport. There's still far more fiddles in Scotland today than pipes. In the NE of Scotland, where I hail from, pipers are relatively rare, and Skinner the fiddler is the local "MacCrimmon".

Be very wary of the "2nd hand accounts", it's responsible for 99.9% of the caoc on the internet. :rolleyes: :wink:

As to the "old Irish Warpipe", yes there have been several attempts to recreate one. In 1906 William O'Duane designed the "Dungannon" bagpipe, which was manufactured by Henry Starck. It was meant to recreate the "Images of Ireland" set. It had a two foot long double octave (keyed) chanter with the key note of D, with the 3 drones were tuned to bass A, baritone E & tenor A. Do a search on warpipe and several threads will come up. I'd rather this thread wasn't hijacked for something that's been gone over many times before. Thanks.

The only solid evidence that appears time and time again about piping in the American Civil War seems to be the well known letter complaining about "alleged tunes" from a terrible piper, taken from the book on the history of the 79th New York Cameron Highlanders.
As Pancelticpiper is far more knowledgeable about the 79th, I'll say no more in case I embarrass myself. :wink:

Jim Sloan
05-03-2007, 03:45 AM
Photo folks always want a picture of a piper.

If there was any pipers about in the Civil War there would be photos of them!

Our band spun off from a civil war reinactment bagpipe band many years ago. Thank God all those people and the civil war tunics are LONG gone! It was a bunch of nut jobs.


Dave Gallagher
05-04-2007, 03:22 PM
Quote from Erracht:

"Regarding Piob Mhor or "Irish Warpipes" in Ireland, this is a topic I have heavilly researched. I will give documentary evidence for this, but will try to do so tomorrow as I have to run now."

...Erracht, you have yet to post anything. I know your research to be quite good and am waiting to read the post.

Bob Norris
05-04-2007, 04:22 PM
All this is very interesting. I cant beleive we cant find a piper in the lot!

IN the great Civil War of 1861-1865 Scotsmen were equally prominent on both sides. Ross thinks that possibly fifty thousand Scots served in the Northern armies, but as the volunteer records at Washington do not define nationality this figure may be well below the mark. Of the four field Forrest, Benjamin McCulloch, John B. Magruder, John B. Gordon, John A. Logan, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry W. Lawton, Frederick Funston, and Daniel, George W., Robert L., Alexander McD., Daniel, Jr., Edwin S., Edward M., and Anson G. McCook, all of Scottish blood.

The Highland Guard of Chicago was one of the earliest organizations to answer the President’s call in 1861. Its first commander, as was fitting, was a Scot, John McArthur, who was born in Erskine in 1826, and came to the United States when twenty-three years of age. In the Civil War he commanded a brigade at the assault on Fort Donelson, and for his gallantry there was promoted brigadier-general. At Shiloh, in the operations around Vicksburg, and in the battle of Nashville, he rendered conspicuous service to his adopted country and was brevetted major-general.

Another regiment of volunteers of Scottish origin, the Seventy-ninth High-landers of New York, rendered distinguished service in the war. Originally a company called "The Highland Guard," with a uniform patterned after that of the Black Watch, it was reorganized in 1861 and enrolled in the Federal service, in which it held the record for "fighting more battles and marching more miles than any other New York regiment." Its colonel during its first service was James Cameron, a brother of Simon Cameron, Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Lincoln. He was killed at the first battle of Bull Run. Among the Scottish officers of this regiment who achieved distinction should be named Colonel David Morrison, a Glasgow man who succeeded Colonel Cameron, Colonel Joseph Laing, Colonel A. D. Baird, and Captain Robert Gair

05-05-2007, 12:27 PM
Years ago I came across this article on the Wild Geese/The fighting 69th website. I thought it very interesting at the time as I was wondering if there were any Irish Warpipers that brought their instruments with them to battle. According to my Grandmother they took everything with them to camp. On both my sides of my family my Great Great Grandfathers fought in the Civil War. Anything regarding the American Civil War I have always been fascinated with. I have two of their sabers in my possession. Here is the brief article.

