Happy Fourth Of July!

This text will be replaced by the flash music player.


U.S. Army Caissons Go Rolling AlongNearly everyone in America, except us former Army Officers, know what you are listening to as "The Caisson Song."

But it's not.

As you know, what you are listening to is actually called "The Army Goes Rolling Along" (the current official version, first authorized in 1956).

The Caisson Song, while perhaps more well known, was never really the official U.S. Army song, clearly because the lyrics were too closely associated with the field artillery... not the entire army. And if you are wondering if there is a difference, well, the answer is: only ever so slight... not enough that you would ever notice it, unless you were a court judge that is. And as for why a judge would care, it's because the matter of just what the difference was between the Caisson Song and The Army Goes Rolling Along eventually ended up in court.

Just to be clear, the official song (The Army Goes Rolling Along) retains the author of The Caisson Song's original music, but, along with a few minor key changes and the like, differs primarily in terms of its more "acceptable" lyrics. As for who the author of the original song was, The Caisson Song was originally written by field artillery First Lieutenant [later Brigadier General] Edmund L. Gruber, while stationed in the Philippines in 1908. And while the tune quickly became popular in field artillery units, it never really got the attention of the highest level Army brass until sometime in 1917, when the Army started an official search for an anthem of its own.

At that time 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 as the basis of his music. Not one to turn down an opportunity to strike up the baton, Sousa changed the key, altered the harmony, fiddled with its rhythm, and renamed what he ended up with as the "U.S. Field Artillery" song.

U.S. Army Signal Corps 4th of JulyHe then set about publishing it. Not surprisingly, being a Sousa march, almost as soon as it was recorded it sold over 750,000 copies.

To be fair to Sousa, he didn't really plagiarize Gruber's song, as he had been told that the song he was altering dated back to the Civil War, and that the original author was unknown. Later, when it was disclosed that Gruber had in fact been the author, several news items appeared indicating that Sousa passed on his royalties to Gruber. Still other sources claimed that Gruber had to seek court help in order to recover his rights to the music, music he had written and which, knowingly or not, had been "borrowed" by Sousa.

It soon turned out that there was in fact a court battle, and as the story goes, a court judge ended up adjudicating the whole mess in what turned out to be a very long, protracted legal battle. During this whole time, as the court case inched its way along, the song continued to be widely sold, with sheet music publishers reaping and pocketing profits left and right, while Gruber received nothing. It was during this period, as a hugely popular song with no apparent copyright owner having a settled claim to it, that companies like the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Company picked it up and used it in their radio ads.

Eventually, when all of the dust settled, Gruber lost his battle. The courts ruled that he had waited far too long to complain, and that accordingly his music was, by that time, in the public domain.

4th of JulyAs for the Army, with all the hoopla over legal issues, even in spite of the popularity of the song, the brass stayed as far away from it as they could... and the search continued.

But the pressure was on.

By that time the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard all had official songs, but not the Army. So, in 1948, the Army mounted a contest to find an official song. Strangely, none of the entries rose to the level of popularity of the U.S. Field Artillery song, or The Caisson Song... regardless of what you called it.

Four years later, in 1952, with still no song in hand, Secretary of the Army Frank Pace asked the music industry to submit songs for his consideration. Quite quickly he found himself reviewing over 800 submissions, and, fortunately, one did rise to the top. Called "The Army's Always There," the song was written by Sam Stept. Having won the contest, the next step was to make it official. To kick that event off, the song was performed by an Army band at President Dwight D. Eisenhower's inaugural parade, on January 20, 1953.

But guess what... while some liked it, others thought that it sounded a shade too much like another popular song of the time: "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." So it was back to the drawing board.

Betsy Ross - 4th of JulyEventually, cooler heads prevailed, and the Army decided to keep Gruber's original melody from the "Caisson Song," except with new lyrics.

To write the lyrics, Harold W. Arberg, a music advisor to the Adjutant General, was brought in. And in due course, the Secretary of the Army, Wilber Marion Brucker, took center stage and dedicated the music on Veterans Day, November 11, 1956.

Today as you know, the song is played at the conclusion of most U.S. Army ceremonies, at which time all soldiers are expected to stand at attention and sing. Best of all for us Army guys, when more than one service song is played, they are played in the order specified by DoD regulations: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

So, you ask, if The Army Goes Rolling Along was dedicated on Veterans day, why are we making it the centerpiece of our 4th of July Home Page? Answer: because in its original version, as The Caisson Song, the public associated it not with Veterans day, but with the 4th of July, when as a Sousa march it was heard by every kid nation wide, as they watched wide-eyed as their town's 4th of July parade passed down Main Street, the base drum booming, dogs barking and running alongside the band, sparklers sparkling, and the song being played as loud as could be.

Happy 4th of July folks.

- - - - -

  For those of you who would like to teach your Grandchildren the lyrics... here they are:


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 Chorus:

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;
For where’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Second Chorus:

Valley Forge, Custer’s ranks,
San Juan Hill and Patton’s tanks,
And the Army went rolling along.
Minute men, from the start,
Always fighting from the heart,
And the Army keeps rolling along.


(same as above)

Third Chorus:

(slower, more freely)
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.


Then it’s hi! hi! hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong; (two! three!)
For where’er we go,
You will always know
That THE ARMY GOES ROLLING ALONG! (keep it rolling!)