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Fife and Drum

The use of fife and drum corps in the military dates back many centuries. Because of its loud and piercing sound when played in its upper register, the fife, which is also easy to carry, used to be the preferred instrument to signal messages to infantry troops. According to some, a band of fife and drums can be heard up to 3 miles away.

Back in the day, each company in an infantry regiment was assigned two fifers and two drummers. When the battalion or regiment were formed up on parade or for movement en masse, these musicians would be detached from the companies to form a “band.” This is how the word band became associated with a group of musicians.

We have at least two members of our family who served in the fife and drum corps. Michael Cain, born in 1750, served as a drum major during the war of 1812. As lore has it, during the Battle of New Orleans, he exclaimed, “Men are not killed with drums!” With that, he picked up a gun and joined the battle. He was wounded in the head. According to family stories, he was carried off the field on the horse of General Andrew Jackson.

His son, John C. Cain, was denied recruit during the War of 1812 due to a disability so he instead played for the troops in the training camps. But he did serve as a fife major during the Mexican War.

Michael Cain and John C. Cain were, respectively, the 4th and 3rd great grandfathers of my sister-in-law.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The War of 1812 and the Creek Civil War

How is the war of 1812 viewed? It all depends on where you stand. 

For Americans, it started because Britain began infringing on their maritime rights, seizing US ships, cargo, and sailors who they then impressed into serving the crown. While the US won no decisive battles against Britain, they were able to fight to a draw thus establishing their status as a world power.

For the British, it is more of a footnote in their history as they were far more focused upon their conflict with Napoleon in Europe. However they did see the American desire to expand its territory as a threat to their remaining colonies and so extended aid to the native Indians and Canadians to help stem the US expansion.

For the Canadians, it was source of national pride, as they repelled numerous attacks upon their land, fighting against a larger, superior invader. US forces were never able to gain a foothold or win a battle in their attempts to acquire sections of Canada for their use. While much of the fighting was done by British regulars, the repulsion of the US sowed the seeds of nationalism within the hearts of the Canadian people which fueled a desire to chart their own course.

For the Creek Indian nation, who were engaged in their own civil war at the time, it marked the beginning of the end. As part of the Treaty of Ghent, which laid out the conditions for the cessation of hostilities, Britain agreed to withdraw their support of America’s indigenous population, allowing the US westward expansion to continue without international interference.

Amid all this conflict stood John Bell, the 4th great grand uncle of my aunt. Along with Davy Crockett, he served in William Russell’s Company of Spies under the overall command of Andrew Jackson. Their involvement was primarily against the Red Sticks (the rebellious faction of Creek Indians allied with the British) who were attacking settlements and encampments they believed encroached upon their land. A victory at Horseshoe Bend, where Bell was wounded, marked the end of that conflict and resulted in the Creeks ceding 23 million acres to the United States.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.