In early December 1861 the New York regiments took up pleasant winter quarters at Camp California, near Alexandria, Virginia, where they were assigned to General Sumner's division of the Army of the Potomac. Christmas was fondly remembered by those who survived the war. Little John Flaherty entertained on the violin while his father livened the festivities with Irish tunes played on the warpipes. The canteen, which hardly ever seemed to contain water, was eagerly passed around. Said Private Bill Dooley: "It is as well to keep up our spirits by pouring spirits down, for sure, there's no knowing where we'll be this night twelve months."

Dave Gallagher
05-05-2007, 12:48 PM
Quote from O'Conchuir:

"In early December 1861 the New York regiments took up pleasant winter quarters at Camp California, near Alexandria, Virginia, where they were assigned to General Sumner's division of the Army of the Potomac. Christmas was fondly remembered by those who survived the war. Little John Flaherty entertained on the violin while his father livened the festivities with Irish tunes played on the warpipes. The canteen, which hardly ever seemed to contain water, was eagerly passed around. Said Private Bill Dooley: "It is as well to keep up our spirits by pouring spirits down, for sure, there's no knowing where we'll be this night twelve months."

....Excellent post.

Joe Korber
05-05-2007, 01:44 PM
from "The Irish Brigade And its Campaigns" by David Power Conyngham, page 77

"Seated near the fire was Johnny Flaherty, discoursing sweet music from his violin. Johnny hailed from Boston; was a musical genius, in his way, and though only fourteen years of age, could play on the bagpipes, piano, and heaven knows how many other instruments: beside him sat his father, fingering the chanters of a bagpipe in elegant style. It is no wonder that most of the regiment were gathered around there, for it was Christmas Eve, and home thoughts and home longings were crowding in on them"

A subtle little detail one should notice is the writer states "..fingering the chanters.."plural perhaps an indication of uillean pipe regulators

David P. Conyngham was a staff officer in the Irish Brigade as well as a journalist and author

joe korber

Dave Gallagher
05-05-2007, 04:01 PM
The term "Warpipe" seems pretty specific. I don't know if even writers not familier with the difference would use that term for uillean pipes.

I was not aware of pipes being played in the States at the time of the Civil War, but my teacher the late Pete Sullivan had a small bit of an old newspaper that mentioned a couple of Irish playing Warpipes in the street in the Kerry Patch area of St.Louis in the 1860's. This bit of newspaper was given to him by a woman that used to see him play at the original O'Connell's Pub in GasLight Square in the early 1960's. That area now long torn down and developed into city housing.
It would be interesting to know if any of them joined the army during this time.

05-05-2007, 04:36 PM
"I was wondering if there were any Irish Warpipers who brought their instruments with them to battle..." This would be tough to do, as the Irish Warpipes had been extinct for around 200 years.

Dave Gallagher
05-05-2007, 05:17 PM
Quote from Pancelticpiper:

""I was wondering if there were any Irish Warpipers who brought their instruments with them to battle..." This would be tough to do, as the Irish Warpipes had been extinct for around 200 years."

... You are thinking of one version of an old Irish pipe. Regular two and three droned pipes in Ireland were refered to as Warpipes. Perhaps so that they would not be confused with the various versions of parlor pipes.
One must take into consideration that the term "warpipe" does not always mean the extinct version that you speak of. The term warpipe is still used in some parts of Ireland to indicate the modern GHB.
I understand that when the British army introduced the modern made two droned pipe to the Irish regiments they refered to it as a warpipe. This caused some to associate that term with only those pipes.
Today we have people who think that the term applies only to either the extinct versions of the past or the army version in the late 1800's.
The problem seems to lie in the terminology. An example is the famous portrait of the Irish patriot Thomas Ashe holding a three droned set in 1913. The writer at the time refered to them as warpipes.
Its best not to have a narrow definition of a warpipe as the term is misleading when not defined as to exact pipe style.

05-05-2007, 11:36 PM
The notion that warpipes in Ireland have been extinct for 200 years in Ireland is absolutely ludicrous. The Terminology of the instrument with regards to defining said instrument as a warpipe as somehow incorrect is baffling. I use the term and also the Irish, Piob Mhor. Dave is absolutely correct in stating many Irish call it by that name, be it 1,2,3,4 dronned mouth blown WARPIPE or simply Piob Mhor. Our band competed at the all Ireland pipe band championships years ago and many referred to the instrument as that. Call it what you will but to many , many Irish and Irish Americans will always refer to the instrument as that and it will always be.

