top of page


Historian, Author, Musician



University of Oklahoma Press, 2016


Stemming from the tradition of rallying troops and frightening enemies, mounted bands played a unique and distinctive role in American military history. Their fascinating story within the U.S. Army unfolds in this latest book from noted music historian and former army musician Bruce P. Gleason.


Released in October 2016 by the University of Oklahoma Press, Barnes & Noble hosted a great book-release event at their St. Paul (Roseville), Minnesota store. Dr. Gleason gave a talk with select slides from the book followed by book sales and signings.


Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums is available through local bookstores as well as through the University of Oklahoma Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, Eurobuch, etc.

Louis XV Dragons, Tambour et Hautbois, ca.1724, Lithograph No. 151 (c. 1854) by Gustave David (1824 – 1891) after Alfred de Marbot (1812 – 1865), Régiment de Bauffremont [drummer], Régiment d’Orleans [hautboist]. Author’s Collection.


Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums follows American horse-mounted bands from the nation's military infancy through its emergence as a world power during World War II and the corresponding shift from horse-powered to mechanized cavalry.


Gleason traces these bands to their origins, including the horn-blowing Celtic and Roman cavalries of antiquity and the mounted Middle Eastern musicians whom European Crusaders encountered in the Holy Land.

Music on Sheridan’s Line of Battle. Robert Johnson and Clarence Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. 4 (New York: Century Company, 1887; repr., New York:  Castle Books, Thomas Yoseloff, 1956), 708.

Musiciens de Dragons. 4e Régiment Charles Brun (early 20th Century) after Christoph Bommer (c. 1813). Courtesy of The Red Lancer, Inc. 

I turned the corner of the Brooks cross-road and the Five Forks road just as the rear of the latter body of cavalry was passing it, and found one of Sheridan’s bands with his rear-guard playing “Nellie Bly” as cheerfully as if furnishing music for a country picnic. Sheridan always made an effective use of his bands. They were usually mounted on gray horses, and instead of being relegated to the usual duty of carrying off the wounded and assisting the surgeons, they were brought out to the front and made to play the liveliest airs in their repertory, which produced excellent results in buoying up the spirits of the men. General Horace Porter, Union Army, Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums, Chapter Three. 

Gleason describes the performance, musical selections, composition, and duties of American mounted bands that have served regular, militia, volunteer, and National Guard regiments in military and civil parades and concerts, in ceremonies, and on the battlefield. Over time the composition of the bands has changed—beginning with trumpets and drums and expanding to full-fledged concert bands on horseback. Woven throughout the book are often-surprising strands of American military history from the War of 1812 through the Civil War, action on the western frontier, and the two world wars.

4th Cavalry Band, Mid-Pacific Carnival, Honolulu, Military Parade, ca. 1912 – 1918. Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Duty for bandsmen on the [Mexican] border, however, was not all music. Relaying to a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1991, ninety-seven-year-old Malcolm Heuring, who had served as a cavalry cornetist for seven years during this period, recalls, “The 5th Cavalry’s band and two regiments were called to Columbus, N.M. [from Fort Myer] [joining the 13th Cavalry], shortly after the border town had been raided. . . . After the cavalry secured the town, the band joined the punitive expedition into Mexico led by Gen. John J. Pershing, Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums, Chapter Eight.

8th Cavalry Band and Field Trumpeters, Fort Bliss, Texas, August 1916. Courtesy of Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums, Fort Bliss, Texas.

180220ESL563_018_High Resolution.jpg

Dr. Matthew George, Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger and Dr. David Williard of the music and history faculty at the University of St. Thomas join Dr. Gleason for a panel discussion on Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums for students, faculty and staff at O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library on the St. Thomas campus in February 2018.

Dr. Bruce Gleason narrating a concert by the University of St. Thomas Symphonic Band conducted by Dr. Doug Orzolek featuring music from Gleason's Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums in May 2018--including trumpet/bugle calls, Prussian cavalry marches, and the renowned 7th Cavalry's Garry Owen—May 2018.



"Bruce Gleason has provided us with a salutary, well-documented introduction to a neglected subject. Packed with engrossing details, lively anecdotes, and rare images, Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums will enlighten and entertain all readers interested in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century music, military history, and American studies in general."

—James A. Davis, author of Music Along the Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music and Community During Winter Quarters, Virginia

"Sound the Trumpet is a testimony to how precious music is in the lives of people, military and civilian alike. The bands overcame hurdles from start to finish: uncertain instrumentation, often little or no musical training, the constant challenges of training horses, and the challenges of holding instruments while riding. The bands Gleason describes had audiences whose appreciation we can only estimate."

—Carol Pemberton, author of Lowell Mason: His Life and Work

"Gleason has clearly amassed an impressive body of primary sources on mounted bands, from government documents at the National Archives and Records Administration, to rare accounts written by military musicians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to interviews Gleason conducted with former band members and their descendants. Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums will serve as an excellent introduction to the world of military music for a generation of scholars."

—Patrick Warfield, author of Making the March King: John Philip Sousa's Washington Years, 1854-1893

"Gleason eloquently traces these global band practices in a rich context of American, military, and world history and shows how they came to be a part of both mounted band traditions and other American band traditions. For this reason alone, this book is highly recommended."

—Jill Sullivan, author of Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women's Military Bands  During World War II

"Bruce Gleason has spent over thirty years researching the mounted bands of the world. Truly a labor of love, I look forward to what hopefully will be a second volume dealing with mounted bands around the world."

—Raoul Camus, author of Military Music of the American Revolution 

"Bruce Gleason has produced an excellent volume on the history of mounted bands in American history, and much more. I recommend the well researched, well written Sound the Trumpet for the music historian and readers interested in music and the military, especially in the American West. Gleason’s narrative contributes to our knowledge of instrumentation, performance, music portfolio, band logistics, support of military operations and the role of bands in the American military experience."

—Vernon Williams, author of Lieutenant Patton: George S. Patton, Jr. and the American Army in the Mexican Punitive Expedition, 1915 -- 1916

“An army without a band was not a real army—at least that’s what most nineteenth-century U.S. Army officers believed. The best commanders expended enormous energy and capital to secure musicians for their regimental and post bands. Bruce Gleason’s superb history illuminates this little-known but highly significant corner of military history.”

—Durwood Ball, author of Army Regulars on the Western Frontier, 1848–1861

Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drums is available through local bookstores as well as through the University of Oklahoma Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, Eurobuch, etc.


"Bruce, congratulations on your book with the University of Oklahoma Press. You hit a grand slam and deserve it!"—John P. Langellier, author of Fighting for Uncle Sam: Buffalo Soldiers in the Frontier Army

Thanks! Message sent.

bottom of page