Ask Rufus: And the band played 'Garry Owen'

March 26, 2011 7:52:00 PM

Rufus Ward - [email protected]


Civil War reenactment bands are noted for their playing of period music. Bands recreating Southern units are always thought of as playing Dixie and The Bonnie Blue Flag but the popular music of the South was much more varied. 


I have an old vinyl record which appears to be from the 1960s and is titled: "Band Music of the Confederacy, ''Making History Live,'' Volume 4, The 1st Brigade Band Re-Creates the Historic 11th Mississippi Regimental Band, CSA, A Presentation of the Heritage Military Music Foundation Inc.," Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 


The 11th Mississippi Regiment was one of the more noted Confederate Army units and was composed of many area soldiers. Company A was the University Grays from Ole Miss. The Prairie Guards of Company E were from Lowndes County and under the Command of Henry Halbert. The Prairie Rifles, Company C, and the Chickasaw Guards, Company H, were from Chickasaw County and included many soldiers from the West Point area. Company F was the Noxubee Rifles under the command of Thomas Stokes of Noxubee County. Stephen Moore commanded Company I, the Van Dorn Reserves, of Monroe County. 


Several songs on the record are stated to be arrangements composed for the 11th Mississippi Band based on popular songs of the day. They were found in the 11th''s song book which was in possession of "the late Walter A. Holloway, a renowned Civil War collector." Those songs were "Come Dearest the Daylight is Gone," "Garry Owen," "My Maryland," "Juanita," and "Sweet Home." 


The record jacket states that the band of the 11th participated in a concert with other bands, Confederate and Union, during a pause in the Fredericksburg Campaign during the winter of 1863. The band of the 11th Mississippi was "said by many to be the best in the Rebel Army."  


In one of those strange coincidences of history, "Garry Owen," the song associated with General Custer''s 7th cavalry and its massacre at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, may well have been the music played by the Band of the 11th Mississippi Regiment before Pickett''s Charge at Gettysburg. In Pickett''s Charge the 11th suffered 340 casualties out of 394 soldiers.  


I once suggested that because of its association with the University Grays, "Garry Owen" would be a historically accurate substitute for Dixie at Ole Miss football games. It was quickly pointed out that; "no it wasn''t, as military units that had played it in the past had usually gotten slaughtered."

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]