Help support TMP

"What were the drums used in the Civil War?" Topic

11 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please remember that some of our members are children, and act appropriately.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the ACW Discussion Message Board

Areas of Interest

American Civil War

Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Top-Rated Ruleset

On To Richmond

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Workbench Article

Painting 1/2400 ACW Ironclads from Tumbling Dice

McKinstry Fezian is a naval wargamer who likes the smaller scales, so who better to show us how to paint small-scale ironclads?

Featured Profile Article

Remembering Marx WOW Figures

If you were a kid in the 1960s who loved history and toy soldiers, you probably had a WOW figure!

Featured Book Review

369 hits since 21 Jan 2023
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

TMP logo


Please sign in to your membership account, or, if you are not yet a member, please sign up for your free membership account.
Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2023 8:06 p.m. PST

"The civil war was a surprisingly noble time for being a drummer in American history. Boys (yes boys, many of whom were younger than 18) were lining up front and center to be apart of the battle that defined their generation, and musicians were part of that call.

Let's take a look back to 1861 when both musicians (bugle players) and drummers would march with the troops towards the battlegrounds…"

Main page



William Warner22 Jan 2023 10:57 a.m. PST

This article certainly exaggerates the role of drummers in combat. When action was expected, the drum corps of a regiment was mustered under the regimental surgeon to aid the wounded and help remove them from the battlefield. The notion of drummers being purposefully targeted to disrupt enemy command and control is just plain silly. If musical commands were given during battle, they were given by buglers

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 2:50 p.m. PST



Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 5:05 p.m. PST

The drum was used during the Napoleonic period to signal commands during combat. They came under the authority of the regimental drum major and drum corporal in the Grande Armee and drummers in training had to be maintained to replace losses in combat.

Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2023 5:44 p.m. PST

I have heard it was the regimental band rather than the regimental drummers who acted as litter bearers. I am not sure the average drummer boy would be large enough to carry a litter.

That's what I have always read.

I have never heard of drummer boys being targeted specifically.
Musicians and drummers were non-combatants so they were not supposed to be shot at. They were often little boys and what gentleman would shoot a child? That's why they often wore a distinctive and fancy uniform shirt so they would stand out and not get shot at.



Mike Bunkermeister Creek

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2023 10:00 a.m. PST

We were taught that commands during the Civil War could be signaled by the drum. We were taught to fire by the drum. In the heat of combat, with the noise, you could not always hear the officers voices. I don't have my book any longer. Something like bum, bum, bum LOAD, bum, bum, bum READY, bum, bum, bum AIM, bum FIRE.

Might be out on the web somewhere or maybe someone else has access to the books still.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2023 10:03 a.m. PST

The drums can carry farther than the human voice, especially under fire.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jan 2023 11:27 a.m. PST

There is a lot of confusion about "Regimental Bands" and the "Regimental Music". The bands were just that, groups of musicians who played tunes to entertain or inspire the men. They would be the ones drafted to act as stretcher bearers. After the early days of the war bands grew very rare at the regimental level although later on you could still find bands at the brigade level.

The Regimental Music was an entirely separate thing serving a completely different purpose. They were made up of drummers and fifers, and as noted they would provide a cadence while marching (it's amazing how much easier it is to march with a good cadence) and they could (within limits) be used to pass along orders given by the commander during battle. Much more frequently they were used to regulate the regiment's activities during a normal (non battle) day. The men got up, ate, went to drill, went to sick call, and many other things at the sound of the fifes and drums (and bugles). You would find music with the regiments throughout the war and they would not be used as stretcher bearers.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2023 2:09 p.m. PST



CHRIS DODSON24 Jan 2023 2:32 a.m. PST

I once attended a demonstration at the Pamprovo Museum of the Civil War, near Richmond on the significance of the drum. It was fascinating and my disappointment at missing the musketry and artillery firing soon disappeared!

The drum was the mobile ‘phone of the time issuing instructions to the troops from the beginning to the end of the day.

In battle it was used to transmit orders, keep candenced marching etc.

My research for Antietam suggests that by 1862 the bugle was being recognised as a better vehicle for the transmission of orders, especially in battle and the drum was gradually replaced.

Best wishes,


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2023 2:41 p.m. PST

Thanks also…


Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.