Song Collection The Army Goes Rolling Along

Format Web Pages
Contributors Library of Congress
Dates 2002
Location Washington
Washington D.C.
Subjects Article
Popular Songs of the Day
Songs and Music
Songs Collections
Title
The Army Goes Rolling Along
Created / Published
Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002.
Subject Headings
-  Popular Songs of the Day
-  Songs and Music
-  Songs Collections
Genre
article
Other Formats
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200000019/mets.xml


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Image: Central 
      Park Artillery Company Central Park Artillery Company The undersigned proposes to raise a Company to be attached to the Anthon Battalion of Light Artillery! Under the command of Major Willard, U.S.A. [Poster] New York Historical Society External

Then it's hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery...

"The Army Goes Rolling Along" was designated the official song of the United States Army in 1956. Yet its history goes back to March 1908 when Brigadier General Edmund Louis "Snitz" Gruber, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, wrote "The Caissons Go Rolling Along."

Early in his Army career Gruber, a descendent of Franz Gruber, the composer of "Silent Night," was stationed in the Philippines. During a difficult march through the Zambales Mountains on Luzon island Gruber went ahead with a small detachment to select the best route for his battalion. He climbed to higher ground to get an overview and to look back down on the marching companies and artillery. As they rattled nearer Gruber heard one of the section chiefs shout out to his drivers, "Come on! Keep 'em rolling!"

Months later, with lyrical assistance from a number of his fellow lieutenants, Gruber came up with a tune that grew from that experience. Gradually, their song became popular throughout the Army's ranks:

Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And those caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And those caissons go rolling along.

Refrain:
Then it's hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e'er you go,
You will always know
That those caissons go rolling along.

Caissons, ammunition containers, were familiar to armies since at least the first years of the eighteenth century. During the Civil War their jolting clatter was described by Horatio Nelson Taft in a manner similar to Gruber's:

There comes down the Avenue a Battery of Artillery. It is astonishing how a Battery of six guns ("twelve pounders") will stretch out, and what a rattling it will make over the pavement. Every gun has six horses and a Caisson with six more horses with nine or ten men to a gun. Every gun an[d] Caisson has a spare wheel securely lashed on behind. Then there follows the Am[m]unition wagons and the Forge, and the Baggage. Altogether not less than a quarter of a mile is occupied, perhaps more. Sometimes they go through the Street on a gallop and then such a rumbling and rattling of the carriages and clattering of hoofs of the horses, such a jolting and bounding of the men was never heard or seen.

Diary Entry by Horatio Nelson Taft, December 14, 1864, The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865.
Image: Bantam car in air Bantam car in mid-air. New River, North Carolina, U.S. Army Signal Corps, photographer, 1941? Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

After World War II, in 1948 and again in 1952, the U.S. Army conducted a nationwide song contest to find an official song. None of the songs submitted proved to be especially popular within the ranks. Finally the Army's major commanders were polled and an overwhelming majority voted for Gruber's "Caisson song." Still, the Army was unwilling to settle for the popular lyrics so it sent out a call for new ones. Of the 140 sets of lyrics received, the screening committee selected phrases from which Dr. H. W. Arberg molded an official song. Although most folks sing the old words, the official first verse now reads:

March along, sing our song,
With the Army of the free
Count the brave, count the true,
Who have fought to victory
We're the Army and proud of our name
We're the Army and proudly proclaim

Refrain:
Then it's Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army's on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong,
For where e'er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Learn More About It
Related Web Sites
Print Bibliography
  1. Grant, John, James M. Lynch, and Ronald H. Bailey. West Point: the first 200 years - the companion to the PBS special. Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press, 2002. Call number: U410 .L1 G73 2002.
  2. Hogan, David W., Jr. 225 years of service: the U.S. Army, 1775-2000. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2000. Call number: E181 .H69 2000.
  3. Remick, Norman Thomas. Mr. Jefferson's academy: the real story behind West Point. Warren Grove, New Jersey: N. T. Remick, 1999. Call number: U410 .L1 R45 1999.
  4. Weigley, Russell F. History of the United States Army. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1984. Call number: UA25 .W35 1984.