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"African Musicians in European service question." Topic

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Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2023 5:34 p.m. PST

This question is specific to French and British Armies during the Napoleonic Wars.

Did these two armies make use of African or Black Caribbean Drummers (or other instruments) during this period?

If they did, would these have been "drummer boys" or adult musicians?

Thank you.

Prince of Essling22 Jan 2023 1:58 a.m. PST

Certainly in the British 3rd foot Guards (Lawson Volume 5 page 47) attribution to Cramer – who may have been related to Cramer their bandmaster. The accompanying illustration is for the 1st Foot Guards in 1815 and shows 5 blacks – one with side drum, another on cymbals, another on a triangle, another on tambourine, and the fifth doesn't appear to have any instrument to play but the view is 3/4 from the back.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 2:19 a.m. PST

That's quite the colorful group. Thank you

Oliver Schmidt22 Jan 2023 2:32 a.m. PST

In 1807, the 22e de ligne had five "moors" amongst their musicians. Four of them, described as "young negroes", had been hired in 1803 in Paris, they originated from Santo Domingo, but had grown up in Paris.

And here a drummer, seen in 1806 in Leipzig:


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 3:38 a.m. PST

There's another in Oldenburg you see in plates, who would have been annexed when His Imperial Majesty decided major portions of Germany were actually French. I'd have said it was common enough that you could place one in a division or corps-size force without being expected to document that particular instance.

Lilian22 Jan 2023 6:32 a.m. PST

There were blacks and mulattos French soldiers in the rank of the French Napoleonic Army Regiments also as officers and NCO's, not only reduced as band drummers têtes de colonne or specific units such as the Black Pionners and etc

that is for the British Army Regiments in 1812

«the 438 Foreigners (not counting 40 officers probably whites foreigners) returned above as serving in the Regiments of the Line are chiefly Persons employed in the Bands and many of them are Men of Colour»

the 29th is said to have 11 «foreigners» not precised if each one was black, as well as all the foreigners in the Royal Veteran Battalions, until 22 in 2 battalions, maybe they were European, 29/30 in both 10th and 15th Light Dragoons maybe in these cases they were others than exclusively black musicians with a such number

these 438 foreigners said to be mostly blacks were presents in 47 Infantry and 22 Cavalry Regiments, 17 Veteran and Garrison Battalions and others corps

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 1:03 p.m. PST

Very nice, Lillian! I would hedge that "many" is not the same as "most" but even so.

I'd expect those disproportionate foreigners in the Veterans to be mostly from émigré units, and that may be what's happening in those high-prestige light dragoon units, since the 10th and 15th also have an unusual number of "foreign" officers, but it certainly wouldn't keep me from giving them African trumpeters.

Uesugi, apart from Britain and France, consider the Batavian Republic/Kingdom of Holland, Portugal and the Hansa states. Colonies and overseas trade are the obvious drivers.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2023 8:44 a.m. PST

Thank you all for the very interesting info. I found quite a few "Africans" in paintings of the period but not always captioned to give a context.

It definitely seems reasonable to include at least 1 figure in a British or French force then.

Cheers All.

Trockledockle23 Jan 2023 9:16 a.m. PST

Here is a link to more detail on George Rose of the Black Watch. The notes also mention black buglers in the 43rd. There is a portrait of a black musician in one of the cavalry regiments (possibly the 4th Dragoons).


Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2023 2:40 p.m. PST

Thank you Trock! That's a great link.

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