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"Drummers for Skirmishers" Topic

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Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 5:14 a.m. PST

I know that French voltigeur companies had drummers, but what of their opponents? Does anyone know whether units made up entirely of skirmish-trained troops had drummers? As examples, did British Rifles, Portuguese Cacadores and Austrian Jagers have drummers. Getting buglers for the skirmish line is easy, but do I need to get drummers for these men when in close order on the march?

Any ideas?

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

Simple answer is surely no. However do not forget that skirmish trained elite troops like the 95th could still be called on to serve in line. Most memorably the 2/95 and two cos of 3/95 spent the whole day at Waterloo in line, column or square! With buglers and whistles for commands, not drums.

So no drummers, in British Army anyway, for

Light cos of Line Regts

Light infantry regts, including Rifles

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 7:08 a.m. PST

deadhead, is that "surely no" reason or research? Lots of things I think an army wouldn't do, they have. In fact, I think I've seen color guides for those drummers of the light infantry regiments.

I agree they aren't necessary in a wargame sense, and probably not tactically. But that's not the same as saying they didn't exist.

von Winterfeldt21 Sep 2018 7:44 a.m. PST

you cannot compare voltigeurs with rifled armed skirmishers they are a different breed, compare them with light infantry companies – French light infantry for example did have drummers.

The Prussian Jäger corps did not have any drummer in 1806 – but all were armed with rifles.
They were not supposed to fight in close ranks, as it was requested for example for light infantry as well.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 8:36 a.m. PST

My comments solely related to British I would stress.

Some years ago I pronounced, on the forum, with great confidence that French Light Infantry Regts did not have drummers. I was soon corrected.

I was confusing Light Cos, Voltigeurs, of a Line Regt with true Light Infantry Regts! OK, but then I found even they had drummers! Profound ignorance never stops me speaking with great authority…

So my above comments are based on no research I fear, other than I cannot find a single picture of a drummer for the units I listed, for our period of interest.

Garde de Paris21 Sep 2018 8:53 a.m. PST

Deadhead, I often assert that I am often wrong, but NEVER on doubt.

Others, I understand that voltigeur companies of French line battallions has 1 drummer and 1 trumpeter among the 170 man unit. Rarely had 170 men, but probably had these 2 until really shot to pieces.


Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 9:01 a.m. PST

They all had bands etc. but I can understand the answer on British units. What about the Portuguese and the Austrians?

TMPWargamerabbit21 Sep 2018 9:35 a.m. PST

Thinking of a drummer with his drum running about the open skirmish line battlefield with two drum sticks for defense brings a chuckle. Some had a sword if fully outfitted…. but sword play with drum attached to leg must have been a dicey tactic. Surely the drummer stayed back with the local light company support platoon with sword in hand officer nearby.

Now a trumpeter or bugle has none of the restrictions like a drum, The bugle cord keeps the instrument at side even if he must defend himself from enemy skirmishers while running behind the skirmish line commanding officer.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

First I have to ask what is a wargamer rabbit? We have spent the last two days charmed by a bunny, (very different from the local North Yorkshire wabbits) who has taken to our garden. He looks like a domesticated dwarf Belgian wabbit… in the village has reported missing him yet. He loves lettuce but does not seem to have any interest in my Saxon Garde du Corps.

G de P, I have learnt now that the only difference between French Line and Light Regts was the all blue, or mostly blue. They worked in exactly the same way by 1815, when it really mattered, although I do accept there were earlier skirmishes, as prelude to the main event.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 1:49 p.m. PST

TMP…drums attached to legs are a fairly modern practice. When a Napoleonic drummer had to move quickly, he hoisted the drum over his left shoulder using the drag rope.

One of the hardest things about playing a period drum – whether AWI or ACW – is simply controlling the wooden (or brass) barrel that keeps banging against your leg. You have to "educate" your left leg to move with the drum or it (the drum) will bounce out of control.

Prince of Essling21 Sep 2018 2:25 p.m. PST

As for the Portuguese, the Legiao de Tropas Ligeiras (Legion of Light Troops, also known as Legion d'Alorna) did have drummers – 8 companies of Capitão, Tenente, Alferes, 2 Sargentos, Furriel, 5 Cabos, 96 Soldados, Tambor.

