“Esprit de Corps” (1878)
Inspiration for this composition would be obvious had Sousa composed it while he was in service, but he was not. The march was not published for band until the year after he resigned from the U. S. Marine Corps. The dedication reads, “To my old friend Wilson J. Vance of Ohio.” In addition to being Sousa’s friend, Vance (1845-1911) was a Medal of Honor recipient who served with the 21st Ohio Infantry during the American Civil War. He was cited for voluntarily rescuing a wounded and helpless comrade while his command was falling back under heavy fire during the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee on December 31, 1862. Vance later became Captain, 14th U. S. Colored Troops, was the author of several books, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The “Esprit de Corps” Sousa references in this march is the camaraderie, the bond of friendship that forms between those who serve together. The dedication’s timing is not coincidental; the two were beginning to work together in 1878 on the operetta The Smugglers, for which Vance was the librettist.
Reference: Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 50.
Supplemented with information provided by Loras J. Schissel