Greece – A Greek Bugle Call

BUGLERS are common in Athens. They are constantly coming and going with bands of soldiers, and the air vibrates with martial tones. Usually they excite no special attention, but one evening a bugle call brought me instantly from my chair to my feet. I rushed and opened the window to make sure that I was not deceived. A squad of soldiers was passing through the street after dark, and the buglers suddenly struck up the United States Army ” Retreat.” It is not, as the uninitiated might suppose, a call to fall back in an engagement, but is the daily announcement of the sunset hour, when the work of the day is over and the tents are looped down for the night. How startling it was to hear this bugle call in Athens, and what memories it awakened ! It carried me back to the Yellowstone, back to the Big Horn and the Black Hills with Custer, to many an hour in that far Northwest when the sun slowly set behind the hills, and we lay down, soon after, to get the boon of sleep. I have heard it, too, many summers on the fields of Framingham with the Massachusetts Fifth. It is a beautiful call. It has been graved on my brain through a long series of associations, both glad and tragic. I lost no time in finding a cavalry officer, and sang the call to him. He informed me that it was the Greek cavalry ” Retreat,” and had probably come from the Bavarian soldiers when Otho was king of Greece. Another officer said the same call is used in the French service. The tune thus appears to be of foreign origin, and as international as the tune “America,” which is used in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.