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Thread: Maritime Fife and Drum

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Maritime Fife and Drum

    Does anyone know what duty calls and/or period tunes were played by Marine fifers and drummers on U.S. Navy ships in the mid-1800s? It is my understanding that each ship with Marines included one fifer and one drummer as part of the crew. Iíve been searching the internet, and there is plenty out there on Civil War field music, but sources of information for maritime fife and drum are limited.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007


    In 1812, Charles Stewart Ashworth, "Leader of the Marine band of music Washington City" published a drum and fife manual.

    In 1853, George D. Klinehanse, also of Washington, D.C., published "The Manual of Instruction For Drummers... prepared under the direction of the adjutant General of the United States Army, approved of by the commander-in-Chief And Adopted For The Use Of The Army Of The United States."

    Much of Klinehanse is identical to what was in Ashworth. I don't think there is much reason to think that what Marine drummers and fifers played was much different than what was played in the Regular Army.

    Send me a PM and I will send you a PDF of Klinehanse.

    It is also worth noting that the circa 1858 fife manuscript (posted on this forum), which was prepared by Charles Henke, drum major and instructor of the fife at Governors Island, is very similar to what is in Klinehanse's 1853 manual. Regular Army musicians were taught at Governor's Island.

    Moreover, I don't think we have much reason to believe that the camp duty played during the 1860s was much different than what was played in the 1850s, at least for Regulars. For decades, George Bruce's claim of being "principal instructor of the Drum and Fife, at the School of Practice on Bedloe's and Governor's Islands" was never questioned by reenactors, but there is no evidence that supports this claim. In fact, the "principal instructors" at Gov's Island for decades before the war, throughout the war, and even for a few years after the war were Michael "Daddy" Moore and Charles Henke. According to research by Sue Cifaldi, George Barrett's Bruce's real name was George Bruce Barrett, which he changed so he could re-enlist because he had previously deserted from Maryland’s 2nd Regiment of Dragoons. His drumming skill shouldn't be questioned, but his claims of service should be.

    The music played by Volunteers and Militia is another story and is a more difficult question to answer. They may have played the "official" camp duty if they had an experienced drummer or fifer in their ranks (perhaps a Mexican War vet), but they may have just gotten by with whatever they knew or were able to learn to get the job done.

    But for the pre-war period (1850s), early war, and even throughout the war, we have a pretty good idea of what Regular Army musicians played. In 1812 the more-or-less "official" drum and fife manual for the Army was written by a Marine. Perhaps what was being played by Marine drummers and fifers could have evolved differently in the following 50 years leading up to the Civil War, but probably not.
    Last edited by 33rdaladrummer; 10-17-2012 at 09:12 AM.


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