↑ Return to Members

Field Music

Field Music, Then & Now

“Field Music” was the collective name given to the fifes and drums of each regiment when they were gathered together to play. While the fifes and drums could provide music for military ceremonies and marching, their most important function was as signalmen. In an era before radios and telecommunications, the fifes and drums relayed signals and commands to the troops. These signals and commands usually took two main forms: Camp Duties and battlefield signals.

The Camp Duties were signals that regulated the soldier’s daily life. This included tunes like Reveille to wake the soldiers up, Troop and Retreat for morning and afternoon inspections, The Pioneer’s March to call out work parties and Taptoo to put the soldiers to bed. On the battlefield, signals like Prime and Load would tell the soldiers to load their weapons, The Point of War would order a bayonet charge, The Parley called for a truce to speak with the enemy, and Cease Fire could stop the shooting. Members of the field music not needed for signaling during a battle helped to take care of the wounded.

Despite popular belief, drummers and fifers were not always young boys. The ages could range anywhere from 8 or 9 for a fifer to 32 for a drummer. Most fifers and drummers tended to be in their mid to late teens or early twenties. Each company of soldiers in a regiment had one fifer and drummer assigned to it, so a regiment of 500 men could include 10 drums and 10 fifes within its ranks.

Like their historical counterparts, the BVMA Field Music is not a separate group within the organization, but is composed of the fifers and drummers of the various member units. These fifers and drummers serve with their units unless gathered together to play specific signals or for music practice. The goal of the BVMA Field Music is the same as that of their predecessors 200+ years ago, to provide the signals and communications that will allow the troops to carry out their daily duties in camp or on the battlefield. An additional duty for the BVMA Field Music however, is to educate the public about the soldier’s life, the role of the fifer and drummer in the armies of the Revolutionary War, and the importance of the duties they carried out.

Anyone with an interest in military music is welcome in the BVMA Field Music and while some prior knowledge of and ability on the fife or drum is helpful, it is not mandatory.

Contacts for Field Music:

Drum Major
William Sawyer
7 Old Valley Road
Whitesboro, New York 13492

1 comment

  1. William Sawyer


    As I know the organization has been working to continually update the website, I wanted to assist in that effort. Neither I or my unit are presently active members of the BVMA, and I have not held the rank of Drum Major for the Field Music of the organization for quite some time.

    I will always be more than happy to assist and advise the BVMA and it”s member units in the area of the Field Music in any way I can, but It would probably be better to have an active member to represent the organization as the contact person, If anyone should express interest in the program in the future

    Some of my best memories from my living history career come from my time with the BVMA, and I am still very grateful to the original administration for the trust they gave me in allowing me to develope the Field Music program as I felt would best reprsent it historically and accurately.

    I am very happy that the BVMA continues to thrive and be an important part of the living history community.

    All the best to you!

    William Sawyer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>