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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: ToTW: Bonaparte's March [9/3/10]

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mojo_monk - Posted - 09/03/2010:  06:06:50

For this installment of "Tune of the Week" I'd like to present Bonaparte's March. Andrew Kuntz' Fiddler's Companion has some interesting information about the origins of the tune and gives alternate names as Bonaparte Crossing the Alps and my favorite: Bonaparte Crossing the Rockies.

Over at the Fiddle Hangout, a discussion of the tune took place in December of 2009 that some may find interesting:

I learned the tune over in Illinois where it was collected from a fella by the name of Harvey "Pappy" Taylor by members of the now defunct Indian Creek Delta Boys. It is included on Volume 1 of the Indian Creek Delta Boys recordings available from Spring Fed Records ( According to members of the "Crick Delters", Pappy knew thousands of tunes and fiddled regularly well into the twilight of his life. Many of Pappy's tunes are being revived thanks to the efforts of a small group of dedicated Midwesterners. Good thing, too...he played some great stuff.

Here is a video clip of the Crick Delters playing Bonaparte's March at a concert in Libertyville, IL back in 1984. Doc Holliday on guitar, Garry Harrison on fiddle, Gaye Harrison on mandolin, and Dave Miller on banjo. Pappy is seated on stage with the group.

Up in the North East, Jehile Kirkuff of Pennsylvania played the tune as Bonaparte's March over the Rhine. His version seems to be a bit closer to the tune as it has been transcribed. Here's the link:

Here is a fiddle & banjo recording I made during a late night session with a buddy of mine a few years back over in Charleston, IL.

Last on my end is a two finger thumb lead version I worked up. It is played in gDGCD tuning. Hope you likes it.


Edited by - mojo_monk on 09/03/2010 06:08:29

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 09/03/2010:  08:26:50

Great choice for this week's tune!

I usually call it Bonaparte Crossing the Rockies, but the Volo Globtrotter's have recorded it as Bonaparte Crossing the Alps.

THe neat thing about this tune is the rhythm. It can be played in a hauntingly slow rhythm, and in A modal too!

The rhythm makes this tune so careful to keep the marching rhythm when you play it - don't even it out and make it into a dance tune - much better played as a march, IMO.

banjo bill-e - Posted - 09/03/2010:  08:42:31

Well, I thought for sure that this tune would be the same as what I call "Napolean Crossing the Rhine", but it turns out to be the tune that I call "Bell's March".
These old tunes sure get a lot of names over the years.
It's a cool tune, whatever you call it.

RG - Posted - 09/03/2010:  19:41:19

Hey Sean...real nice tune and great thumb lead arrangement, cool that you are carrying that tradition on. I learned this one as "The Battle of Waterloo", so guess it still has the Napoleon connection...R.D. Lunceford plays an awesome version of "The Battle of Waterloo" on his "Drop Thumb" CD...check it out in comparison to your arrangement, think you'll like it...thanks for posting, great choice!

strokestyle - Posted - 09/07/2010:  10:40:55

Nice Sean!
Bonaparte sure did a lot of things and one of them was to be in the title of lots of old time tune.

Dock Jekel - Posted - 09/07/2010:  17:56:58

Cool tune. I got it on my list to learn (do) someday. Dock

mojo_monk - Posted - 09/08/2010:  05:00:19

Thanks for the replies, folks.

I forgot about the Volos recording of this tune. Here you go:

Since my original post, I've turned up a song that actually uses the same melody as our Tune of the Week. It is called Sinclair's (St. Clair's) Defeat. Here is a recording of the song done by Roger McGuinn:

This is what he has to say about the song:
I first heard this song at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. Bob Gibson and Bob Camp were a duo for a short time and this was one of thier most intense songs. It’s about The Battle of Wabash River. It was also known as ‘St. Clair’s Defeat’ which was fought on November 4, 1791 between the United States and an American Indian confederacy, as part of the Northwest Indian War (also known as ‘Little Turtle’s War’). The American Indians were led by Michikinikwa (’Little Turtle’) of the Miamis and Blue Jacket of the Shawnees. The Americans were led by General Arthur St. Clair. The Indian confederacy was victorious. The battle was the most severe defeat ever suffered by the United States at the hands of American Indians; indeed, in proportional terms it was the worst defeat that United States forces have ever suffered in battle. As a result, President George Washington forced St. Clair to resign his post, and Congress initiated its first investigation of the executive branch.

You can find chords and lyrics at this site:

Gotta love the internet. Thanks Mr. Gore.


Edited by - mojo_monk on 09/08/2010 05:01:00

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