Dave Gallagher
05-06-2007, 05:02 AM
Quote from O'Conchuir:

" Our band competed at the all Ireland pipe band championships years ago and many referred to the instrument as that. "

.... Most any Fleadh [music competition} held in Ireland in modern times has had a warpipe category. Many a feis (Irish dance competition) have seperate competitions for music, song, recitation,and even the baking of soda bread. The music section included a warpipe competition as well.

05-06-2007, 08:25 AM
My guess is that there may have been pipers in the Union army, but other than on a few rare occasions there was no piping. A bagpipe would have been a problem to lug around. When the choice is a bagpipe or clothing/supplies in the backpack, most people...even pipers...are not going to opt for a bagpipe.

Some regiments, especially those in the western theaters travelled huge distances. Even the 79th NY, which has been mentioned already, travelled a lot...Virginia, the Carolina coast, down the Ohio and Mississippi to Vicksburg, eastern Tennessee. In all that movement, there is mention of a piper once...some civilian who joined them at/near Louisville, Kentucky...and they dumped him quickly because he was such a poor player.

Piping is a feature of Scottish/British culture. During the ACW era, the American public was very Anglo-phobic. The revolution had ended only 80 years before. The War of 1812 was still within living memory. There had been serious boundry disputes with Britain in the northeast (Maine) and the northwest (Oregon Territory) since 1815. Finally, Britain backed the Confederacy at the start of the ACW and threatened war with the US in 1862 over the Mason-Slidel Incident. None of this would have endeared a feature of UK culture to the average American.

I guess you could say I'm really sceptical on the existence of piping in the Union army unless solid written or photographic proof is displayed.
Documentation of piping among Confederate troops is probably even more hard to attain. A friend of mine is a Confed. re-enactor. He takes his pipes but only plays in the evenings.

BTW, the only major European power to support the US government throughout the ACW was Russia...even offered the use of a naval squadron.

Paul Hinson

05-06-2007, 08:56 AM
On the subject of pipers in the Civil war - I once asked a guy in a re-enactment group about it and he told me that there were some pipers but that Lincoln kept them in Washington or something. Anybody ever hear of that?
On the subject of warpipes; obviously we all know about the connection of the pipes to war, but what about the name piob mhor? I am no Gaelic scolar but is'nt mhor pronounced "vor", and not mor? I have always wondered how that might have contributed to the term warpipe.
I don't think that they ever went completely out of use in Ireland. If you dig through the biographies in O'neill's book you will find quite few references to people playing the big pipes in Ireland and in America in the 1800s. I have always wanted to put together a timeline of the use of the warpipe in Ireland from the 1700s to the present day. Now if I had the time...

05-06-2007, 09:37 AM
Concerning the "Chicago Highland Guard", pages 211-217 of volume 1 of the Illinois adjutant General's Report, 1861-1866 lists the "Local Names of Military Organizations". There is no Chicago Highland Guard listed. Those volunteer units with "celtic" associations are:

23rd Infantry Regt...The Irish brigade (AKA James A. Mulligan's Brigade or 1st Irish Regiment)
23rd IR Mounted Company...(Irish Dragoons, Patrick Naughton's...transfered to 5th Iowa Cavalry)
90th IR...The Irish Legion
12th IR...The 1st Scotsh Regiment
65th IR...The 2nd Scotch Regiment

The 23rd Illinois was a "bad luck" regiment. It was captured in total at Lexington, Missouri at the very start of the war and, after being paroled, again in 1862 at Harper's Ferry,

The only Chicago titles listed are:
The Chicago Board Of Trade Battery,
1st & 2nd Chicago BOT Regiments (72nd & 88th IRs)
Chicago Cavalry (16th IL Cav coys A & B)
Chicago Dragoons (1 company)
Chicago Dragoons, or Rifles (16th IL Cav Coy C)
Chicago Legion (51st IR)
Chicago Light Artillery (4 batteries)
Chicago Merchantile Battery
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Paul Hinson

05-06-2007, 11:55 AM
Originally posted by Dave Gallagher:
Quote from Erracht:

...Erracht, you have yet to post anything. I know your research to be quite good and am waiting to read the post. Dave, I was in and near Pilsen from Friday afternoon until earlier today representing my reenactment unit (2nd Bn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) at the celebrations of the anniversary of the end of WWII (doing A LOT of piping).

