"I don't believe we can have an army without music"
General Robert E. Lee, 1864
During the American Civil War, field music provided invaluable communication in camps and on the battlefields. In camp, musicians were always placed near commanding officers to relay orders to the army. Musicians were utilized as the army's public address system. Bugle and drum calls were vital to communicating everything from reveille and meal times to gathering officers for meetings and assembling the troops. Army regulations detailed drummers and buglers to learn dozens of calls for camp duty, and battles and skirmishes.
Regular army field musicians received training at established schools such as the one on Governors Island in New York. Musicians in state volunteer regiments generally received training in less formal settings as part of local militia units or local bands.
"All history proves that music is as indispensable to warfare as money"
New York Herald, 11 January 1862
Advance or Retreat?
During an advance on the enemy, field musicians were drawn up and posted twelve paces behind the file closers. There they could be called on to sound the numerous calls to direct the movement of troops including advance, retreat, lie down, rally by platoon or cease fire. As the muffled sound of the drum was hard to hear over the rambling of the guns, the shrill sounds of the bugle was preferred in battle.
Musicians were also detailed as stretcher-bearers or ordered to help at field hospitals established in the rear. Officers commanded many musicians to their side to act as orderlies whose job was to travel between commands delivering orders or information.
50th Pennsylvania Infantry