Different Drummers

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If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

–Henry David Thoreau

The date that Americans and Austrians called the 7th day of April, 1805 A.D. was, for the French people, the 18th day of the month of Germinal, in the year XIV of the Republican calendar.

It was a quiet day for the thirty-six-year-old Bonaparte, who was between conquests in the first of three successive image of Napoleonwars. He signed a few letters and issued a few orders, unaware that it was his doomsday--the day Great Britain and Russia sealed a fateful alliance against him.

It is doubtful that any of the Corps of Discovery knew anything of Beethoven, nor he of them. Lewis may have heard his name mentioned in the social circles he frequented during his tenure as Jefferson's secretary, but the President himself is not known to have had any interest in German music. No, the men of the Corps, including the two captains, probably would have preferred another kind of music--the shrill martial cadence of fife and drum, playing popular tunes like "Yankee Doodle."

Moreover, not until 1843 would there be an orchestra anywhere north of Mexico City large enough to play the Eroica symphony.

Lewis and Clark . . . Beethoven . . . Bonaparte. All they had in common was their age, their courage, and some historical coincidences that converged on April 7, 1805.

Each marched to a different drummer.