Tune of the Day: The Army Goes Rolling Along
“The Army Goes Rolling Along” is based on “The Caisson Song” composed by field artillery First Lieutenant Edmund L. Gruber, a distant relative to the German composer Franz Gruber, who wrote the Christmas classic “Silent Night”. Composed at Fort Stotsenburg in the Philippines in 1908, Lieutenant Gruber's tune quickly became popular in field artillery units.
In 1917 the Secretary of the Navy asked John Philip Sousa to create a march using “The Caisson Song”. Sousa changed the key, harmony, and rhythm and renamed it “U.S. Field Artillery”. The recording sold 750,000 copies. Sousa didn't know who had written the song and had been told that it dated back to the Civil War. Gruber later became involved in a prolonged legal battle to recover the rights to music he had written and that had been lifted by Sousa and widely sold by sheet music publishers who reaped profits while Gruber received nothing. Gruber eventually lost his battle in the courts: they ruled that he had waited too long to complain and that his music was by that time in the public domain.
“The Caisson Song” was never designated as the official U.S. Army song because the lyrics were too closely identified with the field artillery and not the entire army. The official song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along”, retains Gruber's music, but with rewritten lyrics. This song was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1956, and is now played at the conclusion of most U.S. Army ceremonies.