History of Miltary Cadences

History of Military Cadences

While US Army does not officially recognize Cadence Calls or Jody’s, they are well engrained in the fabric of all military services and even police services and fire departments.

The two primary types of cadence calls are the marching cadences at 120 beats per minute, and running cadences which move at 10 beats per minute. While one is often substuted for the other, this Army-Cadence.com breaks it’s military cadences by service component and speed, running vs. marching.

The first use of a beat based marching tool seams to of been started during the Revolutionary War. According to Sandee Johnson, soldiers who had difficulty marching were ordered to attach a stack of hay to one foot and a piece of straw to the other. Therefore when marching the drill instructor would call out “Hay-foot, straw-foot, Hay-foot” and so on. This hay-foot, straw-foot technique persisted until the end of the civil war.

The first recorded history of a cadence call was documented in the spring of 1944 by Colonel Bernard Lentz. Colonel Lentz was the fort’s commanding officer at the time and published a well referenced account of the events.

 …as a company … was returning from a long tedious march through swamps and rough country, a chant broke the stillness of the night.  Upon investigation, it was found that a Negro soldier by the name of Willie Duckworth, on detached service with the Provisional Training Center, was chanting to build up the spirits of his comrades.

It was not long before the infectious rhythm was spreading throughout the ranks.  Footweary soldiers started to pick up their step in cadence with the growing chorus of hearty male voices.  Instead of a down trodden, fatigued company, here marched 200 soldiers with heads up, a spring to their step, and smiles on their faces.  This transformation occurred with the beginning of the Duckworth Chant.

Upon returning to Fort Slocum, Pvt. Duckworth, with the aid of Provisional Training Center instructors, composed a series of verses and choruses to be used with the marching cadence.  After that eventful evening the Duckworth Chant was made a part of the drill at Fort Slocum as it proved to be not only a tremendous morale factor while marching, but also coordinated the movements of close order drill with troop precision

This “Duckworth chant” as it first became known, did not just stop at Fort Slocum. Col Lentz saw the great utility in keeping moral and raising soldiers spirits that he ordered these Duckworth chants recorded and sent throughout the military force.