Song Spotlight: “The Caissons Go Rolling Along/The Army Goes Rolling Along”

The Army Goes Rolling Along - Song Spotlight |
  • Mood: Patriotic
  • Themes: Military, U.S. Army, United States
  • Tempo: Brisk
  • Genre/style: March

Did you know the words have changed to the Army song?

A while back, I was leading veterans in a nursing home, singing the Army song. We had some active-duty soldiers there as well, and I was surprised to hear them singing different words!

Here are the words I sang:

Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And those caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And those caissons go rolling along.

Then it’s hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e’er you go,
You will always know
That those caissons go rolling along.

These words and the famous melody were written by Brigadier General Edmund L. “Snitz” Gruber* in 1908 for the field artillery in the Philippines. The song became popular almost immediately and was adopted by all of the regiments then making up the U.S. Field Artillery. Near the end of the first World War, an artillery officer who didn’t know Gruber passed the song along to composer/bandleader John Philip Sousa, believing that the song dated back to the Civil War. Sousa added a short introduction and released the song as “The U.S. Field Artillery March,” which became a huge hit during World War I. (Gruber later cleared things up with Sousa to get his share of the royalties!) This is the version of the song that was popular through the second World War.

Fast forward to 1948, after the second World War had ended. The Army decided that it wanted an official song, and held a nationwide contest to find one, but none of the five winners gained any popularity. Four years later, the Army appealed to the music industry for compositions, but again found no songs worthy of being the official Army song. Finally, the soldier H.W. Arberg was asked to come up with something. He wrote new words to the old melody of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” to become the official Army song: “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” Here is the first verse and chorus:

First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And The Army Goes Rolling Along.
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.

Then it’s hi! hi! hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong;
For where’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

This version became the official Army song in 1956 and is now the song played at the end of every U.S. Army ceremony. (And, yes, the soldiers are expected to stand up and sing.) This explains why I hadn’t run into these lyrics, though – this version came about after many of my veteran clients were already out of the military. Of course, this will change as younger veterans begin to move into the long-term care facilities that I serve and more people know the newer, official version.

For now, it looks like I might be singing both versions of the song, along with a historical aside. 

I don’t mean to leave out the other branches of the military, so rest assured that their songs will be covered in future posts. For now, though, leave a comment to let me know what songs you associate with the military and, if you’re a veteran or a veteran’s spouse, the songs that you associate with your time in military service.  

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.

*Fun fact: Edmund’s relative Franz wrote “Silent Night.”


  1. Kat Fulton on November 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Ah ha! Yeah, well my Marine corps brothers get upset when I leave out “on the land, air, and the sea.” Original was “on the land and in the sea” or something.

    Good to know this technicality! Sure don’t want to make any army guys mad =) Thanks for pointing this out, Rachelle. Love your song spotlights!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on November 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks, Kat! That’s good to know about the Marine Corps song, too.

  2. Linda on July 5, 2023 at 3:00 am

    My Grandfather was a waggoner in WWIi, he was a cassion, operator
    They didn’t call them that though. To take that part out of the song is very sad.

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