I have written three articles on this topic. One was published in 2001 in Piper and Drummer, but since then, I have done more research on the topic. The next article I have not yet submitted to publication pending further research. The third is on Wikipedia (just enter Irish Warpipes into the search engine, almost the whole of that article is mine). In that last one, I summarize my research in detail. I think that one big mistake people have when they think of 'Irish Warpipes' is to seperate them from the 'Great Highland Bagpipe'. Highland culture and Irish culture are related, and there are many similarities (eg. 'Gaelic harps' in both places, if not kilts, then tartan trews). So why the assumption that the Irish Piob Mhor was somehow different from the Scottish one? The oldest pictures are so crude as to tell us only a minimum of details on the matter. Whether or not there were any technical differences in construction, it is quite clear from a wealth of historical accounts that the use of the instrument was essentially the same as in Scotland. Our first clear reference is an entry in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577) for May 1544. It states that, “In the same moneth also passed through the citie of London in warlike manner, to the number of seaven hundred Irishmen, having for their weapons darts and handguns with bagpipes before them: and in St. James Park besides Westminster they mustered before the king.”

For those who would not see the Irish bagpipes as anything but Uillean pipes (which by the way, were partly developed in Edinburgh by Robertson, but that's another story), take note that the gaelic name 'Piob Mhor' is also known in Ireland from as early as the 17th/18th century. The first use of the Gaelic term in Ireland is recorded in a poem by Sean O’Neachtain (c. 1650-1728), in which the pipes are referred to as píb mhór. (S. Donnelly, The Warpipes in Ireland, in Ceol 1981-1984). Donnelly gives many, many more historic examples right through the time of the Battle of the Boyne. From the 18th century, the Warpipes begin to apparently decline in Ireland, but do not disappear. In 1778, there was a Piper Barney Thompson in Lord Rawdon’s Volunteers of Ireland in New York. Thompson, who reportedly came from Hillsborough, Co. Down, was supposedly the pipe major of a full band, according to one or two authors. I have found the relevant muster roll, and while no other pipers are explicitly mentioned on it, the fact that he is listed as a piper, while other musicians are listed as fifers, indicates at least that he played the bagpipes and not a fife. See for yourself: http://www.battleofcamden.org/volsofireland.htm

In 1793, according to a 7 September Dublin newspaper:

“Major Doyle announces his intention to introduce into his newly-formed Regiment (later the Royal Irish Fusiliers) the peculiar music of Ireland, the pipes, an introduction that appeals to the Irishman very strongly, and marks that warm affection for everything connected with his native soil which has always characterised his conduct.” Then for 2 November: “A War Pipers band in Major Doyle’s regiment was formed.” This band seems to have lasted for a few years, but is not believed to have survived into the Peninsular War, although a few other Irish units reportedly had pipers in 1793 and the years thereafter. In contrast to the national feeling toward the pipes in Major Doyle's regiment, for several decades into the 19th century, the few references that we can find to Piob Mhor in Ireland identify them with Scotland. On 4 April 1843, an advertisement in the Examiner, a Kerry paper, asked for “a man who can play the Scotch pipes” for the Scartaglin Temprance Society (none but a teetotaler need apply!). Similarly, Maurice Coyne was listed in a Dublin directory as a “maker of Union (Uillean) and Scotch pipes.”

