National Geographic : 1959 Dec
The President's Music Men one look at the restless waters surrounding Monroe on three sides, felt slightly queasy, and said "No, grazie" to the Army. Then he headed inland. In Washington Scala noted that the Marine Band had a pleasingly landlocked base. The nearest water was the Anacostia River, about half a mile from the Marine Barracks, and it seldom achieved more than a ripple. He en listed, and soon became leader. "The nations represented in the band at that time," Scala related, "were America, Ger many, England, Spain, Italy, and Austria. We had one flute, one clarinet, one French horn, two trombones, one bugle, one bass drum, and one pair of cymbals. Not more than five men could read music." Band Survived Shipboard Disaster Even here Scala found it impossible to keep his feet on firm ground. Duty compelled him to put aside his loathing for open water and brave the Potomac River aboard the steam sloop Princeton, first naval vessel to boast the newfangled screw propeller. Also aboard on that gala February 28, 1844, were Presi- dent John Tyler, most of his Cabinet, and many other prominent officials and their ladies. Scala, gamely waving his baton while trying to ignore the ship's gentle motion, led the band through a lively program. Near Mount Ver non he and his men went below for lunch. Topside, gunners prepared for the day's big feature-the firing of a demonstration round by the "Peacemaker," a monstrous experi mental cannon made of wrought iron. Something went very wrong. The Peace maker's barrel burst with a roar that shook the Maryland and Virginia countryside. Those standing near by were cut down by a hot hurricane of jagged metal. Clearing smoke revealed Princeton's gun deck a shambles. The dead included Secre tary of State Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Gilmer, and Col. David Gardiner, a New York State political leader. The bandsmen were unhurt. So was Presi dent Tyler, who had also been below decks toasting a new friend, the doomed Gardiner's daughter Julia. From this occasion of death and suffering bloomed a romance that pleasurably agitated Assistant Directors Play Back Rehearsal Tapes to Improve Performances To get the best sound blend, 1st Lt. (now Capt.) James B. King, Jr., left, and Capt. Dale L. Harpham change score and interpretation on the basis of the recording.