Turning to the Cacadores initially only drummers, then 2 drummers and 1 bugler per company at the same time, and finally in October 1814 down to 1 bugler per company:

1808 July – Batalhao de Caçadores – 6 companies
Headquarters: 18 men
Chefe de batalho (Major), Primeiro Ajudante (Capitão), Segundo Ajudante (Alferes), Quartel Mestre, Capellão, Cirurgão Mór, 3 Ajudantes de Cirurgião, Tambor Mór, 8 Musicos,
Companies: 138 men
Capitao, Tenente, 2 Alferes, Primeiro Sargento, 2 Segundos Sargentos, Furriel, 8 Cabos, 2 Tambores, 120 Anspeçadas e Soldados.

1808 October – Batalhão de Caçadores reorganised – 628 men
Headquarters: 13 men;
Tenente Coronel, Major, Ajudante, Quartel Mestre, Capellão, Cirurgião Mór, 2 Ajudantes do Cirurgião, Coronheiro, Espingardeiro, Tambor Mór, 2 Pifanos
Companhia de Atiradores & 4 Companhias de Caçadores: each of 123 men.
Capitão, Tenente, 2 Alferes, Primero Sargento, 2 Segundos Sargentos, Furriel, 8 Cabos, 8 Anspeçadas, 2 Tambores, 1 Corneta, 96 Soldados

1809 November – Batalhão de Cacadores – headquarters augmented, companies remained as before.
Headquarters: 23 men.
Tenente Coronel, Major, Ajudante, Thesoureiro (or Pagador), Quartel Mestre, Sargento de Brigada (or Ajudante Sargento), Quartel Mestre Sargento, Capellão, Cirurgião Mór, 2 Ajudantes do Cirurgião, Coronheiro, Espinguardeiro, Mestre de Musica, 8 Musicos, Corneta Mór.

29 October 1814 – Batalhao de Cacadores reduced to peacetime strength:
Tenente Coronel, Major, Ajudante; Quartel Mestre; Capellao; Cirurgiao Mor; Ajudante do Cirurgiao Mor; Sargento Ajudante; Sargento Quartel Mestre; Coronheiro; Espingardeiro; Mestre de Musica, 8 Musicos, Corneta Mor,
6 companies each of :
Capitao, Tenente, Alferes, Primeiro Sargento, 2 Segundos Sargentos, Furrieis, 4 Cabos de Esquadra, 4 Anspecadas, 64 Soldados, Corneta,

Loyal Lusitanian Legion (Leal Legião Lusitana) had 2 drummers per company; no buglers listed. Each company had 111 men: Capitão, Tenenete, 2 Alferes, Primero Sargento, 3 Segundos Sargentos, Furriel, 6 Cabos de Esquadra, 6 Anspecadas, 2 Tambores, 88 Soldados.

For an illustration see:


Glengarry521 Sep 2018 4:55 p.m. PST

Not all musicians would be necessarily at the front ranks of the skirmish screen. Skirmishers operated with a series of one or two supporting lines, the last being in close order. Perhaps the drummer stayed with the supports? Also a drum is better at marking time on the march than a bugle.

John Edmundson21 Sep 2018 9:29 p.m. PST

As far as I am aware, for Austrians: Jager no, Grenz yes. I believe David Hollins' book suggests that a drum has survived from one of the ADKL battalions, so they'd also be a yes.


Prince of Essling22 Sep 2018 1:29 a.m. PST

Austrian Jager definitely no (certainly in 1809) as companies consisted of:

1 Hauptmann or Capitan-Lieutenant
1 Oberlieutenant
2 Unterlieutenant
2 Oberjäger
8 Unterjäger
10 Patrouilleführern
1 Fourierschützen
2 Trompetern
1 Zimmerleuten
3 Privatdiener
110 Gemeinen Jäger
141 Total in peacetime

Above extracted from Enrico Acerbi's "The Austrian Imperial-Royal Army"

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2018 1:48 a.m. PST

Thank you Prince of Essling (or may I call you Andre?). That is just the information I needed.

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