Georgia Grenadier’s March (The)
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GEORGIA GRENEDIER'S MARCH, THE. American, March (whole time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody also appears in The Compleat Tutor for the Fife by George Willig, published in 1805 in Philadelphia (p. 29). Several American musicians' period music manuscript collections contained the tune, including those of flute player John Hoff (1776-1818), flute player Henry Beck, and fifer Seth Johnson (Woburn, Massachusetts, 1807-c. 1840).
The Georgia Grenadiers was an American militia company formed in 1772 by Samuel Elbert (c. 1740–1788) to help protect the Georgia colony's frontier from Native American incursions. Orphaned at an early age, Elbert nevertheless rose to become a very prosperous merchant and West Indies trader, and made his home in Georgia. Upon receiving permission from the Crown Governor (James Habersham), Elbert traveled to England where he bought distinctive uniforms and equipment, modeled after the elite British Grenadiers. In June, 1775, Elbert became a member of the Sons of Liberty, and sat on the local Council of Safety; little more than six months later he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of the First Georgia Continentals. He severed with Lachlan McIntosh where he was made a colonel of the Second Georgia Continentals in July, 1776, and continued to mount expeditions against the British, some successful and some not. He was captured in 1781, but released in time to serve with Washington's army at Yorktown. After the war Elbert served one term as governor of the state. Despite an uneven, even unlucky, military career, he was considered the most able commander of Georgia troops of the war.
A few years after the Colonial-ear Georgia Grenadiers was formed, music teacher and composer James Alexander wrote a march for the company called "The Georgia Grenadiers", and had it published by Hall and Sellers in Philadelphia in 1776 [Keller, Dance and it's Music in America, 1528-1789, 2007, p. 164). Alexander was born Scotland in 1749 and emigrated to Savannah around 1775, where he initially was intensely pro-American. He joined Elbert's militia and rose to the rank of Captain (Byrnside, Music in eighteenth-century Georgia, 1997, p. 36). Alexander may have tried to walk a line between Royalist and Rebels in wartime Georgia during the American Revolution. Keller reports that he was named on the British Disqualifying Act of 1780, but angered Patriots when he returned to teaching music, dance and the minuet in January, 1781, during the British occupation of the Savannah. At the conclusion of hostilities in 1782 Alexander forced to flee to Canada (as were many dubbed Loyalists), although he was later exonerated. In 1804 he returned to Savannah, where he died the following year.
Keller comments that it Alexander's march is "a rare example of an attributed composer in an American imprint" [i.e. the Hall & Sellers publication]. She suggests the march was played at local assemblies as an accompaniment to a country dance, noting the topical title would have been of interest. The march was relatively popular, however, and even found its way into British martial tradition.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Aird (Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3), 1788; No. 568, p. 217