Why Were Musicians So Important During the American Revolution?

When we think about key battles during the Revolutionary War, we think about the music of the drum and the fife, playing constantly as men and horses moved into battle, or part of a march from Point A to B.

At first, we may think that this music was symbolic and a morale builder, however the truth is that the drum and fife were communication tools and assisted in coordinating the troops.

The music in General Washington’s continental army consisted of fife and drum corps.

What was the music’s purpose?

During the Revolution, the army used fifes and drums not only to boost morale but also for communication and regimentation.

Music, standardized for the army’s purposes by the drillmaster Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, served as a signal in battle; the higher registers of the fife have piercing sounds that could carry above a fracas. Fife and drum signals also told soldiers in camp when to wake up, fetch wood or provisions, and show up for church.

The musicians had a very important role in the discipline of the army.  Many think about the use of young men (“the little drummer boy” comes to mind) for this role, however due to the importance the usual musician was older – willing to brave battle and dish out orders through the use of the drum and / or a fife.

There is an article by the Mount Vernon organization (www.mountvernon.org) which goes into further detail about the purpose, expectations and utility of the musicians during battle, during troop movements and every day activities.

To learn more, please click on the link:

The Role of the Musician in George Washington’s army

In addition, the following is an article explaining the reasons that the musicians wore different colored uniforms:

Musicians – ever wonder why their uniforms are different colors

While I was reading about this subject, I also noted a couple of articles below.  Sharing for your reading enjoyment!

‘Revolutionary’ Drummers

Revolution museum teaches how fife and drums were tools of war

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