Then came the Gaelic revival, which included reviving the Piob Mhor using the Scottish pattern (including outfitting pipers in kilts). The idea of giving Irish pipers instruments without one tenor drone was popular at one time, but it is in my opinion a fallacy. It is true that 16th century Irish pictures and one description point at a two-droned instrument, but we do not know almost anything about how it looked later than that, and in that era, the pipes probably also had two drones in Scotland (in fact, in the book The Day it Dawes, you can see a picture from a Scottish psalter of about the same time with a pig playing a two-droned bagpipe).We know of NO original surviving examples of Piob Mhor from Ireland before the 19th century. An example supposedly played by a piper of the Wild Geese at Fontenoy (1745) was according to several authors was once in the Musee de Cluny, Paris. It was said to have been played by a piper of the Irish Brigade at Fontenoy in 1745. Although the museum seems to have discarded this set, a picture of it may exist in a 1902 catalog, as well as a sketch made by Alexander Macaulay at the museum in 1936. The pipes seem to have had a green bagcover, two tenor drones like some 18th-century Highland bagpipes, and a common, possibly fork-shaped stock for the drones like that in the 1714 Scottish painting of the Piper to the Laird of Grant (Francis Collinson suggests in "The Bagpipe" (1975) that the drones were bent near the stock; this would be quite strange). In his November 1968 Piping Times article, "The Battle of Cremona", Macaulay compared the Fontenoy pipes, particularly as regards the apparently sizeable, large-holed chanter, to the supposedly contemporary (Culloden-era, c. 1745) Highland pipes at Blair Castle. The instrument had a minimum of variation in Scotland, so not all instruments in either country would have been identical at the time.

To sum up: there is documentary evidence of Piob Mhor in Ireland right up to about 1800, and afterwards too, first at least in the guise of a Scottish instrument (and about then the Irish or Uillean pipes were also played in Scotland), then again as Irish pipes during revival. We cannot prove at present that there was or wasn't any physical difference between Irish and Scottish instruments, but I suspect given certain points of logic that they were about the same. I hope further research (but as pancelticpiper would insist, REAL documentary evidence) will in time prove me right or wrong.

Dave Gallagher
05-06-2007, 01:42 PM
Erracht,I think enough of a historical pattern exists to prove you correct as it stands. There is no evidence anywhere to prove you wrong.
Good luck in your continued research on this subject and thanks for posting in this thread.

05-07-2007, 06:00 AM
Thank you, Dave. There is one piece of evidence that I would really like to find: at least a picture of the aforementioned Fontenoy pipes once preserved at the Musee de Cluny. There could be two: a sketch made by Alexander Macaulay in 1936 or so, and a color picture in a 1902 museum catalog. I have been unable to find these so far, but doing so could be very helpful.

Steve Serneels
05-10-2007, 07:44 AM
I haven't looked at it in a few years but I was given a book of Confederate music several years ago which on the cover states is for "Banjos and Bagpipes". I can't recall what was in there other than a tune about Jeb Stuart which was set to the same music as Bonnie Dundee.

The tunes are not written as pipe music is written but they can be transposed and fit the scale of the Highland pipes.

I'll poke around and see if I can locate the book if anyone is interested in more information about it.

Rob MacDonald
05-10-2007, 02:06 PM
The argument about the 'Anglo-phobic' trend in American society is well argued - but there is one glaring exception: That an Infantry Regiment of the United States Army would not only adopt the Highland Dress but name itself after a regular regiment of the British Army!

It would be fascinating to learn whether any papers exist in the archives of the old Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders which record the contemporary reaction to this unilateral affiliation - and was there an influental former 'Cameron' who influenced the raising of the 79th in New York? There were still some Peninsular veterans alive then....

I think that the relatively low profile of the bagpipe in North America was due to the same factors that other (indigenous) bagpipes faced: that it is difficult to make, to maintain, and to play, and lacks the chromatic and idiomatic range of the more-easily constructed instruments (Fiddle, concertina/accordian and guitar) that replaced it in Folk music.

I think that the reason that the pipers of the 79th didn't go to war is that the 'Regimental Culture' was not deeply ingrained in the ranks to the point that pipers and their music were regarded as integral to operations.

Even today, when in the field the Jocks in my regiment are far happier when there's a piper to strike up a tune when conditions require and permit it.

05-10-2007, 02:31 PM
The 79th NY was state militia, originally of only 3 companies. Once on federal service around Washington, and especially after one junior officer was ridiculed...almost laughed out of camp...for wearing a kilt, the regiment was kitted out in standard Union blue coats, caps, and trousers.

Until after the first battle of Bull Run/Manassas, a lot state troops wore a wide variety of uniforms on both sides. Regiments with grey uniforms were found in the Union army and blue was seen on some Confederate units. Standardization of uniforms in the Union Army came when George MacCellan became its commander. The Confederate army uniforms also became more standardized, but not to the extent of the Union, primarily due to constant supply problems.

