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FAQ's about Fife and Drum
Over the years people ask My fellow reenactors several different questions. I will try to give you the best answers that I possibly can. If you ever do go to a reenactment do not be afraid to ask the participants questions. Just do stay away from personal questions. Stick with the typical question " Why is your coat yellow?", you'll get the response that you are looking for. So as follows, here is FAQ's about Fife and Drum.
: Why are your coats yellow? (Our most frequently asked question)
A: Our coats are yellow so that on a field of battle you could distinguish musicians from normal infantry. It was common conduct during a European War not to single out musicians or officers. The way they determined the color of a musicians coat is by the color of the facing of the regiment. The facings are the lapels, cuff, and color. Like for instance red coat with yellow facings becomes yellow coat with red facings. Red coat with green facings becomes a green coat with red facings, and so on. The exception to this rule is when you get a royal regiment. The only facing color a royal regiment had was blue. The musicians then did not change the color of their uniform and left it the same color sequence as the infantry. The only way to distinguish musicians from infantry was that the coats were laced with gold on the arms, cuffs, and back.
Q: What is a fife?
A: A fife is a member of the woodwind instrument family (flute, clarinet, etc.) it looks similar to a flute but has a sound of a piccolo. It has a standard six holes, but it can have up to eleven. The fife is usually made out of wood with several different species such as rosewood.
Q: What is the purpose of fife and drum in the army?
A: The purpose was based on several things. Basically it was used to signal camp duties, second it was used in marching, and third drummers gave commands, beat on the drum to the company he belongs to. Fifers during battle were usually messengers or stretcher parties. Camp duties are signals beat with the drum accompanied with a fife. The camp duties signaled an important event in everyday camp life. At sunrise musicians would be up beating Reveille which signals that the camp was to awaken and prepare for a day of more grueling work. A call would be beat for breakfast, dinner, and supper. Another call would be to signal that the day of duty was done and you can kick back and relax. And Tap too now Taps signals that you are to go to bed, unless if you have picket duty. During a march drummers and fifers would play songs in a steady beat to keep the soldiers in a good steady march. And during a battle, officers gave a command to a drummer and he would beat it so that the company could hear it. The types of commands are the firing commands which tell a company to fire their weapons. There was cease fire which ended musket firing, and there is parley which signals a surrender of a battle. Fifers mainly are stretcher - bearers and messengers during battle.
Why were fifes and drums chosen to be the military music?
A: The reason a fife was chosen was because it could be heard above musketry. The reason a drum was chosen because it's tone was recognizable below artillery fire.
Question and Answer submitted by Gary Mathews, H.M. 10th Regt.. of Foot Battalion company.
Here are some questions I need to put a stop to:
-Is that a real fire? Yes that is a real fire, do not touch it, please keep your kids a way from it, and yes we do actually cook on it.
-Did you sleep in that tent last night? Yes, we did, or at least most of us did. Was it cold? Yes, if it was cold out it, we were, if it was warm out we weren't.
-Aren't you hot in those wool coats? No, that is why we are sweating and our face is bright red (almost the same as the coat).
-How do you know when you die? Please, don't ask that question, A. it spoils the illusion, B. We don't know, its just when it feels right.
Other misselaneous stupid questions I have eitehr heard or been asked.
- Is that a real baby? Yes, that is a real baby, we don't leave our offspring at home to fend for themselves.
- Are those "guns" dangerous? A. do not call them guns, they are weapons, or pieces, or muskets, take your pick. And do you see flames sparking out of it and smoke billowing out? Yes? It is an explosion, of course it is dangerous. Note: Guns are also the proper nme for Cannon or artillery. Also guns make it sound like a toy, this is NOT a toy, our weapons are the furthest things frm a toy.
- Can I fire your weapon? No, no, and no. I am not going to be responsible for you if you hurt your self or another.
-Do You really fire "bullets" out of that? No, and no. First, they are not bullets, they are ball and shot. Secondly, no, never, If we were firing real shot, the dead would not rise up after the battle, and recruiting would need to be more agressive. (thanks Jerry)
-Are you really eating what you just cooked? Did you see us put it into our mouths, chew, and swallow. Yes, we are eating, we need to eat also.
- This is a comment, not a question. "I never knew there were so many women in the British Army." This is sad when at 40 year old says it. We wear wigs, the hairlstyle is that of the 1770s, they had long hair. everyone did. We are being ACCURATE.
-" Are you a minuteman?" Poor lost souls. Tisk, tisk, tisk, tisk. Serioulsy, red coats
- "Are you Georger Washington?" No.
-"Are you Paul Revere?" No.
-"Are you Ben Franklin?" No. he wasn't even military. He was a congressman
-Another comment- "The British are coming!!!" Just stop it, it is NOT the first time we have heard that.
-Another comment- "Go Back to England!!" Most of the time an idiot will say this, just no. My response, " go back to the primordial ooze you emerged from."
-"Why do you reenact British?" Because we want to.
-Comment- "You're so unamerican, I would never reenact British." - Someone has to do it - otherwise, the Minute Men would be firing at nothing, like they do at Battle Road (Jerry Robbins should be credited here again)
Thank you, I hope this clears up all misconceptions.
If you have a question that you would like answered e-mail web master Once a week I will answer a question and post it on the web.