he fife, drum and bugle were the three popular signal instruments of military service in the late 18th century.
Those who played them were all referred to as drummers. These three instruments were chosen because their loud
and distinctive sounds are audible even amidst the sounds of battle, and signallers were key to good communication
on the battlefield.
In general, drummers were sons of soldiers who were on strength with the regiment, but anyone showing a talent or
inclination for this job was likely accepted. Under the direction of the Drum Major the drummers would learn the
appropriate rudiments and tunes. Young boys were considered the best candidates for this job because learning the
drum was a skill best taken on while young and while the wrists were still supple. The drummer was paid more than
a regular soldier as he held a role that was more specialized and entailed greater responsibility.
Drummers were dressed in elaborate uniforms, with chevrons and wings on the arms and the body of the coat covered
in the regimental lace. This was calculated to make him more easily detectable, a necessity on the battlefield and
a convenience in garrison, encampment or tavern.
The most important and least appreciated role of drummers was the calls they played for the daily functioning
of the army. Drummers were used to inform soldiers of the timing of their daily activities. It was necessary
that soldiers should know the sounds and beatings of the drum before their training was complete.
1. the general, as an order for the whole to make ready to march
2. the assembly to repair to their colours
3. the march commands them to move
4. the reveille at day-break, warns the soldiers to rise, and the centries to cease
5. the troop assembles them together, to call over the roll and inspect the men for duty
6. the retreat is beat at sunset, for calling over the roll again to warn the men for duty.
7. the taptoo beats at ten o'clock every night in summer, and at nine in winter; the soldiers must then repair to their quarters or barracks, when the Non-commissioned Officers of each squad call over their rolls, and every man must remain there till reveille beating.
8. a beat to arms, is to advertise them to stand to their arms, or to repair to their alarm-posts
9. a parley, is to desire a conference with the enemy.
When soldiers were on the move, drummers were used to keep the soldiers moving at a set tempo, and they encouraged the
troops by playing popular patriotic, dance and tavern songs to keep soldiers' minds occupied during the exceedingly
monotonous activity of marching.