Among the gems found in my research for my new book commission: a scrap of paper on which A. E. Simons sketched out the music he’d soon memorize for his troop, the 37th Illinois Volunteers Infantry. Simons recruited and organized the brigade, assigning the best offices and commands to those he thought qualified. This magnanimous approach left him without rank himself, but “Every war has to have some privates,” he reportedly said. His commanding officer squelched that, “You’re not going to be a private. We haven’t organized our music; you must take charge of that.”
This is how Simons came to be the Fife Major.
Every regiment had a fifer and a drummer; their tunes constituted mass communications across the rank and file. Everything from breakfast and dinner “Mess” calls to “Taps” (day is done) directed the activities of the men, especially in battle. Simons performed his duties through harrowing circumstances until after the war in 1866. He was left with severely compromised health, dying just ten years later.
His widow, Jennie Bessie, and five small children, bravely set out to claim land on the Kansas prairie that was her “Widow’s Pension.”
All of the children would go onto successful futures. One would establish a successful newspaper publishing company that spanned four generations.
I am writing their story. Have I mentioned how much #Ilovemyjob