The River Valley Colonials, a fife and drum corps based in Kenosha, Wis., will lead the parade through Vicksburg as part of the Battle of Sunset Lake re-enactment taking place at the Recreation Park on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26.
Based in the region of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, the Colonials were established in 1990 by four fifers and one drummer. According to the group’s web site, the goal was to expand a repertoire of 18th century military music and drill associated with the Continental Army of the American Revolution during the time period of 1775-1783.
Uniformed as the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Line, the corps strives to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for audiences and re-enactors. It is the members’ hope that through their dedication and research, they are able to preserve this country’s history through accurate portrayals and performances of what life would have been like for 18th century soldiers and military musicians.
Unlike many other fife and drum corps, RVC fields a fully armed infantry and an authentic military camp.
River Valley participates in approximately 8-12 performances and military encampments throughout the Midwest during a season. It has appeared recently at the following venues:
– Lewis and Clark Rendevouz – St. Charles, Mo.
– Greenfield Village – Dearborn Mich.
– Battle Road – Lexington / Concord, Mass.
– National Fife and Drum Muster – Fort Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga N.Y.
– The 225th Anniversary of Yorktown – Yorktown, Va.
– Various venues with the Northwest Territory Alliance throughout the Midwest
The River Valley Colonials is a nonprofit organization and funds its activities through performance fees.
The Musicians and Instruments
The first time that the fife and drum were used together in a combination that we would recognize was in Switzerland. The Swiss had won their freedom in 1291, and had become famous for the bravery and excellence of their military. The needs of extended marches and camp life encouraged the development of fife and drum music in the 1400s. The rest of Europe took notice of this military music form. It was used by the Germans in the 1500 and 1600s and by the French in the 1600 and 1700s, when they employed Swiss mercenaries. When England’s George I succeeded Queen Anne, he reorganized the British army in 1714 and required the troops to march in step with “proper” military music.
The use of the fifes and drums during the 18th century for the military served multiple purposes. The fifers and drummers were the timekeepers of the camp. They told the soldiers when to wake, when to eat, when to gather firewood and water, and when to retire for the evening. They alerted the troops when to take up arms and performed for ceremonial reasons, such as trooping of the colors, promotions and punishments.
In the military pattern, a company of 80-100 men would have one or two fifers and one or two drummers. When 8 or 10 companies were gathered together to form a regiment, their fifers and drummers were “banded” to form a regimental band. Thus a fife and drum corps is the musical unit of a regiment of 800 to 1,000 men. The regiment is traditionally the largest military unit “commanded by one voice,” and so the fife and drum corps of 8 to 40 men (typically 16-20) is the largest size this military form historically achieved.