The Army Goes Rolling Along
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The Caisson Song
The song is based on the "Caisson Song" written by field artillery First Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Edmund L. Gruber, Lieutenant William Bryden, and Lieutenant (later Major General) Robert Danford while stationed at Fort Stotsenburg in the Philippines in March 1908, using music composed by Alfred C. Montin at Fort Sheridan, Ill., shortly before his unit was transferred to Fort Sill. The tune quickly became popular in field artillery units. In 1917 the Secretary of the Navy and army Lieutenant George Friedlander of the 306th Field Artillery 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." Sousa didn't know who had written the song and had been told that it dated back to the Civil War. Although an army magazine claims that Sousa passed on his royalties to Gruber, other sources state that Gruber became involved in a prolonged legal battle to recover the rights to music he had written and that had been lifted (unknowingly or not) by Sousa and widely sold by sheet music publishers who reaped profits while Gruber received nothing. The music became so popular that it was also used in radio ads by firms such as the Hoover Vacuum Company. Gruber 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 likely because the lyrics were too closely identified with the field artillery and not the entire army. The official song retains Gruber's music, but with re-written lyrics.
Search for an Official Song
As the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard had already adopted official songs, the Army was eager to find a song of its own. In 1948, the Army conducted a contest to find an official song (Tom Lehrer claims to have submitted "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier" in this contest), but no entry received much popular support. In 1952, Secretary of the Army Frank Pace asked the music industry to submit songs and received over 800 submissions. "The Army's Always There" by Sam Stept won the contest, and an Army band performed it at President Dwight D. Eisenhower's inaugural parade on January 20, 1953. However, many thought that the tune was too similar to "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," so the army decided to keep Gruber's melody from the "Caisson Song" but with new lyrics. A submission of lyrics by Harold W. Arberg, a music advisor to the Adjutant General, was accepted. Secretary of the Army Wilber Marion Brucker dedicated the music on Veterans Day, November 11, 1956. The song is played at the conclusion of most U.S. Army ceremonies, and all soldiers are expected to stand at attention and sing. When more than one service song is played, they are played in the order specified by Department of Defense directive: army, marine corps, navy, air force, and coast guard.
Caisson Song (1908, original version)
The original lyrics are disputed and may not have been written down prior to 1918.
- Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail
- As the caissons go rolling along.
- Up and down, in and out,
- Countermarch and right about,
- And our caissons go rolling along.
- For it's hi-hi-hee in the Field Artillery,
- Shout out the number loud and strong.
- Till our final ride, It will always be our pride
- To keep those caissons a rolling along.
- (Keep them rolling - keep them rolling)*
- Keep those caissons a rolling along.
- (B-a-t-t-e-r-y H-a-l-t!)*
An alternative third, fourth and fifth lines in the WWII - Korean War era was, Counter March, Right About; Hear those wagon soldiers shout! And those caissons go rolling along.
The archaic phrase in the first line -- normal American English would have "over hills" and "into valleys" -- is Shakespearean, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Scene 1: "Over hill, over dale / Thorough bush, thorough briar / Over park, over pale / Thorough flood, thorough fire". The author then must rhyme it with "hit the dusty trail", which would suggest cavalry more than artillery. However, the imagery of ..."the dusty trail" does seem to evoke the Civil war. That is, two tandem horse teams pulling the caissons over the trail.
U.S. Field Artillery (1918)
(Music by Gruber, arranged by Sousa, copyright and published by Carl Fischer)
- Over hill, over dale,
- We will hit the dusty trail,
- And those Caissons go rolling along.
- Up and down, in and out,
- Counter march and left about,
- And those Caissons go rolling along,
- For it's high high he,
- In the Field Artillery,
- Shout out your "No" [numbers] loud and strong,
- For wher-e’er we go,
- You will always know,
- That those Caissons go rolling along.
The Army Goes Rolling Along (1956, current official version)
As of 08 May 2013 the verse, the first chorus, and refrain are sung (Per ALARACT 124/2013).
- 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
- First to fight for the right,
- And to build the Nation’s might,
- And The Army Goes Rolling Along
- Proud of all we have done,
- Fighting till the battle’s won,
- And the Army Goes Rolling Along.
- Then it's Hi! Hi! Hey!
- The Army's on its way.
- Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
- For where e’er we go,
- You will always know
- That The Army Goes Rolling Along.
- Valley Forge, Custer's ranks,
- San Juan Hill and Patton's tanks,
- And the Army went rolling along
- Minutemen, from the start,
- Always fighting from the heart,
- And the Army keeps rolling along.
- Men in rags, men who froze,
- Still that Army met its foes,
- And the Army went rolling along.
- Faith in God, then we're right,
- And we'll fight with all our might,
- As the Army keeps rolling along.
Source: U.S. Army Bands information and recordings
In popular culture
- The tune was used in 44 movies or television series from 1934 to 2011.
- Robert A. Heinlein used the 1908 Caisson Song as the basis for "The Road Song of the Transport Cadets," the official song of the fictional United States Academy of Transport in his 1940 short story "The Roads Must Roll". However, characters in the story refer to the origin as both "Song of the Caissons" and the "field artillery song."
- Hasbro used the tune for its G.I. Joe toyline during the 1960s with the words "G.I. Joe...G.I. Joe...fighting man from head to toe...on the land...on the sea...in the air."
- It was again used by the toy company for their Army Ant toys in the 80s.
- In 1962, the song was parodied in The Jetsons Season 1, Episode 6, "The Good Little Scouts." It was the marching song of Elroy Jetson's space troop.
- In 1979, the song was sung by Margaret Houlihan in M*A*S*H Season 7, Episode 16 (titled "The Price") while she was in the shower. It is also partially sung in Season 3 Episode 19 (titled "Aid Station") by Margaret, Hawkeye Pierce and Max Klinger as they arrive back at their unit, M*A*S*H 4077th.
- The fight song of North Carolina State University is a sped-up version of the tune. (See NC State Wolfpack.)
- The Australian A-League Club Adelaide United FC uses the tune for their club song "United Is Rolling Along."
- A version of the song is in the Girls und Panzer Original Soundtrack, under the title "America Yahoutai March."
- The Barney & Friends version used "The Rocket Song," which can be found in Barney in Outer Space, and other Barney episodes and videos.
- Army Regulation 220-90, Army Bands, 14 December 2007, para 2-5f, g
- The Field Artillery Journal, July–August 1926, pp. 337 and 443-444, background and original lyrics
- Marshall's Civic Band
- Wigginton, F. Peter, Soldiers magazine, July 1994, p. 45
- Time magazine, January 19, 1953
- Dorr, Robert, Westchester Chordsmen, December 2004, p. 4
- Army Training Circular TC 3-21.5, Drill and Ceremonies, 20 January 2012, para. 1-2h
- Army song
- Internet Movie Database, entry for Gruber
- Heinlein, Robert A. "The Roads Must Roll." The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One, 1929-1964. Ed. Robert Silverberg. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1998. 53-87.
- Big Cartoon Database
- North Carolina State University. Retrieved on February 7, 2012.
- Collins, Ace. Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource, 2003. ISBN 0060513047
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