About the only uniquely uniformed troops to retain their "prewar" look were some of the Zouaves, both North and South and Berdan's Sharpshooters (green uniforms). Some units adapted the standard uniforms...the Bucktails regiment from Pennsylvania and the hats of the "Iron Brigade" from the upper Midwest.

Paul Hinson

05-15-2007, 05:45 AM
My statements at the beginning of this thread about people wishing for something to be so, and then ignoring, distorting, or shouting down all evidence to the contrary, while intended for the topic of pipers in the Civil War, apply equally well to the topic of Irish Warpipes. The Wikipedia article on the subject I saw was full of the typical nonsense. Tomas O Canainn, in "Traditional Music In Ireland", dismisses the topic in the pithy sentence, "The present mouth-blown pipe used in Ireland may be considered a revival of the Scottish instrument after the native instrument had disappeared." Anyone seriously claiming that Ireland and Scotland would independently develop identical instruments (with interchangeable reeds even!) has not studied the amazing variety of bagpipe species existing in, for example, French villages just a few miles apart, which in many cases use different fingerings, are tuned differently, etc etc. They also have to turn a blind eye to linguistic evidence.

05-15-2007, 07:19 AM
Originally posted by pancelticpiper:
Anyone seriously claiming that Ireland and Scotland would independently develop identical instruments (with interchangeable reeds even!)
has not studied the amazing variety of bagpipe species existing in, for example, French villages just a few miles apart, which in many cases use different fingerings, are tuned differently, etc etc. They also have to turn a blind eye to linguistic evidence. -Bill, can you give an example of the "linguistic evidence?" What if the Scottish and Irish piob mhor were NOT developed indepentently? Irish and Scottish Gaelic culture are related and thus share many striking similarities. The fact is, we cannot know exactly how similar or different the instrument was. In Scotland itself there were variations until the pipes were more or less standardized by the Victorian era. But it might have been the same basic instrument throughout gaeldom, just like the Celtic harp, for example. By the way, you are right that the bagpipes of France are very varied. But it is also interesting that the Veuze, a one bass drone bagpipe fromm part of Britanny, pitched in B-flat, is strikingly similar to the Asturian Gaita in B-flat. I am not saying they are identical, but they are pretty close. Both are probably a lot like the ancestor of the Piob Mhor and look more or less exactly like some of the best bagpipe illustrations from the Middle Ages. There may well be a close common history here. Ultimately, however, regarding Irish Piob Mhor, we do not as yet know exactly how they were technically. We can only conjecture. But one thing is sure: they were used in the same way as in Scotland.

Adam Sanderson
05-15-2007, 07:25 AM
Originally posted by erracht:
We can only conjecture. Aye, and there's an awfy lot o' "conjecture" going on here.

I did ask you guys politely not to hijack this thread on US Civil War pipers. :rolleyes:

Why don't you take it over to the Irish Warpipes (http://www.bobdunsire.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=17;t=000956) thread Dave started.

Dave Gallagher
05-15-2007, 07:32 AM
Quote from Pancelticpiper:

"Anyone seriously claiming that Ireland and Scotland would independently develop identical instruments (with interchangeable reeds even!) has not studied the amazing variety of bagpipe species existing in, for example, French villages just a few miles apart, which in many cases use different fingerings, are tuned differently, etc etc. They also have to turn a blind eye to linguistic evidence."

....Perhaps it was like the development of the bow and arrow. This weapon appears everywhere on earth, in every culture, no matter how isolated at about the same time in history. This kind of thing is known to researchers,and they have no clue as to how it happened. Same as the bagpipe.


"My statements at the beginning of this thread about people wishing for something to be so, and then ignoring, distorting, or shouting down all evidence to the contrary"

...What evidence that is proof beyond a doubt do you have? So far there is nothing to remove any doubt.

Adam Sanderson
05-15-2007, 09:18 AM
Sigh....I now consider this thread well and truly hijacked.
As I said before, if you want to discuss Irish warpipes, take it over to the Irish warpipes (http://www.bobdunsire.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=17;t=000956) thread.